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Caught (some of) the virtual launch of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.0 this morning. We’ll just call it #BI4 or BI4 from here on in. Obviously being distracted by technical issues (which I won’t belabor here – Twitter handled that plenty well) and my 3 year old son who stayed home with me today due to a flood in his daycare room made me miss some stuff, but I’m not willing to let that slow me.

Loved Geoffrey Moore’s keynote (or at least parts of it). I’ve been hearing for years THAT enterprise systems need to be more like social networking sites, but not HOW or WHY. His comparison between a system of record and a system of engagement really hit home with me. The thing I feel we are still missing is how to get everyone to buy in. Most of the power of Facebook and twitter and Google is that everyone is there and using it and putting in. How do you engage your entire enterprise audience to enrich the experience of others? How do you reach that critical mass?

Steve Lucas, even choppy and with questionable sound, is still really engaging, and the tech is no-doubt very, very cool. One thing that all of these new tools seem to gloss over is the need for top notch analysts. I recognize that sentiment analysis works on the high level and all that, but I’m not sure too many CEOs are thrilled with the prospect of IT solutions that are MOSTLY right. If I Google something, especially regarding facts and figures, I get answers that are often very different. While having a lot of data is great, and getting data fast is better, getting data that is right is paramount (full disclosure: I ripped off almost all of that quote from Steve).

In order to get the single version of the truth that we in BI have been selling for years, and which is still the Holy Grail for most organizations, adding a lot more data without adding the analysts necessary to vet it out doesn’t really help the problem. BI4 definitely has tools that can help you turn ‘FLA’ and ‘Flor.’ to ‘FLORIDA’, but I still don’t see anything that helps you say “Plant A says they made $2 million last month, and accounting says they had #1 million, and I know absolutely which one of those numbers is right” (FYI, generally speaking, NEITHER of those numbers is right). Good data will always require analysts, and as the amount of data grows, the amount of analysts has to grow. Maybe the next big leap for data cleansing in BI is for a SOX-compliant way to have analysts quickly jump through data, bless some, curse some, and flag some for follow up, and have that trail follow all the way through.

Less-complete thoughts:

  • How slow will Flash be on the Playbook?
  • Webi on the iPad is hot. Don’t underestimate the possibility that said functionality alone may push companies into BI4.
  • If SAP is thinking of pushing HANA to non-BW customers sooner rather than later, why was I hearing as recently as the beginning of the Run Better Tour that I need to go to Sybase IQ right now? Please clean up your message soon. Like “before I write the wrong check” soon.
  • Hopefully Explorer Views will help it take off. Still have never understood why it hasn’t taken off more. Seems to me like it has been the “killer app” in waiting for years.

Overall, I think the tech is awesome, but I’m still not sure it delivers as much out of the box as it promises, but I do think this version of SAP’s Business Intelligence offering has enough going for it that it will pull people forward into it (and thankfully away from Deski) more than we’ve ever seen.

And as always, thanks for sticking with my extremely topical but barely edited commentary on an event from a thousand miles away.

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  1. Margot Heiligman
    Hi Jamie,
    Thanks, your blog helped me to get a good sense having not attended the event live. 
    I think there are some places in the blog where you meant analytics, not analysts.  Maybe your vision for the future of text analysis would have helped ๐Ÿ™‚
    1. Former Member Post author
      Nope, I actually meant analysts, the people who know which data is right and why and how to validate it. Analytics are the tool, and those are ready to go, but we are still missing the people part (the analysts) that makes sense of the numbers! Or at least that is what I was TRYING to say. ๐Ÿ™‚
      1. Margot Heiligman
        Re-reading now it does make sense – the business analysts, themselves bring an essential piece of value.  I was trying to make meaning using “influencer-type analysts” into your piece and it was not making sense ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Martin English
      Thanks for raising the speed v quality issue; The actual management and curating of terrabytes of data is not a simple task. Part of this involves management bof the CORPORATE Data Dictionary, and disseminating the definitions contained therein.
      I can’t wait to see what happens when someone goes bust because the CxOs (using anybodies BI app) decided they were selling 20,000 UNITS a month at $1000 each, when the reality was that the VALUE $20,000 bust.  All because of insufficent training and usage.


    1. Former Member Post author
      Speed vs. quality issue? Was that a cheapshot at my Snap Judgment blog series here? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I do think that speed is a HUGE issue, as most companies (including all of the ones not running HANA) generally have issues aggregating and reaggregating data to make their Xcelsius models work on a desktop, much less something on 3G going through the VPN, etc, etc. I’m not just picking on flash, but I think it is unrealistic to think everyone will be on HANA next year, but it is realistic to think a firm would buy a couple of Playbooks and expect this stuff to “just work.”

    2. Witalij Rudnicki
      I think that once the hype for huge data volumes management and for interactive mobile apps will be gone, the eyes will be finally back on the DATA and its quality again. But for now everyone wants just “google effect” and “gestures”.
  3. Former Member
    Good thoughts Jamie. Thanks for the quick overview for those who didn’t attend. Do you know if the webcast is up on SCN or some other place to watch offline?
  4. Gregory Misiorek
    my bet goes here:

    “Webi on the iPad is hot. Don’t underestimate the possibility that said functionality alone may push companies into BI4.”

    and now i have two reasons not to like Flash (advertising aside).

    @greg_not_so (no tweet)

  5. Nathan Genez
    “top notch analysts” are still required.  I think this is a key differentiator between customers that excel at SAP, and enterprise IT in general, and customers that will forever struggle with it. In my experience, the customers that are the most successful with SAP tend to have all-star level super users. They tend to speak SAP’s good word throughout the organization and train up the users that most need it. As a result, the different user groups get what they want out of SAP and drive reasonable development items back to the SAP group. I’d be shocked if any piece of technology will solve this need…  and as you say, if it tries to, all it will do is highlight areas at fault such as the classic sales-to-finance reconciliation issue you gave. That’s not a BI issue but a process and ERP one.
  6. Derek Loranca
    For my 2 cents!

    I agree with your point that Twitter really covered the technical issues…it’s always kinda funny to see the power of social media at events like this.  Especially when something is broken!

    You’ve made a great point about needing actual human beings to mine the data.  The data we present is only as good as the data in there.  The tool doesn’t know that both 1 and 2 million are wrong…but the BA does!!


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