SAP BusinessObjects (BO) 4.0 suite is here. It’s been in the ramp-up phase since last fall; according to our sources, SAP plans to announce its general availability sometime in May, possibly at Sapphire. It’s about a year late (SAP first told Forrester that it planned to roll it out in the spring of 2010, so I wanted to include it in the latest edition of the Forrester Wave™ for enterprise BI platforms but couldn’t), and the big question is: Was it worth the wait? In my humble opinion, yes, it was! Here are seven major reasons to upgrade or to consider SAP BI if you haven’t done so before:
BO Universe (semantic layer) can now be sourced from multiple databases, overcoming a major obstacle of previous versions.
Universe can now access MOLAP (cubes from Microsoft Analysis Services, Essbase, Mondrian, etc.) data sources directly via MDX without having to “flatten them out” first. In prior versions, Universe could only access SQL sources.
There’s now a more common look and feel to individual BI products, including Crystal, WebI, Explorer, and Analysis (former BEx). This is another step in the right direction to unify SAP BI products, but it’s still not a complete solution. It will be a while before all SAP BI products are fully and seamlessly integrated, as well as other BI tools/platforms that grew more organically.
All SAP BI tools, including Xcelsius (Dashboards in 4.0), that did not have access to BO Universe now do.
There’s now a tighter integration with BW via direct exposure of BW metadata (BEx queries and InfoProviders) to all BO tools.
Forrester continues to see ever-increasing levels of interest in and adoption of business intelligence (BI) platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools have become more function-rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains challenging at best and elusive at worst. Why? Two main reasons: First, BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience; and second, earlier-generation BI approaches cannot easily keep up with ever-changing business and regulatory requirements. In the attached research document, Forrester reviews the top best practices for BI and predicts what the next-generation BI technologies will be. We summarize all of this in a single über-trend and best practice: agility. IT and business pros should adopt Agile BI processes, technologies, and architectures to improve their chances of delivering successful BI initiatives.
Business intelligence (BI) software has emerged as a hot topic in the past few years; in 2011, most companies will again focus their software investment plans on BI. More than 49% of the companies that responded to our most recent Forrsights Software Survey have concrete plans to implement or expand their use of BI software within the next 24 months. But being interested in BI software and spending money to adopt BI tools and processes do not necessarily translate into successful implementations: Forrester’s most recent BI maturity survey indicated that enterprise BI maturity levels are still below average (2.75 on a scale of 5, a modest 6% increase over 2009). Why are BI maturity levels so low, given the amount of money firms spend on it? Three factors contribute to this rift and can lead to less-than-successful BI initiatives:
Implementing BI requires using best practices and building upon lessons learned.
Mobile devices and mobile Internet are everywhere. Over the past few years, Forrester has tracked continuously increasing levels of adoption and maturity for mobile business applications, but not so for mobile business intelligence (BI) applications. The adoption and maturity of mobile BI fall behind other mobile enterprise applications for multiple reasons, mainly the lack of specific business use cases and tangible ROI, as well as inadequate smartphone screen and keyboard form factors. However, larger form factor devices such as tablets and innovative approaches to online/offline BI technical architecture will boost mobile BI adoption and maturity in the near future. BP professionals must start evaluating and prototyping mobile BI platforms and applications to make sure that all key business processes and relevant information are available to knowledge workers wherever they are.
But mobile BI adoption levels are still low. Why? We see three major reasons.
Smartphones still lack the form factor appropriate for BI
The business case for mobile BI remains tough to build
Mobile device security is still a concern
Now, mobile tablet devices are a different story. Just like Baby Bear's porridge in the "Goldilocks And The Three Bears" fairy tale, tablet PCs are "just right" for mobile BI end users. So what can you do with mobile BI? Plenty!
Improve customer and partner engagement
Deliver BI in the right place, at the right time
Introduce BI for the workers without access to traditional BI applications
Improve BI efficiency via query relevance
Improve "elevator pitch" effectiveness
Give away mobile devices as an incentive to cross-sell and upsell analytic applications
I get many inquiries on the differences and pros and cons of MOLAP versus ROLAP architectures for analytics and BI. In the old days, the differences between MOLAP, DOLAP, HOLAP, and ROLAP were pretty clear. Today, given the modern scalability requirements, DOLAP has all but disappeared, and the lines between MOLAP, ROLAP, and HOLAP are getting murkier and murkier. Here are some of the reasons:
Some RDBMSes (Oracle, DB2, Microsoft) offer built-in OLAP engines, often eliminating a need to have a separate OLAP engine in BI tools.
Some of the DW-optimized DBMSes like Teradata, SybaseIQ, and Netezza partially eliminate the need for an OLAP engine with aggregate indexes, columnar architecture, or brute force table scans.
MOLAP engines like Microsoft SSAS and Oracle Essbase can do drill-throughs to detailed transactions.
Semantic layers like SAP BusinessObjects Universe have some OLAP-like functionality.
Are you interested in business intelligence, wonder about the future of the analytics market or have a question on advanced analytics technologies?
Then join the Forrester analysts Rob Karel, Boris Evelson, Clay Richardson, Gene Leganza, Noel Yuhanna, Leslie Owens, Suresh Vittal, William Frascarelli, David Frankland, Joe Stanhope, Zach Hofer-Shall, Henry Peyret and myself for an interactive TweetJam on Twitter about the state of advanced analytics on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EDT (18:00 – 19:00 CET) using the Twitter hashtag #dmjam. We’ll share the results of our recent research on the analytics market space and discuss how it will change with new technologies entering the scene and maturing over time.
Business intelligence is the fastest growing software market today as companies are driving business results based on deeper insights and better planning, and advanced analytics is the spearhead of BI technologies that can untap new dimensions of business performance. But what exactly is ‘advanced’ analytics, what technologies are available and how to efficiently use them?
Much more detailed information can be found in the blog of Forrester analyst James Kobielus who will lead us through the discussion during the TweetJam. Above you see an overview graphic listing the different elements of advanced analytics today, taken from his blog.
Here are some of the questions we want to debate during our TweetJam discussion:
What exactly is and isn’t advanced analytics?
What are the chief business applications of advanced analytics?
A recent conversation with executives from Clarizen, a software company in the work/project/task management realm, shows how profoundly SaaS can change the innovation process in technology companies. However, you won't get the most beneficial changes unless you're willing to make an investment.
During our briefing, I asked the CEO of Clarizen, Avinoam Nowogrodski, and the VP of Marketing, Sharon Vardi, whether being a SaaS vendor made it any easier to resolve the sort of questions that vex technology vendors. Their response: "Of course it does."
Here's one of those vexing questions: Why don't more customers move from a pilot to full adoption? The usual first answers blame someone else's department for the disappointing conversion rate: Your product stinks. Your leads stink. Your salespeople stink.
Round-robin finger-pointing like this thrives in an informational vacuum. If the only hard fact available is the conversion rate, marketing can accuse sales of presumed incompetence; sales can claim that the current bug count might have an effect on customer satisfaction; development can claim that it's bogged down in too many special requests from strategic customers; and so on.
A number of clients ask me "how many people do you think use BI". Not an easy question to answer, will not be an exact science, and will have many caveats. But here we go:
First, let's assume that we are only talking about what we all consider "traditional BI" apps. Let's exclude home grown apps built using spreadsheets and desktop databases. Let's also exclude operational reporting apps that are embedded in ERP, CRM and other applications.
Then, let's cut out everyone who only gets the results of a BI report/analysis in a static form, such as a hardcopy or a non interactive PDF file. So if you're not creating, modifying, viewing via a portal, sorting, filtering, ranking, drilling, etc, you probably do not require a BI product license and I am not counting you.
I'll just attempt to do this for the US for now. If the approach works, we'll try it for other major regions and countries.
Number of businesses with over 100 employees (a reasonable cut off for a business size that would consider using what we define as traditional BI) in the US in 2004 was 107,119
US Dept of Labor provides ranges as in "firms with 500-749 employees". For each range I take a middle number. For the last range "firms with over 10,000" I use an average of 15,000 employees.
This gives us 66 million (66,595,553) workers employed by US firms who could potentially use BI
Next we take the data from our latest BDS numbers on BI which tell us that 54% of the firms are using BI which gives us 35 million (35,961,598) workers employed by US firms that use BI
After the recent board changes the strategy will change too
After the recent board changes at SAP the message we could read in most news was like ‘new board – old strategy’. Along with the board changes SAP did not announce (yet) any significant strategic changes. But what good is it to change the board and leave everything else as is?
The recent SAP board changes are just the visible tip of the iceberg of much deeper changes SAP will and has to go through to renew itself as a leading IT vendor. Below are 10 predictions for changes in SAP’s strategic direction I expect within the next 10+ months:
1. More SAP Board Changes Will Come
Additional board changes will further strengthen the product & technology focus and competence within the SAP board. See also Forrester’s blog on the recent SAP board changes: SAP CEO Resigns – Long Live The Co-CEOs
2. Business ByDesign Will Get Back Into SAP’s Strategic Center
Business ByDesign will become again the corner stone of SAP’s growth strategy and the successful introduction will mark a ‘make it or break it’ milestone for SAP.
3. SAP Announces The Next-Generation ERP
SAP will announce a next-generation ERP solution to regain leadership in its core business area and it will likely be based on the ByDesign platform.
4. SAP Changes Its Cloud Strategy
SAP will rework its whole On-Demand strategy and will unify and align all components based on the ByDesign platform. See also Forrester’s recent blog on SAP’s On-Demand strategy: SAP Is Skydiving Into The Clouds.
When business processes finally become intelligent
Over the past several months I have done a lot of research on the BI market, the trends and the vendor landscape. There is a clear indication that BI solutions are becoming more sophisticated, more intelligent and – more integrated into other applications to enhance the performance of the application supported business processes.
Very recently now, in discussions with BPM vendors like IDS Scheer, HandySoft and many others it became very eminent that from the other side, BPM solutions are moving steadily into the field of Business Intelligence too. The world of BPM and BI solutions are converging to bring intelligent business processes to the market – eventually. However, today we are still some steps away from this picture and the convergence of BPM and BI will likely proceed in smaller steps are outlined in the below BI-BPM convergence model.
Today several BPM vendors have actively integrated business intelligence capabilities into their solutions. Larger ones like IDS Scheer have developed their own analytics while smaller vendors like HandySoft are using OpenSorce components offered by JasperSoft and other OpenSource BI vendors. The integration offers users new and consistent insights along the whole business process. A user in this context means both:
a) Business users that are part of the business process get access to relevant information and reports that increase the efficiency of the process, and
b) Business process owners get an insightful analytics of the process metadata to be able to further enhance and streamline the process.
You don’t need to be a scientist to boost your business with applied mathematics
On 22/9/09 SPSS Inc. announced a new certification process to confirm an individual’s expertise with some of their statistical solutions. “Look at this”, I thought “sophisticated software still requires experts to unfold the value they can provide”. Being a physicist by background, I like it how applied mathematics can improve business. However, not everyone sees beauty in algorithms or is interested in statistics.