A Simple Overview of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite

I have the privilege of meeting many of our Business Intelligence customers.  One of the more common questions I hear is how to best make use of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.

We’ve released many innovative solutions during 2012, so I completely understand where the question is coming from.  If customers aren’t active on ASUG or attending conferences, the portfolio now is hard to recognize compared to that of 2-3 years ago.

So let’s take a step back and simplify things.

The portfolio can be divided into 3 main functional use cases:

  • Discovery and Analysis
  • Dashboards and applications
  • Reporting

BI Clients Overview 1.jpg


Discovery and Analysis

These are solutions that are focused on answering business questions that cannot be anticipated ahead of time.  They are focused on empowering the business user to self-serve answers to their own questions, and enabling access to large data sets through intuitive user interfaces.

The tools in this category are:

  • SAP Visual Intelligence
  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
  • SAP BusinessObjects Analysis
  • SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis

Visual Intelligence and Explorer are data discovery solutions.  Visual Intelligence is desktop based, and allows users to acquire, manipulate, and visualize data.  Explorer has a web and mobile version, and allows users to search and explore information spaces that are predefined by the administrator.

The Analysis solutions allow end users to explore and analyze data in SAP NetWeaver BW, SAP HANA, and Microsoft Analysis Services.  These are native multidimensional tools that expose the full capabilities of the underlying multidimensional database to the end user in an intuitive manner.

Predictive Analysis is an extension to the Visual Intelligence interface that allows you to design sophisticated predictive models that can be executed on the SAP HANA platform.  These models use advanced algorithms to allow the user to correlate variables, extrapolate data trends, and identify outliers to get a better understanding of what is driving the business.

Dashboards and Apps

The Dashboard and Apps category is focused on providing engaging experiences to create traditional dashboards and custom visual applications.

There are 2 solutions in this category:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio

We created the Design Studio product to initially be a premium alternative to the existing SAP BEx Web Application Designer product.  Therefore it is focused on delivering dashboards and visual applications using data from SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP HANA.

We have released a statement of direction documenting our long term plans to converge these two solution.  We plan to combine the great visualization technology in Dashboards with the superior multi-dimensional data access in Design Studio over the next few years.

For now, our guidance is if you want to build a dashboard using SAP NetWeaver BW as a datasource, we recommend SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, otherwise we recommend SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.

Both products are included with the same license, which means if you’re already licensed for Dashboards desktop tool you will get Design Studio desktop tool for no additional cost.


The reporting category is focused on distributing information around the organization. These are typically business questions that can be anticipated ahead of time, with a report or Universe prepared by a business user or IT developer that addresses these questions.

There are 2 solutions in this category:

  • SAP Crystal Reports
  • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence

SAP Crystal Reports is oriented more towards highly formatted production reporting.  It uses a desktop client to design the report which can then be consumed over the web.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is optimized for self service report creation and modification.  You can design reports over the web, or using the desktop client.

Given the widespread adoption of both of these tools, we have no plans to converge them.


Understand your functional use cases first, the pick the  solution that best meets your needs from these three categories.  No single BI solution can cover all the BI needs in an organization.  The SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite is just that – a suite of solutions that when combined correctly will cover virtually all of your BI requirements.

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  1. Ladislav Varga

    Hello, Blair,

    I am the Business Objects administrator. And I interest about installation of the BI 4.0 Suite. Is somewhere the installation package for the whole BI 4.0 Suite? Or do we need to download and install the BO BI 4.0 Platform (server) at first, next BO BI Explorer and so on, separately? What about the license key for customer? If he buys one for whole suite, is he able to install for example the BO BI Dashboards application (client tool) by this license key?

    Thank you.

    1. Blair Wheadon Post author

      The BI4 server is installed first.  This includes Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Dashboards, and Analysis for OLAP tools. Explorer is the only product that is delivered as an addon, so that has a separate server-side install.

      Client tools have separate license keys from the server.

      License keys and downloads are provided through Service Marketplace (service.sap.com).

      Thanks, Blair

  2. Ladislav Varga

    OK, it means a standard procedure is required.

    1. Install the BO BI 4.0 Platform (server) with its own license key.

    2. Install requested BO BI client tools with their own license keys, if requested.

    3. Install the BO BI Explorer. No additional license key is required.

    Am I correct, if I said, the BO BI Suite is another business name for the BO BI Platform in terms of above mentioned? Or did I miss anything?

    Thank you.

    1. Blair Wheadon Post author

      Points 1-3 are correct.

      The BI Platform refers to the server infrastructure.  The BI Suite refers to the server infrastructure plus all of the products that use that infrastructure such as Explorer, Webi, Dashboards, etc..

  3. Handoko Cen

    Hi Blair,

    Web Intelligence is called a self service reporting tool. However, it is actually can be used to replace Bex Analyzer.

    So, what are really the difference between WeBi and BO Analysis tool ? When to use them ?

    Thank you.

    1. Blair Wheadon Post author

      Yes, in some scenarios, Webi can replace BEx Analyzer. However the analysis functions are limited in Webi. For example, you cannot combine multiple hierarchies on the same dimension in the Webi doc. For example, you can’t have a combination of the Geography dimension and Product dimension on the rows of your crosstab in Webi, but you can with Analysis Office. The more your customer cares about hierarchical features, the more successful they will be with Analysis Office. For this reason, we recommend BEx customers start with Analysis Office.

      1. Handoko Cen

        Thanks a lot Blair, your reply is useful.

        Nonetheless, does SAP have a document that is comparing other analysis functions (I know that your reply has mentioned about Hierarchy) in detail, between Webi and BO BI Analysis Tool ?

        It will be great if there is. It will help to thoroughly clear our confusion on which tool to use between them in multiple scenarios.

        Have a good weekend.


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