SAP is expanding its real-time analytics reach with a new Planning for Retail platform, which offers the ability to project sales and forecast future quarters. It’s yet another example of SAP analytics powered by the company’s HANA in-memory database, which is rapidly becoming the glue that binds the SAP portfolio together. SAP is also counting on HANA as a competitive differentiator as it seeks to fend off Oracle and IBM, both of which are targeting the same business customers with their own analytics platforms. Given the speed and complexity of retail operations, there’s obviously a market for a platform that can analyze transactional data such as sales and returns. Managers can also view SAP’s retail analytics on a mobile device. Analyzing that data over a longer period of time can help retail companies refine sales operations, reduce overstocking, and create optimum product mixes for each channel. The platform can be used to develop budgets with a multi-year outlook; analyze cross-category margins and historical sales data; develop workflows for managing sales and receipts; and define channel and merchandise hierarchies. “Retailing today is all about real-time data but many planning solutions cannot pull it off,” Barry Adam, solution director of SAP Planning for Retail, wrote in an Oct. 2 note. “SAP Planning for Retail is the ideal solution because it delivers pinpoint demand and financial forecasting out-of-the-box with end-to-end functionality. Retailers finally have a better option than using Excel as their principal planning tool.” SAP has spent much of 2012 making HANA the link between its EPM, ERP, CRM and analytics platforms. It also plans on using the technology as a foundation on which third-party developers can build a variety of industry-specific apps capable of mining huge datasets for insight. In addition, the company has pushed further into the cloud, announcing a cloud-based version of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), which features applications designed to help managers and executives view performance metrics and optimize costs, as well as perform analyses based on current data. Research firm Gartner rated SAP the top analytics and performance management software vendor in 2011, by revenue, placing it ahead of big competitors such as Oracle and IBM. However, those same competitors have designs on both analytics and cloud; if nothing else, competition is bound to only increase in coming years.   Image: Kzenon/