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SAP BusinessObjects Upgrades Ice Version 4.0 Cake

Improvements in mobility, data visualization and collaboration are what's next for a just-released business intelligence suite.
Dashboard Improvements: Xcelsius has been rebranded as Dashboards in 4.0. In earlier releases, designers had to use Live Office or Query as a Web Service to bring data into the design tool. Now designers can invoke the query panel directly from the dashboard designer, streamlining the data flows and design process. The vendor has made additional performance improvements as well, with a separate server process to cache results.

There are dozens of other improvements in 4.0, as discussed in previous blogs and product reviews.

Beyond the product roadmap, an ongoing discussion among BusinessObjects customers is the role of ASUG and regional user groups: should they join ASUG or not. ASUG was formed 20 years ago by SAP applications customers. When SAP acquired Business Objects, it also gained a number of self-running user groups.

It seemed a natural evolution for those user groups to fold into ASUG. But the customer bases are different, and it's a tough sell for previously autonomous groups to now be told there is an additional layer of communication with the vendor. The idea behind ASUG is to bring influence in numbers--organized numbers--but also to provide content in the form of mentors, webinars, training, and knowledge bases.

[ Want more on SAP BusinessObjects 4.0? Read SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Mixes Expected Upgrades, Innovative Breakthroughs. ]

Some user groups have joined ASUG. Others have not. The idea of paying for membership seems to go against the grain. Membership to ASUG for BusinessObjects customers is currently free, a temporary gesture that has been extended for another year. User groups worry that independent contractors and smaller companies will ultimately be disenfranchised when the fee waivers end. It was noteworthy that roughly 80% of the 1,200 attendees at this year's conference were not SAP customers before the acquisition, dispelling concerns that the ASUG group is only focused on SAP applications customers.

That ASUG even holds a BusinessObjects conference is a benefit to members and non members alike. While BI is a big part of SAP's Sapphire conference, it is but one of many tracks. Sapphire itself can be rather overwhelming, particularly for a customer who only buys BI from SAP.

One session that was packed at ASUG was a panel I joined on using social media for influence and leadership. BusinessObjects Board Forum founder Dave Rathbun, SAP executive Timo Elliott, WNBA star and Olympiad Lisa Leslie, public relations expert Mary Erangey, and analyst Bruce Richardson were my fellow panelists. Everyone had useful recommendations and sometimes humorous experiences to share on using Twitter and blogging.

Elliott suggested being quotable without "feeding the trolls." In other words, don't spew just the negative tweets that grab attention but not necessarily credibility or value. I liked Leslie's advice to remember we are always a role model and that we wear multiple hats: she can just as soon chat up Charles Barclay as pep talk new moms.

With that advice, I have added a new twitter handle. If you want to follow my BI tweets, follow me on @BIScorecard. If you are interested in juggling work and motherhood tweets (in a largely man's world!), follow @BI_Lady.

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard , an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.