The SAP acquisition of Business Object
(BO) brings a mix bag of good and bad news to both SAP and non-SAP
customers. Here are few quick observations.
the Good news.
The BO acquisition brings a large BI market
share to SAP.
Most importantly, BO will bring a good team of
experienced BI professionals who are fluent in the business
intelligence language spoken by small and midsize enterprises (SME)
where SAP is heavily targeting its solutions.
BO will be highly valuable for enabling SAP
customers in such SME segments to enjoy a powerful BI environment
that users are already familiar with. BO will be very instrumental
in meeting BI needs for SAP Business ByDesign initiative without much
worrying about NetWeaver BI infrastructure support.
BO will bring a good proven reporting tool,
Crystal Reports, back in SAP BI which used to be shipped with SAP BI
in its earlier versions.
BO will also bring the ETL missing link.
Behind all flashy user facing tools in BO, the most important
component of any BI suite is the ETL engine. The Acta ETL engine,
which Business Objects acquired a few years back, will be an
excellent ETL engine to pull data from the core SAP Enterprise into
customer data marts (BO universes, databases or even in core BW.)
Granted, Acta is a lightweight, but it’s a
very sophisticated ETL engine originally designed for SAP R/3 while
other ETL tools vendors were not. The Acta engine will also fill the
ETL gap for non-SAP data sources under NetWeaver BI infrastructure
Now the Bad news for
both SAP and non-SAP customers:
The bad news is, we’re now seeing a momentary
confusion among SAP BI customers and consulting partners. We have
many different products with different infrastructures, usage and
life cycle management environments. Just a few month back SAP
acquired OutlookSoft, a corporate performance suite, and before that
we saw the Virsa acquisition
Full integration of Virsa and OutlookSoft
within the NetWeaver platform is still years away. And now you need
to think about bringing legacy Business Object universes in under
the NetWeaver umbrella. Either that, or users have to continue using
BO as a non-SAP BI front-end. That results in an explosion of data
When talking with SAP customers at the TechEd
last week, the common question on many attendee’s minds were that
today SAP offers too many BI development frameworks, not only the
composition environment but also the user-facing environments. With
a streaming acquisition of BI products, each with its own
composition and user-facing environment, it will be quite hard to
create consistency in user-experience when dealing with so many
competing BI user interfaces.
Consistency and reusability is at the
heart of SOA: back-end services are used to share consistent content
to develop consistent user experiences through consistent user-facing
styles. With diverse front-ends, this dream of NetWeaver-powered
custom services reusability will be hard to achieve.
On the ETL end, about 6 moths back SAP signed
an OEM relationship with Informatica for its NetWeaver BI solution.
While the Informatica OEM relationship is not fully materialized,
now the Acta engine is popping up in the SAP world shadowing the
Informatica footprint. Will SAP still continue Informatica OEM
Another piece of bad news for BO “by
association” alone: From experience in advising executives for BI
solutions, any time when I dealt with a client who has no SAP
footprint in their IT landscape, the word ‘SAP’ alone is the end of
discussion. So when BO is tagged as SAP BO, it will be a big booboo,
end of discussion. It will be interesting to see how BO as a
standalone SAP legal entity can remain hidden under the huge SAP
umbrella. Truth is, once you’re in, you just can’t hide. Virsa is an
example of this.
In my opinion, the BO acquisition is good news
for SAP customers. This is especially true for the small and midsize
segment, which SAP needs to penetrate hard. I also see this move
being helpful for some large enterprises as well , as it has
potential to complement their BI needs.
As you read the previous parts, you will note
that most of the bad news are related to short term issues. The main
sticking points were positioning and integration. SAP need to simply
bring in BO as part of one single BI umbrella – as SAP BI. Not
product -specific BI solutions such as NetWeaver BI or SAP BW or
OutlookSoft or Business Objects… Just SAP BI. And as products come
and go, you don’t end up changing BI solutions and thus distracting
or confusing customers.
A few people I spoke to at TechEd also raised
concern that the SAP NetWeaver BI solution is in effect dead now…
But remember, the BO-based BI solution still needs data from the SAP
Enterprise back-end. You can’t draw fancy charts/graphs without real
data. As most of you probably know, about 60% of BI time is spent
for data acquisition alone. SAP has done an excellent job in
providing data acquisition schemes for its customers within its BI
solution. Also note that the SAP BI solution is engineered to
provide intelligence (analytics) within the process scope and not
from outside-in, which traditional BI solutions do.
The problem with the current SAP BI solution
is that initially, SAP consultants spoke of BI in terms of
‘transactional’ language instead of ‘business intelligence’ language
that customers were familiar with. It was a great technical model,
but its value was ‘lost in translation‘ to the BI users. Now the
cross-pollination of BO and SAP will be great news for SAP customers
and the BO presence will actually enhance present-day SAP BI — not
About the Author:
Naeem Hashmi, Founder & Chief Research
Officer, Information Frameworks Naeem Hashmi is a renowned thought
leader, author, speaker, and expert on emerging Information
Technologies with 25+ years of experience in enterprise
architectures, distributed service-oriented business applications
design, ERP application integration, data warehousing; data mining
and visualizing new products. Mr. Hashmi a founding
member of the Center for Knowledge Engineering. His current research
work includes social networks, psyche mining and intelligent
distributed enterprise architectures. He advises students all
over the world in their research projects and career directions. He
advises vendors on innovative technologies and product roadmaps as
well as Fortune 500 companies and government agencies for defining
information architectures and technology assessments. Mr.
Hashmi has authored/co-authored four books and over 150 publications
in leading IT journals.
Tel: 603 552 5171