Apple made news recently for some high-level executive departures and role changes. Mobile software head Scott Forstall, retail chief John Browett, and Apple Maps product manager Richard Williamson have departed. Other executives like Jonathan Ive and Bob Mansfield have increased responsibilities. When asked about these changes in a recent BusinessWeek interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration.

So while there were specific missteps with the Apple Maps software in iOS 6, those missteps weren’t the only reason for executive realignment.

Collaboration is challenging in large organizations like Apple. And SAP. The Business Intelligence platform is created by a large number of teams in diverse locations that span the globe. And while these teams put their heart and soul into the development of the platform, there are clear signs that collaboration is sometimes difficult to achieve. When collaboration isn’t possible, development teams take short-cuts. These short-cuts meet deadlines, but often fail to delight customers. Some recent examples:

  • Using Apache Derby to store persistent data instead of the CMS or Audit databases, particularly in Lifecycle Management and Monitoring
  • Requiring customers to manually formulate tedious codes in Web Intelligence to render scorecards, bullet charts, and geo analysis for the Mobile BI application. Neither the Web Intelligence client application nor the Visualization service (CVOM) are able to keep up with mobile requirements
  • Complaining on the recent All Access SAP webinar about Apple App Store approval delays. But when BI Mobile 4.4 app is submitted on December 14 and emerges on December 17, the documentation still isn’t ready until December 21 (we hope).
  • Failing to integrate Explorer tightly into the the BI platform. Five years after its debut as Polestar on the XI R2 platform, it still isn’t fully integrated with the BI Launchpad, Central Management Console, or the recently updated Mobile BI app (that just added Dashboard and Design Studio support)

After the long development cycle to introduce the BI 4.0 platform and the on-going efforts to stabilize and harmonize the platform, SAP needs to send a clear message to customers and partners. It’s not enough to serve up new products in the dining room. We need to see and hear that the kitchen is getting overhauled as well.

I’m not asking for SAP to hang an analytics executive out to dry ala Apple’s Scott Forestall, as I’m not sure it would be productive. Besides, executive changes aren’t the only changes being made at Apple, they just happen to be the ones that are visible for a very private company. But I would sleep better knowing that tangible changes are taking place to improve collaboration at all levels of the SAP analytics organization. SAP needs to communicate these changes publicly. After being told to wait for BI4, then to wait for Feature Pack 3, then to wait for BI 4.1, customers are losing both faith and patience.

Without improved collaboration, the goals for shorter development cycles and improved software quality will remain elusive.


What steps would you recommend to SAP to improve collaboration on the Analytics products?

Dallas Marks

Dallas Marks

I am an analytics and cloud architect, author, and trainer. An AWS certified blogger, SAP Mentor Alumni and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting.

3 thoughts on “Collaboration

  1. Dallas, great commentary, I think you nailed the issues exactly.

    However, I can’t help but think that we as a BI community can sometimes make this worse instead of helping SAP. I agree that SAP need to be collaborate between their development teams, and all the separate development efforts that happen and which we can see are disjointed.

    But we as the SAP BI community put massive pressure on SAP to announce release dates, hold them accountable for every date mentioned, and do not relent.

    There is also confusion in the many voices about where priorities lie. If you are an SAP shop, then you care more about SAP integration and how to switch from Bex to BusinessObjects. If you are a non-SAP shop, improvements in migrations from 3.1, getting off Deski, and how to switch to the new unx are important. And then key influencers demand more functionality with tool consolidation.

    It surely is a difficult time for SAP in the Analytics space, and whilst I agree with your sentiments, I believe it is worth each of us involved in this space to think about how we can help SAP, and not throw up distractions or roadblocks.


  2. SAP is no different than other organizations. The people on the front line (at the bottom) have lots of ideas for improvement but those ideas have to be heard, championed and implemented by management at the top.

    Instead of looking at the specific examples I cited and trying to assign blame, I hope SAP looks instead at their current processes, or lack of processes, and fixes those instead.

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