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Live from SAPinsider Studio: Patrick Leonard on SAP BusinessObjects Information Steward

January 20, 2016

Patrick Leonard, Senior Consultant at Decision First, a Protiviti Enterprise, joins Ken Murphy at SAPinsider Studio during the 2015 Reporting & Analytics conference in Las Vegas to discuss SAP BusinessObjects Information Steward.

This is an edited transcript of the discussion:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I am here at the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics 2015 event. With me today is Patrick Leonard, who is a Senior Consultant with Decision First, a Protiviti Enterprise. Patrick, thanks for being with us.

Patrick Leonard, Decision First, a Protiviti Enterprise: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Ken: I know you have several sessions here at the event, one of them is on Information Steward. I was hoping we could start there. If you could just touch on some trends in the business community that are leading to more adoption of Information Steward.

Patrick: So Information Steward is having a huge adoption rate right now because of the global focus on data quality. No longer are the days of just putting things into Excel and trusting it. Now we have to have that quality around our enterprise data. We have to make sure that the data we’re bringing in and the data we’re reporting out meets not only data specifications; we’ve got the right amount of numbers in the X,Y, and Z column, we’ve got words in this other column. But also making sure that meets business rules, making data useful for business now. And that’s one of my favorite things about Information Steward is that it’s no longer just a sitting with IT conversation; there is bringing the IT department together with business, with product marketing and all that. So making sure that the business actually – for years it was “here’s your data, live with it.” Now it’s “here’s your data, does this help you? Does it help you run a better business?” And that’s one of the great things about Information Steward is that it brings those two departments together to really provide enterprise value that there wasn’t previously.

Ken: So is this easy for end-users?

Patrick: It is surprisingly easy for end-users. There is a lot of strategy that goes into it that is very technical, not so much technical in an old developer way, but in that there there’s a lot of details to address. But it is very easy for end-users to pick up; SAP has put a great front-end on it. You don’t have to write SQL, you don’t have to go write code, you don’t have to go build a report. It’s very drag-and-drop, it’s very user-friendly, surprisingly so for the power that it has.

Ken: So it has some of the same self-service and consistency that some of the other tools in the BusinesObjects suite have?

Patrick: Yes, it definitely has the self-service aspect and one of the great things about it is similar to Explorer and Lumira and even reporting tools like Web Intelligence, IT can build it, and IT mixed with business can build it but it presents a great scorecard, a very good visual that business management likes to see; they like to see KPIs, graphics, charts. Information Steward does a very good job of that and they call them scorecards so you can put things into certain categories and domains and once you do that it as an easily consumable product.

Ken: As it’s now coming out of just an IT realm into more of everyday use for an average business user, are there misconceptions that people have about what it can and can’t do?

Patrick: There are definitely misconceptions about what it can and cannot do. It’s still a pretty new tool, it is more kind of in the EIM space, kind of like data services and all that but it is very much more front-end user focused in the content that it delivers. People think that to manage and analyze data quality you’ve got to get in and write code, you’ve got to be doing all kinds of technical aspects. With this, you can open it up to --- it’s not necessarily an end-user tool like Lumira to that extent, you can’t just open it up and say “Here go build some rules.” It is a little bit more technical, training focus on that. But even so it’s made for business, not IT. It’s made for letting the product manager going in and write rules around their data.

Ken: What are your clients asking you about Information Steward?

Patrick: A lot of them, like I said it’s a new tool so a lot of my engagements lately have been how to best implement the solution? How do we come in and how do we make it helpful for everyone? And how do we bring IT and business together? The tool does that, but just out of habit those two departments don’t like to work with each other, at least most places they don’t. Every once in a while you find a lucky place, but those two departments don’t typically like to work with each other so it’s nice that this tool brings them together. So we do the rule-building, the business rules around the data, we do a fair amount of that. But at the same time a lot of the work is around how to bring this tool in, how do we bring it in and make it helpful for everyone else?

Ken: Rule-building, is that something that can change daily?

Patrick: You can change the rules, which is a great thing so instead of a report or a dashboard when you’re saying “All right, this is this release. Here are rules, or here are our reports for six months until we get our next SAP release.” With rules, that is the whole purpose of it and why it’s so business focused is that rules change, business changes. For example, in pharmaceuticals regulations come out that change shelf lives, or they change expiration dates. You can’t wait six months to go in there and change that you have to go in there right away and you have to empower business to go in and make sure that their data is still accurate as business climates and even operations change, forget regulations and federal things like that. You decide that shipping things in three days is better than shipping things in two days, it’s counter-intuitive but you have to empower business to go in and make that change.

Ken: Patrick, thanks for joining us.

Patrick: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

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