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Vital View: SAP Announcement of Analytics Solutions

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
  • Web-enabled

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Right now solutions are delivered only with PC interface, but SAP is working on delivering mobile versions as well.
  7. Solutions can re-use customer’s available SAP BusinessObjects installations and co-exist with other SBO applications.
  8. 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.
PS. I would like to thank Mark Finnern (@finnern), SAP Chief Community Evangelist, for inviting me to this event.
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  • Hmm…Is SAP thinking now that they should have licenses business content in BW separately? May be – or may be not. When BW came out, it was an uphill fight to convince customers to use it, and move out of ABAP reporting. I think Biz content made a compelling case to make use of BW.
    • It’s an interesting question about BW Business Content. One thing: on the famous SAP slide of BI tools, where you have split into Base and Premium offers (like BEx Analyzer is Base while Pioneer is Premium) I would see BW Business Content added as a Base and BO Analytics Solutions added as Premium. This is completely my free interpretation.
      The other thing: Analytics Solutions might generate the need for corresponding BW BC (from InfoProviders down to DataSources and InfoObjects) because despite all my excitement for Data Federator the future model with HANA-based BW data warehouse fed by live data replication sounds more compeling to me.
      • I have been thinking all evening yesterday on whether SAP will put data federator type functionality in HANA. That would be supercool – a fast, in memory solution that can handle ECC, BW, and several data sources that are virtually connected.
  • Good perspective. Please note that these are purpose built applications – not just dashboards, has several planning applications there.In future we are going to have more to come.

    Also comparing this to BW content is the best approach. The techonology is totally different with BI, Mobile, EPM, GRC applications


    • Hi Muthu. Thank you for reminding me about planning apps – I did notice them listed in the announcement but my narrow mind did not jump out of its comfort zone of BI area only 🙂
      What I believe we need to keep clear is innovation delivered by technology (visualization, inMemory, mobile etc) and by business content of the software (what intelligence apps provide that was not available to business before). I think we are too much in the technologies, and too less in the business content in the recent discussions. I missed some good examples of new intelligence in the announcement as well: what are the new innovative KPIs or new hidden patterns in business processes dependencies that these new apps helped to unveil.
      • Hi Vitality,

        Please take a look at the Healthcare planning solution. Its definitely brings out the KPIs, processes from a healthcare planning and analytics perspective.

        I somehow dislike the word ‘Content’, it restricts and narrows the view of business application. To me these are business applications which is a combination of models, measures (kpis), views or reports (for planning, analysis), calculations/business rules to support this, preconfigured business process flows, out of box data extractors etc.

        I agree with you that we need to think more business innovation vs. just technology innovation. The business innovation needs should drive new tech innovation, not the other way, as only through that you can solve complex business problems. The age old tool vs. application debate in the BI space.

        There is more to come on SAP BAS, and we are inviting partners to build them as well. Stay tuned…


        • Also missed sharing this blog i wrote after attending key note of SAP board member Vishal Sikka last year teched

          The specified item was not found.

          BAS would be the content, while BI or technologies is the container


    • Here is SAP’s views on this:
      James Fisher, Sr Director Marketing at SAP –
      “Why rob a bank?” Oracle’s announcement “highlights both the size of the SAP financials customer base and the opportunity that SAP is already realizing today by delivering packaged analytical applications dedicated to the finance line of business,”
      Other facts:
      1.older INFA Analytics Apps licensed content, redone with Oracle DI not INFA ETL
      2.older DW architecture, redundant with SAP BW, most importantly 100x slower than HANA
      3. No certified integration to SAP ERP or BW, ask for what is the futureproof on upgrades
      4.”SAP replaced competitor analytic apps 1500+ times…”
      5.all other Oracle BI Apps use INFA for ETL, this uses Oracle DI (weak ETL), does it signal end of ORCL’s use of INFA?

      Hope this helps
      Muthu Ranganathan
      (twitter: @muthurangnathan)