As part of its mission to help customers innovate the way they do business, one year ago, SAP acquired Right Hemisphere, a leading provider of visual enterprise solutions. The combination of SAP’s vast set of business information and Right Hemisphere’s visualization capabilities changed the way businesses of any size create, manage and deliver products and services across their enterprise and their supply chain.
To celebrate the one year anniversary of Right Hemisphere’s acquisition by SAP, Robert Merlo recently sat down with Hans Thalbauer and Michael Lynch to chat about how things have been going so far. While the conversation centered on the tremendous progress already made with integrating the visual enterprise solution into SAP’s business suite, it is the benefits and potential of 3-D visual communications that really got these guys excited.
First of all, welcome. I’d like to start by talking about the strategy behind the initial acquisition. In what ways did SAP see Right Hemisphere complementing its business?
Hans: We were working with many customers where engineering operated as a separate department, which made it difficult for the rest of the organization to access and leverage their information. The question was what we could do to improve the collaboration and communication throughout the enterprise so that the tremendous product innovation from engineering could be connected to the entire supply chain. The answer, of course, was 3-D visual communication.
The vision and strategy behind the Right Hemisphere acquisition was to create a center of business information that brought together data from engineering and the business suite, and then delivered it in an extremely easy-to-use visual format. In doing so, we would also give customers the added benefit of enabling real-time collaboration between all departments.
Michael: I agree. The value of this acquisition to the customer is extraordinary. It is a tremendous win because all the product, supplier and business information is now presented in a really consumable, easy-to-understand way. As new solutions come to market, people are seeing how powerful it is to combine visual communication with business data; and it is truly transforming how they interact with SAP information.
That makes a lot of sense. Yet, in order to do all that the Right Hemisphere product line must be tightly integrated into the SAP business suite. How much progress would you say has been made in that area?
Michael: This first objective after the acquisition was to make Right Hemisphere’s technology compliant with SAP’s quality standards. The first release came out in record time and not only met these standards but went a step further with deeper integration on the CAD and business sides. The third release is coming out later this year and will be even more tightly incorporated. Really, as time goes on, visualization will become so seamless that customers will just see it as a standard component of the entire SAP solution.
Hans: Yes, and beyond that, the ability to use mobile devices to support R&D, manufacturing and services lines of business has also been accomplished in the past year. The mobile applications are really expanding the way customers can connect with each other and leverage SAP’s innovative solutions.
That’s a lot of great progress. As you know, CAD systems generate tremendous amounts of data. Are there plans to use visualization to help with the analysis, such as making it interoperable with HANA?
Michael: Yes, we are doing a lot of work on the analytics side. We’ve already integrated visualization technology with business objects and charting capabilities, so that you can interact, for example, with a
3-D image of a product or a manufacturing facility. By integrating the images with the HANA technology, customers can gather and incorporate tremendously large data sets, such as consumer feedback on product features, in milliseconds.
Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the benefits. Why do you think 3-D visualization is a better way to communicate?
Hans: 3-D visualization makes it so much easier for everyone involved to communicate and collaborate. The ability to walk through a correct 3-D model simplifies the communication process, avoids misinterpretations, and everyone immediately understands what the other person or company is talking about.
Michael: We are creatures that live in a 3-dimensional world. So, if we can interact with an object and get information from it in the same way we, say, pick up an apple and inspect it before we bite in, well that is the future of interacting with information. We’ve all seen it in movies, but SAP is doing it now. We are at the forefront of making it a reality and people are going to be blown away.
Okay, can you give us some specific examples of improvements SAP customers have seen so far?
Michael: Sure. Our customers have seen massive productivity gains, especially in the area of content creation for manufacturing or services. Historically, some accounts would take days to put together technical publications. Now, they can do it in an hour including technical illustrations and 3-D interactive instructions. Another area of improvement is the amount of time it takes to find the content. We’ve seen places where people spend 50% of their time just trying to locate the right piece of information. By using visual content, people can navigate around the product to find specific content, cutting that 50% of their time down to probably 5%. The third area of savings is around travel. Sending out work instructions using 3-D images with very limited text allows people to understand what needs to be done without having someone travel to train them. We’ve actually had one customer completely eliminate their training travel budget. Finally, the last area customers have seen a productivity gain in is plant uptime. Businesses lose thousands of dollars every minute a plant is down for maintenance. By optimizing maintenance time, you can see a return very rapidly. Taken all together, the overall ROI is far less than a year, which is terrific for customers looking to invest in Visual Enterprise.
Let’s look out a bit to the future. What’s your perspective on where visual communications is headed?
Hans: We’ve been strictly following the roadmap to embed visualization into SAP’s Business Suite and will soon be bringing new visual manufacturing solutions to the market, but we will not stop there. The next steps are to expand to new industries and address new markets, such as areas where we might leverage visual assembly or work instructions in the consumer market.
Michael: Right, you are exactly on track. I think the future is mobile, analytical and visual. And, I think SAP with HANA can also make it really fast. From the manager of the shop floor monitoring workflows with his tablet to the Dad using visual instructions to put together the new toy he just bought, the work we are doing will be common place in the next five years. It will be expected and SAP is far and away in the best position to be the leader.
Right Hemisphere was a fairly small, entrepreneurial start-up company that was acquired by a global organization. How do you think the people assimilation and integration has gone?
Michael: As the CEO of a smaller company, one of your objectives is to be acquired by an organization like SAP. Obviously, the investors were happy, but it also was really important that the employees understood they had a place to grow. Fortunately, we’ve had almost no one leave. People are very excited about what has been accomplished so far. Knowing that through SAP’s resources our work will have a global impact is wonderful.
Hans: I would like to thank everyone from Right Hemisphere but also from SAP. Everybody has gone way beyond what was expected. It was a very easy integration process, especially considering the many time zones involved that required people to work at all times of the day. Our success comes down to the people and it is great to see how everyone is really engaged and works as one team.
It looks like it has been a good year and there are lots of good things to come. Anything else you like to say about the acquisition?
Hans: I want people to know that every KPI has been met and over-achieved by the team. This is just the beginning and big things are still to come.
Michael: Yes, I agree. We are on the verge of making 3-D visual communication commonplace. It will be an exciting future. Thank you both for your time and for reflecting back on the first year of the SAP Visual Enterprise!
Robert Merlo (firstname.lastname@example.org) from SAP Visual Enterprise solution marketing is happy to answer questions from this interview.