It’s been three years now since Business Objects joined SAP. Since then, the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio has settled into its new home, gaining reach and power through its connection to SAP’s ERP solutions while remaining optimized for heterogeneous environments.
Yet today, even some of SAP’s most devoted customers aren’t very familiar with the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio and the value its components deliver — both individually and in concert. They may think, “Right, that’s business intelligence,” or “Oh yes, dashboards…I remember seeing that cool demo at SAPPHIRE,” and move on to other things. In this article, I will demystify the portfolio, highlighting its goals and describing its five solution areas, so that SAP customers will be better acquainted with the value of SAP BusinessObjects solutions.
Revisiting the Acquisition
SAP had a good reason for acquiring Business Objects in 2007. The company’s solutions — for not only business intelligence (BI), but information management, performance management, and allied functions — were the logical next step for organizations that had already automated their everyday business processes. The solutions could enable organizations to refine those processes (such as supply chain planning and raw materials purchasing) and realize the concept of “doing things right.”
But there is another side to the story: You also have to think about “doing the right things” (see sidebar). Successfully combining these worlds — doing things right (execution) and doing the right t
hings (strategy) — is vital to optimizing business performance. That’s where the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio comes in.
Optimizing Business Performance in 3 Key Ways
The SAP BusinessObjects portfolio offers a three-fold approach to optimizing business performance:
- First, it brings strategic and tactical decision making closer together, so that the worlds of strategy and execution are synchronized, not disconnected. We call this strategic alignment.
- Second, for all decisions, big or small, it provides a way to identify the best opportunities and balance them with any associated risks. We call this achieving predictable performance.
- Third, it supports a multi-directional flow of information, creating an environment where everyone can make confident decisions, knowing their role in the big picture.
Exposing the 5 Solution Areas
So how exactly does the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio deliver these three benefits? In other words, “What’s inside?” In answer, I will describe the five main solution areas within the portfolio, explaining where they fit into an organization’s business processes.
1. Enterprise Information Management (EIM)
EIM provides the critical information foundation for an organization. A successful EIM strategy helps companies optimize performance by providing all users with trusted information that is complete, accurate, and always accessible. Our EIM solutions cover several capabilities:
- Data integration, or extract, transform, and load (ETL), brings data together from multiple systems into a store with a common format, often designed for BI.
- Data quality management finds and resolves errors at the point of data capture, within legacy and operational systems, or in the ETL process, keeping your data warehouse clean.
- Data federation aggregates data in real time, in memory, creating “virtual tables” that, in turn, power the queries for end users.
- Metadata management helps define a single version of the truth for information, allowing end users to “look down” from a report and see exactly where the data came from, and allowing IT users to “look up” and see how changing tables and columns in the database has affected reports and end users.
- Text analysis parses raw text (in documents, notes fields, or online) in multiple languages, extracts meaning, and introduces structure, allowing analysis and insight.
2. Business Intelligence (BI)
BI focuses on the business users for whom the information derived from the secure EIM foundation is a critical ingredient of their daily work. Our BI solutions fall into four major areas, based on how those individual users access and interact with the information:
- Of all the BI functions, reporting is the most basic. One report can gather data from a range of sources, format it precisely, filter it, and deliver it to many users in a browser, a Microsoft PowerPoint slide, a chart, or in other ways.
- Interactive analysis provides a self-service option, letting business users ask and answer their own questions in an easy interface, without the need for IT.
- Dashboards and visualization provide a simple, intuitive interface for viewing essential figures like key performance indicators. They even allow interactive, what-if modeling.
- In data exploration, users can search their data and look for patterns in an open-ended way, without being tied to queries in pre-built reports. This tool guides users, adapting data sets and visualization techniques (such as pie charts or bar charts) to the users’ needs.
- The technology inside advanced analytics provides the ability to predict future performance, making it easier to find trends and outliers, create forecasts, and more. This helps with both decision making and business planning.
3. Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)
Our EPM products help users focus on improved effectiveness and performance control across the organization. People commonly think of EPM in core financial processes such as consolidation and planning, but our tools extend into operations and other lines of business, supporting closed-loop performance management processes. We group our EPM tools into the following areas:
- Strategy management focuses on defining, communicating, and collaborating on business strategy and goals while managing resources and exceptions.
- Business planning streamlines the bottom-up and top-down planning process, which includes budgeting, and helps shorten budget cycles.
- Financial consolidation applications increase the speed, processing power, agility, and breadth of analysis needed to complete the periodic financial close and reporting cycles more quickly and smoothly.
- Profitability and cost management is an activity-based costing model. This enables very granular measurement of costs and profitability of customers, products, channels, and any other dimension of the business, helping users to zero in on costs to control or prioritize profitability over revenue growth as needed. It can also identify which products, suppliers, or customers are the most profitable, or serve for cross-departmental charges (for example, for IT services to the rest of the organization).
- Performance management is no longer limited to the finance department. Operational performance management applications allow other parts of the business — such as procurement or the supply chain — to improve their effectiveness and performance control.
4. Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC)
Our GRC solutions provide a preventive, real-time approach to balancing risk and opportunity and effectively managing regulatory compliance across departments and borders. With a common approach to GRC initiatives and continuous monitoring, organizations can fully understand business conditions, anticipate and manage risks, model alternative courses of action, and improve decisions. Our GRC solutions focus on three areas:
- Access control is often a place to start a GRC journey, making sure that people can only access the information and systems to which they are entitled, and that they don’t run into segregation of duties issues.
- Compliance and policy management is a logical next step. Users don’t want to be told about every stage of an event — only exceptions and violations, which help them detect possible fraud or abuse early on (for example, shipments made without proper sales documents).
- Risk management focuses on defining cross-enterprise transparency of risks in their business context to help deliver stronger corporate governance across key business processes.
5. Analytic Applications
Building upon the rest of the portfolio and incorporating industry-specific expertise in the form of industry frameworks, visualizations, and quick-start deployment services, SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications are designed to address an organization’s industry-specific requirements. They are also meant to be extensible, so a company can adapt them to meet its needs and ensure rapid deployment in any vendor environment.
More Than the Sum of Its Parts
I’ve broken down the solution families within the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio and described their individual value propositions (see sidebar). Note, however, that their value is multiplied when used in concert because they are designed for easy interoperation. In nearly any configuration, they will share information swiftly and accurately from top to bottom. As a result, the portfolio creates enterprise visibility to benefit an entire organization — from the sales and marketing divisions to operations, manufacturing, and distribution.
How do we enable customers to realize these benefits? The SAP BusinessObjects solution portfolio offers not only award-winning technology, but also tested, proven business practices and the services to implement them. I invite you to learn more about what our solutions can do for you; visit www.sap.com/sapbusinessobjects.
Paul Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior Director of SAP BusinessObjects Portfolio Marketing at SAP, responsible for the messaging and deliverables that describe the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio, from business intelligence to governance, risk, and compliance. Paul has 20 years of experience in marketing, specializing in product and solution marketing. He holds a BSc from the University of Bristol, UK, and a Management DESS from the Université de Savoie, France.