While Lubrizol may not be a common household name, many people use the $7 billion company’s products and technologies every day — its rheology modifiers and functional polymers can be found in products across markets spanning from personal care to fuel additives to water treatment and fire protection. While consumers are most often unaware they’re using the company’s products, Lubrizol additives help make the products they do use work better. In some ways, this mirrors the company’s recent business intelligence (BI) project that affected roughly 35% of its 8,000 worldwide employees who directly or indirectly touch the SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) system at the center of the Lubrizol BI strategy.
It was decided that migrating from a traditional SAP BW reporting environment with SAP Business Explorer (SAP BEx) tools to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 would provide the business users with a more robust BI landscape. Yet, for Project Manager Tanya Whiteaker, Technical Lead and BI Services Team Manager Rob Mocarski, and SAP Basis and BI Administrator Andrew Purgert — the trio responsible for this calculated transformation — a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work would be required to arrive at an optimized, state-of-the-art BI platform and get the business users comfortable with the changes.
A Case for Change
As a long-time SAP BW customer, Lubrizol had undergone several technical upgrades, moving to SAP BW 7.3 in early 2013, which has been integrated with SAP Enterprise Portal since 2004. Throughout these upgrades, the company maintained the SAP BEx 3.5 platform for its front-end reporting, despite the SAP BEx 7.0 release. One reason Lubrizol was reluctant to upgrade to the latest version was an accompanying change in the presentation layer that would require training. More importantly, SAP had by that point acquired Business Objects, and it became clear that SAP’s long-term BI roadmap was trending toward evolving the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite.
“We had two paths we could choose,” says Mocarski. “And we knew that the best path forward was to move to the SAP BusinessObjects solution suite when it was ready for us. The bottom line is that we knew going the SAP BEx 7.0 route would have been temporary, and we wanted to make one big leap instead of two smaller ones.”
Mocarski refers to waiting for the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 release for its improved performance against SAP BW, which was challenged in earlier releases. To pave the way for Lubrizol’s eventual migration, SAP agreed to a limited extended support of the company’s SAP BEx 3.5 toolset in conjunction with a transition to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0.
We knew going the SAP BEx 7.0 route would have been temporary, and we wanted to make one big leap instead of two smaller ones.
— Rob Mocarski, BI Services Team Manager, Lubrizol
An Evolving BI Platform
Lubrizol began migrating to the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 platform in late 2012, about one year after its general release. Because of the extended SAP BEx 3.5 support, users were not aware of the upcoming changes. Lubrizol started to gradually implement select SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 tools and convert one reporting area at a time.
However, having lost some key functionality — such as jump targets, optional subtotals, and report-to-report interfaces — in the migration to the new tools and beset with new support packages, there was an urgency to upgrade to the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 platform while continuing to migrate users off of SAP BEx 3.5. “The SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 release would restore that key functionality, which is why we were eager to get there,” Mocarski says.
“In moving to the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 release, we would have the capabilities we had in SAP BEx, but would for the first time have more functionality,” says Purgert. “That was our main motivator.”
Reaching a more stable and mature platform, however, was not without some challenges along the way. One issue was Lubrizol’s need to upgrade from SAP Enterprise Portal 7.02 to version 7.4 so that users could run SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP, through SAP Enterprise Portal. Several upgrade attempts were made prior to the November 2014 release of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP5. Once SP5 was released, the project team focused on upgrading the entire landscape and completing the migration before the year-end.
Of this and other wrinkles, Whiteaker says that the project team remained committed; forging ahead because it knew there was light at the end of the tunnel when Lubrizol would arrive at a supported platform with a more robust toolset, and one that was in line with the overall SAP integration roadmap. The road was a journey that took about two years. Lubrizol installed SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 in a sandbox environment in late 2012, concluding the transformation with the upgrade to version 4.1 SP5 in December 2014.
“Integrating SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 with SAP Enterprise Portal added complexity to the project, and at some point, we reached a critical mass where we couldn’t afford to upgrade overnight,” Whiteaker says. “But we were committed, especially after finance users adopted the SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions and options became limited.”
The challenges, then, were largely a function of the project timing. Says Whiteaker, “Overall, when we started the migration to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0, we were focused on the integration with SAP BW and didn’t realize a large part of the project would be devoted to upgrades. Looking back now at our experience, our entry point was early in the evolution from 4.0 to 4.1, but we had to start somewhere. Had we started today, I’m sure our experience would have been very different.”
Fine-Tuning the Toolset
Mocarski says that one of the team’s primary goals in the move to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 was to drive more users to the web tools. In the SAP BEx environment, there were two primary groups of users. The first used the Microsoft Excel plug-in feature of SAP BEx Analyzer to customize reports. The second group favored Web Application Designer through SAP Enterprise Portal, and this group eventually grew to constitute roughly 50% of those who were accessing reports from SAP BW.
Lubrizol phased out the Web Application Designer in lieu of some of the more advanced SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 solutions, including SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio and — in a late change — SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP. Today, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 web tool usage through SAP Enterprise Portal is hovering around 80% as targeted initially. The desktop power users are now using SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office.
“When we got the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 toolset, there was a lot of experimentation,” says Purgert. “We originally hadn’t even considered using SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP, until we came across it in the solution set and realized it works for what we want.”
Says Mocarski, “From an SAP BW perspective, it seemed a much easier transition for traditional SAP BEx users and much easier from a maintenance perspective. That was an ‘aha’ moment for us.”
For the SAP Enterprise Portal users transitioning from Web Application Designer, one big functionality improvement is user sharing. The SAP BEx Analyzer group was accustomed to sharing spreadsheets, but the Lubrizol implementation didn’t permit this functionality through Web Application Designer. Both SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP, however, do allow for the creation of shareable reports. For desktop and web users, there is something for everyone with both editions of the analysis tool.
“From the desktop user’s perspective, it has all the functionality that SAP BEx Analyzer had, plus the interface is improved, so they’re very happy with that,” says Whiteaker. “And for the web users, SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP, is not as intimidating as Web Application Designer. A lot of users like the new comfort level and control that they have.”
A New Beginning
As Lubrizol becomes more familiar with what version 4.1 of SAP BusinessObjects BI can deliver, the project team says that one of its objectives moving forward will be to improve the lines of communication between the team and the BI solution owners who are ultimately in contact with the end users. Users will be able to express to the BI team exactly what the business needs, helping the team deliver the most effective tool within the new platform.
“There hadn’t been a great sense for what types of solutions we could provide and work with them on,” says Mocarski. “We want to re-establish that now that we have a new, supported, and enhanced platform. This year is about making a monumental change rather than a step change, and establishing new processes between the business and information services, and even trying to provide different types of solutions that people didn’t even realize were possible.”