See you at SAPPHIRE!

I’m headed to SAP SAPPHIRE. Let’s connect!

SAPPHIRE 2014 04 500

I love SAP SAPPHIRE. I love the ASUG Annual Conference that’s co-located with it. As a BI consultant, it’s the least educational of the conferences in North America (ASUG has an entire analytics track at the annual conference, but its SAP Analytics and BusinessObjects User Conference and SAP Insider conferences like the recent BI2015 have much more analytics education). But I love being there. It’s the Walt Disney World of tech conferences, conveniently located in sunny Orlando, Florida. I get to meet all kinds of SAP BI users and talk about their accomplishments as well as their challenges.

At first, I didn’t think I was going to be at SAPPHIRE and the ASUG Annual Conference this year. Even SAP CEO Bill McDermott was a bit disappointed.

My first SAP SAPPHIRE was in 2010. I was also a speaker at the ASUG Annual Conference, with a presentation entitled Increasing User Adoption of Business Intelligence.

SAPPHIRE 2010 Quorum Speaker

The following year, Sting was the featured performer at 2011 SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG Annual Conference. I ran into my original SAP BusinessObjects mentor Jeff Bartel (see related article, You Can’t Get There Alone – The Power of Partners), and overdosed on SAP HANA (see related article, SAP SAPPHIRE: Too Much HANA Montana and Not Enough BIeber 4.0?)

SAPPHIRE 2011 Kalvin Sting

Van Halen was the featured performer at 2012 SAPPHIRE and ASUG Annual Conference. I didn’t eat any brown M&Ms, but had a magic moment when I wrote an article for the SAP Community Network entitled What I Learned About Being a SAP Rock Star from Van Halen. I dreamed about the release of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (see related article, Feature Pack 3, We Hardly Knew Ye) and apparently yawned when SAP Visual Intelligence 1.0 was introduced (see related InfoWorld article, SAP Catches Data Visualization Wave).

SAPPHIRE 2012 Kalvin Van Halen Badge

Oddly enough, Van Halen broke up (again) right after our concert.

SAPPHIRE 2012 Kalvin Van Halen

I didn’t get to attend SAPPHIRE in 2013, but I came back in 2014- my first time as an ASUG Volunteer with Eric Vallo and Greg Myers.

SAPPHIRE 2014 Three EVT Amigos

I got to chat about SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 with Blair Wheadon. Even our sales team, Michael Thompson and Nathan Crook, got to come along for the ride.


But 2015 marks the first year that I’ll be attending SAPPHIRE- as an SAP Mentor. I’m really excited to be going this year, along with Eric Vallo and Michael Thompson. If you’re going to be at SAPPHIRE and want to talk about analytics, I’d love to meet you. Send me a DM on Twitter and let’s see if we can connect.

It’s going to be a great conference!

SAP to Rebrand Lumira as Desktop Intelligence at SAPPHIRE

Desktop Intelligence is back!

In its continuing effort to gain traction in the crowded data discovery market, SAP is enlisting the help of a trusted brand name: Desktop Intelligence. The change is expected to be announced next month at its annual SAPPHIRE NOW user conference in Orlando, Florida. SAP analytics users have been down the rebranding road before. “Project Hilo” was launched at SAPPHIRE NOW 2012 as SAP Visual Intelligence (see related SCN article) then rebranded as SAP Lumira just one year later at SAPPHIRE NOW 2013 (see related SCN article).

According to SAP spokesperson April Erste, yet another re-brand was warranted because “highly-respected industry analysts made fun of Lumira’s seemingly pharmaceutical-inspired name.”

In addition, SAP’s corporate clientele mistakenly believed that increasing the number of “Lumira users” in their organizations would lead to skyrocketing prescription drug costs, often resulting in a buying decision for rival data discovery tools such as Tableau or Qlik.

The new branding will be applied to what was previously known internally as SAP Lumira version 1.26 and will introduce bold new features like a redesigned “slice-and-dice” panel, the ability to import queries from “classic” Desktop Intelligence (see related article, True Desktop Intelligence with SAP Lumira) and a new splash screen that incorporates nostalgic cues from the original BusinessObjects product SAP acquired in 2007. Continuing to integrate technology from SAP’s KXEN acquisition, the new release includes an automated (and animated) assistant to help casual users who are not trained statisticians add predictive capabilities to their visualizations. The animated Deski the Dachshund™ provides a light-hearted interface to business users who fondly remember Clippy, the animated assistant from Microsoft Office. “It’s like Apple Siri for analytics,” says Ms. Erste, clearly beaming with pride.

This isn’t the first time SAP has tried to resurrect the Desktop Intelligence brand name, but SAP is hopeful their second attempt will have better success. “We introduced a brand-new Desktop Intelligence product in 2012,” continues Ms. Erste, “but initial reaction from ramp-up customers was chilly and we ended up scrapping the effort” (see related article, Hell Freezes Over). The upcoming Desktop Intelligence rebrand will be supported with a global multimedia campaign featuring Jennifer Lopez, who co-wrote the campaign song, “Don’t Diss Deski,” with long-time collaborator Cory Rooney and Alan Wilkis (Big Data). Ms. Lopez will first perform “Don’t Diss Deski” publicly during her concert appearance at the SAP SAPPHIRE event. Its accompanying music video, directed by James Frost (OK GO, Radiohead), will be promoted on SAP’s social media channels with a special #DontDissDeski hashtag.

Unfortunately, I won’t be attending SAPPHIRE this year but it’s shaping up to be a great event. What are your thoughts on SAP’s plans for Lumira?

Talking with Blair Wheadon at SAP SAPPHIRE

Catching up with Blair Wheadon, director of solution management for SAP analytics.

At SAP Sapphire last week, I caught up with Blair Wheadon, director of solution management for SAP analytics. We talked about the benefits of the SAP BI 4.1 platform and how Sherlock from EV Technologies can reduce the time and effort required for an upgrade project.

Watch “Customer Experiences on Upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 (#SAPPHIRENOW)”

For More Information

Goodbye SAP Visual Intelligence, Hello SAP Lumira

What’s new is already new again.

Or should that be “Goodbye corporate IT, Hello SAP Lumira”? Last Friday, on the eve of this week’s SAP SAPPHIRE event in Orlando, Florida, SAP officially launched Lumira, its new self service business intelligence solution.

Lumira isn’t entirely new. The Lumira desktop is a rebranding of SAP Visual Intelligence. You know, the year-old desktop product that was launched at last year’s SAPPHIRE? The other piece of Lumira is Lumira Cloud, which is replacing SAP’s existing On-Demand cloud BI offering. And Timo Elliott hints that the rebranding is a prelude to even larger plans SAP has for self-service BI.

We feel that it’s more appropriate to use a completely new name for a completely new “network of truth” approach to business intelligence and analytics (and “SAP Visual Intelligence Cloud” sounds clunky).

Blogger Jonathan Haun had this to say about Lumira’s launch on Twitter:

Jonathan Haun on Lumira 500w

I get it. SAP Lumira helps insulate users from IT

Disagree? Check out SAP’s recent ad campaign for SAP Visual Intelligence.

SAP Visual Intelligence Is Now Lumira 500w

Data discovery and insights that you control. Not IT.

While many still feel that SAP Visual Intelligence, uh, I mean SAP Lumira is still behind its data discovery competitors like Tableau, SAP has beaten them to the cloud [Uhhhh… Never mind – see Tableau Public]. In keeping with the “not IT” theme, SAP states in its SAP Visual Intelligence Renaming FAQ that although SAP Lumira and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer are integrated, Explorer is not being rebranded at this time. I still think the branding story remains a bit confusing (see related article, Family Planning), but by keeping separate names SAP maintains a very clear delineation between “what your IT department controls” (Explorer) and “what you control” (SAP Lumira Desktop and SAP Lumira Cloud). Curiously, Lumira relies on Explorer to get its data visualizations to mobile devices. My hunch is that SAP simply ran out of time to include Lumira Cloud integration in the Mobile BI application in time for SAPPHIRE (although Mobile BI is expected to include Explorer when the latest version appears- hopefully soon). Time will tell.

Expect SAP Lumira, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1, and the ever game-changing, kitten-killing SAP HANA to be the three big analytics themes from this week’s SAPPHIRE conference in sunny Orlando. If you’re stuck behind your desk like me, you can still follow live streaming of the conference from SAP, from ASUG, as well as the #SAPPHIRENOW and #ASUG2013 Twitter streams.

Should be an interesting week.

SAP Lumira Resources

Attend ASUG Annual Conference/SAP SAPPHIRE vicariously


Between an Xcelsius Rock and Dashboard Hard Place

Xcelsius is not dead. But neither is speculation about its future.


With the introduction of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 ramp-up now behind us (see related article, Future Pack 3) and the North American SAP SAPPHIRE ahead of us (May 14-16, 2012), some SAP BusinessObjects customers are unsure how their dashboard and guided analysis strategies align with the SAP BusinessObjects product roadmap. Many feel like Homer Simpson, caught between a rock and a hard place.

Although the most visible conversations are happening on Twitter, many more conversations are occurring within business intelligence competency centers around the world. Xcelsius, now rebranded as SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards Dashboard Design, is being attacked on two fronts. The first front is, sadly, the vendor’s own self-inflicted wounds. The second is the emergence of the post-PC tablet era. The combined effect of both on customers is somewhere between mild disorientation and paralysis.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Xcelsius 2008 seemed to get lost during SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product was legendary for service packs and fix packs that seemed to introduce more bugs than bug fixes. And it failed to keep pace with both simple updates to the Adobe Flash Player and more substantial innovations of the underlying Adobe Flex platform. As recently as September 2011, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0, the successor to Xcelsius 2008, shipped with only Adobe Flex 2 support. And that release only contained modest feature and productivity improvements. Although SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (now in ramp-up) supports Flex 4, it is reasonable to interpret these missteps and others as an indication of SAP’s lack of interest.

The Failure of Mobile Flash

Vendor missteps would be enough to give customers some reservations. But Xcelsius has also been attacked on the mobile front. There is a long list of companies caught completely off guard by the success of Apple’s iPad. Enterprise stalwarts like Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, and Blackberry/RIM have been outmaneuvered. So we shouldn’t be surprised that SAP was also caught a bit off guard and is coding furiously to catch up. To be honest, I expected the tablet wars to play out differently. I assumed Adobe would eventually get Flash working well on non-iOS mobile platforms and force Apple to begrudgingly accept it. For the record, I was also expecting HP to claim the #2 spot in the tablet market with Palm’s webOS (Thanks for nothing, Leo). Instead, the “tablet market” is currently the “iPad market” and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And rather than forge ahead with a dwindling number of mobile operating systems and device vendors, Adobe is pulling the plug on mobile Flash. Microsoft has since followed suit, dropping plans to develop mobile Silverlight, its Flash alternative.

SAP recently announced a “mobile first” strategy for business analytics. Should a “mobile first” guided analysis tool have dependencies on Adobe Flash and Microsoft Excel, neither of which run natively on today’s tablet devices? Is HTML 5 support really important when a native iOS app would satisfy the current iOS-dominated tablet market?

Should Organizations Continue Xcelsius Development?

So the big question remains. Should organizations invested in Xcelsius technology continue their Xcelsius development? My answer is a resounding “yes”. Customers who have already been successful with Xcelsius, who have determined their winner in the Coke vs. Pepsi taste test (QaaWS vs. Live Office), and made investments in licensing and training should continue to use the product with enthusiasm. Of course, that enthusiasm should be tempered. And new business requirements should always be weighed against any vendor’s up-to-date tool selection decision tree. Xcelsius should never be chosen as a development tool solely because a business user says “I need a dashboard”. Tool selection has always been nuanced and this fact is unchanged in the current product landscape.

Should Organizations Start Xcelsius Development?

What about SAP BusinessObjects customers not actively using Xcelsius? Their situation is different. Based on the current state of affairs (see related article Thoughts on Xcelsius), I am hesitant to recommend Xcelsius to customers not currently using it. Others may disagree, and that’s a conversation worth having in the social media marketplace and at Starbucks locations everywhere (see Donald MacCormick’s A New Lease of (HTML5) life for Xcelsius on the Antivia blog). But based on what is presently (and publicly) known, that is my recommendation. I may think differently after SAPPHIRE if the rumors about new products and product roadmaps are true, but I still believe Xcelsius is the new Desktop Intelligence. Xcelsius in its present form cannot go mobile without third-party help from vendors such as Antivia and Exxova. While existing Xcelsius users should eagerly evaluate these solutions, customers not currently using Xcelsius would be better served making investments in SAP’s own Mobile BI app or Mellmo’s RoamBI. Both tools leverage existing investments in Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence. And although Exploration Views, new in Feature Pack 3, are not a direct replacement for Xcelsius, they are a key component of SAP’s current mobile strategy.

At the recent SAP Insider BI2012 conference, there was standing room only for Scott Leaver’s “Future of Dashboard Design” session. Scott is the enthusiastic global solution manager for the Dashboard Design product line. Although customers are a bit disoriented, the fact that they showed up to pack the room should demonstrate to SAP that a future for Xcelsius is important to a substantial number of SAP BusinessObjects customers. Scott and his crew are passionate about the product and resolute in protecting and extending their customer’s technology investments. So the Xcelsius product line will continue to be supported. And it will be enhanced, with HTML 5 features promised for later in 2012.

But today, customers find themselves between an Xcelsius rock and a Dashboard hard place. They presently do not have all of the facts needed to move forward with confidence. No SAP reality distortion field can change this situation. Only shipping products can.

How has your organization’s dashboard and guided analysis strategy changed in the last 12 months? I’m eagerly expecting more news at SAP SAPPHIRE and hope in the meantime that SAP can facilitate a respectful and constructive conversation with its customers and partners.

SAP SAPPHIRE: Too Much HANA Montana and Not Enough BIeber 4.0?

My impressions of SAP SAPPHIRE 2011

Although not quite as enthusiastic as the thousands of girls screaming and crying at a Justin Bieber concert, I was part of the 14,000+ screaming (didn’t see anyone crying) SAP fans at this week’s combined ASUG and SAP SAPPHIRE conference. Cindi Howson has a great summary of business analytics content from the conference on her BI Scorecard blog (see BI Scorecard article, SAP’s In-Memory HANA Showcased at Sapphire). I realize that HANA is a “game changer” (if I had a nickel- or maybe a bullet- for each time I heard the phrase this week…), but either CTO Vishal Sikka’s keynote was waaaaay toooooo long or I drank too much coffee. Sadly, the length of his presentation (which was mostly video customer testimonials about HANA) shortchanged the effervescent and thoughtful Dr. Hasso Plattner. Totally loved his demonstration of HANA on an Apple Mac Mini.

I share Cindi Howson’s assessment that there was too much HANA Montana and not enough Justin BIber 4.0 from the keynote podium (Can you tell that Bieber’s Never Say Never DVD arrived at my house this week?). Although Cindi indicated

I would have liked more (any, in fact) SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 testimonials and ideally from customers who have gone through an upgrade.

even I missed Consultancy by Kingfisher’s presentation based on their experience with three different ramp-up customers for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. I did hear that the presentation was very good, despite the absence of Kingfisher’s fearless Jay Riddle. Ms. Howson goes on to say

Until then, I remain in the skeptic’s corner that customers will rush to embrace this new version as taking advantage of many of the most sought-after improvements…

I also remain in the skeptic’s corner, particularly for existing customers who may be buried under a large pile of Desktop Intelligence documents. However, after this week’s conference, I think SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 is an easy decision for established SAP enterprises adopting SAP BusinessObjects for the first time. For those customers, the risk of a new major product version is mitigated by the ease of connectivity to SAP BW and BEx queries by all five SAP BI tools (Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Analysis, Explorer, and Dashboards/Xcelsius). Risk is also mitigated for new customers because they are unlikely to deploy either a large amount of content or to a large number of users before some additional support packs are released. If that’s not enough incentive, the Mobile BI demos of Web Intelligence on the Apple iPad, coming shortly after the early June 2011 GA of BI 4.0, sealed the deal for me.

It was a great conference that wrapped up with a phenomenal concert by Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. Just kidding – Sting and his band were in fine form at the Amway Arena.

What were your impressions of this year’s ASUG/SAP SAPPHIRE event?

You Can’t Get There Alone – The Power of Partners

Before there was an SAP Mentor program, Jeff was a true BusinessObjects mentor.

It happened yesterday without warning. I was coming out of the ASUG/SAPPHIRE lunch area at the Orange County Convention Center and ran into a familiar face. It was Jeff. Over eight years ago, Jeff was my manager and mentor at a midwest IT consulting firm who introduced me to BusinessObjects (version 5.1). Today he is a sales rep for SAP and I am a senior consultant and trainer at an SAP partner. I was surprised by the emotions that get stirred up when I see Jeff. Neither he or I realized it at the time, but Jeff (and another coworker Tom) would start me on a journey that totally changed my professional career. And I’m profoundly grateful for the patient help he gave me during my first BusinessObjects consulting engagements.

In his SAPPHIRE keynote on Monday afternoon, Michael Eisner spoke passionately about the partnerships that helped propel his career.  In his life, and in the examples from his book Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed, the “number 2” in the partnership often doesn’t get the attention of the “number 1”.  But the “number 1” would have never reached the same level of success without them.

I’ve been really lucky with my partnerships. First with Jeff and Tom. Then later at Integra Solutions (now Quorum Business Solutions) with Alan Mayer and Dave Rathbun. And now friends like Eric, Jamie and Greg from the Diversified Semantic Layer. Just to name the more visible ones. There are many more.

We’ve all learned a lot this week at the ASUG Annual Conference and SAP SAPPHIRE NOW. Many times, only a select few on a project team get to attend these events. And many times, our coworkers return from these events and never really bring much knowledge back into the organization. But I’m challenging this year’s conference attendees – go back to your organization and make a deliberate effort to share what you’ve learned. Call a quick team meeting. Plan a team lunch. Find a way to share what you’ve learned. Ask your team members what is needed to bring positive change. Then listen. Jim Hagemann Snabe spoke yesterday of “people-centric collaboration”. It takes more than software to achieve this – we have to be willing to share. Just like Jeff unknowingly did eight years ago, you may be making a profound impact in the lives of your coworkers.

Come to 2010 ASUG Annual Conference

My first ASUG Annual Conference selection, Increasing User Adoption of Business Intelligence

During last week’s snow storm of the century, it was a welcome relief to receive the following e-mail:

Congratulations. We are delighted to invite you to present at the 2010 ASUG Annual Conference. Having received more than 1,800 submissions of quality content, our selection committee feels confident that sessions such as your submission will make this our strongest conference program to date.

I submitted six abstracts for the conference, which is being held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The chosen breakout session is entitled Increasing User Adoption of Business Intelligence and is Session 514, currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, 2010 from 4:00-5:00 PM.  Here’s the abstract:

Conventional wisdom states “if you build it, they will come.” But this philosophy often leads to performance management solutions that quickly becomes shelfware, achieving little return on investment (ROI). Because business intelligence systems are constantly evolving, user adoption looks different than it does for traditional enterprise software roll outs. More than just training, user adoption is a set of processes aimed at continuous improvement of how organizations make operational, tactical, and strategic business decisions. In this session, learn how to increase user adoption using a combination of features inside the BusinessObjects Enterprise platform and business process improvements outside of the platform.

I would like to augment my prepared material with two or three case studies of organizations that would like to share their strategies for increasing user adoption. If your organization is interested in being interviewed as part of a case study, please let me know.

See you at the 2010 SAP Sapphire/ASUG Annual Conference!