There was an underlying mood at the recent ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference of confusion and even despondency amongst long-time BusinessObjects users. This is a conference organized by ASUG for BusinessObjects users yet many did not attend and made a conspicuous statement by their absence.
So why the confusion and despondency?
The confusion emanates from SAP announcing a series of business intelligence tools, namely Visual Intelligence and Visual Design Studio that were not initially designed for the BusinessObjects semantic layer . For the BusinessObjects community, the semantic layer and universes are the essence of BusinessObjects and to release BI tools that seemingly bypass this “Holy of Holies” is just unthinkable. In SAP’s defense, they announced these tools will support universes in future releases but this does little to appease the concern of the “masters of the universe”. We must also remember that SAP is primarily an applications software company and not a Business Intelligence software company. SAP currently groups the BusinessObjects suite under one of its five major strategic areas named Analytics (the other four being Applications, Database & Technology, Cloud and Mobility). Analytics is a pretty broad category that includes a lot more than the BusinessObjects product suite.
The despondency appears to derive from BusinessObjects losing some of its significance within the SAP organization. When SAP acquired BusinessObjects almost 5 years ago, they assured customers that they would retain it as an autonomous unit and keep its own branding. However, over the years, SAP has gradually chipped away at the BusinessObjects branding, renaming many of the tools and dropping the BusinessObjects name from some of them. The development focus for the suite has been weighted more towards integration with SAP applications as oppose to next generation BI functionality. As a result, existing and new BI software vendors now threaten BusinessObjects standing as the world’s leading BI suite.
This mood was epitomized in a live broadcast panel discussion between SAP Executives representing the Analytics segment and prominent members of the BusinessObjects community. The SAP Executives were bombarded with a barrage of criticism and questions they struggled to answer including what will be the future of the BusinessObjects universe.
In the latest BI 4 release, the BusinessObjects semantic layer and the universe design tool were re-designed and re-delivered for the first time in over two decades. It is hard to believe that SAP would seriously consider replacing it and, yet, they hardly ever talk about it. Maybe they are not planning to replace it but it has certainly lost its prominence within the SAP organization with so much hype around HANA with its in-memory database and analytic views.
It might be time for SAP to redress the balance and reassert their commitment to the Masters of the Universe.