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What does SAP’s BI 4.0 release mean to customers?

by Dave Hannon

February 23, 2011

Dave Hannon

As most of you probably know SAP today formally announced the 4.0 releases of business intelligence (BI) and enterprise information management (EIM) solutions from it SAP BusinessObjects portfolio (see the press release here). And while the unveiling of the bells and whistles are always interesting to the IT community, I’m always curious to hear from the user community about the latest and greatest. So I was happy to SAP bring three customers on stage during its event today in New York to talk about their business challenges and how these super-fast reporting and BI capabilities will help address them.

Christian Ritter, vice president of finance and reporting - global IT at European construction products maker Hilti, said the mobilization of the capabilities is a big draw to him because his company’s salespeople are often in the field at construction sites talking with customers or potential customers. He says access to real-time customer information and analytics on a mobile device is going to drive his company’s sales process.

“In the past our sales representatives would have to prepare ahead of time,” he said. “Now they can pull the reports up on their netbook to serve the customer and find out his credit limits are, what his past sales patterns were and more.”

It’s the combination of transactional and analytical data that is getting the Hilti user community excited, he said. To put the power of this new release’s in-memory computing into pe rspective, Ritter said he ran a report with 9 million records that used to take three or four hours to run. With the new release, it happens in seconds.

Leo Collins, CIO at motion picture maker Lionsgate, says the deployment method and the ability to present data in a user-friend format are as important to him as the functionality of the new release, so he’s looking into deploying 4.0 in the cloud.

“The amount of information [companies are collecting] has exploded, but you have to be able to put it into a format people can understand in the field,” Collins said. “And that is where we are going.”

Alan Capes, director of IT business development and strategic planning at Canadian National Railways, aggress, saying in addition to the overall amount of information being collected, the number of “data layers” is increasing.

For example, CN collects real-time telemetry data from its one million moving assets traveling around the continent including data on length, weight, and speed of trains. But then it also layers in weather information, customer data, supplier data, and even video on top of that preliminary data as well. Those data layers combine to provide a more complete picture and help its employees at all levels make better decisions and better serve its customers. For example, the ability to analyze how various factors affect fuel efficiency is a competitive advantage for CN, which spends $1 billion on diesel fuel every year.   

So the ability to process and combine all of those data layers more quickly, using BI 4.0 is a top priority for CN.

What’s your use case for BI and EIM 4.0? Post it here.

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