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Is SAP Betraying the Masters of the Universe?

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.

About Paul

Paul Grill started his career in Information Technology in the U.K. in 1978, as an Executive Data Processing Trainee for Honeywell. More than thirty years later, he still has a voracious appetite for learning as Information Technology continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace. He was first introduced to the world of Business Intelligence in 1991, in France, when he saw a demonstration of an early version of BusinessObjects on Windows 2.1. He returned to the U.S. to rave about this phenomenal product, but it was many years before BusinessObjects made it into the mainstream. Paul founded InfoSol in 1997, and made Business Intelligence one of the key solutions offered by the company. Today, InfoSol is a leading SAP BusinessObjects solutions partner, known for its expert consulting, education and innovative add-on solutions. Paul is well known within the SAP BusinessObjects community for his extensive knowledge of Business Intelligence, and he has lectured and written many articles on the subject. Paul enjoys writing, running and coaching kids soccer, and is passionate about Ancient Egyptology.

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