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Author's profile photo Peter Baumann

Not your father’s SAP BW

My beginning

When I started with SAP BW in 2005 times were different. The release I started was 2.1c and already a little bit old these days. I think ODS objects (Standard DSO today) have been very new and we had MultiCubes (sometimes I still hear this for MultiProviders, but on this time indeed only InfoCubes could be added). There have been no Process Chain, only InfoPackage Groups and Events to chain Event on Event.

In the next years we went further to BW 3.1, 3.5 and finally to the 7.x releases. We did and still do ETL, Data Warehousing, Reporting, Planning and even Data Mining. We are well integrated with SAP ERP systems.

For Reporting and Analysis we had the BEx Tools (Business Explorer Suite). There we did Excel-Reporting with the very popular BEx Analyzer, created Web Applications (Dashboards and flexible OLAP reports) with the BEx Web Application Designer, designed formatted reports with Report Designer (some of us…) and distributed everything with BEx Broadcaster. Everything deeply integrated with BW (and only BW) and presented to the end user via SAP NetWeaver Portal.

So far so good. Now time has changed. In 2008, just after Release 7.0 came up, SAP started to buy BusinessObjects (BO). A leading BI vendor. Tools had been presented as premium alternative to BEx. But BO was different. Feature support of BEx Query Designer was bad for a long time. BO don’t know much about Variants for Selection Screens and so on. Via Universes you could connect to a lot of other sources than SAP BW. And customers had to pay for BO.

Everything must change

This was just a starting point. SAP had to move, to change, because the world changed. Already in 2006 was started as what we would call today a cloud service (SaaS). SAP started to recreate this as SAP BI OnDemand in 2010 with not much luck. But the time of the cloud was unstoppable as we see today. Also digitalization take its course and more and more data was created. The time of Big Data begun. More and more trends influenced demand for new tools and features like Self Service BI, User Experience and Data Science.

Classical BI and Data Warehousing Tools have not been build to handle all this new developments.

Buy or Build? The Innovator’s Dilemma?

SAP started to do both. Starting in 2011 Bill McDermott spent a lot of money till now especially in the area of cloud. But also a lot of new development of own solutions and technologies started.

So today we have tools with bi-weekly release cycles. That’s the new pace. Had there once been a roadmap for SAP NetWeaver BI capability you have to follow several roadmaps today. Between 2014 and 2017 SAP Analytics Cloud changed his name four times (SAP Cloud for Planning (C4P) – SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A) -> SAP BusinessObjects Cloud and finally SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC)). SAP is combining cloud services to new tools (like SAP Data Intelligence) or retires services after few years like the Big Data Services (form. Altiscale).

Once SAP BW was the leading Data Warehouse solution in SAP context. In some months we will have three independent solutions with SAP HANA SQL Data Warehouse and the announced Data Warehouse Cloud. But even with BW/4HANA including Smart Data Integration, fieldbased modeling and mixed scenarios BW is not the classical SAP BW anymore.

The experts

Even in the just SAP BW-times we splitted SAP BW experts often in specialists for Data Warehousing, Reporting Designers (some just on BEx Analyzer with VBA and everything, some Web experts with JavaScript and Portal skills) and Planning experts for BW-IP or SEM-BPS.

But what is today? Many more tools and expert areas arise. Information and UX Designer, Data Scientists, Data Engineers, Cloud Analytics Experts, HANA Modelers/Developers, Machine Learning Engineers, BI Architects and so on. They work with different methods (Scrum, DevOps, Kanban) and create complex analytical environments with many different components.

It is the best time now

It is not you father’s SAP BW anymore. But, now is the best time. It has never been more exciting to work in the area of BI & Analytics. And I’m more and more exited to go deeper with SQL, HANA analytical capabilities and Cloud technology from day to day.

I wrote this for the brave SAP Community. SAP Community changed over time. But for questions, answers, good discussions and information it is still the best source for me and a lot of people helped me here in my beginning and over the years. For some years I was not very active here. But the last months I have seen that the community is on a good way and I’m happy to be with you again.

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      Author's profile photo Frederic Cincet
      Frederic Cincet

      Good points !

      My first training on BW was in 1999 (1.2 version). Things were simpler (or is it my memory that tricks me ?) :  a few dataProvider types, integrated reporting tools. The main technical difficulty at the time was to debug the tool to understand curious/undocumented behaviors or bugs ;-).

      Now is the time where multiples architectural choices (full BW modelization, full hana, hybrid etc.)  and multiple reporting tools are available for one business need. Often, there is no easy answer. I agree, this makes current BW projects exciting.

      Author's profile photo Peter Baumann
      Peter Baumann
      Blog Post Author

      Yes! And we are still debugging the tools to understand bugs and behavior, aren't we? 😉

      Author's profile photo Frederic Cincet
      Frederic Cincet

      Nope, now I have all the needed answers on SCN 🙂


      Author's profile photo Ahmed Baseer
      Ahmed Baseer

      Hi Peter,

      You've raised good points and after reading your article I went back in time in 2004 :).

      Well , you've rightly said , things are getting more exciting as the time progresses and looking forward to seeing your blogs and posts.

      Thanks for keeping us enlightened.

      Author's profile photo Dot Eiserman
      Dot Eiserman

      I'm also part of the early era of BW, the year 2000 and 1.2b. I think the 'academy' was one or two weeks at that time. Boy oh boy did we struggle with the functionality in the early days, at one point working shifts in order to share and update cubes and multiproviders, our project was an SEM-BPS one. 🙂 Your blog nicely highlights all the changes we went through, if you're change resistant then you're not going to enjoy working in the SAP space.

      Author's profile photo Peter Baumann
      Peter Baumann
      Blog Post Author

      Indeed! I have a former colleague in SAP BI and he currently struggle with SAP because other vendors like Microsoft or Qlik are maybe more advanced in some concepts, tools and technologies. The more tools I know, the more concepts I understand, the more I think it doesn't make a difference. It just have to work together to deliver solutions and value on the short and long run. More and more we will combine services and technologies to give businesses insights and drive them with data.


      As a SAP consultant (inhouse or external) I do my best to deliver the best with SAP. This is my part, what I can do. To learn and be open minded is the key from day one. If you are part of a long development like ten or twenty years with SAP BI, you learned a lot. So sometimes it is hard if you see that things changed and knowledge is getting obsolet. But even if some knowledge is not usable anymore it is still valuable to get a deeper understanding where everything comes from and why things are different today.