User Guide: SAP BusinessObjects

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile app with support for augmented reality functions. (Screenshot: SAP)

Whether you’re an executive looking to evaluate what-if scenarios for future planning or a business analyst wanting to create reports without having to go through the IT department, the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio has the right business intelligence (BI) tool for your requirements.

In September 2011, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 became generally available, delivering updates for Web Intelligence, Dashboards, Crystal Reports, Explorer, and for the single, scalable BI platform that underlies the entire portfolio. SAP calls 4.0 its most significant BI release to date, and it’s no wonder: there is also utilization of in-memory computing, support for mobile devices, and integration of analytics for unstructured social data. But with so many powerful tools to choose from, how do you know which one is right for the job?

Of course, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to business intelligence, but the best strategy is to choose a client based on the business requirements, not the IT department. Are you an executive looking for an overview of corporate KPIs? Do you need to access this information on the go? Do you want to conduct ad hoc analyses?

In this article, we’ll review the various clients in SAP’s BI suite, explain who should be using them, and for what purposes.

SAP BusinessObjects BI suite (Screenshot: SAP)


A user guide to the tools and software in the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite. (Photo: SAP)

Different users, different needs

The information needed from business reports and analytics varies from role to role. An executive user generally doesn’t need the more detailed reports a business analyst requires. And individual contributors probably won’t be working with high-level, corporate dashboards used by managers. Here’s a look at the way different roles use BI:

Executive user:

  • Track and analyze company-wide performance across lines of business and departments
  • Use what-if scenarios to evaluate planning and forecasting scenarios
  • Combine analytics with company strategy and goals to improve company performance

Middle manager:

  • Analyze regional goals and strategic KPIs
  • Measure progress toward set goals and KPIs, and share information and reports with upper management

Business analyst:

  • Review actual and historical data for planning and forecasting purposes
  • Analyze corporate information to fulfill ad hoc requests from management and executives so that decisions are based on solid information

Individual contributor:

  • Review regular account statements to monitor customer invoices and vendor accounts
  • Consume standardized reports to review operational metrics
  • Fulfill management requests for information
SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning (Screenshot: SAP)

SAP offers a variety of BI tools, each suited to different roles and business requirements.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence

This software is best suited to the needs of middle managers, business analysts, and individual contributors. It gives users, including those with a non-technical background, the ability to access and analyze data from a variety of sources without having to go through IT. You can ask questions, drill into data, and create interactive reports based on your needs. You can also securely share these reports with colleagues, customers and partners. SAP BusinessObjects Mobile lets you extend this functionality to your mobile device.

SAP Crystal Reports

Individual contributors are the most likely to use this software. SAP Crystal Reports software lets you design interactive, well-formatted reports based on any type of data source. The client also ensures that your reports adhere to the correct layout formats for legal, business, financial, and regulatory presentations.

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard

This software is geared towards executive users and middle managers. It lets you create interactive, real-time dashboards based on live data connections to SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, and other data sources. You can access a library of commonly used visualization components and pre-built template to speed up dashboard design and deployment. With this tool, you can drill down into data for more information; you can also perform what-if scenario-based analysis with interactive controls. Finally, users can share these reports with any end user via Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, SAP Crystal Reports, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, SAP portal, or the Internet.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer

Best suited to the needs of executive users, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer enables users to search across the entire SAP BusinessObjects BI platform for relevant information using simple keyword searches. You also benefit from automatically generated visualizations of your search results. The mobile app for the iPhone and iPad lets users do all this from their mobile device. In addition, the app has integrated Google Maps and augmented reality capabilities.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer (Screenshot: SAP)
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer (Screenshot: SAP)

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office

Middle managers, business analysts, and individual contributors are the most likely to use SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office. It lets users analyze data residing in SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse from within their familiar Microsoft Office environment. Users can create presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint to share business insights; the data is refreshed from your SAP NetWeaver back end. In addition, users can build and deploy Excel-based BI applications with more design flexibility and programmatic control of the workbooks.

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP

Intended for business analysts, SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP provides users with an intuitive, web-based interface to perform multidimensional data analysis. Analysts are able to navigate across multiple dimensions and hierarchies and combine multiple data sets in a single analysis to get answers to business questions. They can also share these business insights with many users across the organization.

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for application design

This software is well-suited to any role in the organization, from executives and middle managers to business analysts and individual contributors. It allows users to design sophisticated analytical applications and templates using out-of-the-box components, which they can then customize with simple scripting language. Users can create applications for on-premise and on-device using HTML5 rendering, for example, or design applications optimized for SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse.