A SAP DataGenius goes on tour to Washington DC

SAP Product Marketing in Vancouver recently asked me to support this year’s iteration on the DataGeek initiative that has been rebranded as DataGenius.

I have been a global finalist of the predecessor DataGeek a couple of times and this year I have been asked support the entrants with comments and feedback on their entries as a SAP DATAGENIUS MENTOR.   DataGenius Website

What a great opportunity to support the SCN community I thought, but it didn’t stop there…. It actually led me to a two day community data event in Washington DC.

How did the adventure begin? 

SAP were asked by The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to look at ways of to improve how they report and visualize data.

PEPFAR is a U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS around the world. PEPFAR is implemented as a collaboration of multiple U.S. Government agencies and is coordinated by the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.

A few SAP Mentors and myself were provided with both public facing and internal datasets to work on but we had under a week to share our thoughts as to how improvements can be made.

As always there was a data challenge to take the internal spreadsheets with data in pivot tables (30+ columns and >300 rows) and restructure those in flat data files. Thanks to Dave Pugh from UK EIM Pre Sales for his support in using Data Services to achieve this.

The data was randomized before it was sent to us so I can share an excerpt of the original file. The most politically correct statement I can use would be is that PEPFAR have adopted the Red, Amber & Green (RAG) status with gusto.
PEPFAR Spreadsheet

So taking the RAG status model as an inspiration I built out a SAP Lumira storyboard showing other ways the data could be visualized. The mission statement I had in mind for the storyboard was to enable an Executive to focus in on those geographies and KPIs of concern.

Lumira 1 Lumira 3 Lumira 6 Lumira 7

 The middle:

 PEPFAR we so happy with the visualizations that Geoff Peters from SAP Vancover and I had produced for them they wanted them to be shown as an example at a Community Data event in Washington DC over the weekend of 18-19 Sept.

 Not only did they want SAP to share the work but also Geoff and I to present in person with just 4 days notice to get organized. No pressure …..

This Community Data event was for members of the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data. This event brought together Senior Fellows, US Government Policy Makers & Senior Advisors, Economic Advisors, UN Senior Program Officers, Open data enthusiasts and a couple of SAP Data Geeks !  As many of you who know me appreciate I’m always happy to present at conferences but the enormity of this had no time to sink it.  

 The event was enlightening to me personally in how gathering, sharing and interpreting data is seen as core for sustainable development. Plus the enthusiasm from all attendees whatever their role in the global partnership was inspirational.  

What’s next

 On September 25-27, 2015, 193 global leaders, from government officials to NGO’s/charities (possibly including President Barack Obama and someone senior from SAP), will be meeting at or around the United Nations Summit in New York City to officially ratify 17 Sustainable Development Global Goals.

These 17 Sustainable Development Global Goals aim to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years:

  • End poverty,
  • Fight inequality & injustice,
  • Fix climate change

Global Goals screenshot

It’s really rewarding that a challenge from PEPFAR to help improve their data visualization can be a step along the way of SAP’s involvement in the United Nations Sustainable Development Global Goals

Buying SAP HANA is like buying an Electric Vehicle



I’m just finishing week 3 at SAP having just joined the Platform Solution Group for Database and Technology. So far I have been immersing myself in all things HANA related and found myself using the analogy, Buying SAP HANA is buying an Electric Vehicle, to draw together many different strands of information in one place.

Timo Elliots cartoon below is the best way I can describe my life for the last three weeks…..



In the last few years there have been numerous comparisons of SAP HANA with the Tesla electric car but these in the main focus on innovation and simplicity.

Compare the hybrid approach with the approach taken by Tesla Motors in the development first of their Roadster and subsequently their Model S. When Tesla set out to build an electric car, they didn’t take a conventional car and start bolting additional stuff onto it. They started from scratch. As a result, they produced a fully electric, zero-emissions vehicle that can blow the doors off conventional high-performance Vehicles (much less hybrids). A Tesla doesn’t even have a transmission; it doesn’t need one.    Tesla didn’t add. They subtracted”. https://blogs.saphana.com/2014/06/02/getting-to-know-sap-hana-part-2-the-power-of-subtraction/ Posted by Irfan Khan on June 2, 2014

My analogy is somewhat different, Buying HANA is like buying an Electric Vehicle

Not everyone has uses electric vehicles today but their popularity is increasing.  This is evident not just through statistics but seeing them is now common place in inner cities and more and more evident on the motorways around the UK that I frequent daily

According to Wikipedia (so it must be true :-)) As of December 2014, over 712,000 highway legal plug-in electric passenger Vehicles and light-utility utility vans have been sold worldwide since 2003, which represent about 0.06% of the world’s stock of motor vehicles.  During 2014 six countries achieved plug-in electric car sales with a market share higher than 1% of total new car sales and The United States is the leading market with a stock of over 290,000 plug-in electric Vehicles sold since 2008, representing 41% of global sales.

These statistics are encouraging in terms of global adoption, and they got me thinking ….  Are there parallels between the Adoption of Electric Vehicles and Technology Adoption, more specifically SAP HANA?

Every new technology goes through an adoption life cycle in which certain audience segments adopt a product before others are willing to do so.The diffusion of innovations according to  Everett Rogers shown below outlines the stages of adoption.  The lifecycle can be summarized as follows: With successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), its market share (yellow) will eventually reach the saturation level.


Based on the current adoption statistics from Wikipedia above EV’s are breaking out of the Innovators stage into Early Adopters. Can the same be said for SAP HANA ?  It certainly feels so to me.

In the diffusion of innovations according to Everett Rogers Diffusion occurs through a five–step decision-making process:

  • Knowledge
  • Persuasion
  • Decision
  • Implementation
  • Confirmation

In the persuasion stage early adopters seek out information about the new technology and move onto the decision stage, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the new technology to reach a decision on whether to adopt …  or not.  It feels to me that this five step process is as relevant in the decision of whether to buy an Electric Vehicle as it is to investing in SAP HANA.  Do you agree?

When thinking about the Adoption of EV’s it also occurred to me there are many similarities with the questions and activities you may go through when considering buying an Electric Vehicle to those when taking the plunge in SAP HANA.

  • Why am I doing this?  (Save £$ or Save the planet)
  • I am adopting too early?
  • How long until I see a break even on my investment v’s what I use today?
  • There are only a few manufactures with a small selection of models
  • I know it’s the future but Why Now?
  • I have the skills to repair my existing car but I will have no idea with this new one
  • Is the infrastructure in place to support my charging needs
  • Electric Vehicles are expensive today in comparison to their Petrol counterparts. Should I hold on until they get cheaper?
  • Are electric vehicles cheaper to maintain?
  • Should I try a Hybrid or go all in on fully electric?
  • I’ll definitely need to test out its performance for myself.

In Part Two of this blog I will walk through the questions above and try and answer them from the SAP HANA perspective.

In closing

There is a widely held view that Electric Vehicles are the future for transportation so it’s a WHEN should we take the plunge in adopting this innovation rather than an IF we should adopt.  The clear messaging from the top echelons of SAP is that HANA is a core foundation to the future of SAP technologies. In the not too distant future everyone using SAP will use HANA, whether they know it directly or not (with it being the enabler in the background).

run hana

SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Day 2, Tuesday

Back in September I posted a corporate blog explaining that Itelligence had been asked to present at this year’s SAP TechEd event in Las Vegas.

I delivered the session titled SAP Lumira – Tips, Tricks, and Community Experiences from the Real World on Tues 21/10.  The room was packed with approximately 150 attendees and I have been told that it was the best attended session in the whole community stream of sessions.

EA119 2

In the presentation I shared a number of real life use cases from itelligence and from the wider SAP community plus feedback, challenges and opportunities for the SAP Lumira technology.   If you have never heard of SAP Lumira before it is a fast-moving data visualization tool that connects to SAP and non-SAP data and allows data manipulation, visualization, and sharing.

As a presenter feedback, good or bad, it is always great to receive so I was really encouraged when two separate people approached me directly.

The first was at a SCN community evening event where for fun attendees were given data sets by Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) and they used SAP Lumira to try and answer some real world questions proposed by MSF (For more information on MSF and SAP community commitment to then have a look here).During the session a gentlemen strode right over whilst I was “geeking out” and thanked me for the session earlier in the day and said “It was the best session he’d attended all day”. If that wasn’t a great way to finish off a day at SAP TechEd  it got better as the combined itelligence, EVTechnologies and SAP Hana Cloud team came 2nd overall in the light hearted competition.

The second one, was on the early morning (06:00) Sap Community Network 5K Fun Run, where someone ran up to me and said “Hey, I was in your session yesterday, it was great” before I could reply he sped off and left me for dust!

5K fun photo

If the session on SAP Lumira is of interest to you I will be replaying it at the UK&I SAP Usergroup Conference  in November.

SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Day 1, Monday


Day one of SAP Teched 2014 finally arrived.  Feelings of anticipation and expectation to name but a few……2014-10-20 06.58.43-1

Registration was seamless, at 07:00 there were lots of people around but the lines were short.

2014-10-20 07.32.28

The whole days agenda culminated with the keynote address by Steve Lucas.  I have heard Steve speak many times on webinars and live video streamed events but his enthusiasm and passion really comes over in person when speaking to the 7000+ attendees.

The keynote was good to listen to and certainly entertaining. But, it’s only upon reflection that the change in style came apparent, 90% (loosely) of the content were real life stories and cutting edge demos facilitated by Steve. A refreshing change and appreciated by the delegates.  Each sound-bite was different but with the common theme of the HANA Cloud Platform, the only divergence from this messaging  was a core SAP Lumira demo from Jayne Landry Global VP & GM, Business Intelligence.

Birst BI had a notable mention quietly promoting that they are the first third-party cloud analytics provider to run on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

I could not wrap up without mentioning Vijay Vijayasankar from Mongo Db. I follow Vijay and have chatted with him on social media a few times. It was great to see him present in person and a great example of SAP for working technology partners to drive collaboration and innovation.

Tomorrow (Tues) is a jam packed day of great content plus I am presenting in the Community Stream on SAP Lumira – Tips, Tricks, and Community Experiences from the Real World.  Finally, late into the night, there is a SAP Lumira Viz-a-thon  in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) where participants will learn to use SAP data discovery technology (SAP Lumira) using MSF data to visualize and gather compelling insights to help Doctors Without Borders improve their organization and lives around the world.  Sounds fun, I’ll be there.




SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Pre Conference Jet Lag Day

Well I made it to Las Vegas…    My travel from the UK was pretty uneventful, taxi, plane, taxi.  My travel day was a long one actually if felt like 3 days all rolled up into one.  In the morning I was out in the Ashdown Forest with the family all morning, then the flight, and then supper in Vegas.  I went from wearing tweeds to a t-shirt in 1 day…..  phewwww

2014-10-18 09.57.56

2014-10-19 06.50.49

Sunday was an acclimatisation day, not for altitude but for the sensory explosion that is Las Vegas (and to try and beat the jetlag).  Sunday started early with a run along the “strip”, it’s  amazing what you see at 06:30 in Vegas.  Anything from young couples embracing, some doing the walk of shame, people staggering the worse for drink and I was even “High Fived” by a “lady of the night” (must have been a slow night). This run was the culmination of 8 weeks effort as I haven’t really exercised to any regularity for probably 20 years.

At SAP TechEd for the last few years there has been a 5k fun run / walk organised for mid week starting at 06:30.  When I registered for the conference it appears as a extra thing you can do so I signed up as an incentive to start exercising.  Using the Couch to 5K programme I started from not being able to run for more than 30 seconds to running 5k and I even entered a 10K and finished (way down the field, but finishing was the aim).

The actual SAP TechEd fun run is on Wednesday so wait for the update to see how I get on, but I’m chuffed with acheiving my goal of a 5K run along the strip in Vegas


Throughout the day familiar faces from SAP SCN and Twitter have started arriving at the venue so I’m really hoping to bump into some this evening. Maybe some selfies to follow….

My tech bag is all packed and hoodie ready as I’m told the conference centre can be cool. Is you see me please stop me and say Hi !!

2014-10-19 18.24.41-1



Integrating SAP Lumira and ESRI mapping to deliver Location Intelligence.

I recently recreated what is considered one of the 5 most influential visualisations of all time using SAP Lumira, The Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East by Florence Nightingale

To continue this theme I was inspired to try out another one of the top 5 that requires visualising data at a street level based on Longitude and Latitude coordinates. SAP Lumira has allowed plotting data on basic map outlines using Longitude and Latitude coordinates for some time but not on at street level like we are used to using in say Google Maps.

However, in the most recent version of SAP Lumira 1.17 this has changed as SAP has announced a partnership with ESIR the enables integration of their AecGIS online service within SAP Lumira.

Press Release: SAP and Esri Team Up for Geo-Spatial Analytic Innovations at #EsriUC with SAP Lumira and ArcGIS – See more at: http://blogs.sap.com/analytics/2014/07/15/sap-and-esri-team-up-for-geo-spatial-analytic-innovations-at-esriuc-with-sap-lumira-and-arcgis/#sthash.X4BPVEfB.dpuf


Another one of the Top 5 most influential visualisations of all time:

John Snows Map of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak.


Just to get things straight from the outset, I am talking about John Snow the Physician not John Snow from House Stark in the Game of Thrones

J Snow Jon-Snow-Kit-Harington_510



John Snow’s original Cholera Map


On the 8th September 1854, on the instruction of Dr John Snow, the handle to the water pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street) in Soho London was removed. Snow identified that the water from this pump was the source of an outbreak of cholera that ravaged Soho, killing over 500 over the previous weeks.

Snow’s work was ground breaking for its use of data visualisation where he plotted the locations of all the deaths in the cholera epidemic on a map and identified that they clustered around water pumps and particularly around the pump in Broad Street.  More Information:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Snow_(physician)

Recreation using SAP Lumira and ESRI ArGIS

snow - lumira


How To

After a bit of searching I found a dataset that gave the Longitude/Latitude reference of each house surveyed by Snow along with the count of deceased by Cholera. Additionally, there was a similar data file giving the points of each water pump in the locality.

I thought the challenge in this endeavour would be integrating SAP Lumira with ESRI, this was in fact the easiest part.  All that is needed was to sign up for trial access of ESRI ArcGIS and enter the resulting credentials in the SAP Lumira Preferences pane. (Links below)

However, I must admit to doing a fair amount of manipulation in Microsoft Excel to get the combined Longitude/Latitude field into two separate data columns that Lumira will acquire formatted as a Number. SAP Lumira could have split out the combined field into two easily but when creating a geographical hierarchy based on Longitude/Latitude these fields need to be a number data type and sadly the inbuilt convert function had issues.

Step 1

Acquire the dataset into Lumira and create a geographic hierarchy on the location name using the Longitude/Latitude.

Step 2

Sign up for a free 30 day trail of ESRI ArGIS using the link in the Lumira preferences panel and enter the resulting user credentials

lumira - geo preferences

Step 3

Build a visualisation in the using the new  Geographic map.

geo map 2

Step 4

Configure the Layer. Note “Count” is used twice, in SIZE sect the measure, in COLOR use the dimension

geo config



The finished article:

snow - lumira

In closing

Be aware there is no Lumira cloud integration for ESRI mapping at this time.  Also, I’m not an ESRI customer so I am unaware of ESRI licensing costs to use ArcGIS.

And one more thing..

If you visit London why not be a data visualisation tourist and visit the John Snow Pub on Broadwick Street and see the water pump

the pump





  • Raw Data File attached.



Reworking Florence Nightingales “Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East” with SAP Lumira

Recently I visited an exhibition at the British Library titled “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight”.  This exhibition “explored how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time”. One exhibit stood out for me: The causes of mortality in the army in the east by Florence Nightingale. 2

Florence Nightingale, (1820 – 1910) was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was known as “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds at night. (Source Wikipedia)


I have looked at this visualisation numerous times in the past but it struck me that Nightingale’s diagram represents the opposite risk to that you see normally. An image may be so visually interesting, so iconic, that we assume its conclusions without examining its data. I have definitely been guilty of looking at this visualisation as a piece of art but not listening to the story the data was trying to tell.

How should we read this data visualisation?

The Economist suggests how to interpret the diagram: As with today’s pie charts, the area of each wedge is proportional to the figure it stands for, but it is the radius of each slice (the distance from the common centre to the outer edge) rather than the angle that is altered to achieve this. The areas of the blue, red, & black wedges are each measured from the centre as the common vertex. The blue wedges measured from the centre of the circle represent area for area the deaths from Preventable or Mitigable Zymotic diseases, the red wedges measured from the centre the deaths from wounds, & the black wedges measured from the centre the deaths from all other causes. Put simply we have three data series plotting deaths by a custom grouping of cause over time.

What is the story being told?

If you study this visualisation long enough you will hopefully see that over a 2 year period that the number of deaths from preventable deaths grew to a peak in January 1855, but then reduced dramatically over the following 15 months. I found deciphering the visualisation to understand the story honestly quite difficult.  In today’s world there is a desire for the story a data visualisation is telling to jump out of the page and hit the reader right between the eyes.  Additionally I feel that creating statistical diagrams in that period of time was only possible by a small number of academics and trained individuals. But, again in today’s world we want to empower many people to Access, Analyse and Share data of all kinds.

The History

On 21 October 1854, Florence Nightingale and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained were sent to the Ottoman Empire. They were deployed in the Crimea, where the main British camp was based. Nightingale arrived early in November and her team found that poor care for wounded soldiers was being delivered by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was being neglected, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. There was no equipment to process food for the patients.  After Nightingale sent a plea to The Times for a government solution to the poor condition of the facilities, the British Government commissioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital that could be built in England and shipped to the Dardanelles. The result was Renkioi Hospital, a civilian facility which had a death rate less than 1/10th that of Scutari. (Source Wikipedia) I have often said any data visualisation must have a “mission statement”, a reason to live and a story to give. In the case of this visualisation I understand that it was developed with the specific aim of driving the important military hospital reforms through government to change lives The first edition of the Dictionary of National Biography (1911) asserted that Nightingale reduced the death rate from 42% to 2% either by making improvements in hygiene herself or by calling for the Sanitary Commission (Source Wikipedia)

Is there another way?

The dataset for this diagram is publically available and is less that 100 data points. So using SAP Lumira I have given below a few different ways of visualising the data that should make it easier for to gain the intended insight 4   5

I was hoping to show a new feature in SAP Lumira version 1-16 to animate the data over time which dramatically displays the swing in the number of deaths between 1854 – 55.  Unfortunately, SAP Lumira version 1-16 is not GA at the point of sharing this blog but I intend to update this blog appropriately in the future.