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What's in a Name? The Changing Landscape of Business Intelligence at SAP

by Dan Kearnan | SAPinsider

October 1, 2009

Although SAP's acquisition of Business Objects brought forward an expanded suite of best-of-breed BI tools and solutions, it also created misunderstandings around the term "business intelligence". Dan Kearnan clears the air and explains SAP's naming conventions, which now correlate with the accepted market definition of BI.

“What’s in a name? That which we call BI by any other name would be as insightful.” These short lines (with apologies to Shakespeare) suggest the challenges of encapsulating a rich, complex concept in something as simple as a name — whether it’s a colorful, scented flower or a business term.

At SAP, we strive to establish clear, concise, and meaningful names for our applications and solutions. We have, however, been known to change our minds on occasion. Case in point: SAP has recently spent time reevaluating the naming conventions for all solutions related to business intelligence (BI).

Wherefore Art Thou Business Intelligence?

Although SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects brought forward an expanded suite of best-of-breed BI tools and solutions, it also created misunderstandings around the term business intelligence. SAP was suddenly faced with a number of front-end and back-end solutions all under the banner of business intelligence. Confusion inevitably arose among customers and partners trying to make sense of this new BI landscape.

Much internal discussion ensued to determine how BI should be defined at SAP. Should BI be associated with both the front-end tools and the back-end data warehousing solutions? And where exactly do the new SAP BusinessObjects solutions fit in?

Let’s start with the definition of BI. Although the term business intelligence can’t boast the long history of Romeo and Juliet’s tale, it does have an established foothold in the industry and analyst communities. The market refers to business intelligence as the comprehensive set of front-end tools that provide organizations with query, reporting, dashboard, and analytic capabilities integrated on one BI platform. SAP’s previous usage of the term broadened the definition of BI to also include back-end solutions such as data warehousing. But based on customer and industry feedback, we’re now establishing BI naming conventions that correlate with the accepted market definition.


Other terminology has changed as well: The name “Business Objects, an SAP company” has come to its end. This SAP business division is now referred to as SAP BusinessObjects.

To BW or Not to BW? That Is the Question

For good reason at the time, SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) and SAP Business Explorer (SAP BEx) tools were collectively known as SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI). However, the use of any SAP NetWeaver BI names has been discontinued for one main reason: our desire to follow the standard usage of the term business intelligence.

As a data warehouse, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) is outside the market’s BI definition and therefore is not considered part of the BI portfolio at SAP. This last change also precipitated the need to rename SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence Accelerator (SAP NetWeaver BI Accelerator) to SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator).

Although the SAP BEx tools collectively function to provide front-end capabilities for SAP NetWeaver BW, they no longer play a role in SAP’s long-term BI strategy. SAP BEx tools are therefore not considered a strategic part of the new BI portfolio going forward. (If you are using SAP BEx tools, read on — you may be interested in exploring other solution offerings detailed at the end of this article.) However, SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator remain under the SAP NetWeaver umbrella.

A few visuals may be helpful here. Figure 1 summarizes SAP’s business intelligence naming changes. Figure 2 lists several of the solutions in the SAP BusinessObjects and SAP NetWeaver portfolios.

Figure 1 SAP's old and new business intelligence lexicon

Useful terms to know from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio

SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence (BI) solutions, including but not limited to:

  • Crystal Reports
  • Xcelsius
  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
  • SAP BusinessObjects OnDemand offerings
  • SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise
  • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence
  • SAP BusinessObjects information management (IM) solutions

SAP BusinessObjects governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) solutions

SAP BusinessObjects enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions

Useful terms to know from the SAP NetWeaver portfolio

SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW)

SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator)

SAP Business Explorer (SAP BEx)

Figure 2

Need-to-know terms associated (and previously associated) with business intelligence at SAP  

There’s a Method in the Madness: Business Intelligence at SAP

Rest assured that the merry-go-round of BI-related names at SAP has officially stopped (as have the Shakespearean references). At SAP, the term business intelligence is now only used and associated with solutions from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio.

SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP Business Suite customers can leverage SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions to make the most out of their existing investments and to empower users to make effective, informed decisions. (Figure 3 lists the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions that users of SAP BEx tools may want to explore.) To learn more about any of the solutions discussed in this article, please visit or call your SAP representative today.

Today I'm using... My long-term goal is to... My next step should be to...

SAP BEx report designer

Give employees the decision-quality information they need in an easily consumable form

Implement Crystal Reports

SAP BEx Web application designer

Complement current reporting and analysis capabilities with dashboards that provide actionable, highly interactive views into all information

Develop new dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius Enterprise

SAP BEx analyzer

Provide business analysts with the right tool for advanced analysis needs against OLAP data sources

First review all reporting and analysis needs to determine if SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions would provide a good fit; for advanced analysis needs, continue to use the SAP BEx analyzer tool until the new Pioneer offering is available in 2010

Figure 3 SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solution options for users of SAP BEx tools

Dan Kearnan ( is the Director of SAP Business Intelligence at SAP Americas. With more than 15 years of experience working with large and midsize companies to help define and plan their business intelligence (BI) strategies, Dan brings extensive knowledge of BI, enterprise resource planning, and data warehousing applications to his current role. Dan works within a larger group at SAP to help shape, define, and communicate the company’s BI and information management strategies.

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