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The fear of SMEs to upgrade from BusinessObjects to SAP BI4

It is a fact; many SME’s continue to postpone their BusinessObjects upgrades despite the platform being unsupported.

Many old BusinessObjects customers continue to use BO 6.5 or BOXlr2, again despite the fact prices for SME’s have dropped enormously. We looked into the phenomenon to gain an understanding of it. We wanted to lay down the facts, deliver some home truths, and give SME’s a reality check to dispel the common myths.

There is a perception amongst some SME’s that BusinessObjects, now carrying the SAP label, and described as Enterprise Software, is expensive, and the future unpredictable. Fears exist over how SAP’s investment in BusinessObjects and its development will progress. The fact is BusinessObjects is still here years after the acquisition by SAP, and SAP BusinessObjects Edge is priced for SME’s to offer a fully functioning BI suite of tools, added to which Edge connects to anything not just SAP BW or HANA.

The value of the acquisition of BusinessObjects was over $6.5 billion, at the time SAP CEO Henning Kagermann stated the driver was growing new business. That business was the increasing demand for BI capabilities within the software. Almost a structural change for SAP that is unlikely to be reversed. Analysts at the time saw the future of business applications to be the ability to use them in a more intelligent fashion, a fact in today’s analytical business environment. An IDC analyst put it well at the time “You’ll do your analysis from the BI interface and then dive directly into the transactional data you want to examine.” Those capabilities are increasing and improving, as is the accessibility of BI to SME’s.

It is a false economy to assume the cheaper alternative is to rebuild a BI system using new tools as opposed to renewing. Long term SAP is no more expensive than Tableau or Qlik, and Edge priced as it is can be the first option on the list.

The myths, we discovered five common misconceptions held by SME’s blocking their BusinessObjects upgrades.

  • Software cost
  • Project cost
  • Lack of skills
  • Training impact
  • Looking into other tools

Software Costs

The terms SAP and Enterprise Software do not mean the software will be out of the reach of an SME, nor that a project will be overly complex and take five years to implement. SAP invested in many small companies. For example SAP BI (BusinessObjects), Data Services, and Sybase IQ. All acquisitions, and all with SME versions that easily undercut the cost of the enterprise versions. A complete toolset means building dashboards, producing reports, sharing them via the portal and email, creating a self-service BI approach and an enterprise level security integration.As an example, the pricing below is based on the current standard cost of Edge. Varying discounts are more than likely available based on how many users are required.The fear of SMEs to upgrade from BusinessObjects to SAP
As with any product with a lifecycle, at some stage, the market must be segmented, and the growth and penetration for each assessed and quantified. The old approach was often discriminatory pricing between the segments leading to an uneven value proposition. The modern approach is to offer the high value to all levels of business with appropriate functionality for the pricing. SME’s are a growth segment, and products are designed and priced to offer the highest value. Howard Dresner considered a thought leader in BI put it well “larger enterprises continue to generate the big deals, but they are far fewer in number than SME deals. SME is a growth segment for vendors.”

Project costs

  • The truth of the extent of project cost depends on the complexity of your data and reporting requirements.
  • The installation can be done on premise, on virtual servers or a cloud server.
  • Building the data layer can be very quick with a current DB schema that explains the joins between your tables, or consulting someone that has the knowledge.
  • Creating a report in WebIntelligence is very quick, and easy to use, with a little training business users can take a self-service approach.

SME’s have an agility advantage in coordinating a project; the decision-making tree is shorter than at enterprise level. An assessment of an SME’s data environment will take less time, executives are closer to the data and identify how they wish to utilise their data for best competitive advantage. Factors that keep project costs lower for SME’s than larger businesses that may suffer from bureaucracy.

Lack of skills

There are numerous options to cover this myth. Xoomworks BI itself, as a niche specialised consultancy offers help. The budgets aren’t in the same league as the big players, plus having a near shore office we reduce the overall cost, maintaining the quality of our work.Gartner as early as 2005 identified lack of user skills and knowledge of best practice to be the greatest barrier to deploying business intelligence software. The fact is the democratisation of Business Intelligence within organisations is increasing, due to demand. That demand has led to BI being accessible to all levels of users. Business Intelligence tools must cater to the requirements of business users. The tools are moving towards analysis from reporting, the business use and discovery are succeeding the delivery of information. Business users now require the ability to the full functionality of the analytical tools without having an expert level of data science or high-level IT skills.

Training impact

Taking WebIntelligence as an example, it has improved, the look and feel changed, but it is essentially the same tool. The need for training can be dependent on the version currently being used. The important factor is that training is always available, hands-on and tailored, one to one or groups, and it can be specific to the user levels and their requirements.

The millennial generation seems to be grasping training and its benefits. Recurrent and continued training is essential to the success of a BI project and system, it freshens the skill set and, more importantly, keeps the level of trust in the BI and data high. An analyst at a recent BI conferencepointed out “A lack of understanding about technology can breed distrust. And good communications between all involved can reduce misunderstanding up front.” She went on to say with great prescience in my opinion “everybody is a data generator and consumer. Computing and analysis are no longer synonymous with IT; they are a common way of life for everyone. Millennials change the way data is reported and consumed; a generational shift is changing the importance of training.”

Looking into other tools

I always find this an interesting topic to discuss. I take the approach of going back to the actual requirements. What do you need the tool to deliver. And a complete suite of tools will always offer an advantage regarding economy, utility, and ease of use. Looking at BusinessObjects, it is the complete tool integrating a variety of functions and options. The smaller niche tools tend to do one thing very well but are lacking in overall capabilities, such as security or a self-service approach.

Consider the cost of rebuilding everything, training every employee on a new tool. Then consider the long-term viability of a new tool, will it cater to future requirements, and be scalable. Edge is fully compatible with the Enterprise version of SAP BusinessObjects when an organisation reaches the threshold above SME they can upgrade to the Enterprise version. It is an easy migration for the BI content, the users, groups, reports, dashboards.

Consider the change management implications to an organisation of starting again with a new BI system. Changing the behaviour of the users until they feel comfortable to use and exploit any BI system is vital to the system returning a productive use. Removing that comfort zone takes an organisation back to the level of beginning the change management process. Change management requires the alteration of individual behaviour and as our recent Xoomworks BI State of Business Intelligence Survey showed, cooperation between departments, CIO’s, CFO’s, for the self-service paradigm to be accepted and work. Power users and leaders tend to dictate on a departmental basis their requirements for reporting. Consistent reporting is necessary throughout a business at all levels, an upgrade maintaining the underlying platform keeps that consistency.

In reality, the cost argument, or myth, needs to be removed from the decision to upgrade, the facts don’t support it for SME’s that by their nature and size demand cost-effective solutions. The industry is filling that demand with products that reflect the growth for BI in the SME sector.If you add data governance and security to the equation of upgrade versus rebuilding a BI system with new tools, the upgrade case becomes more powerful. Maintaining a platform, upgrading, keeps existing data governance and reduces the chance of lost or corrupted data. As our BI survey showed, everyone is aware of the importance of data governance, but few feel they are in control of it.

Taking SAP BusinessObjects Edge as an example of a product designed for SME’s it will have a different license structure to the enterprise version, both being licensed based systems. For instance:

  • Single-server installation (no clustering)
  • Edge has a maximum of 50 concurrent licenses. Working by a 10% concurrency this technically allows 500 users to use the platform but only 50 concurrently.
  • Edge has a maximum of 250 named user licenses.

I view that aspect as being in line with the size and structure of an SME; the functionality will offer the same high level as an enterprise version.

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      Author's profile photo Mark Richardson
      Mark Richardson

      The move to BI4.x Edge can be a pretty steep HARDWARE curve for Legacy SME "Edge" customers.

      Would like SAP to provide a "Best Practice" for SME since the Single-server installation (no clustering) policy for EDGE runs counter to the requirement for Multiple-Nodes for the LUMRIA SERVER for BI 4 PLATFORM, etc.

      Also, in order to run the Entire BI4 Platform and all it's component Servers/Services on a SINGLE physical (or virtual) Box - you need to very powerful 64-bit server with lots of CPU and RAM, which won't be cheap.