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SAP Lumira is the Exciting Headline but Enterprise BI is the Bread and Butter

The Sapphire Now event this year was all about simplicity, the cloud, and millenials. That's the message that SAP CEO Bill McDermott wanted to drive home in his keynote. BI, meanwhile, took a back stage to HANA and cloud announcements.

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard

At SAP, all roads lead to HANA, whether for BI or for transaction processing, on-premises or in the cloud. HANA is just three years old, and as an in-memory appliance, SAP has rapidly seeded the market with developers, fostered its partner network, and introduced new products that leverage the speed of in-memory. Customer Norwegian Cruise Lines spoke of how HANA allowed them to better analyze their data, faster than a previous data warehouse, and saving $700 million annually. Most interesting to me is how Norwegian Cruise Lines hadn't used anything from SAP before HANA, a proof point that HANA is not only for big ERP customers.

The NFL with its fantasy football app is leveraging HANA, mobile, predictive, and Lumira to support its millions of fans, a customer base of millions and growing in the 25 to 50 percent range annually. Seoul University Hospital reduced its query time from hours to seconds, with a 147 percent return on investment in HANA. More important, CIO Dr. Hwang said HANA allows the hospital to analyze comments that were never before accessible.

Although all the news with HANA seemed positively glowing, news on the leadership and BI front in particular was a bit more fractured. Last month, SAP CTO Vishal Sikka abruptly resigned, amid speculation that he was frustrated that the position of CEO was not in his future.

In the BI space, two key SAP people -- Adam Binnie and Jason Rose -- also recently moved on. Insiders say the timing is coincidental. Outsiders worry about the impact on the BI road map for a product line that is one of the most complex in the industry. McDermott's vision for simplicity has a long way to go in BI.

Jayne Landry, newly appointed General Manager of BI and taking over from Binnie, outlined the BI road map. She conceded that for most BI segments, there are two, sometimes three, products (visual discovery includes Explorer and Lumira; dashboards includes Design Studio and Dashboards aka Xcelsius). The vision to simplify the product line was clear; the execution of how and when to get there was anything but.

Dashboard users were assured there would eventually be a migration utility to Design Studio, the strategic product, and in the interim, were told to check out a product from partner APOS. Landry conceded that killing Desktop Intelligence was a mistake. At issue is how to support existing investments while focusing resources on moving forward. In empathy for SAP, who could have predicted that Apple would kill Flash, a technology on which Dashboards is based?

Long-time customers have been rightfully worried that SAP cares more about newer products HANA and Lumira than about the mature and broadly deployed SAP BusinessObjects. Judging by the headlines and excitement about these newer products, they might be right to worry. However, Landry shared a pie chart describing the company's three areas of analytics: enterprise BI, agile analytics, and advanced analytics.


Main Products


Release Cycle

Enterprise BI

SAP BusinessObjects

Crystal Reports


Design Studio


6 to 12 months

Agile Analytics




6 to 8 weeks

Advanced Analytics

Infinite Insight (KXEN)

Predictive Analysis


Enterprise BI then is clearly getting the lion's share of development resources but is indeed on a slower release cycle. Speaker Ty Miller, senior director of BI, likened Lumira to the shiny new Tesla -- innovative engineering, new technology, disruptive -- while the BI Platform is like the tried-and-true Porsche. It's an apt analogy.

It would seem, thenm that it's not that SAP cares more about Lumira but rather that there's more frequent news as it's on such a rapid release cycle. To that end, the noteworthy new features in version 17 (due out this month) includes the following ( has a detailed review here):

  • InfoGraphics, an evolution to Stories that combines visualizations, with text and images, and a greater degree of formatting
  • Direct connect to on-premises HANA and BW data from Lumira Cloud
  • Support for MAC, with the beta available mid-June

Customer Daimler Trucks gave a great demo of their Lumira application for dealers.

Also around the corner is a new release of Mobile, in which WebIntelligence reports can be filtered with a tap, even in offline mode. Users can save those filters to create a customized view of their reports. Offline users can now set an option so that reports are automatically refreshed when connected, ideal for sales people who need to be sure they have the latest content cached.

Stated improvements to the BI platform (but with no specific timeframe) include:

  • Free hand SQL. This is huge, but as I've heard it as a road map item for a couple of years now, I won't hold my breath until I see the beta.
  • Live Office support for newer universes created in 4.x (.UNX); this has been a hole in the product portfolio since version 4 was first released in 2012. Microsoft added support for universes in Power Query last month, a partial solution for long-time Live Office users.
  • Parity in the DHTML and Java client WebI interfaces.

SAP seems to be at a crossroads in the BI and business analytics space; trying to innovate at the pace of smaller, more nimble competitors such as Tableau and Qlik while serving and enhancing the bread-and-butter enterprise BI and ERP customers. HANA, HANA Enterprise Cloud, Business Suite on HANA, and Simple Finance are the bigger ticket items and next generation platforms that have been a mainstay of SAP for over 40 years. Straddling both worlds is not easy.

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard, an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.

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