Road Map: What’s Ahead for BI Software

Create dashboards and forecasts with SAP’s BI software (image: fotolia)
Create dashboards and forecasts with SAP’s BI software (image: fotolia)

BI software is the key to much more than simple calculations, offering the ability to call up data, conduct analyses, make forecasts, identify sales opportunities, construct what-if scenarios, and more. At the SAP TechEd 2010 convention in Berlin, Vishal Sikka – the SAP Executive Board member responsible for the company’s Technology and Innovation Platform area – introduced version 4.0 of the BusinessObjects BI package. Attendees also had the chance to participate in special workshops and get a glimpse of what’s ahead for the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio.
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SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0

Besides the ability to call up and refine data and conduct interactive analyses, SAP’s BI package also facilitates reporting, hypothesis-supported online analytical processing (OLAP), and data mining. As an added highlight, users can go beyond displaying their data in tabular formats by generating interactive dashboards and graphics.

Having been designed for 64-bit hardware, the package’s performance shines, and SAP reports that it is also now even easier to integrate into SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse. Plus, the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 package runs on heterogeneous platforms and databases and is available in multiple languages.

Progress has also been made in the area of usability: The 4.0 package advertises an even simpler, more intuitive interface that should require very little training for those switching releases. Tables, for example, are provided in multiple colors, enabling users to identify the corresponding data source at a glance. The Information Designer Tool, meanwhile, makes it possible to draw data from multiple sources, which accelerates the process of accessing required information.

One addition in particular – integrated platform monitoring – will pique the interest of the admins out there, and SAP says that improvements have also been made in the package’s system monitoring and audits. Customers can also integrate BusinessObjects BI 4.0 into Business Suite.

SAP BusinessObjects BI consists of Crystal Reports, BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, BusinessObjects Dashboards, SAP’s BI launch pad, and BusinessObjects BI Workspace.

Crystal Reports enables you to create interactive reports and construct what-if scenarios; a ribbon bar appears on the side of the new version’s user interface, and the solution now handles all queries in a uniform design. Crystal Reports also automatically translates reports into the necessary languages – a key feature for international companies.

BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, meanwhile, now comes equipped with new charting functions and a toolbar, as well as enhanced interactivity for ad hoc analyses.

The dashboards in the BusinessObjects BI package now also sport a uniform design.

Finally, SAP’s BI launch pad now offers improved filtering and search functions intended to make tedious scrolling a thing of the past. Plus, optimized navigation now makes it possible to work with multiple documents at the same time.

Upgrading to version 4.0

In his SDN blog, Greg Myers offers tips on upgrading to version 4.0 of the BusinessObjects BI package. Those still using versions XIr2 or XI3.x will find the transition easier with the help of the Upgrade Manager. According to Myers, version 4.0’s auditing schema is new, meaning that you won’t be able to import your old data; admins will have to begin auditing anew after installing the new package.

Road map: SAP BusinessObjects enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions

The SAP BusinessObjects EPM solutions enable you to manage strategies, costs, planning and consolidation, and the supply chain. With them, you can also measure the success of marketing campaigns, generate business plans, compare account balances, analyze expenses, and gauge supply chain performance.

The BusinessObjects EPM solutions are currently available in version 7.5, supporting  integration into the BusinessObjects BI package, NetWeaver Business Warehouse, and SAP ERP. Users can access them through InfoView, NetWeaver Portal, or a simple Web browser. Support for BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, BusinessObjects Analysis, Crystal Reports, Crystal Dashboard Design (former Xcelsius) , BusinessObjects Explorer, and Microsoft Office is also included.

Future installations of the BusinessObjects EPM solutions will be implementable as an in-memory suite supporting financial accounting and operative business. Easy integration with Business Suite, the BusinessObjects BI package, and the BusinessObjects governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) solutions will be possible in a harmonized user interface. Also planned are a uniform Web user interface and a common EPM add-in for Microsoft Office.

Meanwhile, additional functions such as financial information management, process control, and risk management are ahead. Further down the road, the capabilities of the  BusinessObjects EPM solutions will be available on-demand and in mobile versions.

Until now, these solutions have only supported integration into Business Suite and NetWeaver, but future customers will be able to use them without needing other SAP software.

Road map: SAP BusinessObjects Strategy Management

This application comes equipped with a standardized Web user interface, and the latest version also supports uniform SAP product standards. As mentioned, an EPM add-in for Microsoft Office is planned, as are improvements in scorecard management. In addition, SAP BusinessObjects Strategy Management will soon feature flexible scorecard and cascading configurations.

Outlook: SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver

The latest release of this application integrates SAP Master Data Governance for financials and BusinessObjects Risk Management, and Microsoft Office 2010 support is also on the way. Meanwhile, future versions will make the creation and management of reports simpler and more secure. Advancements are also ahead in planning (of scenarios, for instance) and automated performance analysis.

Preview: SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for the Microsoft Platform

Optimized for Microsoft systems, this version of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation also sports a standardized Web user interface, complies with uniform SAP product standards, and offers Microsoft Office 2010 functions. The new version supports Unicode and 64-bit hardware – other Microsoft technologies and VMware are also planned – and the application will soon provide automated performance analyses.

Plan: SAP BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation

Future releases of this application are to improve its integration into SAP Business Suite, particularly with regard to integrating master data, managing financial information, and governing master financial data. Enhancements are also on the way for its XBRL capabilities in publishing graphics and reports.

Road Map: SAP BusinessObjects Profitability and Cost Management

This application will soon provide continuous support of the most current databases and operating systems in use, as well as offer integral accounting. Users can visualize and display their expenses with increased transparency, and the application can export all of the results it produces as .csv files. Finally, a client component makes it possible to access various environments.