SAP BusinessObjects Cloud: A business led BI platform to deliver information at speed
Having had chance to use, explore and run a customer workshop on Cloud for Analytics over the last month or so, I wanted to share some of my views around the positioning of the product.
A business focused BI Platform
With posting a number of blogs on some of the key capabilities of the solution which can be found here, the ease, speed and flexibility with which I was able to setup and execute these elements gives the solution a complete business led focus.
There’s the core of the solution around a unified product for data wrangling (preparation), visualisation and planning (and eventually predictive) all in a single place which gives it the feel of a complete platform rather than a tool – which it definitely cannot be compared to. I include Lumira in this ‘tool’ bracket, as well as the likes of Tableau – these are data exploration tools not business led BI platforms. The data preparation piece is vital – Gartner are saying that self-service data preparation the next big disruption in the BI world.
All of the above mentioned features can be owned, performed and managed by the business with little intervention and need for IT involvement. They’ll potentially be some involvement from IT in the setup of connections to core enterprise systems to feed data into C4A (such as to BW, BPC and BI Platform UNXs) but that’s a one off activity.
Some of the more detailed elements like data security, data auditing and planning workflow (to name a small few of all of the features) can also very easily be setup and managed by business users. These elements again mean that C4A is enterprise ready whilst maintaining the business focus via the ease and speed.
A brilliant fit for the agile BI platform as part of bi-modal BI
The concept of business users having and owning their own BI platform (not tool) independent of IT allows the concept of ‘two speed’ BI to exist. Whilst C4A is business led, it’s not designed to replace enterprise or corporate BI Platforms. You need both (see Figure 1). A corporate BI platform allows enterprise wide analytics on core data sets and mission critical reporting, focused on delivering information governance for the relevant processes (finance, HR etc. where the numbers are the numbers and can’t interpreted in different ways).
Fig 1 – Bi-Modal BI
Fig 2 – C4A as a Line of Business BI solution
Corporate BI platforms however don’t allow businesses (IT or line of business users) to be agile (at least not easily). This is why we need a more agile BI platform to not only reuse existing corporate BI platform data feeds but to also allow uploading of additional data feeds, not in the corporate BI systems, quickly and easily before delivering engaging data visualisations.
If IT don’t give business users a BI platform (data preparation + visualisation + planning) to be agile in and allow them an air of control then business users will just go and do something on their own anyway (deliver requirements in Excel/Access as many have always done, or they’ll go and buy off the shelf desktop data discovery tools).
Cloud for Analytics play perfectly as the agile BI platform and allows business users to have the level of self-service flexibility they need whilst satisfying IT from a sustainability, unification and integration perspectives.
This is exactly how SAP positions Cloud for Analytics (see Figure 2) alongside its on premise corporate BI platform offering (mainly BI suite in the diagram above, but I include BW in this bracket). C4A plays a vital part in the future SAP analytics platform (see Figure 3).
Fig 3 – Next generation SAP analytics platform
If you would like to read more on Bi-Modal BI as a concept, please see this e-book that I wrote or of course, please feel free to get ion touch.
All in the cloud: networking the data together
And finally, we have all of the above mentioned product unification, capability and functionality all accessible in the cloud. This is obviously critical for the business led approach, making it easy for users to access the platform where ever they are, all added to the fact that it is quick to innovate without the need for hardware installation and ongoing maintenance.
All business led BI data is in one place, making it easier to share and manage (removing physical server separation which may have occurred in the past and removal of risk around storage of local Excel/Access files on users’ machines. Users can easily share their data models and stories, becoming custodians of their domain’s data and sharing content out with other business areas.
I’ve been massively impressed by the completeness of the product at its current stage of the journey. There’s been a steady stream of continual improvement in the product, delivered without disruption through the cloud.
Added to some of the capabilities already mentioned in this post, there’s also the new generation UI and collaborative features of the product. This is the product which completes SAP’s analytics portfolio (the missing part in that cloud based agile BI platform space) and there’s no doubt it adds value to business through that ability for business users to self-deliver their ever changing and increasing demand for information to support decision making.