A Simple Overview of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite
I have the privilege of meeting many of our Business Intelligence customers. One of the more common questions I hear is how to best make use of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
We’ve released many innovative solutions during 2012, so I completely understand where the question is coming from. If customers aren’t active on ASUG or attending conferences, the portfolio now is hard to recognize compared to that of 2-3 years ago.
So let’s take a step back and simplify things.
The portfolio can be divided into 3 main functional use cases:
- Discovery and Analysis
- Dashboards and applications
Discovery and Analysis
These are solutions that are focused on answering business questions that cannot be anticipated ahead of time. They are focused on empowering the business user to self-serve answers to their own questions, and enabling access to large data sets through intuitive user interfaces.
The tools in this category are:
- SAP Visual Intelligence
- SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
- SAP BusinessObjects Analysis
- SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis
Visual Intelligence and Explorer are data discovery solutions. Visual Intelligence is desktop based, and allows users to acquire, manipulate, and visualize data. Explorer has a web and mobile version, and allows users to search and explore information spaces that are predefined by the administrator.
The Analysis solutions allow end users to explore and analyze data in SAP NetWeaver BW, SAP HANA, and Microsoft Analysis Services. These are native multidimensional tools that expose the full capabilities of the underlying multidimensional database to the end user in an intuitive manner.
Predictive Analysis is an extension to the Visual Intelligence interface that allows you to design sophisticated predictive models that can be executed on the SAP HANA platform. These models use advanced algorithms to allow the user to correlate variables, extrapolate data trends, and identify outliers to get a better understanding of what is driving the business.
Dashboards and Apps
The Dashboard and Apps category is focused on providing engaging experiences to create traditional dashboards and custom visual applications.
There are 2 solutions in this category:
- SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius)
- SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio
We created the Design Studio product to initially be a premium alternative to the existing SAP BEx Web Application Designer product. Therefore it is focused on delivering dashboards and visual applications using data from SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP HANA.
We have released a statement of direction documenting our long term plans to converge these two solution. We plan to combine the great visualization technology in Dashboards with the superior multi-dimensional data access in Design Studio over the next few years.
For now, our guidance is if you want to build a dashboard using SAP NetWeaver BW as a datasource, we recommend SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, otherwise we recommend SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.
Both products are included with the same license, which means if you’re already licensed for Dashboards desktop tool you will get Design Studio desktop tool for no additional cost.
The reporting category is focused on distributing information around the organization. These are typically business questions that can be anticipated ahead of time, with a report or Universe prepared by a business user or IT developer that addresses these questions.
There are 2 solutions in this category:
- SAP Crystal Reports
- SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence
SAP Crystal Reports is oriented more towards highly formatted production reporting. It uses a desktop client to design the report which can then be consumed over the web.
SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is optimized for self service report creation and modification. You can design reports over the web, or using the desktop client.
Given the widespread adoption of both of these tools, we have no plans to converge them.
Understand your functional use cases first, the pick the solution that best meets your needs from these three categories. No single BI solution can cover all the BI needs in an organization. The SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite is just that - a suite of solutions that when combined correctly will cover virtually all of your BI requirements.