Let me start with a quote: “[This offer’s] objective is to make relevant information out of the box available to specific roles within an enterprise so as to provide these users with exactly the information they need to fulfill their daily tasks within their business.
Customers benefit from [this offer] in many ways:
- To gain analytical insight of business processes
- Ready-to-go reports, data models, extractors, transformations
- Significant cut down of implementation time and costs
- Easily extensible
- Rich set of standard key performance indicators
- Tight integration with SAP Business Suite
- Integration with non-SAP data
Is “[this offer]” a set of Analytics Solution announced yesterday? No, this excerpt is taken from a years-old deck describing Business Content delivered with SAP NetWeaver BW. That’s why I experienced déjà vu listening to SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott and Keith Costello, EVP of Analytic Solutions, making the announcement of the SAP BO Analytics Solutions as a new innovation. There is a Russian saying “Everything New Is Actually Well-Forgotten Old” and this is what I felt no matter how often word “innovation” was mentioned.
This is what these newly announced 10 Analytics Solutions are for me: a set of out-of-the-box predefined objects on integrated BI platform – virtual data models, queries, KPIs, calculations, visualizations and dashboards deployed on SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform (formerly BO Enterprise), mostly using SBO Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius Enterprise). The expectation is that a single solution will satisfy 70-80% percent of customer requirements, and can be easily extended to cover missing 20-30%. Another bell SAP is ringing: the implementation project suppose to take no more than 8-10 weeks. To me it sounds like fighting the market perception that SAP implementations suppose to be long and costly.
I hope I haven’t sounded negative so far. Because in fact I do see a huge business value in pre-packaged analytics solutions. The value is based on premises of SAP deep industry knowledge and the power of BO BI tools. If you ever implemented BI solutions, you might remember the requirements gathering Is it BI or HI that Intelligence has divorced? – you: “What do you want to get?” – business user: “What can you give me based on best practices?”. Analytics Solutions give you immediate starting point to engage the business and getting straight to the point of discussion of gaps between what business users want and what is available out of the box. In my opinion Requirements Gathering and Design are the most expensive activities of any implementation project, and this is where the pre-packaged Solutions cut costs right away plus give industry-relevant KPIs without reinventing the wheel.
How are Analytics Solutions different from BW Business Content? Well, one gets what they pay for. How much have you paid for BW Business Content? Nothing? That’s why everyone used to complain a lot about BC. Now you are getting elegant solution build from the ground with the assumption that once customer pays for it he expects undisputable business value in return.
Techies like me obviously felt a bit disappointed at the end of the announcement. We always have these unrealistic expectations that CEO stays on the stage to discuss all the nuts and bolts of the solutions: what are deployment options, what protocols are used to communicate with back-end ERP system, how security is managed, how extension points work, etc etc etc. We need to wait a bit to hear more about technical details, but I got some technical highlights on the solutions pod right after the announcement meeting:
- Data model of Analytics Solutions is virtual (BO Universe based) that can be mapped into any source of data: SAP and non-SAP OLTP systems, BW and non-SAP data warehouses, traditional or future inMemory-based structures.
- Analytics Solutions are BO Dashboard’s Flash files that can be used for real-time querying from source as well as for off-line embedding along with data in the documents like MS PowerPoint presentations.
- Analytics Solutions have predefined jumps for further detailed analysis into SBO Intelligent Analysis (former WebIntelligence) or SBO Explorer (former Polestar), integration with e-mail and in some cases can call transactions from back-end system.
- The last point from #3 is still not 100% clear for me. Few years ago SAP announced big push into embedding BI into business processes using Visual Composer, where you could have on the same screen data from BI system and buttons to execute transaction in the Business Suite back-end. But how can you do this with BO tools, supposing Analytics Solutions are back-end agnostic and can work with any OLTP system, not only with SAP? I have quite blurry picture here.
- Another thing I did not get is that “security and predefined roles are not coming with these analytics solutions” as I was told. Sounds incomplete to me.
- Right now solutions are delivered only with PC interface, but SAP is working on delivering mobile versions as well.
- Solutions can re-use customer’s available SAP BusinessObjects installations and co-exist with other SBO applications.
- Extensible Reference Architecture and APIs of Analytics Solutions will become available in 2011 for SAP Partners to build their own solutions or create add-ons to existing ones.