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Business Intelligence tools in SAP are part of the Business Information Warehouse (BW) that is positioned in the SAP Netweaver Architecture (we will discuss this later in more details).

The reporting, analysis, and interpretation of business data is of central importance to a company in guaranteeing its competitive edge, optimizing processes, and enabling it to react quickly and in line with the market.  As a core component of SAP NetWeaver, the SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) provides data warehousing functionality, a business intelligence platform, and a suite of business intelligence tools that enable businesses to attain these goals. Relevant business information from productive SAP applications and all external data sources can be integrated, transformed, and consolidated in SAP BW with the toolset provided. SAP BW provides flexible reporting and analysis tools to support you in evaluating and interpreting data, as well as facilitating its distribution. Businesses are able to make well-founded decisions and determine target-orientated activities on the basis of this analysis.

Basically SAP BW consists of:

  • Data Warehousing: Data warehousing in SAP BW represents the integration, transformation, consolidation, cleanup, and storage of data. It also incorporates the extraction of data for analysis and interpretation. The data warehousing process includes data modeling, data extraction, and administration of the data warehouse management processes.The central tool for data warehousing tasks in SAP BW is the Administrator Workbench.
  • BI Platform: The Business Intelligence platform serves as the technological infrastructure and offers various analytical technologies and functions. These include the OLAP processor, the Metadata Repository, Business Planning and Simulation, special analysis processes such as Data Mining, and the Reporting Agent.
  • BI Applications Suite: provides flexible reporting and analysis tools for strategic analyses, operational reporting, and decision-making support within a business. These tools include query, reporting, and analysis functions.

BI Application Suite

The SAP BI application suite can be divided into the following main areas, the BI suite has been significantly consolidated and harmonized since the acquisition of Business Objects:

  • Analysis  Solutions
    • SAP BusinessObjects Analysis (edition OLAP and MS Office): can empower your business analysts with the ability to analyze multi-dimensional data through an intuitive Web interface that delivers a full range of analytical functions. Analysts can quickly answer sophisticated business questions and then share their analysis workspace with others, spreading knowledge beyond the confines of a single department or group.  It enables customers to consolidate their existing SAP BW tools onto the Business Objects Stack. Target audience:business analysts
    • SAP BusinessObjects Information Steward: Help organizations understand and analyze the trustworthiness of information. It is based on two existing programs; Data Insight and Metadata Manager. Moreover, it enables users to define who is responsible for the information at different stages in its life-cycle from source to target. It provides an environment to collaborate on and monitor data quality metrics within a dashboard to ensure the trustworthiness of the data.
  • Discovery Solutions
    • Business Objects Explorer: combines the simplicity and speed of search with the trust and analytical power of business intelligence (BI) to provide immediate answers to business questions. You can use familiar keyword searches to search relevant information and explore data directly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmdg8npt12Q) Target audience: executive managers, information consumers
    • SAP Visual Intelligence: access, transform and visualize your data in a repeatable, self-service way. SAP Visual Intelligence point and click interface and engaging visualizations allow you to quickly analyze data for rapid time to insight and business agility – no scripting required. With SAP Visual Intelligence, you can:
      • Deliver faster time to insight in a repeatable, self-service way
      • Maximize business knowledge with a combination of big picture insights and granular details
      • Accelerate decision making with immediate, fact-based answers to complex business questions
      • Increase self-service data usage without adding to your IT department’s workload
      • Visualize any amount of data in real time – with SAP HANA
  • Predictive Solutions
    • SAP Predictive Analysis:  With SAP Predictive Analysis, data analysts can intuitively design complex predictive models for activities. These activities include forecasting demand or product sales; identifying key influencing factors for sales opportunities or purchasing behavior; uncovering impactful trends; understanding business and data correlations; and spotting anomalies. These capabilities are of value to all data-intensive functions such as sales, marketing, risk, governance and security
      • An intuitive, easy-to-use environment for designing predictive models
      • The ability to acquire and manipulate data as well as visualize results with embedded SAP Visual Intelligence software.
      • Accelerated predictive analytics, expanded data scope and improved model scoring by leveraging the embedded predictive analysis library in SAP HANA
      • Interoperability of R with SAP HANA to open up all the statistical functions available in one of the world’s most popular open source projects

      In addition to this, there is the work done by Philipp Rösch and Katrin Eisenreich (Forecasting and Prediction: Advanced Analytics Close to the Data),  they have written a dedicated set of functions in c++, L and R

  • Dashboards Solutions
    • SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (former known as Xcelsius): SAP BO Dashboard is a data visualization design tool that displays summary-level business data in a Visually rich and intuitive format that allows users to analyze and interact with their data in order to make better business decisions. You can export the dashboard to PDF,PPT etc Target Audience: executive Managers and information consumers
    • Panroama
  • Reporting Solutions
    • SAP BusinessObjects Web intelligence:  offers a powerful, intuitive interface that enables business analysts and non-technical information consumers to ask spontaneous and iterative business questions about their data. Intuitive ad hoc reporting and analysis, Drill, slice, and format information Target audience: information consumers
    • SAP Crystal Reports:  you can leverage an intuitive interface, access data spread across disparate systems, and design formatted reports.SAP Crystal Reports will deliver your transactional data across modules, Users can use Crystal Reports instead of SAP Query. Target audience: business analysts, and field workers.
  • Events Processing: Sybase Events Stream Process (ESP) and Sybase Complex Events Processor (CEP)are basically the same product;  they Analyze and act on events as they happen – by relying on real-time event-driven analytics.
    • Process and analyze multiple streams of high-speed, high-volume complex event data in real time
    • Get actionable information from event streams and generate alerts for events needing quick action
    • Initiate automatic responses to changing conditions based on one or a combination of events
  • Information Design: This tool combines the capabilities of the old BusinessObjects Designer tool and Crystal Business Views and adds metadata modeling support for creating universes. It includes the ability to create multi-source universes and automatically generates OLAP universes from data sources.

BICS: BI Consumer Services

As part of SAP`s efforts to unify the BI portfolio, BICS was created to improve the integration between the tools and SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse. BICS can be considered as a protocol that exposes Business Warehouse functions as web services which can then be used in BI client tools systems for Integration purposes. It helps in improving the integration and overcomes some of the limitations of MDX especially when dealing with large data-sets. Moreover, BICS allows users to connect directly through the client rather than having to first create a universe on top of BW objects.  I am not going to talk about it in details but as it will be mentioned few times i thought it was worth to be mentioned.We should differentiate between BICS and Business Explorer Analyzer BEx which was the analysis and reporting tool of the Business Explorer, now superseded by BusinessObjects Analysis  .Notes:

  • Business Object is referred to as either BO or BOBJ
  • SAP Visual Intelligence and HILO are the same project
  • BW refers to always as Business Warehouse not Business Web
  • BO Explorer and Visual Intelligence were found to do almost the same thing, there are news about the products being merged into one name.
  • SAP HANA and NewDB are the same thing !!
  • Webi Report is a BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report
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