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SAP finally announced on  September 14, 2010 that it was getting onto the pre-packaged analytics  bandwagon.  SAP announced ten applications in this first release for six  industries (Consumer Products, Healthcare, Financial Services, Public  Sector, Retail and Telecommunications) in its BusinessObjects  offering.

Building on the rapid-marts offering that the then BOBJ used to have and leveraging SAP’s industry  and line of business expertise, these new applications are based on the  SAP Business Objects XI platform – WebIntelligence, Crystal Reports and  Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius). Bill McDermott, the joint CEO of SAP,  described it as “complete and ready-to-go” and claimed the applications can be deployed in as less as eight weeks.

You may remember the brouhaha created by SAS last year , when it kicked off the controversy on Business Analytics being the  future, rather than Business Intelligence. Going back even further,  Oracle already had this in its Siebel Analytics pre-built analytic  applications for various industries. Therefore, it would seem that SAP  is already late in the game, but considering that neither Microsoft nor  IBM have similar offerings, it may not be too bad for SAP. Better late  than never…

Under the hood:

The pre-packaged analytic applications are based on the  BusinessObjects XI platform – with the universe as the semantic layer or  metadata model. It can be based on both SAP and non-SAP data, OLTP and  data warehouse, relational and unstructured.  SAP would work with its  partners HP and Teradata to optimize the analytic solutions on their  hosting and data warehousing solutions.

Business Analytics dashboards are Xcelsius flash files which can be used with web services/QAWS to deliver real-time analytics. It may also be possible to use these with SAP Business Objects Explorer (formerly Polestar) and/or SAP BW Accelerator or the SAP high-performance analytic appliance (HANA).

Business Analytics vs. Business Intelligence – Revisiting the controversy:

When SAS created this controversy last year, an important point noted by many was the SAS home page titled:

SAS | Business Intelligence Software and Predictive Analytics

It’s important to see how the rebranding has reflected in a change to the SAS home page a year hence. It now reads:

SAS | Business Analytics and Business Intelligence Software

SAS Institute was always viewed as a niche vendor, operating in the pure-play statistical and predictive analytics space and this marketing was to re-brand SAS’ offerings to move it  mainstream.  In effect, it signaled the market assessment by these major  vendors, that in tough times, customers were seeking shorter lead times  and demanding better tools which are quick and easy to introduce and provide quicker return on investment.  As we come around the downturn, with SAP still focusing on this segment, it is clear that traditional BI is clearly seen as complex, costly and difficult to implement.

Open questions:

There are several questions open at the moment, given that this is an  initial launch. SAP plans to offer more applications over the next  year-18 months in collaboration with customers and its partners.  The  partners include Aster Group, Blueprint, Capgemini, Column5, CSC, Fusion  Consulting, The Glenture Group, LSI Consulting and syskoplan and surely  it would take quite a while for the ecosystem to develop.  It remains  to be seen whether the prepackaged analytics catches on like Xcelsius  dashboards did for BOBJ.

It is not clear whether the prepackaged analytics would be positioned  at the bigger enterprises or the SME segment only, as its success could  cannibalize revenues from the flagship Enterprise XI suite.

There are also questions around the scalability of the framework the  analytic applications are built on. The extensibility APIs and reference  architectures for partners to build their own add-ons and plugins /  applications  of their own is not yet out (planned in 2011), so it’s not  quite like the iPhone/iPad app store yet. It is also not clear how  customizations to the applications would be supported or to what extent  these could be customized.  The long awaited universe rewrite including  data federation might be a part of plans if the analytic applications  turn out to be truly backend-agnostic and do support future in-memory  data structures (SAP’s acquisition of Sybase would indicate likely  support for the Sybase ASE in-memory database). If this happens, it  would be in line with earlier plans to roll-out in-memory EPM and OLTP solutions.

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  1. Witalij Rudnicki
    “It is not clear whether the prepackaged analytics would be positioned at the bigger enterprises or the SME segment only, as its success could cannibalize revenues from the flagship Enterprise XI suite.” <- this I do not expect, because BO Analytics Solutions complement BOXI running on top of BO BI infrastructure. What it will “cannibalize” in my opinion is consulting/services around building such solutions from zero.
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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar
      And I actually think it is the opposite – as in hardly a customer will be able to use it straight out of the box, and hence consulting companies will have another revenue stream in extending these solutions to make it work exactly to how customers want it, and then supporting it. I am not a 100% clear on what SAP will and will not support if a customer enhances the predelivered content.
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      1. Witalij Rudnicki
        I will stick to my previous analogy to BW Business Content – BC did not eliminate consulting/integration work, but significantly reduced man*hours to implement solutions. Same here – I did not say it will eliminate the need for additional design/development/configuration, but just meant significant reduction of it.
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