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A Hail Mary is one of the most exciting plays in football.  It is that long desperation pass made at the end of a game.  Some of the excitement is that it only has a small chance of success.  We all watched the infamous Hail Mary where the Seattle Seahawks won a game with the help of replacement referees.  I think we all watched and heard more about this play than we all care to remember.  It eventually led to an end of the Lock Out of regular NFL Referees.

Big Data can be that game changer for an organization as well but doesn’t have to be a Hail Mary.   The ever increasing volume, variety and velocity of data cause organizations to be faced with many new challenges and opportunities.  Today, it is not uncommon for large organizations to be dealing with volumes of data in the order of terabytes and zettabytes.  … I need an “instant replay” official to understand these terms.   According to IDC statistics, data is expected to grow by as much as 44 times over the next year to a staggering 35.2 zettabytes of data globally.  Navigating the tremendous quantities of data and driving visible business results can be a complex challenge. Organizations that are first movers and can put this type of data in the right hands will undoubtingly have enormous advantages over their competitors.  For example, Charmer Sunbelt Group hopes will speed up operations and lower costs by making “Big Data” available in real time at its distribution centers.

Spirits Distributor Serves Up Real-Time Business Intelligence

We have heard some success stories like these; however, we don’t hear much about the inherent challenges.  Here are some lessons learned:

First, avoid doing big data for big data's sake.  Start by identifying two or three key business areas, or challenges that Big Data can address and start with manageable projects. Just because some of the new technologies can “boil the ocean’ doesn’t mean you want to start with all the data within your enterprise.

Next, try and start with a project that senior management cares about and views as strategic.  This will assure their attention, help with necessary funding and resources for the program and will all key to driving long-term business value.

Lastly, remember it always comes down to data quality to assure a solid foundation.  Always.  This has been true for as long as we have been all been

doing projects and system implementations. A Big Data project is no different.  The decisions you make are only as good as the underlying quality of the data. 

SAP can help you build a solid foundation and unlock the business value of big data.  SAP delivers several solutions to assist you in accessing, integrating or replicating data rapidly from a variety of data sources and assure you are making decsions based on high quality data. 

SAP’s HANA solution gives organizations a means to manage the rapid growth in data volume and complexity, while at the same time, exploiting that data to achieve quicker business insight. SAP HANA’s capabilities represent a fundamental change.  Data is captured in memory and made available for instant analysis, eliminating the typical lag time between when data is captured in business applications and analysis of that data from reporting and analysis systems.  With the ability to process hundreds of billions of rows of data in seconds

SAP’s Data Services solution can help you integrate “big data” from a variety of sources and govern the quality of the data so that you can trust your information.  SAP Data Services delivers ETL, data quality management, and text data processing capabilities for structured or unstructured data.  With these capabilities, you can monitor the quality of your information, correct data issues as they arise, and prevent quality issues before they occur.

Overall, SAP’s powerful solutions and technologies for processing and analyzing Big Data offer can make a big impact. However, leveraging these opportunities isn’t without its own challenges. If used effectively, these solutions can create miracles similar to those for the successful Hail Mary …. One that no referee can dispute.

John McDonnell  is the Industry principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America.  He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions

Contact John at