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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, Co-Founder and CEO of Infosol Inc., is an information technology guru with more than 40 years’ experience in the IT industry. Recognized as an industry expert, Paul’s vision is to collaborate and develop long-term global relationships, resulting in the successful implementation of business intelligence solutions. Paul believes a company’s success with Business Intelligence is a combination of data and people’s insights and actions. He believes in the coexistence of technologies. With a strong portfolio of clients ranging from fortune 50 companies, start-ups, and middle market, Paul takes pride in his ability to deliver positive transformations impacting company’s productivity and profitability through the application of business intelligence. He is often heard saying that “data holds amazing nuggets that can be used to create limitless BI solutions that make a difference in people’s lives”. Throughout Paul’s career, he has been a speaker, lecturer, and writer sharing his passion for Information Technology and Business Intelligence. On a personal note, Paul is an avid runner, Tai Chi practitioner, and youth soccer coach. Paul’s curiosity for knowledge expands beyond technology with a passion for Ancient Egyptology and Gorillas.

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