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State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade – July 2020

Unless you’ve been sheltering-in-place from Coronavirus on a deserted island, you’re probably aware that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3 SP0 went into General Availability on June 12, 2020. So now is a great time to review the current state of affairs with your SAP BusinessObjects platform.

SAP BI 4.3 is a bold new release of the platform, featuring an all-new Fiori-fied user interface, improved integration with SAP Analytics Cloud, and support for the latest browsers, databases, and operating systems. According to its Platform Availability Matrix, or PAM, SAP BI 4.3 will have mainstream maintenance through June 30, 2025 and Priority One support through June 30, 2027. SAP BI 4.3 delivers on the features we’ve been dreaming about for a long time (see my 2013 article, Thoughts on BI 5.0). Denys van Kempen has compiled an excellent resource entitled Getting Started with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3.

Although some early adopters are already moving forward with BI 4.3 upgrade projects, most organizations will probably wait until 2021 before budgeting for their upgrades. Readers should be aware of two SAP KB articles posted on The Webi Bulletin. SAP KB 2937327 (Feature catch up and depreciated features for Web Intelligence in Business Intelligence 4.3) describes both features that have been retired from the platform and features that won’t be available until “subsequent Service Packs”.  There’s nothing surprising under depreciated features. The Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack and its companion Report Conversion Tool have been retired, along with the Java applet viewer. The other KB of interest is SAP KB 2937378 (Release restrictions for Web Intelligence Rich Client in Business Intelligence 4.3). Although neither KB article commits to the availability of missing features, cross your fingers that most of them will show up in BI 4.3 SP1 at the end of 2020.

Also missing from SAP BI 4.3 is any feature dependent on Adobe Flash, for which Adobe is dropping support at the end of 2020 (see Adobe’s article, Adobe Flash Player EOL General Information Page). Even Apple has quietly pulled the late Steve Jobs’ Thoughts On Flash from its web site (although curious readers can still find it in the web archive). While I’m sad to see the end of both Xcelsius/Dashboards and Explorer, I’m still lamenting that SAP didn’t choose to port Explorer to a Fiori-fied future in BI 4.3 since it already had a non-Flash UI in the SAP Mobile BI app. But don’t forget that Adobe Flash lurks in a few surprising places in SAP BI 4.2 SP5 and earlier (see my 2014 article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet). It is recommended that customers not already on SAP BI 4.2 SP6 or higher should upgrade to the latest patch of SAP BI 4.2 SP8 (currently Patch 3) by the end of 2020.

Just because your users won’t see SAP BI 4.3 until 2021 doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Here are my recommendations for organizations that depend on the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform:

  • Because the client tools in SAP BI 4.3 are 64-bit, make sure that your users of Web Intelligence, the universe designers, and Crystal Reports have 64-bit Windows 10 on their desktops. It’s a great catalyst to retire Windows 7, if it’s still lurking in your organization.
  • Give your users access to a modern browser. While Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are the top choices, other browsers like Firefox and Safari are listed on both the SAP BI 4.2 and SAP BI 4.3 PAM documents. While still supported, it’s time to get your users to stop using Internet Explorer.
  • Plan an in-place upgrade of your existing BI platform if your organization is on SAP BI 4.2 SP5 or earlier. This should be done between now and the end of 2020 to remove all Adobe Flash dependencies. Use information in the Auditor database to determine if Xcelsius/Dashboards, Explorer, or Desktop Intelligence are still being utilized and plan for their retirement.
  • Appoint a member of your BI team to be the SAP BI 4.3 champion. Allow them to stand up a sandbox immediately and spend several hours per week to kick tires and share knowledge with the rest of the team. It’s not too early to begin recruiting an executive sponsor for your eventual SAP BI 4.3 upgrade project. Or to give power users a quick demo of the Fiori-field Web Intelligence so they can see what’s coming.
  • Although classified as an “on-premise” product, the SAP BI platform is already certified for use with the leading cloud vendors. The SAP BI platform should be “close” to corporate data, which may be headed for AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform based on your organization’s IT roadmap. Putting your next SAP BI upgrade in the cloud could be the right move for your organization.
  • Organizations that utilize SAP’s Business Suite should fund a SAP Analytics Cloud pilot project in their next budget cycle, including integration with the SAP BI 4.2 or BI 4.3 platform. Such a pilot may require some tweaking of your existing licensing, which should also be factored into your budget.
  • Every organization using the SAP BI platform should evaluate SAP Analytics Hub as a means of providing your user community with a single, centralized analytics portfolio of both SAP and non-SAP analytics content.

What are your organization’s plans for adopting SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3? The community would love to hear your comments. Please share them below.

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