In April 2014, Gartner announced its latest BI vendor shares, and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) once again held the top spot with market share of 21.3%.

A large part of the success of SAP BusinessObjects BI has been the comprehensiveness of the portfolio, covering reporting, dashboards, discovery and analysis.

The BI portfolio addresses the needs of BI administrators, designers, developers, analysts and a wide variety of end users and offers solutions for organizations large and small. It’s a portfolio that has grown and evolved over time through organic development and strategic acquisition.

This year at SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP CEO Bill McDermott announced a corporate-wide objective to Run Simple. What this means for SAP BusinessObjects BI is the portfolio will come together as a single package called the SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite, delivering all the BI clients along with a single, secure, and highly scalable BI platform. Customers also continue to have the option to buy client tools “a la carte” and individually.

Our customers have voiced their desire for fewer BI tools and for help to determine the ‘right tool for the job”. While we’ve put together some great resources, we know you want more – and you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve listened to you and we have a plan to simplify the BI tool portfolio moving forward. At the same time we want to do it right, respect your existing investments, and deliver innovation to you without disruption.

1. Convergence Philosophy – Lessons learned from the past

Simplification of the BI portfolio won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take time because we want to do it right. We want to respect your existing investments, we want to innovate without disruption, and we want to bring you on this journey with us to the latest and greatest that we have to offer. To this end, we’ve been looking at what has worked in the past and, just as importantly, what hasn’t worked. Through this we have identified some key lessons that form the basis for our convergence philosophy:

  • Make it easy to move or don’t make users move at all. As an example, when we went from .UNV Universes to .UNX, enabling all of the BI clients to take advantage of the semantic layer, we were able to make it easy to move. You could open an existing .UNV file, save it as .UNX and start to take advantage of the new functionality. While we’d LOVE to be able to do this in all cases, we know certain technologies we’ve used in the past, like Adobe Flash, won’t carry forward. In these situations, like with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, we won’t make you move your existing content. We’ll respect that existing investment, allow you to continue with what you have today, and at the same time start to bring ‘Explorer-like’ capabilities into the converged BI experience (in this case, SAP Lumira). Over time you’ll see those capabilities grow, and our goal will be to get to a point where you’ll see the advantages of using SAP Lumira instead of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for that next BI project.
  • Provide tools to plan the upgrade and tools to enable the upgrade. The Flash to HTML 5 conversion tool for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) is a good example of this. You can open an existing dashboard, convert it to HTML 5, see what comes over, and then save the dashboard in HTML 5 and continue to develop it from there.
  • Prioritize the features that will help users to move sooner. This may sound straightforward, but it requires a deep understanding of what customers are using today and what’s most important to them. Customer Design Councils will be created so that we hear directly from you. We’ll provide access to early builds to gather early feedback and guidance on what works and what doesn’t work and ensure we’re putting development resources on the areas that will be of most value to you.
  • Never expire content. This was an extremely valuable lesson learned from the migration of SAP BusinessObjects Desktop Intelligence (Deski) to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence (Webi). So much effort and investment went into bringing Deski functionality to Webi, but even today some customers continue to run Deski. The best move we made was to support Deski documents on the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 platform. Moving forward we’ll continue with this approach. If we can’t easily migrate content, we won’t move it at all.

2. Simplification of the BI Clients

With these principles for convergence in mind, here’s more detail on the convergence strategy. Every customer wants convergence, but only as long as none of the BI tools they’re using today are impacted! In order to converge the tools, we do have to make some tough decisions on which tools move forward and where we will build up functionality over time. The key here is that as we do this, the tools you use today are not going away: in fact, you can continue to use them in perpetuity.

About 18 months ago, we announced the statement of direction for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards in which SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio is the go-forward solution. This is where we’re placing the bulk of our dashboard development investment. SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards continues to have some investment, as an example, we recently delivered offline dashboards for mobile BI, and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards content continues to be supported and managed in the BI platform. Today, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio is about 70% complete in terms of supporting SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards use cases. It is much more scalable, is all HTML 5, leverages the latest version of our visualization library (CVOM), and we’ll continue working on bringing in those fine grain dashboard controls to close the gap. Before you start your next SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards project, I’d encourage you to take a look at SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio to see if it meets your needs.

Here’s what we’re thinking in terms of how our reporting, dashboard, and self-service BI client experiences will converge over time:

  • Reporting: We have millions of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence users and millions of SAP Crystal Reports users. More than 800,000 copies of SAP Crystal Reports were downloaded last year alone! Reporting remains a fundamental BI need, and many of the niche BI competitors out there cannot fulfill that need. SAP Crystal Reports is fantastic client for pixel perfect operational reporting. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is the Swiss Army Knife of BI tools, and great for those ad hoc reporting use cases. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and SAP Crystal Reports aren’t going away! In addition, we’ll continue to support desktop intelligence documents on the BI platform, too.
  • Dashboards: There is no deviation from the plan we announced 18 months ago. SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio will be our go forward solution for dashboards and application development. We will bring ‘SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards-like’ functionality into SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio as we move forward. For further details on this, please check out the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards statement of direction.
  • Discovery and Analysis: This is the area where we have the biggest opportunity to converge the experience for both the analyst and the business user. For the analyst, we’ll bring together the ability to mash and merge data, answer ad hoc business questions, create meaningful visualizations and compose those visualizations into powerful stories that can be easily shared and explored by business users. We’ll bring together the agility of data discovery with the trust of the BI platform. We will also enable you to not only look in the rear-view mirror at what has happened in the past, but also look through the windshield at what’s coming in the future, embedding predictive capabilities to provide visual discoveries, automatic identification of outliers, future values, and optimal outcomes delivered in a way that makes sense. These experiences will come together in SAP Lumira.
  • Office Integration: For those of you who live in Microsoft Office, we’ll continue to bring SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions directly into Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Outlook.
  • Interoperability: As we’ve been thinking about BI convergence, we’ve also been thinking about the different user personas: the IT administrator, the developer/designer, the analyst and the decision maker, and the workflows between them. It’s often the analyst who fields the one-off, ad hoc queries from the business and quickly needs to find an answer to specific a business question. That initial answer may lead to additional questions and more back and forth to find the final answer. However, when that question comes up time and time again, this drives the need to find a more systematic way of solving the problem. That’s where the developer/designer comes in, creating a report, dashboard or application that can be administered, secured and scaled to a large set of business users and enabling them to self-serve. Interoperability here is key. Today, with a couple of clicks, an analyst can take an answer from SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office into SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio and hand it over to a developer/designer to create a dashboarding application. We’ll be looking to support similar types of workflows from SAP Lumira to SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio moving forward.


Simplification of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Client Portfolio

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3. Pricing and Licensing

No discussion of BI convergence would be complete without considering the pricing and licensing implications. Our goal here is to keep things simple and bring you on this journey with us.

When we announced the convergence of SAP Dashboards and SAP Design Studio we announced that customers who have SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) licenses also now have access to SAP Design Studio. You can monitor the enhancements in SAP Design Studio as we bring in more and more SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard-like capabilities and determine if and when it’s ready for you to use it for your next dashboard project.

Similarly, SAP Lumira desktop and SAP Lumira Server are now included with the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite. If you have purchased SAP BusinessObjects BI on an older pricing model, on the a la carte model, or purchased the BI package, you have the option to trade-in your old licenses through the conversion desk for the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite.

We’ve been listening to customers and clearly hear your desire for fewer BI tools. I hope this information dispels some of the myths and starts to provide some clarity on where we’re headed. I also hope you can see that we want to do it right, respect your existing investments, and deliver innovation to you without disruption.

I’m sure the next questions you have are “When?” and “How?” We have more work to do, and we don’t have all of the answers yet, but what I can commit to you is that we will continue to communicate as there are more details to share.

I’d love to hear what you think. Is this heading in the right direction? What else would you like to see?