Newcastle University speeds up student application and clearing processes with SAP Hana

Newcastle University has kicked off a project to upgrade its suite of SAP applications to the SAP Hana in-memory database platform, helping reduce total cost of ownership and speed up business processes such as student course applications.

A “committed” user of SAP products, the university has completed a Hana proof of concept (PoC) targeted at its enterprise resource planning and business warehouse applications, and plans to begin a full migration in the next year.

According to Newcastle University’s SAP development manager, Alan Cecchini, and Chris Burns, its business systems technical manager, the new database platform has already shown benefits to wider business operations.

As one example, Hana has quickened data reporting in the university clearing window, when UK students receive A-level results.

“We have a couple of hundred users who run a particular report and it takes about a minute to get the data on the current technology and systems,” said Cecchini.

"On Hana we were able to optimise that report to run in around a second, so the couple of hundred users that run it can have that data immediately and act on it.

"This is important because it concerns how many students have successfully been registered onto programmes of study, and which ones we have a quota or caps that we must meet or exceed.”

Alan Cecchini and Chris Burns will provide further insight into the Hana project at the SAP User Group conference in Birmingham, which begins on Sunday. For further information see here.

SAP Hana: Proof of concept

Newcastle University first went live with SAP back in 1999. The university uses a range of tools including: ERP, Business Warehouse, a separate BW Java stack for reporting requirements, HR, expenses, payroll, CRM and SRM - which helps with the purchase and ordering of goods.

Burns said that while SAP is keen to “usher everybody down the road to Hana”, the university wanted to do it “under our own steam”. This involved setting up a PoC to prove the business case to the wider business, with a full-scale rollout requiring investment in areas such as new hardware.

For the PoC, which was carried out with SAP consulting firm itelligence, the university borrowed two Hana servers: one to run a copy of its ERP systems and the other for BW.

A comparison with an Oracle data base was also carried out. Burns said Hana was much faster in its tests.

“One particular step of one data feed was taking 45 minutes on the Oracle system and with Hana we managed to get it to 12 seconds,” said Burns. “If that is extrapolated over the whole night it frees up quite a lot of processing time that we can do something more useful with.”

As well as the productivity gains for the university, Burns said that there will be efficiencies for back office IT staff which will help reduce costs.

“We have sold it [to senior management] that there will be a reduction in TCO [total cost of ownership] and that will mean that the finance director is happy,” he said.

“We would expect that the simplicity of [Hana] will lead to a reduction in administration costs: fewer [IT staff] tied up and better trouble-shooting as there are fewer components [to manage].”

He added that although there is a perception of Hana as "expensive", “if you look at the bigger picture, in the long term it is affordable solution”.

SAP Hana: Wider roll out

Going forward, the plan is to move ERP and BW systems over to Hana by the second quarter of 2016. “That is before clearing and registration - our key university business processes - so it should speed those up,” Cecchini said.

A wider roll out will continue after this period.

“If we can, we would also like to roll CRM and SRM out [at the same time] and then after the key registration period has ended, we will probably look to put the remaining components on during October or November next year.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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