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Business Intelligence needs to be more Intelligent

We are back at SAP Labs in Palo Alto this week after spending one week in Atlanta for Sapphire and one week in New Jersey working on site at Colgate.  We are targeting to spend one week each month back at home to make sure our co-innovation goals stay in alignment:


  1. Business Intelligence (BI) adoption – How can we increase BI utilization within the organization?

  3. Identity Management – Simplify the creation & management of roles and security policies

  5. Fellowship Program – Define and establish perpetual Colgate & SAP fellowship program


The first three weeks at SAP, we met with the different groups within the Imagineering team to see if some of their current projects could be useful for some of our high level goals.  These guys are working on some cool, innovative things such as Enterprise widgets, project Harmony, and others.  We also had meetings with the Enterprise Search and why virsa? teams as well.


We definitely see some potential co-innovation areas.  It would be great to tie enterprise search, widgets, and harmony into BI to create a social platform for business users to collaborate.  From SAP’s website:

SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) paints a complete picture of your business to satisfy the diverse needs of end users, IT professionals, and senior management. It brings together a powerful business intelligence infrastructure, a comprehensive set of tools, planning and simulation capabilities, and data-warehousing functionality — delivered through enterprise portal technology.

BI is hot..BI is important…BI empowers your information worker to make critical business decisions…BI is slow, is impossible to use, and makes your people operate in silos.  If you want to quickly add 10 years to any business analyst’s life, just let him toil his way around a BI system for a while. Sometimes I joke that we spent the first 7 years getting our data into SAP and now it looks like we will spend the next 7 years trying to get it back out.  I heard someone else refer to it as the roach motel for data, “Data checks in… but it doesn’t check out!”

   data motel 2

If your analyst does happen to get lucky and find the data he is looking for by slicing, dicing, drilling, and hammering, only he will benefit.  This is where a collaborative, social BI platform would be powerful.


Swivel is a step in the right direction.  Swivel allows groups to take a data set and share it, create graphs & charts, comment on it, rate it, and view it differently.  Another great feature is the ability to make correlations.  You can take one data set and lay it on top of another to view possible trends and relationships, almost like mashups for data.  Here is a good example analyzingGrowth of Creative Commons Photos on Flickr.  Check out the comments, correlations, and related graphs.  This is conversation, not just a dead, static snapshot of numbers.


Markets are conversations and conversations bring together more knowledge.  If analysts are truly information workers, then knowledge is power.  BI needs to break the chains, bust out of it’s silos, and live free.

Generated Image

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The image was generated with Web2.0 Logo Creatr)


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  • Hey Ed,

    I don’t think we’ve met, but I’m out in Palo Alto. I couldn’t agree with you more on this. In fact, I created a BI Data Widget to make BI easier to use. Lots of customers are already using it, some productively.

    BLOG about widget:
    Yahoo Widget for BI Data – v2.01

    See this demo of the widget and an explanation of how it works:

    Widget is located here:

    Let me know your thoughts. Hopefully it’ll be useful to you guys at Colgate.


    • Hi Prakash,

      I have definitely seen your BI data widget.  We used it to hook one of our own queries up to prototype what a typical BI widget might look like at our company.

      Widgets definitely have huge potential for the guys who want to walk in the office in the morning, see their numbers, and be done with it.  They shouldn’t have to go through a huge, belabored process just to see what they want.  Widgets will be good for these scenarios. 

      In the ultimate widget solution, we would like to see where an analyst could create their own widget from a snapshot of information, post it in a gallery, and start a discussion like the swivel example.  This would foster conversations which is a win for your business, and your IT shops wouldn’t have to own and support each widget which is a win for both business and IT.

      Thanks for the comments!