At the 2009 SAP Influencer Summit, the executives at SAP outlined their overall future (See: “SAP Broadcasts New Enterprise Software and Applications Strategy“), but also the advancement of not just business intelligence (BI) but also business analytics. As everyone should know by now the importance of these technologies are for not just finding out how and where your organization is performing but what might happen in the future too! It should be no surprise that one of the largest enterprise software vendors like SAP has invested and grown significantly through the acquisition of Business Objects with also organic development of new business intelligence technology and analytic solutions for business and IT. In fact just recently at SAP Sapphire conference, the demonstration of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer (See: “SAP Announces New BI Explorer: Even a CEO Can Use It“) was on the main stage. Now BI has not come at a low cost for SAP who has had to make many tough decisions on their product roadmap for integration of platforms to simplify deployment and management of the technologies as well having to compete aggressively in the market.
SAP is moving along in advancing their current release of SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 portfolio to their next major release which is most likely going to be XI 4.0 and what you might hear as code named aurora and pioneer that is expected in second half of 2010. This release will bring a common platform that will support a range of BI capabilities well beyond today’s SAP BusinessObjects Explorer that was until recently only accessing data from SAP BW through SAP Business Intelligence Accelerator technology. The new release in 2010 will bring a new and improved semantic layer to their platform that will blend the best of Business Objects and SAP BW technologies but more importantly provide enhanced flexibility for dynamically accessing data from across the enterprise. In addition the advancements of usability are significant with the new version along with expanded support within Microsoft Office and web editions. The interactive analytic set of capabilities operates in high scale by using in-memory technology of their accelerator and 64 bit computing technology that will also operate against traditional OLAP cubes. SAP will also be upgrading the embedded BI within the SAP Business Suite of applications to address those direct needs of operational BI for which they compete against Oracle the other large enterprise applications vendor.
More capabilities will be in this release as SAP finalizes capabilities and readiness through their beta software program. I personally would like to see better use of events from complex event processing (CEP) into the BI offering for which I call Operational Intelligence and our benchmark research shows is a growing priority and where the use of geography could enable what I call Location Intelligence can help pinpoint issues and opportunities quite easily. What is still not obvious is how this release will foster collaboration across business and IT from a data perspective who should be working together more closely for assembling and advancing BI for the enterprise. This new release is a significant step forward as it is the culmination of significant technology rationalization into a common platform for which will be a new generation of business analytics and performance management solutions. SAP has spent significant time to ensure that both the usability and administration are simpler than ever before.
Coming out next in the SAP BI portfolio is the upcoming new release of their cloud computing offering that is code-named Kona which will bring SAP directly into the BI software as a service (SaaS) market. This on-demand offering will bring a suite of capabilities from uploading and integrating data including spreadsheets to the ability to build queries, reports and metrics that can be used in dashboards along with accessing this information via mobile devices. SAP has done a very nice job of integrating additional web services and capabilities that will simplify the integration of other types of content and functionality which has been demonstrated over the last year. This release is significant as current efforts in the on-demand SAP BI using Crystal Reports have not addressed the full breadth of BI capabilities necessary to meet customer need and also compete against other BI SaaS vendors currently in the industry like BIRST, BlinkLogic and GoodData who will have a new and very big competitor. My quick review of this new on-demand offering from SAP looks like it has been well designed and should be a great method for many organizations of any size to get BI quickly and easily.
SAP also has stepped up their focus on providing business analytics which is nothing new for SAP who has for well over ten years been improving upon a range of line of business and vertical industry solutions. Analytics is not just a data computational exercise though many in the industry would think so but it is providing business and analysts the ability to optimize a range of business process and topical focused area through specific capabilities. This area of focus is one of the largest investments by IBM who through recent acquisition of SPSS is planning to ensure they can become more business solution centric. SAP for example has a solution for Spend Analytics that has been gaining adoption like that discussed by Johnson and Johnson (J&J) at the Influencer Summit that globally manages direct spend used in their consumer products division. The automation of analytics in this area has helped J&J maintains a best in class for industry spend but also reduce the time and resources to maintain this critical set of measurements but also reduce errors from use of spreadsheets. In fact in most organization the plague of personal spreadsheets has hampered the efficiency and effectiveness of analytics which I have long espoused and found in our spreadsheet research. This focus on spend as mentioned by my colleague (See: “The Spend Analytics Imperative You Need To Perform”) is an area of great opportunity for improvement across all organizations.
SAP is not chancing anything in their mission to grow and expand the market for business intelligence and business analytics. SAP continues to demonstrate and introduce a range of innovations for BI at their SAP Innovation Center for which they just released access to their BI from Apple iPhone on the iTunes Store that I had a chance to take for a test drive and provides the simplicity that business executives and management should have with their BI investments though most do not. It is also clear that SAP is continuing to harvest their base of customers using SAP applications which is a highly competitive area for BI (See: “Leverage Every Transaction from SAP for BI”)that many other large and small BI vendors have focused their sales and product efforts like that from QlikView. SAP does not take this lightly since this was part of the rationale for spending over $6 billion in acquiring Business Objects. I am hoping to see more from SAP in the need for more information management advancements from their current portfolio though they believe is better than anything else in the industry which I am not yet fully confident of that statement.
SAP has a multi-prong strategy with these two new major releases in 2010 to meet the needs of business and IT while ensuring the usability and simplicity of their offerings can reach the broadest set of individuals across an organization and their customers and partners. It is great to see the level of passion and commitment from SAP at all levels of management at the Influencer Summit. This strategy and set of products will help SAP ensure that it can advance the cause of BI and business analytics by helping organizations to more broadly deploy these capabilities as a basic business necessity.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research