SAP.info: What’s your take on the integration one year after?
John Schwarz: When we started the integration, our primary focus was on the customer. We wanted to make sure that customers clearly understood our product road map, that they will be able to do business with SAP in a consistent manner, and that we address all their concerns. I believe we have achieved that. Our road map has been well received by customers and the market.
Today, we have a common price list, a common set of terms and conditions, and the ability to sell to customers through one integrated channel. And, very importantly, we offer an integrated support infrastructure so that all customers, whether traditional SAP customers or former Business Objects ones, have the same experience of our support capabilities and service. Having integrated all aspects of our two companies – including services, product development,
and sales – our customers now benefit from the best of both worlds and from the joint innovations we constantly add to our portfolio.
SAP.info: Business intelligence ranges from reporting to data exploration to predictive analysis. Now, with the integration of SAP and BusinessObjects, what is SAP’s focus on BI?
John Schwarz: Our philosophy is to enable customers to get the clearest insight into their business. SAP now offers a portfolio of BI solutions that help companies get clarity on all aspects of their enterprise and manage their extended business networks.
We provide customers with a “universe of information” right at their fingertips. It includes a data service layer, which integrates and ensures the quality of all data, no matter where it comes from – whether it’s from a transaction-based SAP system, an SAP BusinessObjects solution, or some other source. On top of this layer, the user can choose from a variety of tools: query, reporting and analysis, visualization, or modeling.
Customers want trusted information when they need it and in the way they need it. That’s what we’re here for. In addition, by combining SAP and SAP BusinessObjects solutions, we are now a leader in enterprise information management, meaning that customers have a foundation of trustworthy data for all the business initiatives. With SAP’s leading in-memory analytics, we now can provide business users with immediate access to information.
SAP.info: The “business user” has become increasingly important to SAP. What differentiates the business user from other users?
John Schwarz: To start with, I think there are two types of workers in an organization. One is the classic task worker, who works in an environment of welldefined workflows that are always executed the same way and based on a fixed set of regular processes. Traditionally, this would be an SAP Business Suite user, handling such things as manufacturing and sales order processes.
The second type of worker is the business user. He or she is based in a less stable environment, where the processes change with the task at hand. Supervisors, managers, or front-office staff, for example, have to deal with unexpected developments and have to take ad-hoc action. They work with multifaceted tools that give them the insight they require to make an informed decision. The business users are typically found in sales, marketing, and executive positions.
SAP.info: The economic crisis has affected customer behavior dramatically in a number of arenas. Is this true for IT and BI?
John Schwarz: Definitely. The focus has shifted from mediumterm and long-term projects to investments that achieve short-term benefits. Our customers are buying in smaller increments, and they want to realize savings sooner. And we have to demonstrate the fast return on investment of our solutions. But it’s important to note: Analysts agree that BI continues to be an area in which companies will further invest. In fact, BI is holding up better than other sectors in the enterprise applications market because companies can use BI to drive revenue and cut costs.
SAP.info: It doesn’t sound as if customers are currently very willing to deal with risk …
John Schwarz: It’s currently a risk-averse climate, which is why our governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) solutions are so critical. These solutions give customers a clear line of sight across their business so they can manage financial and compliance risks more effectively. Our GRC customers want to know that they have the right processes in place to manage compliance – and our solutions help them do that in a unified, strategic way.
Managing risk is equally important. Companies must be able to identify potential risks to their performance and have a solution in place to proactively track and act on these risks. Those are the organizations that have the advantage: They have more foresight, can more accurately predict, and can execute changes in strategy quickly and effectively. A proactive approach to risk is critical to developing optimal growth strategies.
SAP.info: A major new BI product is SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. What are its highlights?
John Schwarz: Simply put, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is a powerful tool that helps people navigate data as quickly as they can think of a question. This is a revolution in BI – providing easy, fast access to data, allowing people to explore data, and answering questions they didn’t know they had.
With an intuitive front end, any business user can find relevant information hidden in both SAP and non-SAP data sources. Guided navigation and in-memory database technology make information available fast and in the appropriate context.
Now graphics, tables, interactive dashboards, and all kinds of reports are available for the first time ever to any user anywhere so they can do analysis and run queries. It is easy to use and consume, allowing us to extend the benefits of BI to even more users.
SAP.info: There’s been a lot of talk about mashups, social networking, and other trends such as collaborative decision making. What role do these play in the future of BI?
John Schwarz: I believe business intelligence is evolving along two dimensions. One is data, the other is people. When we talk about data today, we mostly mean structured, numerical, organized data that is aggregated in information cubes. However, about 80% of data in the world is unstructured: e-mails, audio and video files, blogs, Web sites, and so on. It is the ultimate goal of BI to make all this data available, digestible, and presentable – no matter the source, the creator, or the context. The other dimension comprises communities and groups of people. How do we solve problems? We sit together, discuss the options, and take action.
Solving problems is a collaborative effort. Look at cell phones, netbooks, PDAs – everybody is becoming a business user, a member of multiple networks, connected and available most of the time. We have to look at people as individuals and as parts of bigger groups. And we have to make it much easier for them to connect and to collaborate based on the same insights.