SAP BusinessObjects BI — Doing Things Faster, Smarter, Simpler
Disruption has its benefits. Without disruption, progress would come to a halt. But the convergence of technology, cloud, and social media is creating a climate of change where disruption can move at a rate never before seen. Who could have predicted that companies like Uber and Netflix would change entire industries?
Let’s face it, it’s better to be the disruptor than to be disrupted, but both possibilities require that we work faster, smarter, and simpler … at the same time.
According to Gartner, 10% of employees have access to data and analytics today. By 2020, 75% of employees will need it just to do their jobs. We are taking important steps with the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) 4.1 platform and the SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions portfolio that will give you the capabilities to work smarter, faster, and simpler on an integrated platform.
Simplification of the SAP BusinessObjectsBI Portfolio
By applying SAP’s theme of “Run Simple” to our business, we are dramatically simplifying the number of BI solutions in our own portfolio. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 offers a solid base from which to align, consolidate, and provide customers a simpler process for selecting the right tool for the job.
Our BI portfolio, which delivers a comprehensive set of solutions, has grown through both organic development and strategic acquisitions. Our goal is to provide a single SAP BusinessObjects BI suite with a secure, highly scalable BI platform that gives customers the option to buy client tools individually.
Driving the Integration of the SAP Portfolio
We have a strategy we call “better together,” based on the premise that you can use SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions, SAP HANA, and our mobile platform separately, but there is greater value and capability when you use them together. For example, if you want to analyze data from SAP or
SAP is taking important steps with the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) 4.1 platform and the SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions portfolio to give customers the capabilities to work smarter, faster, and simpler on an integrated platform.
different sources, SAP Lumira is a very powerful analytic tool, especially its visualization capabilities. If you want to build mobile apps that run on every device imaginable, our mobile platform is the solution for you. Finally, if you want to use SAP HANA to transform your enterprise platform, you can use that separately as well.
That said, “better together” means that using these products together enables you to unlock capabilities that wouldn’t be possible if you were using these products separately. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 is optimally designed to work as the analytics front end for SAP HANA when working with any volume of big data, and it enables native access to BI data from SAP NetWeaver, as well as from over 140 other data sources. Our mobile platform and tools capabilities give you the ability to analyze, search, and explore information at any time, from any place — all from a centralized BI platform designed to leverage synergies.
Our vision is simple: to provide any company — of any size — an entire end-to-end platform, on premise or in the cloud, that will allow it to anticipate and/or create disruption in its industry.
Innovation and Visualization
SAP Lumira and the Platform of the Future
As experts in business intelligence, we understand it’s not about just the numbers. Clearly, what people want today is to be able to visualize those numbers, understand the information around the data, and act on what the information is telling them. SAP Lumira is our user-focused business intelligence tool that provides companies with quick access to the ever-expanding types of data people need to access and enables them to quickly build beautiful visualizations with just a few clicks.
In addition to visualizing data, you have to tell a story. The issues around data don’t change due to the way the information looks. Let’s say you’ve “visualized” some data and discover that you don’t have enough inventory to meet demand. That alone won’t change how your company operates. With SAP Lumira, you are able to take action with SAP’s performance management solutions with just a click of the mouse. So it isn’t just about looking at data — it’s about understanding the story and being able to act on it, immediately and simply.
You can go to www.saplumira.com and download the free desktop tool. If you want to share reports via a secure server, you can access that tool on the same site. You can even publish reports using SAP Lumira Cloud instantly! The experience is great and easy to access. And it’s all free! I urge you to give it a try.
With Forrester ranking SAP as the leader in 2013 Enterprise BI Platforms and 2014 Agile BI, it makes sense for you to access the most complete portfolio of BI solutions on the market to address the needs across your organization. Business is never static — there will always be disruptors and those that are disrupted. Companies that work faster, smarter, and simpler will set themselves up to win in this changing economy.
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Seize a Competitive Edge with the Latest Innovations for BI from SAP
Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1
Organizations are on a never-ending quest for business insight that will give them a competitive advantage. SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) 4.1 can harness insight from across the enterprise — not just on an individual or departmental level — using agile visualization and advanced analytics to help customers create a focused BI strategy and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Here are 10 reasons to consider moving to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1, and to enable your organization to use intelligent data to drive better business outcomes.
10. A Unified, Personalized User Interface
A lack of usability is a significant barrier to achieving the benefits of BI. If it’s hard to use, it’s hard for it to help. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 has an enhanced user interface, with a high level of personalization and improved interoperability across the portfolio, providing users with quick access to exactly what they need. Many of the BI solutions, such as SAP Lumira, are also intuitively designed, allowing organizations to spend less time training users and more time analyzing information to drive business value.
9. Anytime, Anywhere Access with Mobile BI
Employees must be able to access BI content anytime, anywhere, so that users across the organization can analyze, search, and explore information that is critical to making business decisions. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 brings innovations across the solution portfolio — including SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, and SAP Lumira — to mobilize existing BI investments and enable a fully connected mobile workforce.
8. Optimized for Big Data
Big data offers both an opportunity and a challenge for BI — a potential treasure trove of insight, but an unwieldy mountain of information to manage. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 is optimized for just this task. It is the front end for using SAP HANA — SAP’s powerful in-memory database for real-time reporting and analytics for any data volume. It also includes support for Hadoop, Cloudera, and integration between the MongoDB database and SAP Lumira for compelling visualizations based on big data.
7. Enterprise-Wide Data Access from a Single Platform
Most organizations are housing their BI data in multiple environments. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 enables organizations to pull together data from disparate sources into a unified environment to enable access from a single source. It not only supports native access to BI data from SAP Business Warehouse and SAP ERP — the BI platform and information design tool also support access to over 140 data sources, the most comprehensive data access for analytics on the market.
6. Options for Cloud Deployments
The cloud offers organizations an opportunity to reduce costs and leverage BI capabilities in a scalable model that best fits the way they need to operate. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 brings this opportunity to SAP customers for analytics. It offers organizations public, private, and hybrid deployment options for taking their BI investments to the cloud.
5. Advanced Insights with Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics enables decision makers to identify both hidden opportunities and hidden risks for the business. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 helps organizations use analytics to capitalize on future trends and respond to challenges before they happen. For instance, it enables you to identify outliers using advanced insights and visualizations provided by SAP Lumira, and to use predictive algorithms to forecast new developments via the BI platform.
4. Reduced Total Cost of Ownership
SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 is a comprehensive set of solutions that address a wide range of customer needs — including reporting and analysis, dashboards, mobility, and self-service functionality. Standardizing on SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 not only provides access to a full set of analysis offerings that are optimized to work together to provide collective insight, it also helps reduce the challenges and both direct and indirect costs associated with deploying multiple departmental and individual solutions across the organization.
3. Customizable to Unique Business Needs
One size rarely fits all, and solutions with extensibility are best able to meet the unique requirements of different organizations. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 includes a variety of software development kits (SDKs) across the BI solution portfolio to enable customers to extend functionality to meet their business needs. For instance, it includes an SDK for customizing the functionality of the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app, an SDK for adding enhancements to SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, and support for adding extensions to SAP Lumira.
2. Enhanced Interoperability
The ability to incorporate regularly used tools into BI analysis is critical for businesses. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 supports integration with commonly used business tools, including interoperability between Microsoft Excel and universes, which enables users to create an SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report from an Excel document, for instance. SAP also supports interoperability with third-party solutions such as ESRI map integration for geo-spatial analysis.
1. Trusted Data Discovery
Data discovery empowers users to get the answers they need, when they need them, without the need for IT. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 marries self-service BI with the governance, scale, performance, security, and trust of a market-leading enterprise BI solution. With integration between SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and SAP Lumira, organizations can extend agile visualization to the workforce and allow a managed self-service BI approach.
Are You Ready?
BI solutions can help organizations become more effective, from creating smarter processes, to improving performance, to making better decisions. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 can help your business empower users to engage with all their data, on any device, across any platform, in real time, providing the agility and foresight that drives a competitive edge.
You can learn more and start your journey by visiting www.sapbusinessobjectsbi.com.
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Best Practices for a BI Platform Upgrade
Proper Planning and Support Ensure Success
When it comes to executing your business strategy, proper planning is the key that helps drive success, mitigate risk, and prevent disaster, regardless of the size and scope of the endeavor. An upgrade of a system like the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) platform is no different — whether your deployment is big or small, planning is one of the most important elements of the project.
But how do you make sure that your upgrade plan will work? You need to put careful thought into a few essential elements of the upgrade — and secure the right kind of support for its execution — while you are developing your plan.
Key Considerations When Planning a BI Platform Upgrade
Planning an upgrade involves the consideration of a wide range of variables with complex interdependencies that can have implications across the organization. For instance, Figure 1 summarizes the IT processes that, depending on the degree to which they rely on the BI platform infrastructure, could be affected by an upgrade to release 4.1 of the BI platform.
When upgrading your BI platform, there are four areas in particular that you need to think through as part of the upgrade process: You must make sure that your project plan accounts for skills and enablement requirements, the upgrade scope and methodology, architecture and sizing needs, and testing and validation stages.
Skills and Enablement Requirements
Any platform upgrade will involve some differences between the former and new platform that will require users and administrators to adapt their skills and revise processes and procedures. Although release 4.1 of the BI platform is compatible with most existing BI content, and its design is similar to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1, there are some fundamental differences that will affect users and administrators and that will need to be accounted for in the upgrade project plan:
- Platform design. There are platform design differences between 3.1 and 4.1. For instance, in 4.1, processes are grouped in the adaptive processing server, the mobile server, and the built-in SAP integration framework, while in 3.1 these services are stand-alone. This means that IT departments and administrators need to revise existing installation, deployment, and tuning processes after the upgrade, to ensure that the platform performs properly. Training for end users, hands-on discovery of platform changes, and updates of existing procedures for system administrators are also necessary.
- Workflow. BI developers should review their existing BI clients after the upgrade and note any changes in their typical workflows, such as new functionality for developing BI content. While most changes are intuitive improvements over previous releases, an adaptation period for users and developers to adjust to differences should be expected. Going forward, BI developers must evaluate new BI clients and their capabilities to ensure that they are taking advantage of the full benefits of the new platform.
- End-user experience. With 4.1, the end-user experience has been revamped across the entire BI suite. The UI is modernized and productivity is improved for the most common workflows, such as accessing BI content in the mobile BI app. While these changes provide an enhanced experience for users, they will also require an adjustment period. It is recommended that administrators evaluate these changes directly (with business users who may need help) prior to the upgrade, and then include the new features in a rollout plan, so that developers, end users, and the entire BI community can apply the new functionality in their workflows properly.
Upgrade Scope and Methodology
SAP provides various options for performing an upgrade of the BI platform, from a full system copy to incremental upgrades. Your strategy will depend on your organization’s technical and business requirements, and must account for factors such as the size of your existing deployment, the time zones it serves, how many users and BI applications run on it, and how much downtime the business can handle.
For instance, smaller environments that serve a few hundred users are more likely to be candidates for a full system upgrade, because the overall environment upgrade time will be relatively small. However, due to the business-critical nature of BI, some smaller organizations may still prefer to use a staged upgrade to avoid extended periods of downtime.
In terms of scope, it is not necessary to simultaneously perform a platform upgrade (also known as a technical upgrade) and modify your existing BI applications (for example, to implement new features) during the same project. The two tasks should be performed as different projects to manage scope and reduce risks.
Architecture and Sizing Needs
Because of changes in release 4.1 of the BI platform — including the adoption of 64-bit support and new capabilities such as monitoring and analysis — you must plan for a revised sizing and architecture blueprint for your system. Planning and executing this task early in the upgrade process will allow for proper provisioning of the infrastructure required to support release 4.1.
To support customers in performing this assessment, SAP provides the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 Sizing Guide and the Resource Usage Estimator tool (also known as the Sizing Estimator tool). Both the sizing guide and the estimator tool can be downloaded via SAP Community Network at http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-33183.
Keep in mind that, due to the architectural changes in the new release, some degree of server tuning will be necessary even for your sandbox or development environments to process some of your existing large reports.
Testing and Validation Stages
Do not overlook the importance of testing and validation. The time and resource costs of a poorly tested implementation can multiply across the organization. Additional investment in testing reduces these risks significantly, and SAP provides a variety of testing tools to help, such as a report validation tool for validating SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports before and after an upgrade to release 4.1.
To ensure a smooth upgrade, your plan should include multiple stages of testing of the upgraded BI platform, including:
- Sandbox BI platform and clients discovery with a number of BI artifacts, to ensure that the upgrade process is tested and verified in a less mission-critical environment
- Several iterations of dry-run upgrades for security and BI applications
- A functional test of the dry-run applications
- First-pass IT test of security and content after an application is upgraded to the test environment
- A second-pass user acceptance test by business users in the test environment
- Final user validation after the application is moved from a test system to a production system
Keep in mind that user acceptance testing should cover all business-critical analytics — such as executive dashboards and operational reports — and a good sample of BI applications across typically used report structures.
Secure Project Success with the Right Support
Note: When seeking limited external assistance for your upgrade, give priority to the areas of assessment, planning, sizing, and architecture.
Having the right kind of support in place plays a critical role in ensuring a successful upgrade plan. Because of the scale of changes and innovations introduced by the upgrade, it is important to engage SAP or an SAP partner in the earliest stages of your project planning process, so that they can guide you along the way.
Your SAP Account Team
Your organization’s account team at SAP is your first connection to SAP. They will support your success even if you have no immediate licensing plan. Your account team can help you discover new features in the 4.1 release of the BI platform, such as how to enable BI artifacts for mobile devices, so that you can take advantage of the new business opportunities that these features make possible.
SAP Active Global Support
The SAP Active Global Support (SAP AGS) organization provides essential business continuity by helping customers resolve any technical challenges associated with maintaining and administering the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, including older releases, such as SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. A support contract is a worthwhile investment to keep up with the latest innovations in system monitoring and root-cause analysis, and includes various benefits:
- A central point of contact for non-technical assistance is provided by the Customer Interaction Center (http://service.sap.com/contact-bosap). Its representatives can explain the available services and how to best interact with support. For more information, see the Global Support Customer Interaction Brochure (http://service.sap.com/~sapidp/011000358700000905192010.pdf).
- Remote support is the best way to ensure seamless interaction and maximum efficiency in root-cause analysis. Deployment of any supportability tools required to enable remote support should be included in your upgrade plan. Learn more at http://service.sap.com/remote-supportability.
- Additional support offerings, such as the support of a technical quality manager throughout the upgrade project, are available through a premium support engagement. More information is available at http://service.sap.com/supportofferings.
Services from SAP and SAP Partners
Each upgrade project is unique, and in most cases, you only upgrade your BI landscape to a particular release, such as 4.1, once. The significant amount of experience acquired by your team at the expense of your own project has a poor return on investment. Thus, even if you generally do not seek help from external sources, it is a good idea to consider engaging consulting services from SAP or an SAP partner for your upgrade project, so you can take advantage of their already-acquired experience over a wide range of projects.
SAP offers a range of upgrade services that are outside of the standard support provided by SAP AGS, such as SAP Services for analytics, which provide guidance and assistance throughout the BI upgrade process to get customers upgraded and working productively as quickly as possible. For more information on SAP’s services, visit www.sap.com/services-support/svc.html.
SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions
To help customers get the BI platform up and running quickly and affordably, SAP offers a solution for the rapid deployment of BI adoption. This rapid-deployment solution includes best practices along with predefined content and packaged services to help customers reduce time to value when deploying the BI platform. Soon the package will be extended with specific content for customers upgrading to release 4.1 from previous SAP BusinessObjects BI releases.
More information about the rapid-deployment solution for BI adoption is available at www.sap.com/solution/rapid-deployment/software/business-intelligence-user-adoption/index.html.
Paving the Way to BI Innovation
A well-thought-out plan for your BI upgrade does more than ensure a successful project — it lays the groundwork for innovation in your organization. By keeping key considerations in mind during project planning, and having the right support system in place along the way, you can ensure that your organization is on the path to success. Learn more at www.sapbusinessobjectsbi.com.
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Business Intelligence Made Simple
A Look at the Road Ahead for the SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite
The SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) portfolio empowers BI administrators, designers, developers, analysts, and a wide variety of end users to make faster, more informed business decisions with access to agile BI. While a large part of the success of the BI portfolio is its comprehensiveness — including an array of reporting, dashboard, discovery, and analysis functionality that has grown over time through development and acquisition — SAP customers have also voiced a desire for fewer tools and help determining the “right tool for the job.” SAP is listening and, in keeping with a corporate-wide objective to “Run Simple,” is converging the entire BI portfolio into the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite, enabling the delivery of all BI clients in a single package with a secure, highly scalable BI platform, while preserving the option for customers to buy client tools individually and adopt new innovations on their own timelines.
An Approach Built on Lessons Learned
To execute this simplification plan, SAP looked at what has worked in the past and, just as important, what hasn’t worked. This process revealed some key lessons that form the basis for the convergence approach.
- Make it easy for users to move, or don’t make them move at all. Moving from .UNV universes in release 3.x of the BI platform to .UNX in release 4.0 was simple — you open an existing .UNV file and save it as .UNX. However, some technologies used in the past, such as Adobe Flash, won’t carry forward to new frameworks. To support customers in these cases, the BI suite will allow you to keep what you have until the time is right to adopt new functionality. For instance, you can continue with the Adobe Flash-based SAP BusinessObjects Explorer while keeping track of innovations such as the addition of Explorer-like functionality to SAP Lumira, and move to SAP Lumira when you are ready.
- Provide tools for both planning and enabling the upgrade. The Adobe Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) is a good example of this. After an upgrade, using this tool, once you are ready to use the new functionality such as the ability to develop HTML5-based dashboards using SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, then you can open an existing dashboard, convert it to HTML5, see what comes over, and then save the dashboard in HTML5 and continue to develop it from there.
- Prioritize the features that will help users move sooner. To facilitate a deep understanding of what customers are using and what is most important to them, SAP has created Customer Design Councils. Through these councils, customers can provide feedback on early builds, and on what works and what doesn’t work, to ensure that SAP is putting development resources into the areas that will be of most value.
- Never expire content. This was a valuable lesson learned from the migration of SAP BusinessObjects Desktop Intelligence (Deski) to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence (Webi). Despite the efforts to bring Deski functionality to Webi, some customers continue to run Deski. SAP supports Deski documents on release 4.1 of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, and the BI suite will continue to do so.
Simplification Without Disruption
Converging the reporting, dashboard, and self-service BI client experiences is no small undertaking, and will require tough decisions on which tools move forward and where to build up functionality. SAP has a plan to simplify the portfolio in a way that respects customers’ existing investments while delivering innovation. Let’s look at the five key areas of the simplification plan (see Figure 1):
- Reporting functionality will center on SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and SAP Crystal Reports, which are widely used among SAP customers for operational and ad hoc reporting. Each solution has millions of users, with more than 800,000 copies of SAP Crystal Reports downloaded in 2013 alone. These solutions aren’t going away, and the BI platform will continue to support desktop intelligence documents as well.
- Discovery and analysis will come together in SAP Lumira. Analysts will be able to mash and merge data, answer ad hoc questions, and create meaningful visualizations that business users can easily share and explore. Users will be able to look at what happened in the past, and what’s coming in the future, with embedded predictive capabilities that provide visual discoveries, automatic identification of outliers, future values, and optimal outcomes delivered in an intuitive way.
- Dashboards and applications will be developed primarily within SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, which currently supports a majority of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards use cases. SAP will continue to invest in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards — recently delivering offline dashboards for mobile BI, for instance — but the focus will be on SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, which is more scalable, is all HTML5, and leverages the latest version of SAP’s visualization library (CVOM). Microsoft Office integration support will continue, including direct integration between the BI suite and Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook.
- Interoperability in the workflows between administrators, developers, analysts, and decision makers will have increased support. Today, with a few clicks, an analyst fielding a query from the business can take an answer from SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office, into SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio and hand it over to a developer to create a scalable, self-service dashboard. The simplified BI portfolio will support similar workflows between SAP Lumira, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, the edition of SAP BusinessObjects Analysis for use with Microsoft Office, SAP Crystal Reports, and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence.
More Functionality, Less Complication
With its convergence plan for the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite, SAP aims to answer the customer desire for more functionality with less complication — in a way that respects existing investments and delivers innovation without disruption. Learn more about our strategy and access the recording of our recent #askSAP Analytics Innovation Community Call: SAP BusinessObjects BI Strategy and Roadmap at www.sapbusinessobjectsbi.com.
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