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Check out Monday’s above-referenced COMPUTERWORLD article, App Vendors Meet User Demand with BI Tools. This article talks about how big apps and database vendors (SAP, Oracle, IBM) are putting the squeeze on traditional BI-tool vendors (Cognos, Business Objects, Information Builders). In particular, note Whirlpool’s success story with SAP NetWeaver BI. Because of the success of SAP’s BI tools, the company “has opted to freeze new investments in BI tools from Business Objects SA, Information Builders Inc. and Cognos Inc.”  The article underlines three reasons for this shift, and all of these reasons are embodied in NetWeaver’s analytics champion, Visual Composer:

  • Ease-of-UseAnalytical applications need to be easy to create and easy to use, which means they need to focus on great visualization. As the article points out, “the new version of SAP’s BI tools improves on earlier releases by closing gaps in front-end visualization and reporting capabilities.”  NetWeaver’s new Visual Composer lets you easily model and deploy interactive Flash-based analytical applications to your portal (see Create Interactive, Flash-Based Analytical Applications in the New Visual Composer).  Visual Composer is specifically designed with ease-of-use in mind; you don’t need to be a coder or engineer to use it. The win here is clear: using SAP’s software “will ease Whirpool’s integration requirements and eliminate the need for employees with multiple skill sets.”
  • Support for Disparate Data SourcesWhen business analysts sit down to analyze their data, they don’t typically find it all wrapped up neatly in one data source. It’s going to be spread out among multiple data sources – relational and analytical – and probably not even all from one database vendor. The article notes that big apps companies have suffered to BI tools vendors in the past because of proprietary data sources and applications closed to third-party data: “traditional BI vendors have the advantage of supporting disparate data sources, whereas the platform providers generally focus on their own data sources.” SAP has been addressing this for years now with BI UDI – Universal Data Integration – which connects you to disparate data sources. UDI is fully embraced by Visual Composer; you build data from virtually any relational or multidimensional data source (SAP or non-SAP) into your model with the simple drop of a data source.
  • Less AdministrationCompanies are appreciating one unified offering rather than the overhead and administration of multiple tools from multiple vendors, and one reason is for this is to “avoid the disconnect that often occurs when back-end software is upgraded before the BI vendor can support the update.” Unification has clearly been the mission of SAP NetWeaver.

SAP’s new version of Visual Composer, with all the juicy analytics bells and whistles, is due out in a support package of NetWeaver 2004s this year. Stay tuned for the FRESH SQUEEZE!   cheers, -m

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