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Last week I had the opportunity to participate in and present at SAPInsider’s BI2013 event, held in Amsterdam 11th to 13th June 2013. It was a big event with five sub-events all located together – Financials, HR, CRM, GRC, and Business Intelligence. With 1,500 people in attendance total, and representing 30 countries – it was definitely a great learning and networking opportunity! The conference was held at the RAI Conference Center, which was an interesting sight when I first arrived.

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In this post I want to share some of the key things I took away from the conference, and for a different perspective you can also see my ‘stream of consciousness’ thanks to Twitter and Storify here: http://storify.com/josh_fletcher/bi2013-amsterdam. Without further ado…

Keynote: Driving Business Transformation through Technology Innovation – Steve Lucas, SAP

Steve (@nstevenlucas) kicked off the event with an engaging and humorous keynote. His message was on SAP enabling the connected enterprise, as a key part of the internet of everything. With so many manual processes in organisations, Steve discussed how these manual processes, with people as key decision makers in the middle, can hinder automation and the improvement of these processes. Of course not all processes can be fully automated, but Steve communicated the SAP vision of working towards a ‘connected enterprise’.

Some of the key things I noted from the keynote:

  • Steve highlighted how much SAP has transformed, noting that ‘Database & Technology together with Analytics now accounts for 50% of SAP’s annual revenue!’
  • Steve asked Anders Reinhardt, Global BI Manager of VELUX, to provide an overview of their vision for a connected enterprise. VELUX manufacture roof windows and sell them globally, and are moving towards smart roof windows that will be connected to other parts of the house to assist with managing the internal climate of houses.
  • Also highlighted was the example of Disney, who now deliver real-time user feedback using smart wrist bands for patrons, which let Disney crowd-control (for example, if a ride is broken, they can redirect patrons to other rides which are similar to their previous rides) and provide a better user experience – again part of a connected enterprise.

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British American Tobacco’s Lessons from it’s global implementation of BI4 and BW7.3 – Mark Cooper, BAT

Mark Cooper (@mcbobj) from British American Tobacco (BAT) delivered a fantastic case study on a global implementation of BI4 and BW7.3. Unfortunately I missed the first few minutes introducing the history up to the implementation, however Mark was comprehensive in their tool choices and implementation strategies.

Highlights included:

  • BI requirements were separated into Analysis, Formatted Reporting and Dashboards, and BAT respectively selected Analysis for OLAP, Crystal Reports For Enterprise and Xcelsius to deliver against these in majority of deliverables.
  • Mark recommended always keeping one eye on the SAP roadmap and keep up-to-date, as this may impact a technology choice sooner than expected – an example that Mark gave was Zen now named Design Studio, which they will move towards over the next few years.
  • One of the biggest barriers that BAT have faced in respect to user adoption has been the different User Interfaces that the business experiences when having to switch between the above three tools.
  • After discussing some challenges, Mark also spoke on their positive experience with Analysis OLAP, mentioning that the product always worked throughout patch challenges, and was very robust for a 1.0 product. Feedback from BAT developers, finance and operations users were all positive, and Mark summarised this in a statement ‘The “Analysis” family of products is a good choice for SAP NetWeaver BW customers in BAT’s opinion.’
  • Commentary was a hard and fast requirement for BAT, and together with SAP Consulting, a solution was developed using Knowledge Management and Web DynPro. This met BAT’s requirements and enabled them to deliver commentary throughout the BI solution.

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BI Template Best Practices – Simon Stieper, VELUX

Simon (@simonstieper) is the BI Manager at VELUX and went into great detail on VELUX’s approach to BI using BusinessObjects.

Simon shared VELUX’s observation of how the typical BI user at VELUX has changed over the last decade, and I found this part very interesting:

  • 2005 – typical BI user was a ‘controller’, an SAP expert who used Excel extracts to do reporting and analysis on one process
  • 2010 – typical BI user was an ‘analyst’, who used web-based tools to analyse multiple sources
  • 2013 – typical BI user is now focused on ‘self-service’, and they are not afraid to learn multiple tools and expect high performance

Simon then went on to explain VELUX’s approach to BI and the principles they have chosen to support self-service BI:

  • Data Transparency
  • External Data
  • Reporting Flexibility
  • Multiple Tools

The BusinessObjects tools that VELUX selected are:

  • Web Intelligence – used for day-to-day reporting
  • Analysis Office – for analytical requirements
  • Xcelsius – for management reporting
  • Business Warehouse – main data warehouse
  • Data Services – for integration of external datasets

VELUX have also implemented HANA, and will be rolling out SAP Predictive Analysis shortly as well. There was lots more in this presentation, but the other thing that caught my eye was VELUX utilising an internally-developed Web Intelligence Design Guide, which is based around a Web Intelligence template. The Design Guide itself is 50 pages, and covers typography, naming conventions, formats, layouts and use of variables and report settings.

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Confessions of a BW Architect – How DuPont Leverages the Common Semantic Layer – Jason Kehl, DuPont

Jason (@jasonmkehl) had the opportunity to close out the conference’s last session with a bang, and he delivered. I really enjoyed his presentation on a high priority reporting scenario that DuPont encountered and needed to resolve.

DuPont identified a requirement to provide real-time reporting and analysis on top of 9 disparate plant systems (running on Oracle), with a dataset integrated back to BW. The business allowed a whole 2 WEEKS for IT to deliver this, which Jason and the team managed to do.

The solution delivered really highlighted the new common semantic layer and it’s embedded Data Federator engine. Firstly the required BW InfoProvider was mapped into a multi-source universe. Next, the 18 different Oracle connections (9x plants with both Current and Historical databases) were added, and two super-large Derived Tables were added for the Current and Historical datasets.

The universe was finalised, but initially performance was terrible. Jason then related that, with the help of an external consultant, they were able to leverage the Data Federation Administration Tool to highly tune the multi-source universe.

The result? A smart universe which knew to choose 1 connection out of 19 to query based on the report selection parameters, achieving sub-second performance for those reports. The universe also supported much larger report queries which combined data from all 9 plants (previously impossible) with BW data.

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Summary

There were several other sessions I attended that were of great value, but unfortunately this blog post would have grew way too large to fit it all in.  I also enjoyed:

  • R and SAP Predictive Analysis – John MacGregor, SAP
  • Three Reports, Three Connectors for BOBJ and BW – Jason Kehl, DuPont
  • Information Steward Tips – Don Loden, Decision First
  • Design Studio Overview – Ingo Hilgefort, SAP

Lastly, the SAP Analytics team did a great job of running a Social Media Lounge at the conference, and plenty of interviews took place. You can view them all here: http://www.youtube.com/sapbusinessobjects.

Below are the two interviews I managed to squeeze in, with Jason Kehl from DuPont and Don Loden from Decision First (@donloden).

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