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SAP Sticks its Head in the Cloud for ERP and its Head in the Sand for BI

The messaging from SAP at this year’s Sapphire and ASUG Annual Conference was remarkable, radical and actually quite refreshing. If we are to take Bill McDermott (CEO) at his word, organizations (including SAP) need to eliminate layers of management, stop attending meetings and simplify business processes. The mantra of the conference was “Run Simple”.

Hasso Platner took the idea even further suggesting the hierarchical organization, like the hierarchical database, is heading for extinction. With the help of a Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton M. Christensen, they likened departments in organizations to aggregates in databases that restricted and even stifled information insight.

The idea of flattened organizations and focusing business around the customer’s needs is not new, but for a rigid, hierarchical company like SAP that has always preached strict conformance to their way of doing things this is quite a turnaround.

The new messaging from SAP at Sapphire is that the way forward is to put everything in the cloud in memory and do whatever you want! Cool! Let’s see what happens.

Unfortunately, the road map for Business Intelligence at SAP does not appear to be so clear or simple. In fact, there was a complete absence of the words Business Intelligence or BI anywhere at Sapphire with a preference to talk about “Analytics” instead. Since BusinessObjects is the largest BI suite in use around the world, this would appear to be an oversight on the part of SAP, or maybe not?

In the first couple of years after SAP acquired BusinessObjects, software license sales of BusinessObjects rocketed and actually overtook SAP ERP license sales. It looked for a time as though SAP had become a Business Intelligence software company rather than a  software company. But as the subsequent acquisitions of Sybase, Success Factors, Ariba and others occurred and the in-memory HANA database took center stage, SAP spread its net a lot further and is clearly a software company again. The focus is no longer on BI which might explain why there was an absence of it at Sapphire.

I did attend the Analytics Roadmap session and walked away more confused than enlightened by the direction SAP is planning to take. When the BusinessObjects tool suite is at its peak in usage and reliability, why would you announce that you plan to replace some of those key tools (Xcelsius Dashboards, Explorer) with new products that require a different architecture,  have not been proven and have no built-in conversion mechanism for the existing, in use solutions?

I did learn that BI 4.1 is like a Porsche 911 and Lumira is like a Tesla which may indicate SAP’s ultimate direction for “Analytics”.

Anyway, the good news is that nothing is going to happen soon and that the future of BI is, for the most part, unpredictable.  We only have to look at Desktop Intelligence which has been in an end of life for over 10 years and planned to be replaced 10 years before that.

On a closing note, I sincerely believe that we all look forward to a “Run Simple” SAP.

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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