Ahhhh, a new year. Time for IT reorganizations, kick-off meetings, and whiteboards filled with new team goals. And 2011 is the year that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4) will be released – the first major release since SAP acquired BusinessObjects. As part of your IT goal setting, it’s always a good idea to revisit BI strategy and tactics. Here are some BI resolutions that can improve your organization’s BI effectiveness for the new year.
1. Upgrade or retire older SAP BusinessObjects and Crystal Enterprise versions
If you’re enterprise is actively using BusinessObjects Enterprise 5.x, 6.x, XI R1, XI R2 or any edition of Crystal Enterprise, it’s time to upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. You might be tempted to say “everything is working fine”, but a closer examination will show that these products are out of patch support. You might also be tempted to classify your BI environment as “stable”, but the rest of your enterprise has upgraded operating systems, databases, Microsoft Office, browsers and Java in the name of improved security and stability. It’s simply not worth the desktop security risk to keep users on Internet Explorer 6 or out-of-support versions of Java. And none of these older editions of BusinessObjects or Crystal Enterprise support Microsoft Windows 7 (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7).
2. Halt all active Desktop Intelligence development
Whether you are using XI R2 or XI 3.1, it’s time to stop actively building Desktop Intelligence reports. Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 is the last edition – it has vanished from SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 that will be released early this year. Remember that Desktop Intelligence can be deactivated from the Central Management Console, either all at once or on a group by group basis, even if the software is still on your users’ desktops.
3. Audit existing Desktop Intelligence reports with an eye toward retirement
XI 3.0 introduced auditing of Desktop Intelligence (and Web Intelligence Rich Client) via the Client Audit Processing Service (CAPS). Auditing can be a great help for large numbers of undocumented Desktop Intelligence reports and should be on any bullet list of “reasons to upgrade” from the older platforms mentioned above. Use auditing statistics to reduce the number of reports that require conversion to Web Intelligence.
4. Create a project plan and time line to retire all Desktop Intelligence reports
Web Intelligence gets better with each release. Many Desktop Intelligence reports can be retired in XI R2. Even more can be retired with XI 3.1 SP2 or higher. SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 promises to have the richest set of Desktop Intelligence features in Web Intelligence 4.0. So you may not be able to get rid of 100% of your Desktop Intelligence reports until you adopt BI 4.0, but at least you’ll have a manageable plan. Be sure to include publications (report bursting) in your plan. XI R2 publications only supported Desktop Intelligence. XI 3.0 and higher supports Desktop Intelligence publications but adds support for publications created with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence. Of these, publications based on Crystal Reports have the most robust feature set. Don’t immediately assume that a Desktop Intelligence publication should become a Web Intelligence publication – Crystal Reports may be the best option.
4. Replace cumbersome advanced rights with custom Access Levels
In XI R2, many security situations had to be resolved with advanced rights. Although flexible, they aren’t terribly self-documenting or easy to troubleshoot. XI 3.0 introduced custom Access Levels, which is one of my favorite features. Develop some good naming conventions and you’ll find your security model much easier to build and troubleshoot (if you’re currently on XI R2, you’ll appreciate the improved security troubleshooting tools in the XI 3.1 CMC).
5. Revisit Active Directory or LDAP authentication
If you’re still doing user and password management with BusinessObjects, revisit the use of Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP (depending on your corporate standards) with the security organization in your IT department, especially if you’ll be upgrading to XI 3.1 or BI 4.0 in 2011. Remember that BusinessObjects supports multiple authentication modes, so use of “third-party” authentication like AD and LDAP can be gradually phased in.
6. Celebrate diversity
If your reporting is 100% Crystal Reports or 100% Desktop Intelligence/Web Intelligence, it’s time to embrace the other tool. Many IT organizations are segregated, with Crystal Reports developers in one silo and “classic BusinessObjects” developers in another. In most cases, the entire organization benefits from a central Business Intelligence Competency Center or Center of Excellence. And that centralized organization benefits from having as many different crayons in the BI toolbox as possible. If creating a BICC is too large of a step, at least begin by sprucing up IT’s front door and centralizing and streamlining the business process for new information requests.
7. Create a BI steering committee
If you don’t already have one, create a BI steering committee. Look for your BI organizations biggest supporters. Also identify key data consumers that may not be currently using your current infrastructure. Identify at least three specific goals to assist all of these folks better in the new year.
8. Read Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards
Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (read my book review) is the single best business intelligence book that I’ve encountered. It’s comprehensive, vendor-neutral, and should be read and discussed by both IT and business professionals in your organization.
9. Start an internal user group
If you don’t have one, begin a quarterly internal user group. It’s a great way to increase user adoption and knock down the barriers between the business and IT.
10. Join ASUG
ASUG is the Americas’ SAP Users Group and provides lots of resources through webinars, conferences, and local chapters throughout North America. Membership in 2011 is still free to BusinessObjects organizations. Lobby your organization to join and lower any internal barriers to participation in local and national events.
2011 promises to be an exciting year as technologies such as mobile devices and in-memory databases enter the mainstream. What are your organization’s business intelligence resolutions for 2011 – please post a comment. Good luck with your BI endeavors and enjoy the journey!