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March 19, 2011

Game changer or Incremental – SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 (and EPM 10)

by Ravi Kalakota

“The riskier our business problems the more we rely on analytics”

SAP AG recently released a new 4.0 version of its BI (business intelligence) and EIM (enterprise information management) solutions.  They also released Enterprise Performance Management (EPM 10).

We think this will be a big deal for current customers who are struggling to build a robust enterprise foundation for BI for the diverse business initiatives. Having multiple BI projects with each on a slightly different data hubs leads to chaos and insights where people are unsure about what the numbers mean as they could be interpreted differently along the information chain.

We expect a significant upgrade cycle looming for the SAP community.

BusinessObjects 4.0  is a major release after the merger of SAP and BusinessObjects in 2007 and SAP and Sybase in 2010. It incorporates a significant capability enhancement that business users and CIOs are demanding around analytics – more real-time, better in-memory computing; BI for the masses – powerful BI in users hands, mobile BI capabilities across a wide spectrum of devices; combining structured and unstructured information and providing the tools to govern the information and finally dealing with the growing avalanche of social media data.  Also a common “look and feel” and better data visualization provides a better overall User Experience.

The focus of this 4.0 release appears to be more on creating a balance – providing IT groups better tools to manage the structured data which is moving to real-time, in-memory and mobile models; and managing unstructured data (e.g., social analytics – what and where are customers saying about the different products; what promotions will influence social buying).

The challenge for IT is that both structured and unstructured data are growing exponentially in every company. It is not out of the ordinary now that leading companies may be generating and analyzing using a complex event processing a petabyte of new customer, sales and production data, operational data from real-time telemetry, RFID enabled supply chain processes per day. A few years ago this type of “big data” scenario was unthinkable.

So the decisions in front of CIOs, BI program leaders and others:

  • Do I want to go thru the pain and suffering of a major platform upgrade with multiple moving parts and complex dependencies;
  • Do I leverage point “task oriented” solutions to surround SAP BusinessObjects 3.x and deliver new functionality that way; or
  • Do I simply move some of the data into the private cloud (e.g., Appliances) or use a SaaS provider (cloudsourcing)?

The answer is probably going to depend on business users with the budgets and who long they are willing to wait for new decision support and analytical functionality. Let’s not forget the pressure from users for better and simpler visualization and User Experiences (UX).  Just simply look at iPads for value created from better user experience. Ultimately the value of any application depends on user adoption. Change always requires a catalyst and we think it is the better user experience.

Clearly, a fairly large upgrade cycle driven by next generation analytics is upon companies for the next two to three years. Unlike the past we think IT groups are feeling the urgency to accelerate the upgrades in this cycle. The pure play BI/Analytics/EIM service providers with the right skillsets are going to thrive in this demand environment.

Highlights of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0

  • Upgrade to 64-bit computing improves in-memory and query performance
  • Unification eliminates the collection of products and put them on a predictable upgrade schedule
  • More consistent look-and-feel, data integration and data modeling
  • New Event Insight provides real-time alerting, monitoring and predictive analytics
  • Search and text mining of unstructured data provide foundation for sentiment analytics
  • Xcelsius is gone and is now SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards
  • Universes, metadata modeling layer is now Business Layer
SAP claims that BusinessObjects 4.0 can help  analyze huge quantities of data better via better integration between BusinessObjects and NetWeaver Application Server. BusinessObjects 4.0 releases has new versions of Crystal solutions such as  Crystal Reports software, other BI software such as BusinessObjects Explorer, BusinessObjects Dashboards, and BusinessObjects Web Intelligence.  They will also provide integration with enterprise performance management (EPM 10) and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) solutions.

Enterprise Performance Management (EPM 10)

EPM 10 is the business process interface layer where actual insights are derived from.  EPM is typically the layer that business users deal with. EPM 10 comes with starter kits for various industries like Banking, and also initiatives (such as IFRS, liquidity and capital expenditures planning).

EPM 10 is the result of multiple acquisitions BusinessObjects made in the financial management space before the merger with SAP:

EPM 10 includes SAP BusinessObjects Financial Information Management (FIM), which bridges information from SAP and non-SAP sources and EPM applications. Other nonfinancial, operational applications in EPM 10 include SAP BusinessObjects Spend Performance Management (formerly Spend Analytics) and SAP BusinessObjects Supply Chain Performance Management.


The value of BusinessObjects 4.0 and EPM 10 is moving large enterprises closer to true enterprise BI enablement.  Historically, companies executed BI on a project-by-project basis (or business unit by business unit), separate from each other and from their core enterprise data hub (or integration) initiatives, lacking the ability to bring that data together.  This fragmentation creates incredible problems in a fast moving data environment where the entire information chain from “raw data -> aggregated data -> information -> insights -> decisions”  needs to be tightly integrated in order to generate business value.  Stale data leads to sub-par insights.

Evolution of SAP BI After BusinessObjects Acquisition

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