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Research Uncovers How to Clear BI Hurdles

by Dave Hannon | insiderPROFILES

July 1, 2013

Though business intelligence (BI) is undeniably essential to the success of companies today, there are still major challenges holding back BI initiatives. In a recent survey conducted by insiderRESEARCH, more than 400 SAP users shared their adoption rates and perceptions of BI solutions, revealing prominent hurdles. Explore some of the results of the survey here.

Business intelligence (BI) is at an inflection point in the enterprise today. BI vendors are improving their ability to deliver accessible, business-focused BI solutions by leveraging technologies like mobile, in memory, and cloud computing to address specific use cases and provide real business value. C-suites of all shapes and sizes recognize the value BI can bring and are asking business and IT leaders to evaluate and implement new BI solutions. And IT organizations are successfully implementing and integrating these solutions to help spread intelligence across the enterprise.

But there are still major challenges holding back BI initiatives. Recently, insiderRESEARCH surveyed more than 400 SAP users about their adoption and perceptions of BI solutions and uncovered some of the most prominent hurdles. For one, a surprising number of companies are implementing BI solutions without a clear, holistic strategy or a formalized training program. Without a well-planned strategy, it’s difficult for companies to identify a use case for BI. And without an effective BI training program, end users at many organizations do not learn the skills and knowledge required to make the most of the BI solutions available to them.

The report reveals that as BI solutions are bolstered and broadened through new technologies, such as SAP HANA and mobile platforms, use case identification and training become even more important, driving the need for budget and resources in these areas. Organizations that are investing time and money to implement and integrate SAP BusinessObjects and other BI solutions into their landscapes continue to leave ROI on the table by failing to ensure that their users have the skills necessary to fully leverage these powerful solutions.

Identifying and Clearing Hurdles

According to the survey, issues like back-end architecture (24%), front-end reporting tools (19%), and tracking ROI (13%) are among the top challenges to expanding BI initiatives (see Figure 1). But the place where BI initiatives lose the most steam is at the end-user level. More than a third (34%) of survey respondents rate user understanding and adoption as the biggest hurdle.

Top challenges to expanding BI initiatives

Figure 1 — What are the top challenges to expanding BI initiatives

While the biggest hurdle — BI adoption — is apparent, the reasons behind it and the best path to fixing or avoiding it are more complex. According to the survey results, there is a distinct correlation between lack of strategy, resources, and training with the level of end-user skill.

One factor contributing to lack of user understanding at some organizations is the absence of a clear BI strategy. The survey found 15% of companies using BI don’t have a formal strategy in place (see Figure 2). Among those organizations that do have a strategy, only 29% would consider their strategy “comprehensive.” This means the remainder of organizations using BI (56%) are somewhere in between with less-than-comprehensive strategies, which trickles down to a lack of resources and education for BI initiatives.

Overall BI strategies

Figure 2 — How would you describe your organization's overall BI strategy?

The presence of a strategy has an important impact on user skills. Of those organizations that have a comprehensive BI strategy, 58% feel their end users have the skills required to make the most of BI. Only 30% of those organizations that have no formal strategy feel their users have the right skills.

The other major factor likely contributing to users’ lack of understanding is a dearth of training. According to the survey, 11% of SAP users have no formal BI training program in place (see Figure 3). Not surprisingly, among those organizations, 93% said they don’t feel their BI end users have the necessary skills. Only about half (51%) of organizations that have training in place felt their users lacked the required skills.

Methods to training end users

Figure 3 — What method does your organization use to train end users?

As shown in Figure 3, the most popular training approach for BI users was internal training, which 47% of surveyed organizations perform. A scant 5% use vendor-led training and even fewer use third-party BI training. The rest use a combination of approaches.

Those companies that did use third-party training, however, had much more confidence in their end users’ BI skills, with 63% saying their users have the skills required to make the most of BI initiatives. Those organizations that used vendor-led training had a 54% positive rating for the same question.

But here’s the most telltale statistic of all — of the organizations that claimed they don’t have a clear BI strategy or a BI training program, none felt that their users have the right skills to make the most of BI. In other words, if your organization doesn’t have a BI strategy or a BI training program, it’s virtually guaranteed that your users will not have adequate skills.

What Is Driving BI in the Enterprise?

While there are hurdles to BI expansion, many factors drive BI interest, enthusiasm, and adoption across the SAP ecosystem. For example, the survey found that by the end of 2013, 67% of the companies polled will have implemented SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence. Two years ago, only 27% had implemented it.

Most recently and perhaps most profoundly driving BI interest in the SAP ecosystem is the release of SAP HANA. While the use cases for SAP HANA are expanding into new areas, BI is the area most SAP customers see in memory having an impact. In fact, 88% of those polled said SAP HANA will have either a dramatic impact (57%) or a subtle impact (31%) on the use of SAP Business-Objects and other BI solutions from SAP (see Figure 4). More than six out of every 10 respondents believed SAP HANA complements SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW), and 12% said they’ve either implemented or are implementing SAP NetWeaver BW powered by SAP HANA.

SAP HANA's impact on BI solutions from SAP

Figure 4 — What impact will SAP HANA have on the use of BI solutions?

A major factor improving the perception of BI among SAP users was the release of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0. More than 60% of those polled said the 4.0 release changed their perception of BI. Most said it improved their view of BI and reporting performance, while the second-highest impact was that it provided a clearer roadmap for future plans.

Another indication of the increased acceptance of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 is the higher percentage of organizations that have either already integrated or are now integrating SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP BusinessObjects solutions. When asked two years ago about plans to integrate SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP BusinessObjects solutions, a mere 9% had completed that integration successfully. This year, a quarter of all respondents have successfully completed the integration, and another 27% are in the process of integrating the solutions.

Mobility is one area that is driving interest and enthusiasm for BI. In fact, 71% of survey respondents said mobile BI is either extremely or somewhat valuable to their organization, and 25% are already using mobile BI today. Of those using mobile BI, almost three-quarters were using SAP BusinessObjects Mobile and half were using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile App (see Figure 5). Beyond SAP solutions, custom and third-party solutions are in use by a high number of respondents (25% and 22% respectively).

SAP solutions on mobile devices

Figure 5 — Which SAP solutions does your organization currently use on mobile devices?

But mobile BI struggles with some challenges — the biggest is finding the right use case, as cited by nearly half of those polled. Part of the use case conundrum might be identifying the right level of user. Survey respondents said mobile BI is mostly used by executives and business managers. However, some of the most compelling use cases for mobile BI are operational use cases, such as sales support and field service, so organizations may be looking in the wrong place for viable mobile BI use cases.

Other obstacles for mobile BI include integrating with the back end (42%) and user training and adoption. Half of those using mobile BI do not have a formal training program in place, while 27% indicate end-user adoption and training is a limitation to mobile BI. Evidently, there is a lack of training in mobile BI, which may be due to the perception that mobile apps should be intuitive enough that they require no training.

Steps to BI Success

The keys to achieving widespread BI adoption for both on-premise and mobile solutions are identifying the right use cases and training end users effectively. In follow-up responses to the survey, many BI users cited a lack of resources as a major factor limiting their BI initiatives. If organizations invest time and money to implement and integrate SAP BusinessObjects and other BI solutions into their landscapes, they must also allocate enough resources to thoroughly train end users to gain the full benefits that come with successful BI initiatives.  

Download the SAP BI Benchmark 2013 Report

The SAP BI Benchmark 2013 report was based on 413 responses to an online survey conducted in February 2013. The complete 22-page report covers a variety of other topics, including implementation methodology, specific solution adoption rates, and a review of which BI solutions are being phased out. The full insiderRESEARCH report is available to all insiderPROFILES subscribers at

insiderRESEARCH is the independent research arm of WIS Publishing (publisher of insiderPROFILES), and conducts studies across the worldwide base of SAP and SAP BusinessObjects customers. Each insiderRESEARCH report is tailored to deliver comprehensive, accurate, and actionable results. For more information, contact


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