Sept 5, 2008 update: I was able to track down a couple of relevant links for this BO Summit. I got my hands on the link to the BO Summit main sessions on video. There is also some relevant info in the BO Summit newsroom.
On Tuesday, August 12 in Boston, I had the opportunity to attend the SAP BO Summit. The Summit was an opportunity for so-called “Influencers” to learn more about the SAP BO Roadmap and the value proposition that SAP/Business Objects provides to SAP customers. I was told the videos from the event would be posted online, but I have yet to get a link for that. For now, here is a link to some previously recorded BO webinar events. My goal when attending these kinds of events is always the same: to get an inside view of the key emerging skills that SAP professionals and project teams should be tracking.
In this blog entry, I’ll share what I learned on that. For those who are looking for more of an overall view of the events that took place, Sandy Kemsley’s Column 2 blog did an outstanding job of documenting the events while they were happening. Sandy had good looking blog entries and slides up so fast that it was just plain unfair to work alongside her.
If you want a taste of controversy from the event, Dennis Howlett’s blog entry on SAP pricing versus Oracle is a good place to start. In the blog post, Dennis quotes an SAP sales executive who then responded in the “talk back” section of the blog. Both sides of that story are interesting. I’m not going to choose a side myself, but I’m all in favor of honest discussions, even if a few ruffled feathers is the price.
As for me, I used my new JonERP Twitter Feed to micro-blog my instant reactions to the show as they were happening. Some of the comments were perhaps amusing, like my quip about the Deloitte and Accenture speakers tussling over who had the biggest BI practice, or my whining about having to take too “deep a dive” into strategy and execution theory. Hopefully buried in those smart aleck comments is something that still has some relevance. I’ll take a few of the “tweets” that seem more relevant to SAP skills trends and incorporate them into this blog entry.
Right before the BO Summit, I did a piece on SAP and Business Objects skills transitions that I spent a few months of obsessive research on before I posted. I’m not going to bother repeating the info from that article here, so you might want to check that out also. Down the line, I’m hoping to post some thoughts that BO executives shared with me about this article. But at the BO Summit, I did pick up on a few things that I had not noted in the original article, so I’ll share those in this blog entry.
Let’s start with the press releases issued in conjunction with the conference. In my opinion, of the press releases issued, by far the biggest story was SAP’s press release about Standard and Poor’s new risk management criteria they will soon be including in their evaluation of companies. SAP believes, correctly in my view, that this new practice will drive corporate interest in GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) in general, including SAP’s GRC product offering. Here is the press release.
I always look for skills trends with regulatory teeth, and this seems to have something close to that. SAP and BO’s GRC suite is supposedly ready for prime time, so this Standard and Poor’s announcement comes along at a good time from SAP’s vantage point. Those who have thought about beefing up on their GRC product knowledge should probably start now.
Another skills takeway from the conference: one of my first “tweets” said “SAP/BO is on an aggressive ‘replace Hyperion with EPM’ campaign…with some success.” I made a note of this because Hyperion has been entrenched on SAP customer sites for as long as I can remember. Now that Oracle owns Hyperion, SAP is feeling an increased urgency to get Hyperion out of SAP user sites, and for obvious reasons.
But SAP knows that in the area of performance management and analysis, you cannot get customers to accept anything but best-of-breed solutions. SAP’s success getting its customers to replace Hyperion with SAP EPM shows you the caliber of the combined SAP/BO offering in the EPM area. So, add “EPM” skills to the list of SAP skills to put on the wish list.
Of all the speakers I was able to see at the conference, I was especially impressed with Lee Dittmar, Principal with Deloitte Consulting. Lee, who is the national leader of Deloitte’s Enterprise Governance practice and the global leader of the Governance, Risk and Compliance practice, impressed me with the sharpness of his comments on the BI market, and especially with his honesty. When I first posted the tweets on Lee, I stupidly attributed them to the Accenture speaker, so now is my chance to set the record straight.
My first post on Lee said, “Big honesty points for Lee Dittmar: ‘We’re still working in silos, still buying point solutions… it’s holding us back!'” I believe it was Lee who also went on to say that the overall BI market was healthy enough that it almost seemed to be “countercyclical,” given the overall slump in the economy.
I was able to talk with Lee after his panel appearance, and he elaborated on a few of his comments. One thing he said was that in terms of consulting demand, a particularly strong area was Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC), which in the combined SAP/BO portfolio, is now powered by SAP’s OutlookSoft acquisition. But Lee also noted a strong level of across-the-board BI demand – enough to warrant significant training and ramp up. I hope to have Lee on a podcast down the line to delve further into his views on the SAP BO market.
Lee’s honest comment about the continuing reality of corporate silos led to a number of good discussions. This topic came up again in a press briefing in the afternoon. The takeaway? That the expansion of BI across the enterprise, driven by BO’s capabilities to do more for non-financial users than SAP historically has provided, is forcing the issue on silos and sparking collaboration amongst constituents and leaders that didn’t previously work together.
It will be interesting to see if this holds true and if so, how the change management issues raised by the spread of ERP reporting throughout the user community are addressed. But from a skills perspective, we can certainly see that mastering BO’s reporting tools and learning how they tie into a broad range of SAP consulting specializations is a good use of one’s time.
Here are some more skills-based predictions that I extrapolated from the overall trends of the BO Summit:
– We can expect to see numerous BW 3.5 to 7.0 conversions, as some of the latest BI/BO capabilities are only available to BI 7.0 customers.
– There is increased interest in BO products across the board by SAP customers, in particular, for high performance reporting products like Crystal Reports and also Polestar, BO’s open query, keyword-based search tool.
– That last point will drive the need for BIA, SAP’s Business Intelligence Accelerator, as these cutting edge searches have high performance needs, so an in-memory database like BIA is a must.
– Expect a strong need for data architects and data warehousing experts who can help companies map out the best strategy for combining SAP BI and BO environments.
– There should be continuing demand for SAP developers who can customize interfaces for user-friendly, role specific information delivery, in particular for SAP Portals but also for mobile devices. Note, however, that increasingly, this will involve Java skills and not ABAP, as BO’s tools are not ABAP-based.
– BI/BO is no longer just a skills specialization, but something all SAP consultants need to add to their skill set.
– The BO “Edge Series” is now creating more opportunities in the midmarket, where the BO suite is now second only to Microsoft.
Obviously, there was a lot to absorb at the BO Summit, and there’s a dizzying array of activity taking place in the SAP/BO space. I hope this blog entry took away from the confusion rather than adding to it.
In closing, I would just like to mention that as I tweeted at the show, I am still struggling with the catch phrase “BobJ” that insiders use to refer to Business Objects. Perhaps I just need to get with the program; I will admit that I am grudgingly jealous of people who can say something so corny and do it without an ounce of self-consciousness. Now that’s a skill to shoot for!