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2/25/2010
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SAP Revamps BusinessObject SaaS BI Suite

The upgraded BI OnDemand service consolidates CrystalReports.com, adds workflows for business intelligence novices.

SAP Wednesday announced a significant upgrade of its BusinessObjects BI OnDemand offering that both consolidates the vendor's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and presents simpler interfaces for novice business intelligence users. SAP has yet to define pricing and detail expected data integration options, but the new platform could well extend SAP's lead in SaaS-based BI.

The upgraded SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand unites and replaces two formerly distinct offerings: CrystalReports.com, the company's simplest and most popular SaaS offering, which has more than 200,000 subscribers; and the previously-available version of BI OnDemand, which was based on the vendor's on-premise SAP BusinessObjects XI BI suite.

The new service delivers a single environment in which users can harness online versions of familiar tools, including Crystal Reports for reporting, Web Intelligence for query and analysis, Xcelsius for dashboarding and data visualization, and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for fast, in-memory data analysis. For novice users who might not be familiar with these tools, the new service greets users with hand-holding wizards said to simplify data access and analysis.

"This new offering delivers a very intuitive, guided workflow for people of any expertise level," said Marge Breya, an executive vice president at SAP. The backbone of the service is a simple explore-report-share workflow. In the exploration phase, users can find and blend data from their own desktops and corporate sources without being an information management guru, according to the vendor.

Wizards suggest appropriate data integration steps. Data from centralized sources can be refreshed automatically because the system relies on linked references to dynamic data rather than copies that quickly fall out of sync. In the reporting phase, users are ushered -- in business language rather than BI jargon -- to the right tool for the desired task, be it reporting, dashboarding, ad-hoc query or analysis.

In the sharing phase, new social-casting options let users publish and embed reports and data visualizations much as they would Flickr photos or YouTube videos. And the sharing options include external blogs, wikis and Web sites as well as internal blogs and intranets. SAP executives said security settings, revocable access privileges, tracking and auditing features will ensure appropriate use of data.

"People share data today, but they do it in ways that aren't tracked or controlled through cutting, pasting, exporting and emailing," said David Meyer, a senior vice president at SAP. "This is a fluid system that lets you collaborate, but you can also report on, audit and control how information is accessed and used."

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