Last Wednesday at the North American iteration of its annual SAPPHIRE event, SAP’s Bernd Leukert made some big news about SAP analytics during his keynote. Let’s review the announcements then dive into their implications for those who maintain SAP’s on-premise business intelligence platform.

What Was Announced At Sapphire?

First, SAP has aligned its analytics portfolio under the familiar BusinessObjects brand (see Steve Lucas’ blog, Modern Analytics for the Digital Age). SAP Cloud for Analytics is now SAP BusinessObjects for Cloud, while the on-premise BI offering gets a slight tweak back to its older SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise name. SAP Lumira (and Design Studio – see Blair Wheadon’s blog, SAP Lumira and Design Studio Convergence) becomes SAP BusinessObjects Lumira. Recently acquired RoamBI becomes- you guessed it- SAP BusinessObjects RoamBI. Whether you love the BusinessObjects brand or hate it (and more than one SAP executive couldn’t resist making disparaging remarks when the teleprompter forced them to say it), the portfolio is much easier to comprehend under a single brand. The SAP BusinessObjects brand is joining SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Hybris, SAP SuccessFactors- sub-brands recently prefixed with “SAP” as opposed to phased out. It doesn’t hurt that classic BusinessObjects customers (those that only use the BI suite, not SAP’s business applications) that have felt alienated from SAP’s historic product moves will feel warm and fuzzy, too.

Second, the road map received several small tweaks, particularly for Lumira and Design Studio. However the big picture is still the one that SAP has been painting since their BI tool convergence was announced two years ago. The big news for BI competency center managers is that two packaging levels are becoming three. A new Premium edition is joining the Standard and Professional editions of the on-premise BI suite, adding predictive analytics and big data capabilities previously available as stand-alone options.

What Should SAP BI Competency Managers Do Now?

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 4.2 Support Pack 2 has been in general availability since March 2015 and boasts an impressive list of new features (see related SCN article, What’s New in SAP BI 4.2). Customers still running any patch level of BI 4.0 should give the upgrade strong consideration, as it places a lot of new functionality on an even stronger Apache Tomcat 8 + SAP JVM 8 foundation. Customers running the newer BI 4.1 release should still give 4.2 consideration, particularly if they’re interested in the long list of new Web Intelligence features (see Christian Ah-Soon’s SCN article, SAP BI 4.2 – What’s New in Web Intelligence). If you’ve recently upgraded to BI 4.1 it may be difficult to make the business case to upgrade again, unless your plans include adding SAP Lumira or SAP Design Studio (or both!) to your landscape. There are so many features described in the “What’s New” document, but here are my personal “top 10” reasons that I’d use in a business case to upgrade to SAP BI 4.2 SP2.

  1. New Web Intelligence functionality including custom grouping (introduced in BI 4.1 SP2), free-hand SQL (introduced in BI 4.1 SP6), geolocation charts, global input controls and shared components.
  2. Direct access from Web Intelligence to SAP HANA without need for a universe
  3. Create universes on SAP BEx queries (provides ability to customize/humanize BEx without modifying original BEx)
  4. Faster Web Intelligence refresh times using parallel query
  5. Desktop browser and mobile view/refresh for Lumira documents via BI Launch Pad
  6. Linked universe support in Information Design Tool
  7. Improved application stability courtesy of Apache Tomcat 8 and SAP JVM 8 and improved platform support for IE 11 and Java 8 JRE
  8. Improved migration tools for customers still using older (and now unsupported) editions like XI 3.1
  9. New recycle bin functionality means administrators can recover accidentally deleted content (see Jason Gardieff’s related article, Retrieving Accidentally Deleted Objects in SAP BI 4.2 Using the Recycle Bin)
  10. Improved insight and system control for administrators via BI Administrators’ Cockpit (see my related article, The BI Administrator’s Cockpit)

As you can see from the list, there are both technical and functional reasons to upgrade – something for everyone. You may have heard that SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 4.2 Support Pack 3 – currently on schedule to arrive around August – will add key features from the Web Intelligence Java client to the DHTML client. Keep in mind that while the most “popular” missing features are coming first in SP3, the HTML client won’t be at parity with the Java client until SP4 arrives, now planned for Q1 2017. Any additional retirement of Adobe Flash is also unlikely to happen before SP4 (see my related article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet). I’m not an SAP employee, but keep in mind the usual disclaimers about talking about the future.

Next, the rebranding of SAP BusinessObjects for Cloud implies a degree of inter-operability with the on-premise BI platform, but not as much as business users may assume. SAP BusinessObjects for Cloud can connect to UNX universes via a (secured) web application server; however, it is not possible as of this writing to host any “classic” content like Crystal Reports or Web Intelligence in the cloud. This means that SAP BusinessObjects for Cloud can augment your on-premise BI strategy in some interesting, low maintenance ways. But it certainly isn’t a replacement for your existing on-premise SAP BI. At least not yet. And while classic UNV universes continue to be supported, SAP BusinessObjects for Cloud is another reminder that organizations should begin using the Information Design Tool and its UNX format on new projects.

Regardless of how and what your BI competency center chooses to upgrade in 2016, never forget that we’re in the people business serving business intelligence, not in the business intelligence business serving people. Fortunately, BI 4.2 has some great new features that people will love.

Want to learn more? On June 24, SAP is hosting another #askSAP webinar to answer your questions about the BI 4.2 platform. You can register here. What are your impressions of the analytics news from SAP SAPPHIRE? What are your plans for BI 4.2?

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