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What We Learned at BI2013

A few of us here at Altek attended the SAPInsider BI2013 Conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last month. I thought it might make a good blog post to distill my pages of notes down into a few quick bullet points of things that we learned out there about the current state of BusinessObjects and where SAP plans to take BI in the future.

Clear Definition of the Product Stack

After a few years of confusion over the various products and their proper uses following SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects, it seems like SAP has finally narrowed its focus. The arrival of BI 4.0 and the sunsetting of some legacy products has helped clear things up a bit. The current landscape breaks down into three major categories.

  • Discovery & Analysis
    • Predictive Analysis / Visual Intelligence
    • Analysis for OLAP / Analysis for Office
    • Explorer
  • Dashboards & Apps
    • Design Studio
    • Xcelsius Dashboards
  • Reporting
    • Web Intelligence
    • Crystal Reports

That’s it — a much clearer definition than I’ve seen in the past. Hopefully that means we won’t need to keep having “BusinessObjects: When to Use Each Tool” seminars at every conference!

Big Push on Mobility

This one is somewhat obvious but SAP continues their commitment to mobile platforms and improving access to BI from your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Included in this is better mobile dashboard support thanks to HTML5 export options in both Design Studio and Xcelsius Dashboards. It seems that Design Studio will eventually replace Xcelsius completely, which is a good thing — Design Studio apps are built from the ground up to function as websites, which means accessibility without the need for Flash. This means Webi, Crystal, Design Studio, Xcelsius, and Explorer will all have mobile components.

Constant Improvement to Connectivity

The focus since the acquisition was clearly to provide better connectivity to native SAP sources like ERP and BW. That connectivity continues to improve in 4.0 and 4.1, through both the Analysis tools and new UNX universes created with the Information Design Tool. There’s still all kinds of stipulations about what you can and can’t do with each tool against each SAP source, but the list is getting shorter as more support is constantly being added.

In addition to traditional SAP data sources, 4.x adds support for big data sources like Hadoop and of course SAP HANA.

Better Administrator Experience

One of the major pains in implementing BI 4.0 was the sizing and splitting of the Adaptive Processing Server. This was a brand new step that wasn’t familiar to those of us who have worked with past releases of BusinessObjects, and was somewhat of a mystery until SAP released some better documentation on the subject. However, now with 4.1 the installation process includes a wizard which can help you automatically size the APS for your environment. This is a handy feature, however even the wizard states that it is just a starting point – some additional tweaking may still be needed. But, it saves some time and a few tedious steps.

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