Power to the Users


BI, the tools and techniques that allow people to explore, understand, and report on data, is undergoing rapid change. And the resulting new advances promise to forever change the way organizations and their people access and use information. Jonathan Becher, SAP Senior Vice President, Enterprise Solution Marketing, says the business world is about to witness an information renaissance for workers across all organization levels:

“We’re currently witnessing a historic shift from a situation in which information was power in the hands of a few to one in which power is in the hands of many,” says Becher. “Today, this information is freely available to make better decisions collectively.”

On the horizon

A new generation of business intelligence (BI) applications is making deep business insight as ubiquitous and discoverable as a Google-like search. In the near future, entire workforces will be using the tools, analysis, and insights once reserved for the few.

BI for all

In what is being called the democratization of business information, new BI design and innovation is being geared toward the normal business user. These new tools are becoming so easy to use that anyone can use them.

“The prevailing philosophy is that everyone should be able to use BI, and that it should be as easy to use as a Google search,” says Becher

Age of exploration

BI user interfaces are rapidly advancing from the classic reporting metaphor to an exploration metaphor. In the future, BI users will be able to move feely around data to discover all of the things they wanted to know – and a good number of things they didn’t even know to ask.

“Under the old reporting metaphor paradigm, you already knew the question you wanted to ask. You just used the BI system to test your hypotheses,” explains Becher. “Under the exploration metaphor, you move feely around the data to discover things you may not have expected. The question ‘I wonder if sales are different in the northeast than in the southeast?’ can now be quickly transmuted and compared to an even broader query: ‘What’s happening to my demand?’ When you start to make comparisons and correlations like this, you’re really taking the entire concept of BI – and by extension your own business intelligence – to a much more powerful level.”

Talking to the future

Becher observes that in the past, BI has been largely based on reporting and analyzing historical information, and then forecasted those findings out into the future. In the coming months and years, however, he says that BI will start to provide what is being calling predictive analytics.

“Tomorrow’s BI will be about seeing much further along the horizon. Classic BI tells you what sales were over the past 30 to 90 days. But new BI solutions will be able to tell you about future sales based on a much more sophisticated set of calculations and algorithms. This will enable managers to make much more informed decisions.”

Emerging Trends at SAP

With the recent introduction of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, as well as the SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator and other new tools, SAP is accelerating BI innovation on all fronts.

Radical user focus:

  • Business users rule: The new SAP BI solutions will allow users to choose from a variety of tools for reporting, analysis, query, visualization, or modeling.
  • Information pluralism: From the high-end analyst to the casual business user, all of an organization’s employees will be able to use SAP BI tools to get the information they need. And they will do it with minimal training, and minimal dependence on IT resources and developers.
  • Predictive analytics: SAP BI is making business trend prediction much more sophisticated and precise. With new cutting-edge solutions like SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Workbench, for example, users of all stripes can uncover trends and patterns, solve business problems, anticipate business changes, and gain greater insight.

Embracing the unexpected

In this new BI environment, software solutions that only format information and generate reports will quickly find themselves playing catch-up. The new BI, on the other hand, will continue to put an even greater emphasis on transforming trusted information into exceptional decisions.

“Don’t tell me what I already know,” quips Becher. “Tell me about the exceptional things – the things I didn’t expect to see.”

For many analysts and business experts alike, the ability to see more clearly in an economic environment plagued by uncertainty is a welcome, if not indispensible, tool. Which may be why many are betting that the new BI is an innovation few companies can afford to do without.