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.
An empowered BT model includes the idea that end users will take on some functions that are typically performed within an IT organization. These may include selecting and deploying applications, buying mobile devices, and contracting with services firms.
With factors such as increased availability of cloud applications, more IT-savvy businesspeople, and IT shops buried in maintenance of existing applications, there’s a lot on the side of increasing IT functions outside of IT. However, security and compliance concerns, the need to integrate apps and data, the complexity of these applications, and cost are just some of the constraints that are holding back this approach.
Whether there will be a trend towards functions moving out of the IT organization or the reverse, with IT taking on more control, empowered BT will happen in some organizations. When it does, there are things that CIOs can do to exploit this and minimize potential damage:
Shift senior IT people from “doing” to consulting and overseeing. Architects, for example, spend a significant amount of their time on projects (doing). Some of their time needs to be freed up to provide advice to businesspeople on how to make these functions scalable, secure, and integrated where necessary. Similarly, vendor managers need time to help businesspeople in the selection process for vendors.
Select for and build up negotiations skills. The leader of apps that speaks in technical terms, the security expert who generates every possible scenario as an argument for not doing something, and the architect who hoards information while making pronouncements on what the business should and should not do are working against you in an empowered BT world. With technically sophisticated end users and tools that can quickly build functionality, business requests leading to IT responses now become negotiations.
Having attended the OpenStack Design Summit this week and at the same time fielding calls from Forrester clients affected by the Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage, an interesting contrast in approaches bore out. You could boil it down to closed versus open but there’s more to this contrast that should be part of your consideration when selecting your Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers.
The obvious comparison is that AWS’ architecture and operational procedures are very much their own and few outside the company know how it works. Not even close partners like RightScale or those behind the open source derivative Eucalyptus know it well enough to do more than deduce what happened based on their experience and what they could observe. OpenStack, on the other hand, is fully open source so if you want to know how it works you can download the code. At the Design Summit here in Santa Clara, Calif. this week, developers and infrastructure & operations professionals had ample opportunity to dig into the design and suggest and submit changes right there. And there were plenty of conversations this week about how CloudFiles and other storage services worked and how to ensure an AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) mirror storm could be avoided.
A major announcement in the human capital management (HCM) world occurred on April 26, 2011. SuccessFactors, a top vendor in performance management, announced its intention to purchase Plateau Systems, a leading learning management system (LMS) vendor. Although both vendors have competing products in the talent management space, Plateau had something SuccessFactors needed: an LMS. With the loss of GeoLearning, SuccessFactors’ former LMS partner, which was acquired by SumTotal in January 2011, SuccessFactors was left with a gaping hole in its solution set. Although SuccessFactors executives believe that the future of learning is more in the informal and social realms, organizations need and want LMSes to manage their increasing compliance training needs while keeping a close eye on the whole social and informal learning market. Organizations also have formal courses and simulated and role-play learning that the LMS tracks and reports on. The word is that SuccessFactors’ sales staff have been bemoaning the lack of an LMS to help them close deals. Today, organizations are much more interested in getting multiple HRM functionality from one vendor. Often this suite approach includes performance, compensation, learning, and even recruiting (for more details, see my “Four Pillars of Talent Management” research report). SuccessFactors now has a very strong and complete “four-pillar” solution.
It seems that during every major shift in the telecommunications, service provider or hosting market there is a string of moves like these as players attempt to capitalize on the change to gain greater market position. And there are plenty of investors caught up in the opportunity who are willing to lend a few bucks. In the dot.com period, through 2000s, we saw major shifts in the service provider landscape as colo/hosting giants were created such as Cable & Wireless and Equinix.
But what does this mean for infrastructure & operations professionals looking to select a hosting or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud provider? The key is in determining if 1 + 1 actually equals anything greater than 2.
Traditional application servers such as WebSphere, WebLogic, and JBoss are dinosaurs tiptoeing through a meteor storm. Sure, IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat still have growing revenue in these brands, but the smart money should look for better ways to develop, deploy, and manage apps. The reason: cloud computing.
The availability of elastic cloud infrastructure means that you can conserve capital by avoiding huge hardware investments, deploy applications faster, and pay for only those infrastructure resources you need at a given time. Sound good? Yes. Of course there are myriad problems such as security and availability concerns (especially with the recent Amazon mishap) and others. The problem I want to discuss is that of application elasticity. Forrester defines application elasticity as:
The ability of an application to automatically adjust the infrastructure resources it uses to accommodate varied workloads and priorities while maintaining availability and performance.
There’s a huge graveyard of failed customer service software implementations, and still others are on life support due to the basic fact that they are not usable. Think of the world we live in, with products and services from Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and the like:
Intuitive user interfaces that don’t require training to be able to use them
Predictive type-ahead where suggested topics are displayed in a dropdown menu to help users autocomplete their search terms
Aggregation of content from different sources, all linked together so that it adds value to the user
Cloud computing will bring demand for elastic application platforms.
Promises that cloud computing can save money and reduce time-to-market by automatically scaling applications (either up or down) oversimplify what it takes to develop application architectures to achieve these benefits of elastic scaling. Few of today's business applications are designed for elastic scaling, and most of those few involve complex coding unfamiliar to most enterprise developers. A new generation of application platforms for elastic applications is arriving to help remove this barrier to realizing cloud's benefits. Elastic application platforms (EAPs) will reduce the art of elastic architectures to the science of a platform.
EAPs provide tools, frameworks, and services that automate many of the more complex aspects of elasticity. These include all the runtime services needed to manage elastic applications, full instrumentation for monitoring workloads and maintaining agreed-upon service levels, cloud provisioning, and, as appropriate, metering and billing systems. EAPs will make it normal for enterprise developers to deliver elastic applications — something that is decidedly not the norm today.
Forrester defines an elastic application platform as:
An application platform that automates elasticity of application transactions, services, and data, delivering high availability and performance using elastic resources.
We see organizations moving toward EAPs by extending their current web architectures, following one or more of four paths:
Most of the suppliers of IT-for-sustainability (ITfS) solutions that we work with have one path to finding a buyer in their customer organizations: through the IT organization. Whether giants, such as SAP and HP, or newcomers, such as Hara and ENXSuite, vendors of energy management, carbon reporting and other ITfS products are typically starting their sales motion with customers' traditional buyers of software sytems: IT.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. We have long maintained that IT organizations and the CIOs that lead them will increasingly be the owner and operator of environmental systems of record, just as they are for financial, HR, and customer data systems, among others. But, ITfS suppliers will want to develop multiple pathways into customer organizations. For most, decision-making around sustainability processes and technologies is diffuse, spread across IT, facilities, operations and CSR. Finding the buyer for sustainability is oft-times the proverbial needle in the haystack.
I am not talking about The Donald here, thankfully. I am talking about how fervently impatient users are when it comes to website and mobile app response time. You can design a brilliant, luxurious, and intuitively interactive user experience, but if it doesn't perform well — as in response time — then the users will hate it. They don't want to wait. Why should they? They will just go somewhere else. Your job is to design and implement user experiences that are lovable and that performance spectacularly.
Application Performance Management Starts During UX Design
Forrester defines performance as:
The speed with which an application performs a function that meets business requirements and user expectations.
To insure speedy application performance, organizations should start application performance management (APM) during the application design process. Too few user experience (UX) designers understand the performance implications of their designs. But, application architects must also help UX design professionals by finding clever ways to: