From Vision to Reality at SAP's NetWeaver BI Conference - InformationWeek
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3/29/2010
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Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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From Vision to Reality at SAP's NetWeaver BI Conference

Last week, I was at an SAP Insider conference focused on business intelligence... As I felt once before in attending one of these events, there is a big disconnect between SAP BusinessObjects' lofty vision and customer reality.

Last week, I was at an SAP Insider conference focused on business intelligence. As I've written before, these conferences are a little different from other user conferences in that they are run by a separate media company instead of by the vendor or a user group. So as I felt once before in attending one of these events, there is a big disconnect between SAP BusinessObjects' lofty vision and customer reality.

SAP BusinessObjects executives Franz Aman and Dave Weisbeck kicked off the event with a keynote that demonstrated the potential BI can bring. They showcased one customer, Valero Energy, that has saved $200 million in the first year of its BI program. Using dashboards to show people the impact of their business decisions was a key aspect of the deployment.While many users like the idea of a simple, Google-like interface to BI and some vendors have responded with innovations, Aman declared, "Search will be the exception, not the rule. If you have to go to a search box, we've failed you." This is a good vision -- all the data a user needs at their finger tips, personalized, and optimally presented at the start of each day, or embedded within each task. But I think we are years away from that. In the meantime, many users would settle for a search box, as long as the searchable content is relevant, complete, and inexpensive to implement.

The keynote included a demo of the just- released StreamWork (previously known as 12Sprints and project Constellation.) This is a new category of tool that combines collaboration and decision making. I will clearly be more excited about it when it integrates BI data with the decision-making process, an enhancement planned for release later this year. You can try out StreamWork here. (If you sign up and let me know your email address, I can invite you to a test activity I created on BI standardization.)

In talking to customers and attending presentations, though, it reinforced the reality that very few of the SAP NetWeaver BI customers will be taking advantage of these innovations any time soon. To use BW Accelerator and Explorer (product review here), customers need to be on the latest BW release (7.0 EHP1, SP5). The same applies to direct BW-Xcelsius integration released several months ago. As one customer described, upgrading the entire data warehouse platform was a six-month process they completed in July, and that was just to get to 7.0 SP3 (not enough for Explorer or Xcelsius). They don't have plans to do another upgrade any time soon.

Given how slowly SAP customers are upgrading, one of the best things SAP BusinessObjects has planned is for the next release of SAP BusinessObjects XI to allow the universe, or next-generation semantic layer, to leverage existing BEx queries. This seems like a smart migration strategy.

Regards, Cindi Howson, BI ScorecardLast week, I was at an SAP Insider conference focused on business intelligence... As I felt once before in attending one of these events, there is a big disconnect between SAP BusinessObjects' lofty vision and customer reality.

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