Dominion Consulting has been awarded a prime position on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Shared Services Line of Business (SSLoBS) Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). An estimated $500 million multi-award BPA, this win is a testament to our team’s 20+ years of continuous delivery and excellence supporting USDA’s mission.
The objective of the SSLoBS BPA is to drive the OCFO’s (Office of the Chief Financial Officer) mission, while providing USDA’s shared service offerings to customers government-wide. The scope of this BPA includes services for Financial Management, Human Resources, Information Technology Services Division, External Systems Development, and Personnel & Pay. These service offerings are designed to eliminate time-consuming, transactional functions and allow agencies to focus on their core mission.
Let’s face it. If you work in the SAP world and haven’t heard about HANA, you’re living under a rock (or maybe still on R2?). In the past three years, every SAPPHIRE, ASUG and TechEd (sorry, d-Code) event has focused primarily on HANA and its benefits. SAP is now even rewriting and pushing down their ABAP code to HANA to take advantage of its capabilities. S4HANA and Simple Finance have the capability of drastically simplifying an organizations data models. However, a number of customers have purchased HANA as their BI solution, but are not quite ready to take the leap to these solutions. That’s where the HANA Accelerators come in. The HANA Accelerators (aka, HANA Side Car) allows customers to leverage their HANA investment like never before. By redirecting the selects from their standard database to HANA, significant performance improvements can be gained with this technology. And the beauty of this solution is that the implementation time is very fast, saving you money and improving your ROI.
If you are like most of my customers, your system performance was probably great when you first went live – especially if you did a phased rollout. However, as time has passed, you’ve likely added additional organizations, new processes and more data to the system. While the old saying ‘Disk is cheap’ may be true, getting to the data on the disk becomes more expensive the larger the dataset. At least, that’s the way it’s been with traditional databases. With the introduction of HANA, SAP has revolutionized the way that data is stored and accessed. Through the use of the column store database, the data within the database is compressed significantly – in most cases by a factor of 7 or more (by that I mean, 7 terabytes of row store data becomes 1 terabyte of column store data). Once the data is compressed, the amount of RAM needed to put the data into memory is much less. Accessing data in RAM is an incredibly more efficient method than having to access it via disk – even with Solid State Drives. But to me, this isn’t even the greatest benefit – at least not from a business perspective. Since the data is stored in columns, every column essentially becomes an index. This has two incredible benefits. First, there is no need to have secondary indexes on your tables. This alone can save a huge amount of disk space. Second, it means I can now access my data using any combination of fields I want. From an end user perspective, this is huge. I am no longer limited to the indexes someone else chose for me. And what that really means is that not only can I analyze my data in ways which meet my exact business needs, but I can even design the system in ways that were never possible.
While Suite on HANA is starting to gain traction, many customers would like to see a better return from their HANA investment today. In order to do this, SAP has delivered two Accelerator products. The most commonly known product is the ERP Accelerators. The ERP Accelerators are a collection of specific points in SAP’s standard code, whereby a redirect to HANA is performed. The ERP Accelerators were delivered as part of the standard system with SAP Note 1620213 (and subsequent additional notes). Below is a list of just a few of the delivered accelerators.Table 1 – SAP Delivered ERP Accelerators
In addition to these, there are a number of other accelerators and SAP continues to add to this list. The accelerators can be categorized into one of the three areas:
- Reporting – These accelerators are used to select data quickly from the standard line item tables like BSEG, GLFLEXA, PSMGLFLEXA, ANEP, COEP, etc.
- Transactional – These accelerators are used within the processing of transactions like posting an FI document or running CO Allocations
- Interface – These are primarily BW related where a Virtual Infoprovider can be setup from BW
The second Accelerator product is the Business Application Accelerators. This product allows you to redirect any of your own custom programs. The product is an add-on to the standard system and must be requested via information in SAP Note 1694697.
One additional transaction of note is the General Table Display. If you’ve been using SAP long enough, you’ve probably used transaction SE16. SAP has delivered a new transaction – SE16H. This new transaction allows you to select your secondary database connection and query data directly within the ERP system. Additionally, this transaction allows you to do a left outer join with another table from your standard database or from HANA.
While most customers are unaware, SAP has provided the ability to connect to a secondary database from within the ERP system since the days of R/3 4.0B. The transaction DBCO allows user to create a connection to another database by providing the IP address of the database server and login credentials. The HANA Accelerators utilize this secondary connection to redirect the selection of data from the standard installed database to HANA.Figure 1 – DBCO Secondary Connection
Of course, the data first needs to reside in HANA in order to utilize this redirection. This is where the System Landscape Transformation (SLT) product is essential. By using the SLT, data can be replicated from the ERP system in near real time. This provides for the use of the functionality with not only reports, but with transaction processing. The SLT is a product that creates triggers at the database level which are executed anytime an Insert, Update or Delete occurs on a specified table. The trigger then populates a shadow table with the key of the table to keep a record of which entries need to be transferred. The SLT system then copies the record from the ERP system to HANA using RFC connections. This entire process usually takes less than a second to go from the update in ECC to the update in HANA. SLT does allow for more advanced ETL capabilities, but this is the basic concept. One thing to note – in order to use the accelerators for a specific table, the structure of the table must be the same in both systems. I’ll even take this one step further – I believe the data should be a mirror of each other (e.g. no transformations). My reasoning here is simple – If I run a report that is not accelerated and compare it against one that is, there should be no difference in the results.
Once the basic setup is complete for connecting and replicating to HANA, it’s time to view each accelerator. In transaction HDBC (or HDBS), you can view each accelerator to determine the functionality and requirements to activate. Each accelerator can be activated across your whole system or by user id. Further, the accelerator can be activated and deactivated very quickly in case you run into issues.Figure 2 – ERP Accelerator – General Settings
The key to being able to activate an accelerator is the existence of the necessary tables in HANA with the structures identical. Some accelerators have as few as one table required, while others have a large number. In figure 3 below, the General Ledger Line Item Browser with its new transaction FBL3H requires five tables from the ERP system as well as a new generated view that can be created from this screen. The generated views are created in the ERP system as well as the HANA system – both without data.Figure 3 – ERP Accelerator – Replication Tables
Business Application Accelerators
The BAA is an add-on product that must be applied via transaction SAINT. The component name is SWT2DB. To use this product, an XML file is created which defines the program and table which will be redirected. Once the XML is uploaded, a database connection (from transaction DBCO or DBACOCKPIT) is assigned to the scenario. The scenario is then activated and all future selects are redirected.
In our experience, the BAA is just as important (if not more so) than the ERP accelerators. With this component, we have enabled numerous reports and interfaces to run significantly faster than before. Let’s face it – SAP developers do a pretty good job of writing efficient code, while other developers do not have the quality assurance and performance mindset of those in Waldorf or Palo Alto. At most of my clients, the long running programs are typically the ones that start with a Z. As such, some of the largest gains we’ve seen is through the acceleration of reports, extracts and interfaces via the BAA.
Now if you’ve made it this far, you must be wondering about the results. These products have truly transformed some of my client’s experiences. The end users no longer have to wait minutes and hours for reports, the O&M team does not have to stay up all night monitoring jobs, the database administrators are happy that the primary database is not dragging, and the functional team is free to organize the data any way they want. Some specific examples of what we’ve seen are:
- One interface was running for over 15 hours. After acceleration via the BAA, it ran for 9 minutes.
- The Cost Allocation program was running for over 24 hours at the end of the month – it now runs in 20 minutes.
- The Vendor Line Item Browser would timeout and never return the data for some vendors – now it runs in less than 1 minute.
- Depending on how some users ran reports, the system would either timeout (if in foreground) or run for days (in background). Now the users can select their data however they want and the data is returned in seconds.
The additional speed is nice, but it really comes down to what happens when you attain this level of performance. If a report takes 5 minutes to return the data, the user will hopefully do some other work – but they may just take a short break. If it takes 3 hours, they’ll definitely do other things, but they’ll also rarely rerun that report based on their findings. If the report returns the data in 30 seconds, the user can do something actionable with that information (like post a correcting entry, etc.) and rerun the report to analyze the data again. Providing a system that works for your users, improves their performance, improves the overall system performance and ensures increased satisfaction and acceptance of the system are all possible with the HANA Accelerators.
To learn more about how to make the Side Car your Main Car, contact us at www.ibcdbs.com/contact/.
In October 2013, IBC, a DBS Company (IBC), was formed as a result of the merger between DominionBusiness Solutions, Inc. and Integrated Business Consulting, LLC. Based in Reston, Virginia, our combined company brings the same small-business values and focus that drove our individual success, but now with a broader reach and an expanded set of joint capabilities. As 2014 kicks off, we pause to reflect on our past success and look ahead to our promising future.
Reflecting on the past of each company reveals a similar history and a shared commitment to the success of our clients. Both companies were founded with the idea that customers want and deserve more than just contractors who support their projects. We shared the belief that true value comes from those organizations that treat their clients as strategic partners and work collaboratively to solve their business challenges together as a team. Furthermore, we focused on empowering our clients by delivering solutions that reflect a shared vision and position our clients for long-term success. Applying this philosophy and approach helped power the success of each of our legacy companies from their respective beginnings until now.
Founded in 2009, Dominion Business Solutions (DBS) was established as a management and IT consulting firm focused on solving our clients’ most complex and mission-critical challenges. DBS was launched by Dan Maguire and JP Foley with the support of a handful of trusted colleagues, re-building some of the same leadership team that had enjoyed tremendous prior success growing and exiting another IT consulting business. Unlike a traditional IT services start-up, DBS leadership invested early in expanding the management team, operations, and resources of a much larger company – building the base infrastructure for the much larger company they planned to become. Subsequently, DBS established itself as one of the region’s fastest growing and award-winning providers of technology solutions to both public sector and commercial clients, most notably receiving Consulting Magazines “Seven Small Jewels” award in 2012.
Over our four-year existence we expanded our solution expertise and established a reputation in the marketplace for consistently delivering innovative and proven solutions that enable our clients to realize significant performance gains and achieve lasting results. While DBS was able to achieve substantial growth in our relatively short corporate history, we saw in IBC a potential partner with a much more established brand and successful past performance with prime government contracts and relationships. “We had enjoyed a period of substantial corporate growth, both solution offering and industry and agency vertical expansion; however, much of that growth was as a strategic teammate within the federal marketplace as opposed to prime contracts” said JP Foley. “We knew that in order to successfully compete for larger and higher-visibility federal prime contracts and commercial enterprise-level opportunities, we needed additional depth of capability. Merging with IBC, a company we had successfully teamed with in the past, was a logical and strategic solution to that goal.”
Following a similar path, Integrated Business Consulting was founded in 2003 with a focus on providing deep functional and technical Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) services. IBC’s founding partners, Todd Barber and George Hagstoz, found a crucial need in the SAP Public Sector space for Platinum Integration Experts. They believed that the key to a successful Federal SAP Implementation required a strong understanding of the SAP product suite, coupled with a deep understanding of the Federal Financial management process. IBC’s original success was developed leveraging senior SAP implementation experts in the initial implementation of the Internal Revenue Service, US Army, and NASA. Over the course of 10 years, Integrated Business Consulting expanded our service offerings to include Program Management Office Support, Audit Readiness, and Independent Verification and Validation across other ERP packages in addition to SAP.
In 2009, IBC began focusing on prime contracts and was able to secure a number of new clients including the FCC, USDA, and GSA over the past 2 years. “In looking forward at the challenges faced in the Federal Sector, we felt it was important to expand our service offerings and capabilities quickly to increase our depth in supporting our customers. Having partnered with DBS in the past, we knew that both companies had a similar culture and shared business goals. This synergy developed through the merger allowed us to quickly achieve our growth goals with minimal organizational impact.” said Tim Spadafore, Managing Principal.
Overall, the merger represented a great opportunity to unite the distinct cultures and experiences of our companies through our shared philosophy and commitment to outstanding client service. Together, we are now able us to better serve our customers across all industries and solutions, while also providing new opportunities for our employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
As we look forward to the future, we share a sense of excitement about the opportunities now available to us as a result of the merger. Our combined strengths are positioning us for a new era of sales, business development, and opportunity pursuit. A great example of this is our recent bid to manage a large-scale SAP implementation at a major Federal Agency, requiring a project team of almost 100 personnel. Neither legacy firm would have been capable of bidding the opportunity alone, but as a combined entity, we were able to author a strong, credible proposal and garner the respect and confidence of both the client and our large business partners. The ability that we now have to pursue opportunities of this order of magnitude will be a tremendous driver of our growth in the coming years.
Another exciting result of the merger is the opportunities it creates for continued career growth for our employees. As we now have nearly double the clients and projects, employees will have tremendous opportunities to learn new skills, contribute on different engagements, and find areas for career growth not previously available. Also, our expanded internal operations capabilities are now supporting new initiatives such as formal (and informal) mentor programs and improved training and education paths, that will help ensure that employee has a clear path for career growth and enhancement.
A final thought related to what this merger means for us as we look ahead, is the concept of “stability”. Consulting firms operating in the current economic environment, coupled with the uncertainties of the Federal Government, face significant challenges and risks. As a small business, even the smallest of risks can be real and impactful. While our newly merged business isn’t free of these types of factors, we are much more able to adapt and incur both the positive and negative fluctuations of our business. The “new” IBC is strong, stable, and poised for sustainable growth.
“I am personally very excited about this merger”, started Dan Maguire, Managing Principal. “It is clear to me that the resulting combined company provides a solid foundation for our employee’s careers and it will tell a very positive story for future recruiting. I am very optimistic about our future.”
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