SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 – Revolution or Evolution for the Business User?

As the hype following the delayed launch of the latest BI and EIM solutions from SAP drops away it’s probably a good time to focus on the new innovations and technologies being launched and how they can impact a business user.

For those of you who are not close to the life story of SAP BusinessObjects, the BI 4.0 release due this summer is the first platform release sine the acquisition of BusinessObjects by SAP. Up until this point it could be suggested that SAP NetWeaver could be considered one of the many supported reporting databases but with BI4.0 this view is about to change.

The launch keynote from SAP Senior Executive Steve Lucas focused on the SAP vision for Business Analytics interspersed with encouragement to use social media that formed the data stream for a real-time Dashboard which determined whose tie got cut off. Maybe the comedy was lost in translation but watch the replay to see who had to buy a new tie – http://businessanalytics.sapvirtualevents.com/login.aspx.

So what does this mean for the business users of the technologies? The answer can be split into three sections.

What does it mean for ‘classic’ SAP BusinessObjects customers?

  • Standardized look and feel across front-end tools in the style of a Microsoft Ribbon Bar – If you had “fun” moving from Office 2003 – 2007 and finding that all important icon prepare for that treat again.
  • New chart engine in Web Intelligence – If you follow data visualisation influencers like Stephen Few you will not be jumping for joy to see an exploded 3D pie chart but there are a number of new chart types including Scatter charts, Bubble charts, Box plot, Heat map and Tree map. Additionally there is enhanced controls for formatting and interactivity.
  • Revamp of InfoView – BI launch pad will replace InfoView and has revamped user interface with additional options for customization. Additionally as evidence of the road to integration with NetWeaver you can integrate Business Explorer Web applications with BI launch pad.
  • Designer has a new name and great new functionality – The information design tool is the new design environment for creating and publishing SAP BusinessObjects universes and connections. The significant enhancement is to embed Data Federator within the tool allowing multisource universes. There has been some twitter noise around this new future harking back to the good old days of Crystal Business Views, but this only appears a valid comparison on the surface. Additional new features include:
    • Dimensional universes that support OLAP dimensions and hierarchies
    • Design environment that facilitates designer teamwork and universe resource sharing
    • Security editor for universe data and metadata

So in summary Revolution or Evolution? Evolution.

What does it mean for SAP NetWeaver customers embarking on SAP BusinessObjects?

  • Direct access to BEx queries as a data source for WebI via BICS. This should address the challenge of universe proliferation in and integrated NetWeaver BOBJ landscape.
  • Build queries and perform analysis on data organized hierarchically using analysis dimensions, hierarchies, levels, attributes, named sets and calculated members using the +/- selector familiar to BEx users also with the ability to select data members from a hierarchical display.

So in summary Revolution or Evolution? Evolution.

New product innovations

  • Drive into Mobile BI with the productionisation of Exploration Views and a new innovation of Web Intelligence on the iPad.
  • SAP BusinessObjects Advanced Analysis, Web edition is the successor to SAP BusinessObjects Voyager and one of the premium alternatives to SAP BEx Analyzer. One to watch maybe as the publically stated roadmap is the Web edition to be consumed by Web Intelligence in approximately 12 months.

So in summary Revolution or Evolution? Evolution.

Summary

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 will bring a much needed evolution to SAP Business Analytics and with BusinessObjects XIr2 ceasing telephone support in July 2011 it is a migration well worth considering.

(I wrote the content above in the summer of 2011 whist working at Bluefin Solutions and they have kindly aggreed for me to update it and use it in my personal blog)

 

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