RESEARCH & RESOURCES

LESSON - SAP Business Intelligence: A Robust New Platform for Enterprise Business Intelligence

By Steve Kent, Senior Business Data Architect, Collaborative Consulting
Introduction

SAP AG recently announced its business intelligence (BI) product roadmap and not surprisingly, it is based upon the business warehouse (BW) foundation—along with an optional hardware appliance—a BI Accelerator— to enhance query performance.

Business intelligence is getting the right information in the right format at the right time. Data quality and data integration are fundamental capabilities for ensuring that you get the right information. The products acquired from BusinessObjects (now one product, called Data Services XI 3.0) feature extensively in the new SAP product landscape.

How this new product roadmap affects companies depends upon on number of factors, namely:

  • Where the companies are with their SAPs implementation—new versus existing
  • What their data enterprise data warehousing strategy is—whether they use SAP BW or an independent data warehouse
  • What features and functions the companies need from a business intelligence perspective
The Roadmap

Data Services XI will significantly boost SAP’s ETL service offering and provide enterprisewide capabilities for companies wanting access to data that is in non-SAP systems or in unstructured formats such as e-mails, MS Office documents, and Web content.

Data Services XI, especially the data quality aspect, can now also be integrated within the core ERP / CRM applications for realtime address verification, deduplication, and standardization. SAP is positioning it as a key component for its MDM tool providing bulk loading, standardization, and cleansing capabilities as well being featured in the “getting data to and from BW” space, along with the existing SAP ETL components.

All of BusinessObjects’ core components around enterprise reporting (Crystal Reports), analysis (Web Intelligence), and dashboards (Xcelsius) are being offered as premium products for reporting against either SAP data sources or against any other non-SAP data such as that contained in another data warehouse or data mart.

Business intelligence is getting the right information, in the right format, at the right time.

The biggest change will be for existing SAP BI customers who use the Business Explorer products—BEx Analyzer, Excel or Web, for ad hoc analyses. These products, along with BusinessObjects’ Voyager (for OLAP analysis), will be phased out and replaced by a new product called Pioneer sometime in 2009. Another significant change involves BEx Report Designer, which is being phased out and replaced by Crystal Reports light (for SAP data only).

The dashboard space still needs clarity, as there are multiple products to choose from: BO’s Xcelsius product (personalized dashboards and interactive visualizations) and Dashboard Builder (featured less prominently), as well as SAP’s existing product, Visual Composer, which is being positioned more for building applications.

The last big change on the roadmapconcerns the budgeting and planning offering. SAP’s existing offering (originally from OutlookSoft) is the single survivor in this space.

Conclusion

The new product stack significantly enhances SAP’s capabilities in the BI arena to access and report on non-SAP data (a situation that most companies would be faced with and an area that has been historically neglected), as well as SAP data.

The new BI stack favors well against BI capabilities offered by SAP competitor Oracle’s Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). A key differentiator is the data services offering.

Data Services is a hidden gem in the product stack. This could, and should, play a significant role with companies that are about to embark on an SAP core application (ERP, CRM, or MDM) implementation to cleanse, standardize, and enhance their data prior to load.

Historically, BW query performance has been an issue. BusinessObjects XI 3.0, as well as SAP’s BI Accelerator, should significantly improve this.

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