As SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 is finally about to move into general availability status, there is mixture of excitement tempered with caution amongst both customers and consultants alike.
It is undoubtedly a major new release of the long and successful BusinessObjects product suite. It includes a new semantic layer and universe designer, known as the Information Design Tool (IDT), with enhanced capabilities including native access to OLAP data sources. There are exciting new functionalities in Web Intelligence with hierarchal data analysis and new charting capabilities. Xcelsius 4.0 integrates with the new semantic layer and includes the query panel in the Designer tool allowing direct binding of universe objects to visualizations. There are two new versions of Crystal Reports and Advanced Analysis the new OLAP analysis tool that replaces Voyager. In addition there is a bunch of new functionality in the platform for monitoring, auditing, version control and event management plus a whole bunch more for integration with SAP and SAP BW. BI 4.0 is also based on 64-bit architecture.
All of this adds up to a lot of new code and new integration. While extensive testing has been underway in both the beta and ramp up releases, the new software is for the most part untried in the challenging production environments of existing BusinessObjects enterprise deployments. This is due to some degree to the fact that previous new releases of the BusinessObjects suite have had issues (XI 3.0 and BO 6.0 quickly come to mind). Most existing customers prefer to wait for one of two service packs (not fix packs) before venturing into a new release.
There is also the consideration that there are some pretty important items missing from the BI 4.0 release such as the Microsoft .net SDK’s (used by many 3rd party add-on solutions) and the integration with SharePoint .
Many existing classic BusinessObjects customers have large numbers of Desktop Intelligence reports which will no longer be supported in BI 4.0. This will be a huge conversion project for many of them that will be difficult to justify from a tangible return on investment viewpoint.
However, for many SAP ERP customers, BI 4.0 is long overdue and they need the better integration it offers as soon as possible so I would expect many of them to look to adopt early. Customers implementing BusinessObjects for the first time may also benefit from starting with BI 4.0.
As for the existing BusinessObjects ,Crystal and Xcelsius based customers, it would be good to use the next 12 months to try out the release in a test environment and start to become familiar with the new functionality while testing items from your existing deployment with the new platform. This would also allow you to better plan for what new functionality would benefit your business the most and to learn it thoroughly before deploying. For those with large numbers of Desktop Intelligence reports, it provides time to consider options and convert at a sustainable pace and, dare I say, for SAP to even reconsider the Desktop Intelligence support decision.
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