The power of the BusinessObjects universe, the powerful semantic layer behind Web Intelligence and other SAP analytics tools, is unquestioned. As SAP BusinessObjects customers look beyond SAP for data visualization tools, a cottage industry of third-party vendors have sprung up to bring the power of the universe to non-SAP tools like Tableau, Qlik, and Microsoft Power BI.
UniverseBridge by Analytics8
no physical address listed on web site 312-878-6600
Supports Tableau, Qlik, Microsoft Power BI, and ThoughtSpot. Used by Nissan USA.
This is only a list of available software packages and should not be considered an endorsement, either by me or my employer. Message me privately if you have additions or corrections to the list.
Is your organization using one of these solutions to extend universes to non-SAP tools? Share a comment below describing which tool you’re using, which analytics tools you’re connecting universes to, and any success stories or pitfalls.
My fellow SAP analytics professionals and I are reacting to an altered career landscape.
Editors Note: As luck would have it, today is the 11th anniversary of this blog. Thank you to all of my readers who have stuck with me through such humble beginnings.
As an IT professional, it has always been necessary to keep learning and growing. As an SAP analytics professional, that’s become even more clear as SAP is pivoting away from the classic SAP BusinessObjects platform. SAP customers must augment their analytics toolkits (see related article, Everything Must Change). To be fair, the SAP BusinessObjects platform isn’t going to disappear overnight, playing an important role in SAP’s “hybrid” analytics strategy. But just like the new and unfamiliar Crystal Enterprise/BusinessObjects XI platform had to be learned and embraced back in 2005 (what? No more Supervisor?), it’s time for me and many of my BusinessObjects peers to expand our horizons.
On a personal level, I’ve finally done something that I’ve put off for years. I bought a beautiful sea foam green Fender Stratocaster and signed up for Fender Play, Fender’s cloud-based self-service training platform. As an accomplished pianist, I’m amazed and just a little frustrated how a guitar uses completely different muscles than a piano keyboard.
On a professional level, I’m branching out my skills by studying for Amazon AWS certification as my employer became an AWS partner this year. I wasn’t one of the lucky consultants to get certified first, but I do not intend to be the last. Amazon offers three different certification paths (see illustration below) and I plan to become an AWS Certified Solutions Architect with a Big Data specialty.
I’m not alone. Several of my long-time BusinessObjects friends are moving on. My friend Eileen King just became a certified Looker professional.
I officially passed my Looker Certification test today!!! I’m really excited to be able to take on this new opportunity and take on a new position with Infinite Resource Solutions! I officially started last month but I didn’t want to jinx it until I had the certification!
And Jay Riddle is hanging out with the cool Tableau kids, too.
It’s been refreshing to attend a conference with over 17,000 people that seem to be generally happy with their software vendor’s products and customer support. Ready for new challenges and to start to actually enjoy learning again. Hello @tableau. Goodbye @SAP. #tc18
When it comes to updating mobile BI apps, Tableau isn’t leading the race.
Although I rarely use their products, I signed up for the free mobile apps from several major BI vendors. Seeing their updates pop up on my Apple iPhone is one way that I can keep up with what’s going on in the industry.
Unlike on-premise software that requires a project plan and an off-hours maintenance window to push into production, mobile software is nearly as easy to update as cloud-based software because the vendor assumes a majority of the upgrade risks. But it seemed to me that SAP was updating their mobile BI app at a much slower rate than their competitors.
To back up my hunch with facts, I built a quick model in Microsoft Excel using product versions and release dates from the Apple iTunes store and loaded the data into SAP BusinessObjects Lumira.
As you can see in the chart below, Microsoft clearly updates their Power BI mobile app at a frequency greater than SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI or even (gasp!) Tableau Mobile (click images to enlarge).
Microsoft Power BI, a recent entry into the BI marketplace, was introduced on July 24, 2015 and has been on a rapid release schedule ever since. The Apple iTunes store had release history going back to September 5, 2015 and contains 44 releases through February 2017. Oh sure, many of the releases contain only “bug fixes” or “performance enhancements,” but so do many of the releases from Microsoft’s competitors.
Since January 1 of last year, Microsoft has updated their Power BI iOS app a whopping 35 times. Contributing to most SAP users’ Tableau envy, Tableau updated their iOS app 11 times, almost twice as many updates as SAP’s.
Microsoft releases a new version of Power BI for iOS on an average of every 12 days. SAP actually beats Tableau on this metric, releasing a new iOS version every 39.41 days to Tableau’s 42.58 days.
These are quantitative measurements and one could certainly argue that Microsoft’s numbers are padded with frequent “bug fix” updates that don’t introduce any new functionality. In terms of qualitative measurements, which are a bit more subjective, only Microsoft Power BI has a native interface for the Apple Watch. Not even Tableau can boast that. And only Microsoft Power BI boasts “conversational BI” with the ability to ask questions about data in plain English.
Ironically, none of the three Lumira charts I prepared for this article could be viewed on my Apple iPad, even though I’m using the latest versions of SAP’s BI platform and mobile app.
The SAP Mobile BI team is likely hard at work preparing updates to support the forthcoming Lumira 2.0 release. Or perhaps they’ve been reassigned to help roll out a new version of the separate SAP BusinessObjects Cloud mobile app. Or both. But I hope SAP will be able to increase the release frequency and deliver bigger analytic innovations in its core Mobile BI app.
On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Today, SAP Mentor and my friend and co-worker Greg Myers will appear on a #askSAP webcast for the first time alongside SAP’s Jayne Landry, Ty Miller, and Blair Wheadon. Big news is also expected from Apple and Tableau.
Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.”
Expanding user adoption by learning from the experts.
Much has been made of the “land and expand” sales strategies of data discovery vendors Tableau and Qlik. First, “land” a single license of desktop software in the middle of a data-starved organization like accounting. Then “expand” by selling additional desktop licenses to curious co-workers, eventually spreading to multiple departments then roping in IT to adopt a server or cloud-based solution. Beautiful.
But did you know that it’s possible to use a land and expand strategy with your existing enterprise BI solution?
This article won’t help you decide if your organization should invest in data discovery tools. But I hope it will provide inspiration and ideas for extracting additional value from existing investments. Here are some practical ways that your Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) can increase user adoption of existing enterprise business intelligence.
Did you see how easy it is to download the software? All three vendors provide a “free download” link in the top right corner of their web sites. You can achieve the same goal by creating or enhancing a BICC portal on your corporate intranet such as Microsoft SharePoint. There are typically two tasks users must accomplish:
granting BI platform access to an existing user’s ID
installing any client software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client, Live Office, or Analysis for Microsoft Office
Many organizations have been reluctant to distribute desktop software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client. But as its name indicates, it is a richer experience (without the annoying Java warnings, too). Whether a software installation is requested by a service ticket or downloaded from a server, be sure to provide easy-to-follow instructions for getting software on your BICC portal.
Give Away Free Samples
The second thing that data discovery vendors do really well is provide sample content. Make sure that all users (for SAP BI, the Everyone group) can access a folder of curated sample content. Ideally, this sample content should use corporate universes but could also use eFashion. Make sure that the samples are generic (don’t reveal sensitive information) and perform quickly by using only small data sets.
Give Away Free Tutorials
Data discovery tools typically feature free tutorials that can be accessed from inside the software itself or from the company web site. But using inexpensive tools such as tools such as Camtasia or ScreenFlow, you can go one step further by creating tutorials that use your organization’s data instead of sample data. SAP has done a fantastic job of describing how to create free tutorials— just look at their Learn BI web site for inspiration.
Your BICC portal should also include one or more pages that list the universes or BEx queries available in the BI platform. In addition to the semantic layer name, include a brief description (cut and paste from the universe parameters), the business user point of contact, the technical point of contact, and directions for requesting access to the information.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the SAP Learn BI site. Don’t be afraid to start small and build out a larger set of tutorials.
Give Away Free Webinars
In addition to static tutorials, hold repeating monthly or quarterly webinars. Check out this tweet from Qlik.
You should certainly record webinars and post the “best” one to your BICC portal. But I would encourage you to routinely (perhaps quarterly?) give live webinars because it’s a way to make the human connection with your user community. Their questions will provide valuable insight into how you can continuously improve your training materials, universes, and standard reports. Share presentation responsibilities throughout the BICC giving everyone on the team an opportunity to refine their presentation skills, even if they only handle 5 or 10 minutes of a larger presentation.
Be sure to collect data from your attendees such as name, department, job title and email address. Follow up with a quick email thanking them for their participation.
Reach Out to First-Time Casual Users
If you’ve ever downloaded a free version of a data discovery tool, you’ve seen the vendor’s CRM back-end in action. Via automation and an inside sales force, users who have downloaded the software are periodically contacted, asked if they need help, and reminded of free resources. Being able to cross-reference a user ID to an email address or phone number is key here. New users can also be identified by studying access requests submitted to the help desk.
Know Your Influencers
Desktop data discovery tools succeed not only because they create valuable content, but the person using it becomes a passionate evangelist for the product. In most organizations, these folks are known as “power users” and are sometimes noted as such in the BI security structure. However, just being labeled a power user doesn’t necessarily mean that you are one. Look for users that create and share a large amount of content. Because power users tend to push boundaries, it can also be helpful to look at the number and type of service requests users submit to the help desk.
Monitor Key Metrics and Refine Strategy
In all cases, user activity generates data. Data can be refined into key metrics. And key metrics can be monitored to refine BICC strategy. Look for insight from the SAP BusinessObjects auditor database, usage metrics from your BICC portal, usage metrics from a self-service download site or document management system, and help desk tickets. All of these sources are capable of providing data, but most will need additional additional refinement to reveal insights. Try to budget projects around these untapped data sources as part of your BICC’s annual planning.
Does it take too long to gain access to the enterprise BI platform? Does Brenda take too long to approve access requests? Is installing software a help desk fiasco? Address pain points and continually refine your BICC strategy.
Does your organization need a data discovery tool? Maybe.
Does your organization already own a data discovery tool due to the land-and-expand vigilance of their vendors? Highly likely.
Is there still untapped potential in your existing enterprise business intelligence platform? A distinct possibility.
I hope this article has given you some ideas to tap that latent potential. Some of these topics are explored in my 2010 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference presentations, KPIs for Business Intelligence.
Watching the data discovery vendors compete with the enterprise BI heavyweights.
Last week, Fredrik Tunvall, an analyst with Ovum, published some analysis entitled Tableau Goes Beyond Visual Discovery. I’d quote from the article, but apparently Ovum doesn’t appreciate that kind of publicity.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Ovum (an Informa business).
Mr. Tunvall correctly describes the current BI market as having two “factions”. On one side are the traditional enterprise BI vendors such as IBM (Cognos), Oracle, SAS and SAP (sorry Microstrategy, no mention for you by Tunvall). On the other side are data discovery vendors like Tableau and Qlik. The conventional wisdom is that data discovery vendors like Tableau are going to have to “brace for impact”- to broaden their offerings to compete effectively with the enterprise BI vendors. While I believe that Tableau and Qlik offerings will continue to gain new capabilities- some of which will encroach further into the enterprise BI space- I do not believe that there is a single- nor traditional- path to “enterprise BI nirvana” for data discovery vendors to follow to grow in size and influence.
The Impact of Data Discovery on the Enterprise BI Market
There are two key messages from data discovery marketing. First, we know that you really love Microsoft Excel. And second, you’re not very fond of your IT department. Even vendors such as SAP have picked up on these two points in their messaging for their own year-old data discovery tool, SAP Lumira (formerly known as SAP Visual Intelligence). Side note- apparently focus groups held a higher opinion of Crystal Reports than BusinessObjects (see ad below)?
Data discovery tools are desktop tools, not the web-based tools that IT departments prefer (hence their aversion to deploying existing desktop tools like SAP Web Intelligence Rich Client and Live Office). The main point about data discovery is that Fred in accounting can get the CFO’s corporate card and purchase a single desktop license without IT even knowing about it. Fred first heard about the tool from Susan, an accountant at another local company. The attractiveness of the tool begins long before Fred even launches the program for the first time- it begins with the buying experience. Word spreads at the water cooler that Fred has a cool new tool on his desktop and soon everybody wants their own copy. The data discovery vendors call this their “land and expand” sales strategy (see my related article, Land and Expand). Need to collaborate? Easy, the data discovery vendors also have cloud solutions that can be purchased and deployed, once again without corporate IT. Want to throw a bone to IT? OK, we may have an enterprise product that we can chat about.
While conventional wisdom may show that data discovery vendors need to grow up, or even be acquired by the enterprise vendors, existing users are happy with the status quo. User frustration with the enterprise BI platforms and the IT departments that deploy them is driving the adoption of data discovery tools. But the situation isn’t unique to the BI market.
We’ve already seen a similar scenario play out in the smartphone industry.
The Smartphone Industry
Before 2007, Blackberry was the king of the smartphone market. With it’s physical keyboard, secure messaging, and easy-to-use email, Blackberry was beloved by corporate IT and users alike. When the first Apple iPhone went on sale, it was roundly criticized as unsuitable for the enterprise. Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft with its competing Windows CE smartphone platform (later abandoned for the similarly named but incompatible Windows Phone) had this to say about the first iPhone.
“It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard”
As the iPhone platform matured, Blackberry remained the corporate favorite, but Apple was the upstart preferred by consumers. Today, one of these companies is for sale, the other one is (sometimes) the most valuable company in the world. A recent BusinessWeek interview with senior Apple executives didn’t mention Blackberry. Not once. Instead, Apple CEO Tim Cook indicates that there’s room for the smartphone market for two different strategies- the one favored by Apple and the one favored by mostly makers of Android devices.
“There’s always a large junk part of the market,” he says. “We’re not in the junk business.” The upper end of the industry justifies its higher prices with greater value. “There’s a segment of the market that really wants a product that does a lot for them, and I want to compete like crazy for those customers,” he says. “I’m not going to lose sleep over that other market, because it’s just not who we are. Fortunately, both of these markets are so big, and there’s so many people that care and want a great experience from their phone or their tablet, that Apple can have a really good business.”
Apple became the dominant enterprise smartphone by adopting enterprise-friendly features but by also providing new capabilities never before seen in a mobile phone. An iPhone is a better smartphone, not a better Blackberry.
The Grocery Industry
We’ve also seen upstart companies succeed against established competitors in other non-technology industries such as the grocery industry. In the United States, Target has become an established retailer of groceries against the “establishment”, primarily Kroger and Walmart. While Target has a small number of Super Target stores that compete in size and scale with similar large formats by Kroger and Walmart, Target’s real success has been introducing grocery items to its smaller, traditional department stores (see Target press release Target Completes More Than 100 Store Remodels in March to Expand Fresh Food Selection). These stores only carry 10,000 square feet of groceries compared to the average Kroger store of 67,000 square feet (see Kroger web site). Nobody would suggest that Target is going to eliminate its competitors with a limited selection. But Target has filled its 10,000 square feet with the low-hanging fruit of the grocery industry- milk, bread, and non-perishable items. Target will be successful in increasing the average transaction size and average number of monthly visits from its existing customer base. Over time it will slowly pull away revenue opportunities from its more sizable competitors.
Let’s be clear. Target is not trying to match Wal-Mart in food. Target doesn’t want to be a grocery supercenter… It’s more about convenience than offering a place where a family can do all its weekly grocery shopping, says Howard Davidowitz of Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York.
And consider Whole Foods Market. I was unable to locate statistics about the percentage of their customers that exclusively shop at Whole Foods and forsake the traditional retailers. But notice how Whole Foods Market describes themselves to their shareholders. As you can see from this excerpt from their 2012 annual report, they’re creating a successful business in the grocery industry without following the traditional grocery playbook.
Each of our stores is designed to fit the size and configuration of the particular location and to reflect the community in which it is located. We strive to transform food shopping from a chore into a dynamic experience by building and operating stores with a lively, inspirational atmosphere, mission-oriented décor, well-trained team members, an exciting product mix that emphasizes healthy eating and our high quality standards, ever-changing selections, samples, open kitchens, scratch bakeries, hand-stacked produce, and prepared foods stations. We also incorporate many environmentally sustainable aspects into our store design, and many stores have bicycle parking racks and electric vehicle charging stations. Our stores typically include sit-down eating areas, customer comment boards and customer service booths. In addition, some stores offer special services such as chair massage, personal shopping and home delivery. Others offer sit-down wine bars and tap rooms featuring local and/or craft beer and wine, creating a destination for customer gathering. We believe our stores play a unique role as a third place, besides the home and office, where people can gather, interact and learn while at the same time discovering the many joys of eating and sharing food [emphasis mine].
Also, Whole Foods Market, despite efforts at broadening its target audience, isn’t the supermarket for everybody. By design.
In selecting store locations, we use an internally developed model to analyze potential sites based on various criteria such as education levels, population density and income levels within certain drive times.
Tableau and Qlik do not need to be the “supermarket for everybody” like existing enterprise BI platforms. Like Target and Whole Foods, they can pick and choose where to focus without taking on the heft of the large tool sets of the enterprise BI vendors.
As we see in the example of Apple, sometimes an innovator disrupts a market and either eliminates (Blackberry) or marginalizes (Microsoft) previously established players. In the example of Target and Whole Foods, we see innovators that create a successful business model that bears some similarity to the established players like Kroger and Walmart but is successful because of their unique differences that the established players cannot or will not embrace.
Am I saying that Tableau and Qlik will wane in influence as customers expect them to behave like established players? No. Am I saying that SAP Lumira has no chance of success against Tableau and Qlik? No. Each of these vendors- even the traditional, enterprise BI vendors- must use its unique capabilities to deliver solutions customers want. In some cases, they’ll compete for the same customers. In other cases, they’ll find new customers that cannot be reached with traditional products or traditional sales and marketing techniques.
But I’m definitely notsaying that Tableau and Qlik have to abandon their unique culture and product offerings and become like “the other guys”. If you haven’t noticed lately, the established enterprise BI vendors are the ones that have strapped on their crash helmets, not the data discovery vendors.
Scheduling the Tableau user conference the same week as the SAP BusinessObjects conference was pure genius.
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way…
from A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
What do these names have in common? They are all thought leaders for analytics and business intelligence. And last week, all were at the 2013 Tableau Customer Conference (#TCC13) in Washington, D.C.- not the 2013 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (#SBOUC2013) in Anaheim, California.
And don’t even get me started on Nate Silver and Walter Isaacson, just two of the keynote speakers at #TCC13. Don’t tease me with “Nate Silver is coming to SAP TechEd” next month in Las Vegas because I- like many SAP BusinessObjects customers- cannot justify the expense of two back-to-back conferences.
ASUG keeps a tight lid on conference attendance statistics, but the guestimates floating around the #SBOUC2013 conference were between 1,000 and 1,200 attendees. Is conference attendance a leading indicator or a lagging indicator of a software vendor’s fortunes? Any way you look at it, the current momentum is clearly in Tableau’s favor.
Many at #SBOUC2013 referred to this year’s conference as a family reunion. And it truly is a tight-knit family of analytics professionals. But while the number of new faces at this year’s speaker reception was impressive, the family clearly isn’t taking any cues from the reality TV Dugger family.
With the recent release of the BI 4.1 platform, in-memory technology platforms like Sybase IQ and HANA, the forthcoming SAP Lumira 1.12 (Mac edition, anyone?), and an energized and reorganized leadership team under Steve Lucas, the situation at SAP isn’t all gloom and doom. To be clear, there are a lot of initiatives under way that won’t be visible to the public until next year. But any decision making about future conferences should be sober and fact-based. Conference attendance figures clearly qualify as facts. As a new member of the ASUG BusinessObjects Advisory Council, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to work with both ASUG and SAP in 2014 to reach what is still the largest community of business intelligence users.
What are your thoughts on this year’s ASUG SBOUC conference and its attendance numbers?
Overwhelming interest in Tableau is overwhelming servers.
Tableau Software, the now-publically traded darling (NYSE symbol DATA) of the data visualization industry, has a lot of curious prospective users. But overwhelming curiosity translates into overwhelming traffic for their servers. I was hoping to use Tableau Public to see what it could do with a Microsoft Excel export my Google Analytics (Tableau Desktop can connect directly to Google Analytics but (free) Tableau Public is more limited). I was greeted with the following message.
Saving to Tableau Public is temporarily unavailable.
Due to overwhelming traffic on our servers, saving to Tableau Public is temporarily disabled. We appreciate your patience as we work to get this fixed. Please try again later.
No doubt Tableau puts more cloud horsepower behind its new paid offering, Tableau Online. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in having concerns about availability of cloud services.