Centerpoint Optimized Segmentation with HANA

March 1st, 2016 No comments

Whenever I attend utility industry events I continue to run into Centerpoint Energy and hear about all the different ways they are using SAP HANA to transformation their business.  The latest story is around optimizing their customer segmentation process.  This innovation was first discussed on the HANA Podcast – Episode 5.

Background

CenterPoint Energy is an energy delivery company headquartered in Houston, TX. They deliver electricity over 2.3 million smart meter customers around Houston. In addition they also deliver natural gas across six states and have assets over $22 billion.

Customer Segmentation

Centerpoint decided to make HANA a strategic investment across their organization and implement customer vision platform to provide a unified view of a customer across all lines of business and engage in consultative approach.

As a result they have slowly been rolling out more and more innovation centered around the real-time business benefits that HANA delivers.  One of the first innovations was moving their CRM system to HANA.  This allowed them to create and their customer segments in 10 minutes instead of 4 weeks.  In the past without HANA Raj Erode says the underlying database supporting segmentations slows down dramatically once an organization has more than 1 million customers.  In the case of Centerpoint they have 5M customers across natural gas and electric.  This was a problem.  In addition, you can imagine how much your customer data in the 4 weeks it used to take them to create a segment!!

HANA Business Benefits

As a result they saw tremendous business benefit.  They are now able to:

  • Create marketing targets with up-to-date information within CRM rather than historical data.
  • Save marketing dollars by being more nimble and adjusting target groups on the fly.
  • Generate faster, more accurate reporting on sales opportunities and activities, marketing campaigns, marketing effectiveness, and results.

This process was so beneficial that it was clear they would want to bring in more data elements and automate their existing data loads.  As a result of automated data loads they were able to:

  • Realize a 200% increase in productivity by replacing manual data loads with scheduled data loads into HANA.
  • Combine SAP and non-SAP customer data so that more data elements could be used for better, more accurate customer targeting.

There were 5 different non-SAP systems they pulled data from including:  Outage Management System, Home Service Plus.

For More Information…

Please check out this Business Transformation Study as well as their Customer Vision Presentation from the SAP for Utilities Conference.

SAP HANA continues to be a game-changer a organizations use it to break down the barriers of what was once thought as impossible.

«Good BI»

Categories: HANA Tags: ,

Lumira 1.29 – Data Blending Comes of Age

November 23rd, 2015 1 comment

Lumira recently introduced a new concept called BlendingBlending allows Analytics to allow data from multiple datasets or fact tables to be displayed across a common dimension.  This was a critical next step in Lumira’s evolution because often the job of an Analyst requires them to pull together multiple result sets into a single visualization.  It’s great to be able to visualize actual vs. budget together in a single graph; however often you want to be able to create a new calculation across the datasets, e.g. variance,  variance percent, etc.  This was not possible before.

Blending Enhancements

On Friday I downloaded the latest release of Lumira — Lumira 1.29.  There is a lot here to see and although it’s always great to see more features coming into the product, the enhancements to blending really make this release standout and make this version of Lumira a must-have upgrade.

Lumira has always done a good job at allowing users to manipulate data, but limitations of no micro-cube and the inability to create custom calculations across multiple data sets was extremely limiting.  Until now the only options were to:

  • Perform data preparation in the microcube of WebIntelligence and access to microcube directly using the APOS Data Gateway
  • Hope you could leverage the Join_By_SQL option within the Universe so that only a single result set would be returned.

As you might imagine, this was quite limiting and I ran into this first hand during a recent customer evaluation.  Here was my scenario.

Supporting YoY Comparisons

I was asked to calculate the growth factor within a dataset that included data over time.  The growth factor was defined as

G = (Volumecy/ Volume(cy-t))1/t – 1

Where t is the time in years. For the purpose of this analysis, t is taken to equal 3, 5 or 10 years.  cy is the current year.  The example below will use the standard year breakdown.

Example:  The table below is used in the example calculations

 2014 Volume 2013 Volume 2012 Volume 2011 Volume 2010 Volume
125,452 124,118 120,506 119,987 126,623

In 2014, the 3 year growth would be:

G = (125,452 / 119,987)1/3 – 1 = 1.5 %

In 2013, the 3 year growth would be:

G = (124,118 / 126,623)1/3 – 1 = -0.66 %

At first what seems so simple, wasn’t.

This is a straight-forward request.  With Lumira it wasn’t so simple.  When processing a Lumira document, the formula engine processes one record at a time, so prior to blending, the only option was to create custom calculations to filter the volume for each year.  I would then have to use these custom calculations in yet another calculation for the growth.  Here is a sample.

2014 Volume Custom Calculation:   if {Year} = 2014 then {TransCount} else 0

2011 Volume Custom Calculation:   if {Year} = 2011 then {TransCount} else 0

2014 3yr Growth:  Power(({Transcount_2014} / {Transcount_2011}), 1 / 3) – 1

So for 5 years of 3-yr grow calculations I would have to create 15 formulas!  Yikes!

It was possible, but there were two big problems:

  1. Each year you would have to add more formulas because the calculations weren’t dynamic by year.
  2. You lost the ability to visualize the data in context.  In this case you would not be able to easily show these calculations in a YoY line chart.

Could blending be the answer?  Possibly.  Here’s what I discovered.

Previous Blending Helped But…

Suddenly I had an idea.  What if I loaded the dataset in twice?  Once for the current year and again but leverage “Year+3”.  This would allow me to join on year and because the value for the year 2011 now say 2014.  I could then display the current years value next to the value from 3 years ago.  It worked!

Here is what I did.

I loaded the same dataset twice and renamed them to Current Year and CY-3.

Two imported datasets

In the dataset named, CY-3, I created a calculated dimension called Year+3 in which I added “+3” to the value of the Year column… so now 2014 became 2017, 2013 became 2016, etc.

Year+3 Calculated Field

In the previous example when I created Year+3 and added 3 to the Year, the field went from being defined as an integer to a real number.  Lumira doesn’t allow you to join across data types and since my original Year column is still defined as an integer, I needed to create a current date which is also a real number.  I accomplished this by creating a new calculation dimension called Year+0, by creating a new formula Year+0.

Year+0 Calculated Field

Next I lined the two datasets.  I was able to link Year+3 from the CY-3 dataset to the Year+0 from the CurrentYear dataset.

Dataset Linking

I also renamed the TransCount field in the CY-3 dataset to Transcount (CY-3) to avoid any confusion with the value TransCount in the CurrentYear dataset.

Next I created a column chart visualization showing the data from CurrentYear and the CY-3 datasets together in the same chart in the following manner:

First, Add Year+0 and TransCount to the Column chart.  This shows you the current values.  Next, change the dataset you are working with to CY-3 and add TransCount (CY-3) to the output.  Now I can see the CurrentYear Transcount compared to the Transcount from 3 years earlier.  As expected, there are null values for the earliest 3 years because I loaded the same data set twice and my initial calculation is using Year+3.

Viewing YoY Volume (TransCount)

In other words, if I hover over the value for 2004 I will see it matches the Transcount(CY-3) value for 2007.

Next I want to Exclude the 2004 through 2006 numbers.

Excluding Years with null values

So now I am left with the correct bar chart.

Viewing YoY Volume (with nulls excluded)

The next step is to now do some math between the two datasets.  For example I wanted to calculate the variance.  What is the difference between CurrentYear and CY-3?  Nope.  I needed to calculate the growth rate using the formula introduced above.  The problem was in Lumira 1.28, there was no way to do this. Now you can!

Custom Calculations Across Datasets

As soon as I got my hands on Lumira 1.29 I was able to find the new Custom Calculation feature two places.  You can either:

  • Use the menu at the top of the charting area
  • Right Click on the measure and select Add Calculation >> Custom Calculation
 
From the Menu From the Measure

So let’s create this new custom calculation.  Below you can see where I’ve highlighted a new and critical change.  You can now select the “Dataset” of the fields you want to use in the calculation.  This allows me to choose measure elements across both data sources:

Ability to select either dataset

So now I can create the following new growth calculation:

Power({DS1.TransCount}/{DS2.Transcount (CY-3)},1/3) – 1

Once I add this new YoY calculation to the chart and remove the previous measure values I can see the following results:

Dynamic 3yr Growth YoY

Now I have a dynamic growth calculation and I didn’t have to create dozens of formulas!  It works beautifully.

Now the only existing limitation is that I cannot show the 3yr growth and the 5 yr growth in the same chart because each of them is linked to a different combination of results.  (Year linked to 3Year) and (Year linked to 5Year).  There is currently no way to linked more than two data sets together.

Exercise for You

If you would like to try this exercise out for yourself, I have attached the associated data file here.  All you will need to do is load the dataset twice and then create the calculations as described above.

Now I’d like you to calculate the growth of Volume using the Growth Formula stated above, but this time instead of doing it for 2 yrs, do it for 5 yrs.  Once you’re done, you should get a chart like this:

Dynamic 5yr Growth YoY

Wrap-up

Lumira 1.29 is a huge leap forward.  The ability to do data blending and create new dynamic calculations across multiple datasets is very important capability indeed.  This goes a long way to remove many of the limitations you may have encountered around data preparation and analysis thus far.

So the next question is… when will they be releasing Lumira 2.0? 🙂

Enjoy!

«Good BI»

Lumira | Predictive Analysis Troubleshooting: Hangs on the splash screen when starting…

October 1st, 2014 1 comment

I recently discovered an issue when leveraging both Lumira and Predictive Analysis 1.18 and it took me a while to debug the issue and so I wanted to share those results with you.

The version of Lumira/Predictive Analysis I had installed on my desktop had a permanent key with a timeout and I didn’t realize it but that the key had expired.

Keycode prior to expiration

As a result, when I started Lumira, I saw the splash screen with the updates that said, starting engine then preparing user interface.  Eventually it would simply hang on the splash screen with the small message that said:  Loading module “Publish to SAP HANA”, it is at this point that Lumira hangs and no new messages appear.

SAP Lumira hangs with “Publish to SAP HANA”

In order to resolve this issue you will need a new keycode or you will be reverted back to the SAP Lumira Personal Edition

SAP Lumira Resolution

In order to resolve this issue for SAP Lumira, you need to do the following:

  • Delete the folder:  C:\Users\Public\sapvi
  • Launch Lumira
  • Enter a new keycode.

NOTE:  If you do not have a valid keycode, then I suggest you:

SAP Predictive Analysis Resolution

The instructions are the same as for SAP Lumira above except that the directory you will delete is C:\Users\Public\sappa

I trust this will resolve your issues.

I don’t know about you but I’m really enjoying Lumira.  For that latest features and information about Lumira check out these youtube videos.

«Good BI»

 

Categories: Lumira Tags:

Upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects 4.1

September 3rd, 2014 No comments

 

Don’t Miss Out!

There is an excellent Technical Webinar Series happening right now: Upgrading to the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.1

These sessions started back in July and have been an excellent resource for understanding what’s required to upgrade, best practices, SSO, monitoring, strategy and roadmap, etc.  For details on the schedule go here.

On Thursday we will see part 5 in this 13 part series.  To register, click here.  Harjeet Judge, who presented the session on BI 4.1 Deployment Best Practices will also be leading this session and will be covering:

  • Planning, preparation and prerequisite tips to install and configure SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1
  • Important post-installation configuration that is required on the BI 4.1 server
  • The necessary steps for building up a patching strategy to take advantage of the latest fixes and enhancements

Previous Recorded Sessions

To catch you up on what you may have missed check out sessions 1 – 3.

  1. BI Upgrade:  Value Proposition and Tools
  2. BI 4.1 Upgrade and Upgrade Best Practices
  3. BI 4.1 Sizing and Visualization

I would also strongly recommend that you consider going through the BusinessObjects 4.1 training available on open.sap.com for free!   Here is the URL to access it:
https://open.sap.com/courses/bifour1/items/6hhPDeSmvThBgZwCUmZntT   All the content and videos are also available offline which is really handy when you’re learning on the go.

If you are interested in other upcoming enablement events, you can always see the current list of sessions by going to the enablement website.

It’s time to leverage all the many free resources regarding the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Suite and get your organization upgraded now.

«Good BI»

Categories: Administrators, BI Platform Tags:

SAP Discusses Latest BI Roadmap

August 15th, 2013 3 comments

#AllAccessAnalytics

Yesterday, many SAP BusinessObjects customers, mentors, partners and even a few competitors listened in as Steve Lucas as he unveiled SAP’s bold, new analytics strategy.  The twittersphere as active as tweets were tracked using #allaccessanalytics, we had a lot of fun.  Zimkhita Buwa quipped:

Steve emphasized that SAP isn’t delivering a ‘mission accomplished’ banner.  It’s just a ‘mission’ banner.  “Where we are and where we are going.”  There is a bunch still to come…  One of the first bold things he did announce was that the personal edition of SAP Lumira is free and you can download it now.  In addition you can also register for free access to the SAP Lumira Cloud.  You can register for free here.

New Mindset

It was clear to hear Steve’s passion for analytics.  His passion goes way, way back… and is always welcome.  In fact, I think this is an old picture of Steve’s car back in 2003.

He talked about BusinessObjects founder Bernard Liautaud and the rich legacy from which this SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite comes.  Steve took a note from Visha Sikka to say that SAP is and will innovate and that the Innovator’s Dilemma is crap.  Customers will continue to see great new innovations from SAP.

The new mindset from SAP delivers three pillars:

  • Enterprise Business Intelligence – For the Entire Organization
  • Agile Visualization – For the Business
  • Advanced Analytics – Data Science for Everyone

Enterprise Business Intelligence

With 60,000 customers, SAP continues to have to largest market share within the Business Intelligence space.  SAP BusinessObjects didn’t invent Business Intelligence but our experience in the space is very rich… and if not SAP BusinessObjects then who?  SAP is going to continue to build out capabilities for the Enterprise organization.  This is squarely focused on our SAP BusinessObjects product line.

At the same time the market has shifted and everyday business users want to be able to connect to their data quickly and easily and get new insights and share those insights with colleagues… and perhaps not have IT involved at all.  That brings us to agile visualization.

Agile Visualization

In SAP’s mind, Agile means it’s incredibly easy to adopt and deploy.  It should be light-weight.  Visualization means that its high quality and there is storytelling behind it.  The visualization tells a story.  It gives new insights.

So is this just Lumira?

No.  Steve was clear about this.  This is not just Lumira.  Lumira and Lumira cloud are a part of the agile visualization strategy, but the agile visualization strategy.  He promised that more would be shared at TechEd, etc.  I think this is great news!  We are beginning to see integration today between Lumira Cloud and on-premise systems and it sounds like this will continue.

Advanced Analytics

Steve said that this is more than just predictive.  As with Lumira, Predictive is a part, but there’s more.  SAP’s view is that this is not just for data scientists but data science for everyone.  It sounds we might begin seeing more ‘smart’ functionality build into the analytics.  We’ve already seen predictive leveraging the interface of Lumira for easy data access.  I can definitely envision a lot of possibilities here.

Key SAP Executives

Michael Reh (@reh_michael) – is leading development.  Passionate about analytics.

Christian Rodatus (@crodatus)  – Go to market executive for analytics.  18 years at Teradata.  Brings big data perspective.

Shekhar Iyer (@shekharlyer111) is leading the BI organization.  Brings a predictive perspective.

Jack Miller (@jackmillerIII) is Chief Customer Officer – in charge of generating successful, happy customers.

Jayne Landry (@jaynelandry) is Crystal Kiwi, working closely with Shekhar.

Other Highlights

SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite 4.1 is out of ramp-up.  All the KPIs were hit, so I would expect a GA release soon with the release of SP1.

There was a great video of a WebIntelligence-like product that was running on top of HANA.  It was written completely in HTML5.  I’ve never seen this before.

Screenshot of HTML5 WebI-like Tool

There was another nice video of Lumira doing geospatial analysis using the new Lumira Visualization Extensions which were released with SP11.  Timo Elliott recently did a nice blog post talking about this topic.

Lumira with Geospatial Capabilities

Lumira with Geospatial Plug-in

On September 9th, SAP is planning to launch a new BI online support site.  It looks as if they are following in the footsteps of the HANA launch site.  They briefly showed a mock-up of what it might look like.

Magic Bus

Steve revealed the new bus.  Yes, it’s a literal Big Data Bus.  SAP will be rolling out a mobile briefing center that will be used to showcase SAP’s latest and greatest. I think it’s one of SAP’s ways of saying there’s  50 ways to leave your… niche BI tools.   So hop on the bus Gus!

I couldn’t resist.

My Thoughts…

If you are an SAP customer and haven’t yet purchased SAP BusinessObjects, there is no better time than now.  The integration between SAP and the BusinessObjects BI Suite is second to none.  Here are a list of just a few of the unique advantages you can leverage when reporting against SAP ERP and SAP BW with SAP BusinessObjects:

  • Support for SAP CTS+
  • Integration with Solution Manager
  • Support for RRI (Report to Report Interface)
  • Support for BICS (3x faster than legacy BAPI interface)
  • Best Heterogeneous data source support
  • Best Slice/dice performance within MS Excel
  • Embedded Analytics within SAP Business Suite EP6
  • Crystal Reports options for Advanced List Viewer (ALV)
  • Semantic layer support for Infosets, ABAP functions and ABAP Queries
  • 100% In-memory support for all your SAP data

If your organization is committed to SAP Business Suite, then leveraging SAP BusinessObjects to provide reporting off those solutions is a no brainer.

Secondly, have a look at Predictive Analysis.  Although this product is relatively new, SAP has come a long way very quickly.  SAP has combined the core self-service Lumira (Visual Intelligence) product together with the power of R to deliver world class predictive analytics to the data analyst.  The interface is extremely easy to use and if you haven’t seen it, check out the post I did where I provided a product walk-through.  It may not necessarily replace SAS today, but it can deliver tremendous value by shortening the length of time it takes data analysts to build, model and run predictive algorithms.  Users are no longer wholly dependent on the small number of statisticians to provide predictive  and statistical analysis.  Predictive Analysis is a game changer.

Thirdly, get familiar with SAP’s simplified licensing.  Back in the day, when BusinessObjects was just one product, licensing was easy. Over the years as the BusinessObjects BI portfolio has grown, not everyone was ready to leverage the new technologies such as WebIntelligence, Dashboards, Explorer, etc.  As a result, BusinessObjects allowed customers to buy products à la carte to keep the pricing competitive.   A lot has changed.  Today, Business Intelligence is ubiquitous.  Everyone needs it and organizations should want to leverage the same solution for multiple types of users who have different analytic needs.  Back when the only product was had was Crystal Reports, I used to show how Crystal Reports provided enterprise reporting, adhoc reporting and dashboards. SAP’s approach was to simplify this licensing through bundles.  At the beginning of 2013, SAP offered BI Suite licensing which provided two important changes:  concurrent user licensing and a powerful software bundle of nearly every product in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Product Suite.

Conclusion

This #allaccesswebinar didn’t answer all our questions but one thing was clear:  SAP is fully committed to an easy-to-adopt analytics product suite for all users that serves the enterprise through both on-premise and cloud.  They are committed to delivering solutions that: compete head-to-head against the newcomers, deliver customer value and are agile and easy to adopt and use.

If you want more information on the latest published roadmaps from SAP, go here.

Now… hop on the bus Gus!

«Good BI»