For many companies, business intelligence (BI) now goes well beyond
strategic, long-term, centralized planning dedicated to analysts’
intensive data crunching. Increasingly, users across the enterprise are
looking to BI solutions to support day-to-day decision-making
as well, and IT teams are faced with providing the infrastructure to support
varying levels of detail and data freshness. Users of a BI solution do
require different tools for reporting and analyses: analysts need sophisticated
tools for advanced analysis and ad hoc data exploration, while executives
require personalized information, an intuitive user interface, and options
for in-depth analyses of summary data. General information consumers may
have little interest in digging around in the raw data itself but want
simple, accessible data “snapshots” to support their work.
To meet these wide-ranging demands, organizations
often consider a patchwork of applications, tools, and interfaces. Of
course, the greater the number of technologies in any infrastructure,
the greater the complexity — resulting in higher implementation
expenses up front and decreased adaptability over the long haul. There’s
also the need to avoid business intelligence stovepipes, individual, isolated
data structures, and technology silos across the system landscape.
SAP offers a single, end-to-end solution
to address these challenges: SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI). At its
heart is SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW), which covers the
functional areas listed in Figure 1. From the start,
SAP BW has followed an end-to-end approach to business intelligence and
supports tight integration with the overall system landscape, along with
a range of BI tools and technology.
|Business Intelligence Suite
|SAP BW includes the Business Explorer (BEx), a comprehensive,
integrated suite of business intelligence tools for authoring, reporting,
|Business Intelligence Foundation
|SAP BW serves as a technological infrastructure that
supports information access and comprehensive analytics, such as Online
Analytical Processing (OLAP)
|BI information consumers
have varying needs in terms of the structure,
degree of detail, and timeliness of data.
To address all of these factors, SAP BW
supports proven conceptual layers of data
warehousing through its integrated information
|Data is often framented across dozens, if not hundreds,
of database and application. SAP BW's data acquisition functions integrate,
standardize, synchronize, and enrich such data.
||Overview of SAP BW Key Functional Areas
To take this concept of integrated and
embedded business intelligence to the next level, SAP BW is now part of
SAP NetWeaver, SAP’s integration and application platform (below).
This article presents just a few of the benefits that SAP BW draws from
the other components of SAP NetWeaver, reaching both into the areas of
people and process integration.
SAP NetWeaver — The Application
and Integration Platform of SAP
SAP NetWeaver, which encompasses what was formerly known as mySAP
Technology, is an application and integration platform that helps
unify and align people, information, and business processes across
technologies and organizations.
From the mySAP Business Suite to SAP Industry Solutions to SAP
xApps, SAP NetWeaver is the technical foundation for all SAP solutions.
It is also the foundation for implementing an Enterprise Service
Architecture (ESA) — a framework that expands Web services
into a service-based, enterprise-scale business architecture.
The diagram below highlights the functional areas of SAP NetWeaver.
For full details, visit www.SAP.com/netweaver.
People Integration: Access Role-Specific Information from Wide-Ranging
To deliver information in a personalized, targeted manner to a variety
of end-users, SAP BW draws on SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP). Here users
find convenient access to tools and information through a single point
of access, with a single sign-on.
SAP BW and SAP EP are both part of the
overall SAP NetWeaver architecture. They are not just linked — they
are seamlessly integrated on several levels, and share a number of concepts
and technologies. The result? BI users can take full advantage of SAP
Enterprise Portal’s efficiencies. For example:
- Many end-users are already assigned a BI-related role. Now these
same roles can be easily copied to Enterprise Portal roles, enabling
one consistent role concept across both systems. For the user, this
means a single point of access to all relevant information, and for
the IT team, more efficient management of user roles throughout the
- SAP BW supports iViews — the very same small programs used
in the portal framework for retrieving data from content sources (see
Figure 2). iViews allow users to access information
from sources inside the company and on the Internet for display in the
Enterprise Portal. SAP BW users can also easily create their own iViews
for highly customized information gathering.
- SAP BW is integrated with the unification features of SAP EP. Unification
allows disparate applications and information sources to work together
in SAP Enterprise Portal and is the basis of Drag&Relate functionality
for moving information and easily navigating across application boundaries.2
||iViews Providing Customer Analytics Information in the
The tight, multilevel integration of
SAP BW and SAP EP offers users an unprecedented
opportunity to combine business intelligence
information (reports, charts, OLAP analyses,
etc.) with unstructured information (Web sites,
third-party market research, documents) and
information from operational systems (such
as the ability to directly enter transactions
into an SAP R/3 system). So if data indicates
reduced revenue from a key customer, users
can now view attached documents or reports
from colleagues and third parties to explain why they’re
seeing this drop-off.
The collaboration and information-sharing
features end-users experience with a combined SAP BW and SAP EP approach
also include a comprehensive collection of technologies, including shared
email, threaded discussion and document stores, and online chats.
Process Integration: Meet Users’ Need
for Up-to-the-Minute Data
For strategic or tactical decision support, the traditional
batch-oriented extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) approach
to acquiring data serves a particular set of users quite well. But as
organizations expand their support to operational users who need up-to-date
data another set of technologies has come into play — Enterprise
Application Integration (EAI), which typically involves a set of technologies
that enable applications to communicate and share information in real
time through adapters, middleware, and message brokers. Figure
3 offers a side-by-side comparison of the two approaches.
|Extraction, Tranformation and Load (ETL)
||Enterprise Application Integration
|Transforms data for analysis and integrates data for a complete
||Message exchange according to service level agreement (e.g., guaranteed
delivery) for business process automation
|Efficient bulk data movement and transformation
||Efficient transactional message movement
SAP BW supports both ETL and EAI via
the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI), the component for application
integration that forms the process integration layer of SAP NetWeaver.
SAP XI provides the Integration Broker — which uses adapters to
talk to different application components and ensure connectivity to business
partners, exchanges, third-party systems, and SAP solutions — and
Business Process Management — which provides modeling capabilities
for business processes and allows companies to combine applications into
adaptive end-to-end processes spanning the entire value chain. When using
SAP XI’s process-integration capabilities, the data warehouse or
operational data store is simply another subscriber to the real-time data
being distributed by the Integration Broker.
With both batch and real-time data acquisition
capabilities, companies can make better use of their data. And with the
two technologies working together in a single environment using one metadata
model, companies can easily combine historical information and real-time
data to provide a richer user context with consistent data from a variety
SAP BW draws from and utilizes the capabilities of the
other components in SAP NetWeaver for more efficient and targeted information
access for your users, forming a platform that represents the next major
step in the evolution of business intelligence.
For more information on SAP BW
and SAP NetWeaver, visit www.SAP.com/bi
1 See “World-Class
Business Applications Need World-Class
Technology” in the January-March
2003 SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com)
and the article by Franz-Josef Fritz in
this issue of SAP Insider.
more details on Unification and Drag&Relate,
see the article by Scott Braker in this
issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).
Gunther Rothermel is a product manager in SAP’s Business Intelligence
product line. His role is to handle strategic product positioning and
management. Prior to taking this position, he served in SAP’s Global
Solution Marketing. He joined SAP in 1995 and holds a degree in business