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The SAP BI Strategy: Convergence or Conservancy

The SAP BI Strategy: Convergence or Conservancy?

I have been confused about SAP’s BI roadmap and strategy for many years now and so are the vast majority of SAP BusinessObjects customers that I have talked with about this topic.

About four or five years ago, SAP determined that there were too many products in it’s BI portfolio and shared a roadmap of how they would consolidate and converge these down to just a handful of strategic BI tools going forward. At this first announcement they were not sure how they would get there, but spoke about creating equivalent functionality and providing migration tools for the products that didn’t make the cut. However, they made it clear that for the foreseeable future all products would continue to be supported and none deprecated.

A year later they showed the same roadmap, but also announced that they would not be providing migration tools, since some of the products were architecturally different and migration tools did not make sense. Again, SAP made it clear that for the foreseeable future all products would continue to be supported and none deprecated.

The years since we have seen the same roadmap and the same assurances. What we have not seen is very much in the way of actual convergence, so recently SAP has been explaining what they really mean by convergence by defining their 4 principals of convergence:

  1. We are converging use cases not features and functions
  2. All existing content is safe and will work
  3. All BI 4 Clients will be maintained and supported
  4. No forced migrations

I think this makes things a lot clearer and explains why tools like SAP BO Dashboards/Xcelsius, Live Office and Explorer continue to enjoy great popularity and will continue to be used for many years to come.

Yes, new functionality development has been focused on the newer SAP analytics tools namely Lumira, Design Studio and Predictive Analytics but those tools had and still have a lot of catching up to do and, to be honest, have missed their window of opportunity. Outside of the SAP ERP base they have almost no market share.

On the other hand, SAP still has a massive base of BusinessObjects suite customers that they quite rightly want to keep happy and growing. The best way to do that is to continue to support and enhance the products they use. This is certainly very visible with Web Intelligence, but also we continue to see it with Crystal Reports, Live Office (Support of 64-bit in BI 4.2) and Xcelsius/SAP BO Dashboards (Support of Office 2013).

More significantly, SAP has changed it’s BI strategy in the last year with the announcement of SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. This is a brand new offering built from scratch and looks like SAP’s new future direction for analytics. SAP also purchased Roambi, which is one of the leading mobile BI solutions in the marketplace.

As far as the roadmap convergence progress is concerned, it has been slow and I do not see that changing. SAP did announce a coming together of Lumira and Visual Design Studio (now known as Lumira Studio) but that was not on the original roadmap.

I am happy with SAP’s new convergence definition, but maybe they should think about calling it conservancy.

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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2 comments

  1. Hey Paul,

    Good article, hope to see you more frequently sharing your ideas regarding all things BI, specially on Business Objects suite.

    With regards to your article, dare I say that SAP has either been a maverick in terms of staying put in a disruptive BI world, or has totally missed the bus and not even realized it. Yes, there are issues around having multiple products and yes they create confusion in terms of market place and consumers but even the functionalities within the core products are often different (cue – Web Intelligence features differ if you use Java vs HTML mode). It is a huge pain to train users and have then jump from Java to HTML to use certain features.

    The larger issue though, in my opinion, is how is SAP staying current in terms of technologies? Most BI tools have great Mobile features, SAP BI still lags there a bit. Newer BI tools are great at visualizations, SAP BI lags there. Most new BI tools can connect to sources like Google Analytics, Sales Force etc from Desktop while SAP BI needs those set up via Universe, a process that can slow things down. In the modern Big Data era where volume of data is on the up, SAP BI does not have a robust caching/cube mechanism that can be harnessed for analyzing large volume of data. Every new data pull works through a hit to database and doesn’t work off cache.

    I see SAP BI going the way of Enterprise Reporting more and being less of Analytical tool. Most companies will, or may already be using it, for standard/automated reporting and do their heavy analytics / visualizations on other Data Discovery tools.

    Saurabh

  2. Thanks Saurabh. You make some good points.

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