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Purpose-Built, Industry-Specific Insight That's Effective and Agile? New Analytic Applications Prove It’s Possible

by Jeff Veis | SAPinsider

January 1, 2011

In this installment of the "SAP BusinessObjects Portfolio Primer" column, SAP's Jeff Veis explains the conflicting need for an approach to business applications that is both effective and agile. But he also reveals how SAP has successfully combined effectiveness and agility with its series of industry- and line-of-business-focused SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications.

In business, there’s a time-honored trade-off between effectiveness and agility. Conventional wisdom states that one must choose between a rigid, purpose-built solution to address a given business need, or a customized, built-from-the-ground-up solution to adapt to immediate, specific business conditions.

Both approaches historically have had their own pluses and minuses. The purpose-built, standardized approach can often accelerate deployment, incorporate best practices, and mitigate project risk and cost. In short, it can give a project the predictability that’s essential to ensuring that tangible business value is delivered. Yet, the same standardized approach is often perceived as one that fosters compromises that prevent the solution from addressing unique business needs and meeting future challenges. Standardization may also create unintended consequences, such as the need to migrate data or modify an established enterprise application.

Flexibility is also important, especially in today’s fast-moving world in which sudden changes can whiplash through the connected global economy with unprecedented speed. The retailer that began its holiday preparations last spring must be ready to move quickly when an electronic hamster from Thailand becomes the new “it” toy or an online, multi-channel competitor suddenly introduces a free shipping promotion.

Having highly effective, thoroughly planned processes reflected in your business software is great, but the software becomes static. Inflexibility builds up, preventing you from adjusting to changing market conditions.

Effectiveness vs. Agility in Your Analytic Applications

This distinction between effectiveness and agility applies to the business application landscape, including business intelligence, enterprise performance management, and governance, risk, and compliance-based solutions.

It used to be that a large organization could gather and analyze its information at a steady, methodical pace, pulling data into massive data warehouses on a monthly or quarterly basis and crunching the numbers thoroughly, but slowly. This approach required a specialized team of IT and reporting experts who often struggled to respond to end users’ desires to make new and different queries. It also introduced a substantial lag between what was actually happening across the business and the business’s response to those trends (see sidebar).

To address the gap in gaining real-time insight, managers have unofficially relied on “lightweight” approaches, such as one sales manager’s intuitions or a spreadsheet containing yesterday’s regional point-of-sale (POS) data. But it’s hard to scale this “seat-of-the-pants” approach to stay consistent across hundreds of stores, branch offices, or divisions. It may also severely limit the types of actionable insight a person can gain when the key information that drives decision making so often exists not in a single spreadsheet, database, or application, but in multiple locations, within and outside an organization’s physical four walls.

Now, SAP has combined the best of both worlds — effectiveness and agility — with its series of industry and line-of-business-focused SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications.

Industry and Line-of-Business-Specific Insight with SAP BusinessObjects Analytic Applications

Providing insight across the enterprise, SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications help everyday users make sense of line-of-business issues (including logistics, operations, financial efficiency, and customer care) within many major industries (including healthcare, retail, financial services, manufacturing, media, and the public sector). SAP released more than 20 SAP Business­Objects analytic applications in 2010 and has plans to more than double this number by the end of 2011 (see Figure 1).

Each purpose-built analytic application is constructed through a proven yet flexible architectural approach to address a specific business need, using elements of the SAP BusinessObjects solution portfolio and deep industry and line-of-business knowledge, such as specific key performance indicators (KPIs) for healthcare quality.

To ensure that industry-specific needs are addressed, each application was co-developed with SAP industry-leading customers. For example, a university helped SAP develop an analytic application to optimize nursing staff effectiveness at healthcare provider organizations, and an entertainment corporation provided critical input for a solution designed to maximize the effectiveness of a media company’s intellectual property across multiple distribution networks and delivery systems.

In all cases, customer and partner demand drove the selection of the specific use cases addressed by these solutions to ensure that they can handle the most critical challenges faced by organizations today.



SAP BusinessObjects Analytic Applications

  • SAP BusinessObjects Quality Management for Healthcare
  • SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation for Healthcare
  • SAP BusinessObjects Staff Productivity Management for Healthcare
Life Sciences
  • SAP BusinessObjects Healthcare Practitioner Spend Analysis and Reporting
  • SAP BusinessObjects Customer Analysis and Retention for Telecommunications
Consumer Products
  • SAP BusinessObjects Trade Promotion Effectiveness Analysis
  • SAP BusinessObjects On-Shelf Availability Analysis
Financial Services
  • SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation for Banking
  • SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Risk Reporting for Banking
  • SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Risk and Solvency Management for Insurance
  • SAP BusinessObjects Readiness Assessment for Defense & Security
Public Sector
  • SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation for Public Sector (currently available in the UK only)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Planning for Public Sector (Spanish version)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Sales Analysis for Retail
  • SAP BusinessObjects IP Rights Analysis (see Figure 2)
Oil & Gas
  • SAP BusinessObjects Upstream Operations Performance Analysis
  SAP also currently offers line-of-business analytic applications including spend analytics, supply chain analytics, capital expenditure planning, and sales and operations planning.
Figure 1 SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications released in 2010; additional solutions will be released in waves throughout 2011


Figure 2
Figure 2 A screenshot of the SAP BusinessObjects IP Rights Analysis application


A Choice of Indicators to Spot Trends

SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications offer rich, industry-tested indicators and tools that let you choose which KPIs to analyze and how. These are more than just dashboards that passively reflect what’s going on; the user-friendly, flexible design makes it easy to interact with the data.

SAP BusinessObjects Trade Promotion Effectiveness Analysis, for example, focuses on a key question for retailers and consumer products manufacturers: “How can we use our trade promotion budget to drive maximum profitability?” The application provides tools to measure the effectiveness of promotions along multiple dimensions, including market share, brand reliance, and merchandising method. You can segment results by actual spending, budget, individual product, brand family, geographic region, strategy, and more.

Plus, the application enables you to look at detailed graphs and an insight summary for each dimension of the question you’re examining and allows you to perform gap analysis on the promotional spending budget and maintain scorecards on individual brand managers. Alerts can warn you when a division exceeds any of three pre-set budget variances.

Each of the other SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications offers an equally rich set of data exploration options. However, the key isn’t so much the wide range of tools, charts, and alerts, but what they enable you to do: identify trends and predict their outcomes early. When you can spot potential problems before they cause trouble, or highlight successes before a competitor catches on, you can make more effective decisions to minimize risk and maximize opportunity.

A Flexible, Building-Block Architecture to Preserve Your Existing Investment and Deliver Actionable Insight — Anywhere

The entire series of SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications was designed for maximum extensibility with both SAP and non-SAP applications and data sources. It’s quite an elegant architecture that uses a multi-layered approach to virtualize data access, ensuring that data is never moved or changed regardless of its source (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3 The reference architecture of SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications

The underlying semantic layer powers a data universe that enables you to “snap” together multiple analytic applications if desired, or build on your existing solutions. This unique snap-in architectural approach ensures that data can be easily consumed from any data source — such as a core SAP solution, a third-party on-premise solution, or a cloud-based application. In addition, the SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications complement and extend the rest of the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio.

For example, using an analytic application with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer can enable user self-service through the user interface layer of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. Plus, users can modify business process flows within the analytic applications by using SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, or they can extend the data and connectivity infrastructure with optional SAP BusinessObjects Data Services software.

What’s more, mobility is just a “finger swipe” away with a flexible mobility module that enables users to deliver intuitive analytic applications to any smartphone or next-generation mobile device (see Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4 An image of SAP's new analytic applications delivered on an Apple iPad

Service Offerings: Thinking Through the “Final Mile”

Time-to-value doesn’t pay off until an application is live, so we designed a portfolio of fixed-price, fixed-scope, quick-start implementation service offerings to help customers get up and running. These service offerings, as well as those offered by our global partner network, help ensure that your SAP BusinessObjects analytic application delivers bottom-line strategic value, often in about 8 to 10 weeks. It’s all about enabling our customers.

You Can Never Have Too Much Insight

Designed with quick implementation and time-to-value in mind, SAP BusinessObjects analytic applications bring effectiveness and agility to how you plan and run your business, often in about 8 to 10 weeks. The flexible solutions enable business users to dynamically gain insight into the KPIs and trends that matter most within their industry — and quickly act on them. Down the road, we see opportunity in every industry and part of the world, because you can never have too much insight.

To learn more, visit

Jeff Veis

Jeff Veis ( is the Vice President of Marketing for SAP’s analytic applications. Jeff has been in the enterprise software industry for more than 20 years and has experience in marketing, strategy, sales, and partnering. He founded the Liberty Alliance Project, a global federated identity initiative. Prior to joining SAP, Jeff worked at Business Objects, BEA, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Capgemini. He is based in Palo Alto, California.

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