This is a question I asked at the Town Hall session at the recent SAP Analytics and BusinessObjects Conference held in Ft. Worth, Texas. I qualified the question by stating that everything that SAP was promoting in their keynotes and on their booth were their Analytics tools namely Lumira, Predictive Analysis/Infinite Insight and Visual Design Studio with emphasis on running on their in-memory database HANA.
In contrast, most of the attendees were users of BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, Dashboards/Xcelsius, Crystal Reports, Universe Designer, Explorer and the BusinessObjects platform. Fortunately, the conference had plenty of BusinessObjects education sessions and partners to more than satisfy the attendees and many of the Web Intelligence, Information Design Tool/Universe and Dashboard/Xcelsius sessions were packed .
According to ASUG, the organizer, this year’s conference had more attendees than any of the previous three years and there were a large number of first-time attendees. Many of these first-timers were SAP ERP customers implementing or about to implement BusinessObjects for the first time. This SAP ERP base has been a focused growth area for BusinessObjects ever since its acquisition by SAP but they appear to be receiving mixed messages on which direction to go as far as their Business Intelligence strategy is concerned.
The new “Analytics” tools from SAP were not conceived or designed as part of the BusinessObjects platform. Yes, Lumira and Visual Design Studio can access a BusinessObjects universe but that was a later add-on function and these tools are so architecturally different from the rest of BusinessObjects that they do not logically fit the suite. More significantly, SAP recommends using HANA analytic views for these tools rather than a BusinessObjects universe and any of the traditional BO tools. While Steve Lucas, SAP Global GM for Platform Solutions, has recently emphasized that the new Analytics tools are not a replacement for the BusinessObjects platform which is a robust, secure and full featured BI solution, the imbalance between the time spent talking about the two remains extreme.
If the SAP ERP customers are confused by the mixed messages, the non-SAP ERP BusinessObjects customers are completely baffled by SAP’s lack of emphasis on the BusinessObjects platform.
When you own the leading Business Intelligence product suite in the world, why would you not make extending and enhancing it your top priority?
The good news is that BusinessObjects remains the best all round BI suite in use today and that was in evidence at the conference with some truly remarkable customer case studies. The creative usage of Web Intelligence, Xcelsius Dashboards, Explorer and Crystal was on display in many sessions and these were not rehearsed demos, these were live production BI applications benefitting millions of people.
I did not receive a satisfactory answer to my question from the representatives of the SAP management on stage at the Town Hall but that is because they never actually answered what I asked. What was more interesting was the number of customers at the conference who approached me afterwards thanking me for raising the question because it was on their minds too.
It his keynote address, Steve Lucas did say that BusinessObjects release BI4.2 would be released in 2015 and full of new features, the most significant of which would be quality. This is good news for all but SAP needs to do a little more than this to re-synchronize with its BusinessObjects customers who, for the most part, appear to be ahead of them in Business Intelligence know how.