Accurate, comprehensive information is now universally recognized to
be a mission-critical asset. The businesses that best harness and interpret
it command the competitive edge. Is it any wonder that, according to research
by the analyst firm IDC, the business intelligence (BI) market space reached
$3.7 billion in 2002?
As you formulate plans for moving your
business intelligence infrastructure forward, you need to be mindful of
two things — its reach and consistency. The two concepts are inextricably
linked. If you have one solution supporting your executives and another
supporting information consumers, and possibly yet another supporting
analysts, you have no guarantees that all users are working with one consistent
pool of data and analyses, but you can be sure that their ability to work
together will be seriously hampered. Your business intelligence infrastructure
must reach across all these constituencies.
At the same time, its reach should also
cover all application areas and information sources. Marketing, sales,
logistics, and finance teams all need a common view of things. There must
be a comprehensive, consistent approach to content and analytical activities,
end-to-end. Anything less is counterproductive. Anything less means you
have different factions operating with different data and conclusions,
and you saddle these factions with reconciliation activities each time
they come together and discover conflicting information.
This is why SAP’s approach is pervasive,
reaching across all user groups, from the CFO and CEO to sales reps and
logistics teams — even to customers and partners — and it
encompasses SAP and non-SAP data sources alike, to include transactional
or master data, XML, legacy data, and even Web logs. SAP’s solution
provides a single metadata repository by which all this data can be integrated,
standardized, and enriched. It is an information model that is fully integrated
end- to-end. It supports tactical, operational, and strategic decision-making
SAP embeds this approach into its solutions.
Analytics are literally built into the entire mySAP Business Suite (which
includes financials, CRM, HR, SCM, and so on) to provide a comprehensive
view across your organization’s business operations. SAP “Business
Content” comes ready for you to implement. These are pre-configured
information models for horizontal and vertical applications (like SAP’s
CRM, financials, supply chain management, and industry offerings), where
SAP has leveraged an extensive knowledge of business processes to provide
pre-defined roles, workbooks, queries, InfoSources, InfoCubes, ODS objects,
key figures, characteristics, update rules, and extractors. Use these
Business Content offerings as is, customize them, or use them as a template
for devising your own information models.
Analysts have given high grades to this
approach. In Forrester’s Business Intelligence TechRankingsTM report,
SAP’s BI solution captured top scores in the Information Delivery,
Consistency, and Business Specialization categories. The META Group ranked
SAP among the BI market leaders in their recently released METAspectrumSM.
It is an approach with rapid and broad adoption. And it is one that more
and more customers are adopting as their enterprise-wide platform
for data warehousing, analytics, and planning.
|A business-ready business
intelligence platform ensures lower TCO.
Given the quality of the extractors SAP
has built, and the guarantees of a consistent view of data in both your
SAP and your SAP BI solutions, most customers start there. But they don’t
stop there. Many merge data from non-SAP systems into SAP Business Information
Warehouse (SAP BW), the foundation of SAP BI, with its business intelligence
suite and infrastructure, and functionality that includes data warehousing
and data acquisition.
Technology to Enable Business Objectives
Those of you charged with setting strategy for your business intelligence
infrastructure have to ensure these technology elements are in place to
build and sustain a viable business intelligence platform, now and well
into the future:
|SAP's approach is pervasive,
reaching across all user groups, from the CFO and CEO to sales reps
and logistics teams — even to customers and partners — and encompasses
SAP and non-SAP data sources alike.
The ability to support very large volumes of data, well into the multi-terabyte
range. If you are not now routinely loading and running a multi-terabyte
data warehouse, chances are, you soon will. I encourage you to review
the SAP/Sun “scalability showcase,” a 5.5-terabyte SAP BW
system that supports the equivalent of 20,000 users performing hundreds
of thousands of operations per hour.
A strong Web infrastructure. A business intelligence solution
needs to provide targeted information to all kinds of users via the Web
in a fast and easy fashion (browser-based, zero footprint, without the
need to install a frontend). An open, Web-services based architecture
for information access that expands the use of BI beyond the enterprise
to connect with customers, suppliers, and dealers is essential. I can
assure you that the SAP Business Intelligence infrastructure does precisely
Real-time data acquisition and analytics.
Ultimately, you will need real-time data feeds in order to make real-time
decisions. With real-time data acquisition, you can improve the speed
and efficiency of your business decisions and reduce data latency. This,
in turn, allows for greater short-term operational monitoring and real-time
Leveraging SAP Master Data Management (MDM) services: For many
companies maintaining distributed IT landscapes, common master data will
be crucial for business success. SAP Master Data Management (SAP MDM)
— a building block of SAP NetWeaver — enables companies to
store, augment, and consolidate master data, while ensuring consistent
distribution to all applications and systems within the IT landscape.
In its next release, SAP BW will integrate with SAP MDM and allow for
improved reporting based on harmonized, consistent master data, such as
product or business partners, by providing services that recognize identical
master data objects (duplicate finding) and keep them consistent (harmonization
with local and global attributes).
Shippable, upgradeable content. This is key to lower TCO. So
is the treatment of data as operational data — something the SAP
Business Intelligence solution does. And SAP BW supports every application
area and each industry solution from SAP, along with marketplaces and
solutions for non-SAP system integration (see list below).
An open infrastructure. Clearly, a business intelligence infrastructure
must be open. It must be able to readily integrate with your overall systems
landscape and incorporate offerings from third-parties, such as EAI, knowledge
management, mobile, and portals technology. This SAP Insider
Special Feature profiles a select handful of these partners.
Support for all these technology elements is guaranteed by the SAP NetWeaver
platform on which SAP Business Intelligence solutions are built.1
So is lower TCO, as SAP centralizes all release dates and applies the
same lifecycle management capabilities to all its technology offerings.
How Did We Do? How Are We Doing? Where
Do We Go From Here?
The notion of reach isn’t just about cutting across
functional, organizational, or even technology barriers. There is a temporal
element to this as well. Business intelligence must answer three fundamental
- How did we do?
- How are we doing?
- Where do we go from here?
With the right approach and the right
technology, one business intelligence platform can provide the necessary
reach to support historical data mining, analytic, and predictive functions,
as well as future planning activities for all the audiences you need to
support. It is very important that companies have this comprehensive view
of their standing and the tools to accurately predict and model where
they want to be one year out. It is also critical to be able to monitor,
evaluate, and change course, if need be.
SAP Business Intelligence supports all
of this. There is support for individual and collaborative decision-making
cycles. Ours is the best in the industry. It is the most reliable. (We
treat the data just as we do operational data!) And it is entirely open
Ultimately, to have “reach,”
a business intelligence solution does not start or stop with just one
vendor. Enabling users to effectively identify, evaluate, and act upon
business opportunities works best in concert with a broader sphere of
technologies and insights — like the sampling of those included
in this Special Feature.
more on this, see the article by Gunther
Rothermel, "A Wider BI Net! Now Part of SAP NetWeaver, SAP BW Can
Accommodate a Broader Range of Business Intelligence Users," in
this issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).
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