Nobody Ever Got Promoted for Being Live Office Product Manager

Does the birth of Microsoft PowerQuery mean the death of Live Office?

Last week at its 2014 SharePoint Conference, Microsoft announced Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI, described as “a joint business intelligence interoperability solution delivered with SAP”. The solution allows users to query UNX universes from the Information Design Tool from Microsoft Excel 2013. Andrew Fox has an excellent write-up of his first-time experience on his blog (see related article, Microsoft Power Query Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes – How to get started). But Andrew doesn’t feel that PowerQuery has sufficient capabilities to retire Live Office. At least not yet.

It’s certainly an interesting development, as Live Office 4.0 did not receive any significant updates. Its inability to query new UNX universes from the Information Design Tool is a curious omission. My co-worker Ahmed Sherrif thinks Live Office is as good as dead (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, Live Office is Dead to Me). Looking for answers, I posted a question to Twitter that’s probably on the minds of a lot of SAP BusinessObjects Live Office users.

There’s been no official word from SAP on the release of Microsoft PowerQuery.

 

So we don’t know if it is the official successor to SAP BusinessObjects Live Office. There had previously been some rumblings from SAP that Live Office functionality would be migrated to SAP BusinessObjects Analysis for Microsoft Office. The lack of official news from SAP confirms my suspicion that nobody ever got promoted for being Live Office product manager.

 

Microsoft Excel is the most popular BI tool. Getting data from Excel into SAP Lumira and Web Intelligence is a key capability. But some users prefer to do the opposite- get data into Excel and other Microsoft Office applications. In any case, there’s a SAP business intelligence product that is trapped between the living and the dead. With the North American SAP SAPPHIRE still two months away, let’s hope that more details about Microsoft PowerQuery and SAP BusinessObjects Live Office emerge before then.

The Price of Early Adoption

There’s always a price to be paid for early adoption of technology.

Earlier this week, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

I experience some minor issues with iOS 7 on both my iPhone 5 and iPad 2. But the experience has been largely positive. Besides, like everyone else I really wanted to be an early adopter to start using new features, assuming Apple would fix anything “critical”. They have – we’re on 7.0.4. We haven’t seen iOS 7.1 yet (although it’s now in beta) because it’s a more substantial release. And like most companies, Apple slows down for the US holidays in November and December. We don’t hear as much about Android bugs because so few Android devices are running the latest Android 4.4 OS (aka KitKat). And there’s not enough users of Microsoft Windows Phone, Microsoft Windows RT tablets, or Blackberry 10 devices to bother writing about.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption Is Unprecedented

But we hear about Apple iOS 7 not only because of the volume of users but also because of the velocity of their adoption of the new OS.


Apple iOS 7 Adoption

Apple’s own statistics, posted on the Apple developers web site, show that iOS 7 adoption is at 78% as of the end of December 2013. That’s very impressive for an operating system that was only released in mid-September. Although there is criticism of iOS 7 and the new versions of iWork applications, Apple is to be commended for how much hardware, software, and iCloud services were shipped last September. Due to their tight integration, everything from iOS 7 to OS X Mavericks‎ to Safari to iTunes and iWork apps had to be released simultaneously. I’m sure there are many in Cupertino grateful that no “antennagate” (see related Daring Fireball article, Antennagate Bottom Line) or iOS 6 Maps fiasco (see related Daring Fireball article, Pogue on iOS 6 Maps) has emerged from this year’s updates (I’m not sure iWork frustration counts as a fiasco). Although adoption is very high, it’s still not 100%, with 18% of users still on iOS 6 and 4% on an even earlier version (the latter most likely due to device incompatibility, such as the original iPad).

Count my mom among the iPad users still using iOS 6. Although I updated her MacBook Air to Mavericks 10.9.1 over the Christmas holiday, I’m keeping her iPad 2 on iOS 6 until iOS 7.1 is released. My mom will appreciate the automatic app update feature, but I’m waiting for a more stable version before having to explain to her the nuances of the revised multitasking, notification center, and command center features.

Consumer Adoption vs. Enterprise Adoption

There are no parallels for the rate of user adoption seen with iOS. Consumers largely remained on Windows XP, avoiding Vista in favor of Windows 7. But many users are staying on the 12-year-old OS even though it will be officially retired in April. Enterprise adoption tends to be even more conservative than consumer adoption. “Dot-zero” releases are routinely shunned until not only the “dot-one” release appears, but enough early adopters have taken the plunge and given their blessing. (Although most Microsoft users are sticking with Windows 7 even though Windows 8 recently received a “dot-one” 8.1 update).

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Adoption

Consider SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the first major release of the platform since SAP’s 2008 acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product went through a lengthier than usual ramp-up period during 2011 before becoming generally available on September 16, 2011. The product received a lot of new features with the introduction of Feature Pack 3 on June 15, 2012. Originally intended to be called BI 4.1, I’m still unsure if the release was renamed “Feature Pack 3” to increase adoption or to suppress it until the more stable BI 4.1 was released on August 29, 2013.

As a consultant, I’ve been grateful to work on several BI 4.0 projects instead of being stuck on XI R2 or XI 3.1. But there have been adoption hurdles. And although any customer is frustrated when a project is delayed due to software bugs, most adopters of BI 4.0 understood the risk and perceived enough benefits from upgrading to take that risk.

But the “dot-one” release isn’t always a panacea for user adoption. Although BI 4.1 has both more stability and features than it’s now two-year-old predecessor, it isn’t without issues. After releasing a glowing endorsement of the new Support Pack 2 on Monday (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Upgrade, January 2014), I discovered on Tuesday that even the most basic of publications using the sample eFashion universe won’t work properly, let alone mission-critical publications (see related article on the SAP Community Network, Publications Fail). And no scheduled documents, publications or otherwise, can be sent to the Mobile BI Inbox (see related SAP KB 1967424- Reports scheduled to BI inbox not visible in SAP BI app for iOS in BI 4.1). Ouch!

Should customers kicking off BI 4.1 migration projects apply the brakes? Absolutely not. There’s a lot of work to be done regressing testing existing content on a BI 4.1 development platform, which will most likely be patched between project kickoff and go-live anyway. And administrators, developers, and power users need at least a BI 4.1 sandbox to start exploring the new platform’s features. But unfortunately, BI 4.1 is starting to show more in common with Windows 8.1 instead of iOS 7.1.

The introduction of iOS 7 brings an extra adoption wrinkle for both SAP and the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.1 for iOS). Because iOS 7 can automatically update a user’s apps, mobile app quality has to be guaranteed on day one of its release. And the product documentation should be ready, too.

There’s Always a Price for Early Adoption

Bottom line, there’s always a price to be paid for early adoption. In many cases, it’s a price worth paying. But always be prepared for the risks, seen and unseen.

Are you an Apple user on the iOS 7 bandwagon? Or a SAP BusinessObjects user on the BI 4.0 or BI 4.1 bandwagon? Would love to hear your comments, as always.

Thoughts on Xcelsius

Is Xcelsius dead?

Last week, Xcelsius Guru Mico Yuk pondered on Twitter whether Xcelsius was dead. 

This week, Steve Lucas, SAP’s General Manager for Business Analytics, provided new insight to SAP’s mobile business intelligence strategy in two blog posts entitled “The Demise of Flash and the Battle for the End-User Experience” and “Putting Mobile First and the New Business Intelligence Priorities”.  Steve lays out a three-point business analytics mobility strategy.

First, allow access to existing content like Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports via the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI app, currently on the Apple iPad and coming soon for other tablets. Second, provide “high-definition dashboards” using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, soon to be extended with new functionality known as “exploration views”.  And third, a “completely open” development experience for custom business analytics applications on mobile devices. I assume this refers to the Sybase Unwired Platform.

So where does Xcelsius (known on the new BI 4.0 platform as SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0) fit into this three-point strategy?

It doesn’t.

Scroll to the very bottom of Steve’s remarks, where we learn that SAP will “deliver an HTML 5 version [of Xcelsius/Dashboards] in 2012”. But “this may not make life perfect”, which I interpret as an early indicator that the HTML 5 version won’t be as robust or powerful as the current Adobe Flash based product.

In my opinion, Xcelsius has become the new Desktop Intelligence. In the pre-web era, Desktop Intelligence was the only BusinessObjects reporting tool. But it was too wedded to Microsoft Windows to make an effective leap to the web browser, so Web Intelligence was created. In a similar way, Xcelsius is too wedded to the Adobe Flash platform to make the leap to mobile devices.

And just like multiple iterations of Web Intelligence were required before it came close enough to the capabilities of Desktop Intelligence, it may take multiple iterations of an HTML 5 product before it can fully replace Xcelsius.  But there isn’t time for multiple iterations – customers are demanding mobile analytics now.  And while mobile Adobe Flash solutions from Exxova or Antivia may bridge the gap, adopting Adobe Flash to mobile devices is a short term, not a long term strategy.  Which is why declaring a “mobile first” strategy makes sense.

SAP BusinessObjects customers do not need Xcelsius on their tablets.

They need business intelligence on their tablets. And even smaller mobile devices like smart phones.

Tablets have a unique user interface. A great mobile business analytics tool will design for the device, not retrofit existing paradigms, which explains why Mellmo has been successful with its RoamBI product.  It was designed from the ground up for the era of mobility.

As best as I can tell from this week’s strategy announcement, SAP is designating its upcoming Exploration Views (coming later this year in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3) as its from-the-ground-up mobile analytics tool, not Xcelsius for HTML 5.  “Today, we call this SAP BusinessObjects Explorer” (are we going to call it something else tomorrow?).

This is not all bad news.  Just as SAP has protected customer investments in Desktop Intelligence with a lengthy rather than abrupt retirement, SAP is promising that it will protect customer investments in Xcelsius. And although it’s easy to poke fun of Desktop Intelligence today (see related Diversified Semantic Layer podcast, Die Deski Redux), it was only yesterday (OK, so it was 10 years ago) that Desktop Intelligence was absolutely the right answer for business intelligence.  In 2005, Xcelsius was the right answer – think of all the cool solutions that have been deployed since BusinessObjects purchased Infommersion. But in 2012, we need something else.

It’s OK to love technology. And its OK to cry when it lets you down and breaks your heart. But always love your users more.

Additional Materials

What do you think of SAP’s mobile business analytics strategy?