Are SAP BusinessObjects customers better off than they were four years ago?
It’s election season in the United States. Thousands of red, white, and blue balloons have dropped from the ceilings of the recently concluded Republican and Democratic conventions. Now it’s time for the final sprint of campaign speeches, baby kissing, debates, and (sigh) incessant negative campaign ads before the November 6, 2012 election.
This week, hundreds of SAP BusinessObjects professionals will gather at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida for our own sort of political convention – the annual ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference. It’s been four years since SAP acquired Business Objects on January 22, 2008 and the question many attendees will be asking themselves is this one:
Are you better off than you were four years ago?
It’s certainly not an easy question.
The relationship between SAP and many of its traditional BusinessObjects customers is “it’s complicated”. It got off to a rocky start with a clumsy transition to SAP support, layoffs in the BusinessObjects sales and support teams, the dismantling of the Business Intelligence University, and a lengthy development cycle for SAP’s flagship business intelligence offering— SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.
Many of these customers have been sitting on the sidelines of the 4.0 upgrade with concerns over product stability, support for legacy technologies such as Desktop Intelligence, a decline in the quality of education materials, and the general perception that most of the exciting features on the 4.0 platform are exclusively for SAP’s traditional ERP customers. Customers have also been checking out offerings from SAP’s smaller and nimbler business intelligence rivals. SAP seems to be hedging its bets by continuing to update the XI 3.1 platform for new features such as mobility, but many innovations require a brave leap to 4.0.
There’s plenty to like in the BI 4.0 suite. And there’s plenty of upside in the SAP acquisition, having a product owner with deep pockets to invest in technologies like mobile analytics and SAP HANA (read Greg Myers’ upbeat assessment, The World Is Changing). On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be part of a panel discussion with SAP Mentors and Diversified Semantic Layer hosts Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald and Eric Vallo entitled “SAP BusinessObjects BI4: How to Make the Magic Happen“. We’re looking forward to answering customer questions and hearing their concerns.
Follow hashtag #SBOUCon Twitter to follow developments from the conference.
The slogan on the conference PowerPoint templates is “Business Intelligence for a Passionate Community,” which is no understatement. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, signing copies of the new SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 book from SAP Press, participating in the Developer Wars with my fellow SAP Press authors (Jim Brogden, Gabe Orthous, and Heather Sinkwitz), presenting two breakout sessions, and hanging out in EV Technologies‘ booth 102 with my awesome coworkers. It’s going to be a busy and exciting week.
But just like American voters, attendees at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference will have the question “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” echoing in their minds as they hear the keynotes, attend breakout sessions, investigate hands-on demos, and wander through the partner showcase. Whether it’s audibly spoken, it is the question that many customers will be asking.
And I hope SAP tackles the question head-on.
Is your business intelligence program better off than it was four years ago? Continue the conversation in the comments section.
The first thing we can learn from a real rock star like Eddie Van Halen is to always deliver your best performance with a smile. Prior to the concert, I was highly skeptical that a fifty seven year old artist could perform with the same virtuosity he had shown 30 years earlier. But not only did Eddie create a fantastic guitar performance, he did it with a smile. He seemed to be fully engaged, catching the magic moment. An SAP rock star should always maintain a positive and even temperament, even when dealing with loud-mouthed annoying co-workers like David Lee Roth.
2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date
During the concert, vintage album covers and photographs scrolled across the large video screen behind the band. They were a reminder of past rock-and-roll glories and made even this blogger reminisce fondly back to the year 1984. A real rock star can continue to have a successful career reliving past glories, performing 30-year-old hits, and recreating their guitar solos note for note. But sadly, an SAP rock star cannot rely on his or her past technology skills. Instead of dreaming about yesterday, an SAP rock star makes future plans, leaving older products and product names behind with an emotional detachment. SAP professionals that cling to the past and refuse to adapt will look as out of place as a fifty seven year old David Lee Roth in sparkly party pants.
And they’ll sound out of place, too. Thirty years ago, DLR’s on-stage banter shaped his bad boy image and no doubt helped him score backstage with groupies. But today, the same comments reveal a different kind of truth – a creepy, dirty old man that no good father would want around his daughter. Can you see what I mean?
3. Acknowledge Positive Contributions Regardless of Their Source
Sammy Who? Although you couldn’t tell by their omission from the set list, songs from the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen actually sold more albums and yielded more #1 hits than those from David Lee Roth. But band members and many fans alike consider the original DLR days as “the good stuff”. So although a real rock star can ignore some of their biggest hits to placate the ego of their current lead singer, an SAP rock star always acknowledges positive contributions regardless of their source.
4. Create Clear and Detailed Project Plans and Deliverables
Van Halen’s “no brown M&M’s” requirement in their concert rider is an oft-quoted legend that is actually true (see Snopesor even Wikipedia). Trashed dressing rooms aside, the brown M&M requirement was placed in the concert rider as a simple test of whether the concert venue had read and followed the more important safety requirements of the rider (although Xcelsius Guru Mico Yuk would argue that David Lee Roth should have paid more attention to the red M&M’s). Detailed project plans and well-written documentation is a must for any SAP rock star. Real rock stars can get away with trashing their dressing rooms. But SAP rock stars never trash their cubicles over unmet project requirements or less than stellar implementations.
SAP supply chain fanatics will also enjoy the article Alice in Supply Chains that I found while researching Van Halen’s M&M tale.
5. Mentor the Next Generation
As somebody who hasn’t closely followed the personnel changes in the band, it was very obvious to me that the bass player was much younger than anyone else on stage. Indeed, Van Halen’s current bassist is twenty-one year old Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli (yes, I was checking Wikipedia during the concert). I have no doubt that both father and son take great pride in performing together. Hopefully Wolfgang will improve on his father’s career and avoid the substance abuse pitfall that beset his dad and so many others in the music industry. Both real rock stars and SAP rock stars can (and should) pass along wisdom and skills to the next generation.
What did you think of Van Halen’s SAP SAPPHIRE performance? And what tips do you have for aspiring SAP rock stars?
Analysis of SAP’s long-anticipated statement of direction (SOD) for dashboards
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, the space shuttle Discovery made its historic final flight. Seeing images of Discovery flying over the US capitol piggybacked to its specially modified Boeing 747 gave me (and I’m sure many others) a profound admiration for NASA and its shuttle program. But it also left me wondering about the American space program’s future, worrying if its glory days are behind rather than ahead.
What is going to happen to SAP BEx Web Application Designer?
What is Zen and wasn’t it called SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Application Design last year?
But the SOD reveals much more information and is definitely a must-read for all SAP BusinessObjects and SAP Netweaver BW customers. I’d like to make three observations about SAP’s statement of direction on dashboards.
Two Types of Users
First, conversations about Xcelsius/Dashboards and SAP BEx Web Application Designer are primarily held by one group of people: developers. In the SOD, SAP describes two broad categories of data visualization: professionally authored and self-service. These two broad categories have long existed in BI. We often use them to compare and contrast Crystal Reports with Web Intelligence (although enterprise reporting vs. ad-hoc query and analysis is another method of comparison).
SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Zen [UPDATE: which shipped as SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio] are focused on the needs of “power users and IT”, which was probably the majority of attendees on the webcast. Zen is intended to be “a new, unified technology stack” that will begin life primarily intended as the successor to SAP BEx Web Application Designer (focused on SAP data sources like BW and HANA) and evolving into a successor for Xcelsius/Dashboards (focused on a broader set of data sources) as well.
But what about self-service dashboards? “In the future, exploration views (a functionality of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer) [introduced with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3] will become the preferred technology for building self-service BI applications.” And although Web Intelligence is not mentioned, its evolution in BI 4.0 continues to blur the line between “query and analysis” and “dashboard”. And from an end-user perspective, SAP will eventually deliver Exploration Views and Web Intelligence in a single mobile app, rather than the two apps that are required today.
Although a frequent criticism of SAP is that there are “too many BI tools”, I am glad to see SAP continue to recognize that these two broad categories of users require different tools.
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
Second, Tom Petty, a well-known business intelligence industry analyst, had the following to say about SAP’s Dashboard Statement of Direction:
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
SAP’s Statement of Direction outlines three phases. We’ll see the fruits of phase one go into ramp-up in late 2012, but the latter phases will take us into 2013 and probably 2014. That’s a long time to wait. Users of SAP BEX Web Application Designer will be able to use the inaugural edition of Zen. But for the foreseeable future, existing Xcelsius/Dashboard Design customers can continue using the product, extend it with some useful partner solutions, and hope for a fairly routine migration path (see related article, Between an Xcelsius Rock and Dashboard Design Hard Place).
The SOD is developed from the traditional “enterprise software company” cookbook, with emphasis on “protecting existing investments” and merging tools from different lineages into a unified whole. This is what “good” enterprise software companies do. But these typical assumptions mean that we must wait patiently for the results. I can’t help but wonder (aloud on the latest Diversified Semantic Layer podcast, State of the Dashboard Take 2) if a better strategy would be assembling a team of genius developers and building something completely new, without the baggage of existing products. Customers would get a groundbreaking mobile-first tool faster and be less likely to hear the siren song of other vendors like Tableau, Tibco, and QlikTech, and the like.
I recognize that I don’t know how to run a large enterprise software company and don’t understand their traditions. But neither do the young minds creating new data visualization start-up companies. AOL or Yahoo could have built Facebook but didn’t. Kodak or Polaroid could have built Instagram but didn’t. HP or Dell could have built the Apple iPad but didn’t. History is replete with tales of innovation and disintermediation- of David outsmarting Goliath. (See New York Times columnist Nick Bilton’s article, Disruptions: Innovation Isn’t Easy, Especially Midstream)
But perhaps SAP intends to surprise us with the efforts of a secret development team toiling away in an unlikely location like Hilo, Hawaii? [UPDATE: Hilo was the code name for SAP Visual Intelligence, later renamed SAP Lumira]
Xcelsius really is the new Desktop Intelligence
Lastly, this week’s events cemented for me (but not for the SAP panelists) that Xcelsius really is the new Desktop Intelligence (see related article Thoughts on Xcelsius). Yes, I’m fully aware that this analogy is short-hand for all kinds of negative imagery. But there is positive imagery that is worth remembering. Let’s not forget that with Desktop Intelligence, both Business Objects (the company) and SAP that purchased it, the vendor was committed to protecting existing investments and providing a migration path via tools like the Report Conversion Tool. Customers were grateful for the amount of time that Desktop Intelligence continued to be supported. But I’m sure that many at SAP wished they could have stopped support sooner. One reason for the long retirement period was it took Web Intelligence, the successor, many years to reach an adequate level of functionality to replace its predecessor. The reason Desktop Intelligence had a retirement in the first place wasn’t because the tool lost its usefulness. SAP could certainly modernize it if they wanted to (see my almost-plausible April 1 Hell Freezes Over article). Desktop Intelligence was retired because a majority of its users lost interest in desktop applications in favor of web applications. Now those same customers are shifting attention from the web to the mobile device. So we shouldn’t blame the vendor when we, the customers, are making their products obsolete.
Like Desktop Intelligence before it, some customers will continue to use Xcelsius and Dashboard Design well beyond the official end of support. But as a career professional, I’m labeling it as “the new Desktop Intelligence” as a reminder that I need to prioritize learning new skills.
SAP did a good job in authoring the SOD and responding to live Q&A. The effort was necessary and time well spent. And after the webcast I’m looking forward to SAPPHIRE even more. But even with all of the clear answers, I’m unsure. Unsettled. Perhaps it’s because Xcelsius can’t figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. Or maybe it’s because I’m the one who can’t figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Business Intelligence is supposed to be about fact-based decision making. But today, it’s about emotion as well.
What’s your reaction to the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboarding Strategy and Statement of Direction and the ALL ACCESS SAP webinar?
Imagine the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite, but smaller, faster, and ready for the future.
Imagine reading the following article on ASUG News in early 2014:
For a company known for breakthrough products with cool features, SAP this week is doing something unusual: It is introducing a key product with very few new features that are visible to its users. This new release, the latest major version of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite, looks and works almost exactly the same as its predecessor, but has been heavily re-engineered under the covers for greater speed and efficiency, and to add future-oriented core technologies.
Sound far fetched? Probably. But those are the (slightly altered) words that the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg wrote in August 2009 about Apple Snow Leopard. For those of you unfamiliar with the Apple Macintosh and its OS X operating system, Snow Leopard, also known as OS X 10.6, was released in June 2009. It was the first OS X upgrade to cost $29 instead of the then-usual $129 and didn’t bring many new features. But it did do a lot of work under the hood that we’ve come to appreciate in OS X 10.7 Lion and the upcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Here’s what David Pogue wrote about Snow Leopard in the New York Times, in Snow Leopard Takes a Page From the App Store Playbook:
Snow Leopard really is faster–and smaller. Yes, smaller: The OS occupies only half the disk space of the previous version, saving you a cool 6 gigabytes. That’s a first in the history of OS upgrades. Apple says that everything is faster, too: Snow Leopard installation is 45 percent faster, shutting down is 75 percent faster, waking up 50 percent faster, 55 percent faster joining Wi-Fi networks, and so on.
Imagine being able to make similar claims about the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
Last week on March 16, 2012, SAP began the ramp-up of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (BI4 FP3), a marriage of Support Pack 3 and what was previously called BI 4.1. Although as easy to deploy as a support pack, it contains a lot of new functionality (think increased user adoption) and new code (think bugs). But it also contains a lot of fixes for last year’s BI 4.0. Feature Pack 3 is slated to go into general availability (GA) in the third quarter of 2012.
Support Pack 4 is most likely already locked in from a feature perspective and will be focused on stabilizing the Feature Pack 3 release. But what then?
I’m proposing Snow Leopard for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. Let’s call it SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.5. Now is a good time for SAP to take a step back, look for opportunities to refactor bloated and hastily written code, reduce system requirements, shorten installation times, increase performance, and address UI consistency. A great time to clean up issues normally tagged as low priority and pushed to the bottom of the fix list.
There’s plenty of time to wait for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 5.0. If my instincts are correct, that release will be fully 64-bit and therefore jettison legacy products like the Universe Design Tool, Business View Manager, and Crystal Reports 2011 (see related article, Thoughts on BI 5.0). That will be a large pill for many enterprises to swallow. And my proposed BI 4.5 would be a great code base to leap from.
So what do you say SAP? Your developers are probably barely clinging onto sanity after two large back-to-back releases (BI 4.0 and BI 4.0 FP3). And your users are a bit stressed, too. We would enjoy some time to actually use the software instead of constantly upgrading it.
I, for one, would love to see a snow leopard running through my data center. How about you?
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence is scheduled to become generally available (GA) on Friday, September 16, 2011.
The official word came this week, see Update on SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 General Availability, that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 is scheduled to become generally available (GA) on Friday, September 16, 2011. I was installing BI4’s SP2 Patch 4 today and noticed the following “WaitForCMSForTheFirstTime” message.
Today wasn’t the first day I’ve waited for SAP BusinessObjects and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’m excited for the future and grateful for the hard work the various SAP BusinessObjects teams have put into getting this major release into customer hands. As luck would have it, this article is my 200th blog posting. I’m looking forward to writing many more postings about SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence.
German business-software giant SAP AG Tuesday reported a 20% jump in second-quarter profit and said it plans to reach the top end of its revenue and profit guidance in 2011 amid strong demand…. The raised outlook marks an accelerated turnaround for SAP after it was forced in 2009 to cut several thousand jobs due to the economic downturn.
Although nothing official has been announced, the BusinessObjects brand seems to be headed to the brand graveyard.
I’m not sure there’s a prize given for the most stale blog post about last month’s SAPPHIRE 2011, but this one certainly could be a finalist. But better late than never. I was part of the 14,000 screaming SAP fans at the recent SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG 2011 combined event in Orlando, Florida. Even better than getting my hands on BI Mobile for the Apple iPad was getting to see Sting in concert.
I arrived early on Sunday and took the time to stroll through the conference area at the Orange County Convention Center. Construction crews were still working feverishly to assemble vendor booths. But it was a great opportunity to take photos of the main conference area. Here is the banner hanging in the corner formerly known as the SAP BusinessObjects corner. As Timo Elliot recently wrote (see his article Business Analytics vs Business Intelligence?), business intelligence is clearly out and business analytics is in.
Most of the traditional “BusinessObjects” products were labeled under Business Intelligence, which according to SAP is a subset of their Business Analytics offerings. The irony of an out-of-focus iPhone 3GS photo of a “see more clearly” sign is purely unintentional.
What was conspicuously absent was any mention of the BusinessObjects brand. After scouring the Business Analytics area, I finally found one sign. It was on the back of a demo area, not visible to conference attendees walking through the main entrance. Perhaps it was used to cover up a hole? One lousy mention of SAP BusinessObjects.
So it would seem that BusinessObjects will soon be in the brand graveyard with other proud brands like Pontiac and Northwest Airlines. I don’t have any inside knowledge about this prediction – just my own photos and my gut. Customers can get attached to brands. Consultants, too. It’s hard to say “goodbye” to something that has been your livelihood for almost a decade. And you probably don’t even want to ask the Xcelsius Gurus over at Everything Xcelsius for their opinion about SAP’s recent branding moves.
But I won’t be shedding a tear for BusinessObjects, at least not in public.
The forthcoming release of SAP’s BI suite is officially called SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. But even the Twitter hashtag has succumbed – it’s #BI4, not #BO4 or #BOBJ4. My prediction is that the next major release will be called simply SAP Business Intelligence 5.0.
If my assumptions are correct, there are two branding questions that deserve further exploration. First, what steps can an organization that has standardized on BusinessObjects take to prepare their user community for upcoming brand changes (read related article Branding Business Intelligence)? And second, what steps should BusinessObjects professionals take to update their resume and their own personal brands (read related article SAP BusinessObjects Resume Tips)? I will answer these two questions in upcoming blog postings.
Will you cry at the BusinessObjects funeral? Join a twelve-step recovery group? As always, your comments are welcome.
This book is a great addition to your bookshelf, especially if your role is to recommend SAP BusinessObjects solutions to customers or coworkers.
SAP Press recently released Discover SAP BusinessObjects by Chris Dinkel, JC Raveneau, and Thierry Audas. This book is a great addition to your bookshelf, especially if your role is to recommend SAP BusinessObjects solutions to customers or coworkers. As a technology consultant that lives and breathes this stuff, most of the material was not new. However, I found the coverage of less-familiar topics like EPM and GRC very helpful. The book provides a high-level overview of the entire SAP BusinessObjects portfolio, starting with the standard Business Intelligence (BI) suite (SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise, Web Intelligence, etc.) and moving through On-Demand solutions, Enterprise Information Management (EIM), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) and Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC).
The book describes the current SAP BusinessObjects product landscape while looking ahead to the future roadmap. Despite the book’s recent publication, it still reveals SAP’s last-minute internal wrangling over product names. For example, Web Intelligence 4.0 is referred to as Interactive Analysis (which I predict will be its name in BI 5.0) and “Advanced Analysis” (Pioneer) has been released as simply “Analysis”. I enjoyed chapter two the most- “Business Objects: A Historical Perspective”, which provides the colorful history of Business Objects from its founding in 1990 by Bernard Liautaud and Denis Payre to its acquisition by SAP to the present.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
How to remove the WACS server if you’re not using it.
I’m currently architecting a two-tier solution using with two Tomcat web application servers and two SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP3 servers. We’re using Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard as our operating system and using the SAP Integration Kit (aka Integration for SAP Solutions). We first built sandbox and development environments using a single-server configuration. Our QA/UAT and production environments each have four servers (two WAS and two BI). When doing a “new” install without the web components on the BI server, the Web Application Container Server, or WACS, secretly installs. The WACS server is handy, because when you finish the SAP BI installation, there isn’t a “real” Tomcat server to test everything out yet. The WACS server allows you to log into the Central Management Console (CMC) immediately after installation to verify the installation. However, the SAP Integration Kit and the WACS server do not play nice together. You’ll actually receive the following fatal error when installing the integration kit:
The installation of SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 Integration, version for SAP solutions applications SP3 cannot continue because the Web Application Container Server has been installed with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise.
The Web Application Container Server (WACS) is not a supported application server for the Business Objects XI Integration for SAP Solutions. To use .NET InfoView on IIS together with BusinessObjects XI Integration for SAP Solutions, you are still required to install backend applications such as CMC or Web Services on a supported Java application server.
As with Osama Bin Laden, we must whack the WACS server. Unlike Osama Bin Laden, we do not need a covert operation with Navy SEALs to find the Windows Server Control Panel. To remove the WACS server from Windows Server, open the Windows Control Panel and choose Programs->Uninstall a Program. Find SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP3 in the list of installed programs and click the Change button. You’ll find the Web Application Container Server listed in the Server Components section. Choose to uninstall the feature. You will (sigh) need the original installation files, so if you already whacked those after the previous installation, you’ll have to put them back.
After this experience, I’m looking forward to the improved SAP business suite integration promised by SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (which uses the WACS for its new RESTful SDKs, which may make the WACS mandatory in your BI4 deployment). But the next time I need to combine XI 3.1 and SAP Integration, I’ll begin with a custom instead of new install and insure that WACS is not being installed.
Today I would like to write about the other BI – Business Innovation.
Much is being written today about Apple’s “Back to the Mac” event and the unleashing of the Lion, king of the jungle, aka Mac OS X 10.7. And much should be written. Because Mac OS X not only underpins the Macintosh, but a variant named iOS underpins the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and the recently released Apple TV. While much of the attention focuses on the visible part of mobile computing- for example, two-fingered gestures controlling Angry Birds– none of it would be possible without the silent stability of the underlying operating system.
Business innovation simply isn’t possible when the foundation is shaky. Several of Apple’s competitors have stumbled deploying their classic OS to new platforms. Microsoft offered several mobile permutations of its flagship Windows before throwing in the towel, building something from scratch, slapping the Windows 7 label on it and hoping nobody would notice. Palm‘s rocky journey from Palm OS to webOS is legendary. At least to me, the jilted Palm Treo 680 owner that switched to an Apple iPhone 3GS. And even Blackberry demoed its Playbook tablet at a distance and kept the prototypes under glass at their recent unveiling. The Playbook uses the widely admired QNX OS which Blackberry purchased earlier this year, not its legacy Blackberry OS. All three vendors are hoping that their brand strength will motivate developers to create sustainable ecosystems around their new and untested mobile platforms to gain market share (and mind share) from Apple and Google.
Just as Apple has a sturdy OS foundation in its Mac OS X, SAP has a sturdy business intelligence foundation with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise – soon to be rebranded as SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. When BusinessObjects announced its $820 million acquisition of Crystal Decisions in 2003, the obvious assumption was that the company needed the Crystal Reports product. But it was Crystal Enterprise, Crystal Decisions’ server platform, that would quietly become the foundation of BusinessObjects XI and future BusinessObjects product strategy. Embracing Crystal Enterprise was a radical and risky departure from previous versions of BusinessObjects.
But the new server platform was a catalyst for rapid innovation. Although Crystal Reports was the only supported document type in Crystal Enterprise 10, Web Intelligence was added in version XI Release 1. Desktop Intelligence shortly followed in version XI Release 2. The Enterprise platform enabled new features such as multi-dimensional analysis (Voyager) and content search with the XI Release 2 Service Pack 2 Productivity Pack. Then came Polestar, which was last year re-branded as Explorer. Enterprise XI 3.0 ushered in LifeCycle Manager and enhanced publication support. Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 3 added specialized Xcelsius dashboard servers.
Each of these products is demonstrated with a flashy front end. However, the products simply wouldn’t exist without the highly-scalable, multi-OS server architecture and its reusable security and storage features. And while this week Apple is talking about the future of Mac OS X, FaceTime video chat, and new ultra-thin MacBook Air laptops, SAP is simultaneously talking about the future of business intelligence at SAP TechEd. And we’ll be hearing more as we move toward GA (general availability) next year.
So where is the platform for business innovation in your business intelligence organization? It may be neither glamorous nor customer-facing, but nonetheless, it must be in place for successful business innovation.