Live from SAPinsider Studio: Epson America on BI, Building SAP HANA Business Case

Abishek Uppal, BI Project Leader, Epson America, joins SAPinsider Studio at the 2015 Reporting & Analytics event in Las Vegas to discuss the company’s business intelligence (BI) use and roadmap.

This is an edited transcript of the discussion:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I’m here at the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics 2015 event. Here with me is Abishek Uppal, who is the BI Project Leader for Epson America. Abishek, thanks for being with us.

Abishek Uppal, Epson America: Sure. It’s my pleasure.

Ken: To start, can you tell the viewers a little bit about Epson America?

Abishek: Sure, so Epson America is a $3 billion company. We have 1,800 employees across the Americas. We do business in North America and Latin America. We are actually leaders in projectors, but a lot of people think about us as a printer and scanner company, but we are actually leaders in projectors.

Ken: I would have been one of those who said printers and scanners. Good to know. And talk about your BI landscape. What tools are you using and toward what effect? How are you using BI for the organization?

Abishek: BI is a strategic tool in Epson America. We are using BI-BW for backend. For reporting purposes, we use WebI. We just started an initiative using Design Studio for dashboards. We actually get a lot of data not just from North America but from Latin America also, so it’s one of the key systems for reporting where a lot of people across the globe depend on it.

Ken: Specific ally Design Studio?

Abishek: Design Studio, yes.

Ken: And that’s why you’re here at this event?

Abishek: Yes

Ken: And that’s a challenge in your organization, bringing in more data from other parts of the world? Can you discuss how Design Studio will help solve that challenge?

Abishek: First of all from a data perspective SAP HANA – because we load data from different countries across Latin America, if I take Brazil as an example which is six hours ahead of us, we want to make sure when the business users come in the morning they have data ready once they’re there at 8 a.m. So for us, one of the challenges is to get the data loaded in their BI system on time across the globe, so we are looking at HANA as one of the options where we can load most of this data on time so that at 8 a.m. (Brazil) which is like 2 a.m. (Las Vegas) the business gets data at 8 a.m. We’ve done  a lot of improvement in our BI landscape right now. We have done a lot of optimizations so that our data loads happen regularly as sort of business can get data at 8 a.m. even if it’s a six-hour difference. But there’s always a challenge to it, and even when we build new reports or get new datasets into BI, it just keeps on adding hours for our data loads. So even doing what we’re doing with a lot of optimizations, we still have a lot of things coming later on. So we’re looking at HANA to help us out from that perspective. We’re also looking at Design Studio more from a management perspective. We have a lot of reports where you see billions of records in a table form, but for management I think they need to have a dashboard where they can see visually how the business is doing. So that’s an initiative that we just started; we just created something for our CFO and there are a lot of things we need to do at that level. We are getting mature now on the BI side; initially it was just sort of doing an implementation of SAP BI across Latin America and North America but now it’s much more getting into a maturity state especially just not looking at volumes of data, but actually looking at the visualization and see how we are doing as a business and then drill down into details based on those visualizations. That’s one component of it. The other things that we are also looking at right now is something predictive analytics. We know the market is not so great, if our business, sales, and systems analysts can start getting data and predict the future rather than something that happens now, I think that will be of great help. That’s something that business is also looking at – big data, and of course predictive analytics. That’s something that Epson is looking at in more detail; how can we leverage things like big data and predictive analytics at Epson America?

Ken: Quite a lot to consider. With HANA as an example, how are you building out a business case for SAP HANA for say the finance teams?

Abishek: We are actually working on business case right now; for finance for example I think if we can help them with the month end. There are a lot of ad-hoc data loads happen during the month end, we get a lot of data from BPC system which gets ad-hoc loaded when the month ends. And sometimes the loads during the month end takes like an hour, or 45 minutes, or even a couple of hours. We are looking at HANA to help them out with those data loads because sometimes these business financial people come to us during the month end and ask if they can do something about the ad-hoc month end loads because it will reduce their month end time. That’s something we are looking at. We are also looking at some of the dashboarding initiative that we’re doing – if we can get that information in real-time to the business, things like open order. If we can get an open order to the business more in real-time that would help with cash flow. So we’re looking at certain things – inventory planning is another –that which in real-time if they can get the information, from financial to logistics, to build a business case with HANA and of course at the end of the day from the IT perspective the data loads are key which we’re trying to do globally across the nightly loads.

Ken: Now with predictive analytics, we heard a lot from SAP this morning in the keynote about predictive. As a concept it’s easy to understand how that will help a company, but is it hard at this stage to define an ROI for how it will benefit the company?

Abishek: In our case, the business has already taken the initiative, they already have some business analysts who do a lot of predictive analytics by themselves, they have the algorithms that they run and I think we know the future is on predictive analytics especially on the sales side and being in the distribution business at Epson I think it’s very important for us that we can predict sales so that we’re able to manage more on the sales side and also we don’t purchase or get more inventory in our warehouses because that restricts your cash flows. I think business is already on top of it and I think we’re all looking forward to getting into predictive. There’s a lot of movement on that side from us; not just from IT but from the business.

Ken: Abishek, thanks for joining us today.

Abishek: No problem.