Getting the right business information to users is not a new challenge. In fact, many organizations have already deployed an arsenal of tactical products over the years to deliver the information and services users need for their everyday tasks. The urgent drive to deploy these technologies, however, has often overshadowed careful consideration of how the technologies will work together. Problems arise when these otherwise fine tools have been installed by different groups within IT or line-of-business (LOB) organizations. This piecemeal approach leads to information that is prone to be inconsistent, inaccurate, or outdated.
Complete and integrated solutions
To solve issues of usability and “actionability” – the need for business insights and business intelligence to be useful for taking action – and to enable organizations to become smart businesses through informed and faster decision making, companies need to take a novel approach that includes a complete and integrated selection of tools and solutions:
- <sum> Strategic and tactical business intelligence performance management applications that integrate heterogeneous data, compare results to business objectives, and alert users when goals are not met by actual results.
- <sum> A business user portal enables a secure, managed, and integrated environment for all business information. These user desktops are designed to suit the needs and skills of individual business users, and range from portal-based dashboards to sophisticated, automatically broadcast reports and alerts based on changing business conditions. A collaboration and knowledge management environment permits KPIs, metrics, and business intelligence reports to be displayed in their context along with the necessary tools to permit immediate collaboration.
- <sum> “Right-time,” integrated transaction data – that is information delivered in just the right time to permit process changes – enables performance management and reporting applications to be delivered in time to drive day-to-day operational decision making. Rules-driven decision-making applications automate the decision-making process for near-realtime action and provide guidance and simulation capabilities along with intelligent alerts based on evolving business conditions.
SAP NetWeaver enables smart enterprises
SAP NetWeaver can offer solutions to all of these requirements in a single integration and application platform and thus brings clarity and order to a company’s analytic and reporting processes, thereby supporting the corporate objectives of becoming a smart(er) enterprise. The platform enables companies to build their analytics and reporting infrastructure one step at a time, beginning with the core data warehouse and analytical tools of SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI), and later to enhance it with other SAP NetWeaver capabilities that extend information delivery, collaboration, real-time data access (EAI), master data management, and others. Starting with a single SAP NetWeaver component, the IT team can follow a logical multi-step roadmap to build and extend its analytics and reporting infrastructure by leveraging the entire SAP NetWeaver integration and application platform:
Step one: Generate insights using SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI)
At the heart of an analytics and reporting infrastructure is the process of extracting, transforming, loading, and integrating data from various operational sources into a data warehouse. In a first step, the IT team develops an overall BI strategy, deploying the data warehouse, building data models, and integrating heterogeneous, business-relevant data. After validation by business users, IT deploys analytical tools and models based on an enterprise data warehouse that can extract, cleanse, transform, and integrate data from enterprise application and third-party data sources.
SAP BI includes SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) technology, which supports comprehensive data warehouse operations. The solution also includes a comprehensive suite of authoring, reporting, and analytical tools called the Business Explorer (BEx). These tools handle everything from designing queries and creating dashboards and Web reporting applications to performing complex OLAP analysis and in-depth data mining.
To make the most efficient use of existing enterprise computing platforms, SAP NetWeaver includes the SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS), which abstracts underlying technology from the data warehousing applications. This leaves the IT team free to locate the different data warehousing components — PSA, ODS, InfoCubes, MultiProviders, and, of course, the data warehouse itself — on existing enterprise computing platforms, regardless of underlying operating system or database differences.
Step two: Expand information delivery with SAP BI
As use of the data warehouse and business intelligence information expands throughout the enterprise, the IT team adds bursting capabilities, as well as a portal to facilitate information delivery across the company intranet, and an extranet portal to send information to suppliers and other partners.
Thanks to the BEx suite of tools in SAP BI, and specifically the new capability of the BEx Broadcaster, report information is distributed and precalculated via Web templates, queries, and workbooks. With BEx Broadcaster, the IT team and the business users themselves can now simultaneously deliver the analytics and reports generated by SAP BI to hundreds or even thousands of information consumers based on rules, schedules, or individual requirements. And thanks to SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP), that information distribution potential becomes a practical, powerful reality. The portal unifies disparate information, applications, and services from multiple systems into a single, personalized Web-based interface. It can also integrate analytics and reporting functions — expressly targeted to each user — into the same interface. As a result, enterprise users get BI insights via a familiar interface that requires little or no additional user training.
Step three: Extend collaboration with SAP EP and SAP Web AS
At this stage, users are running analytics applications and receiving reports, so a likely next step is to enable them to collaborate with one another and with appropriate external partners through a secure, context-appropriate environment — and to give them better tools for including contextual information. SAP EP and SAP Web AS have built-in tools for creating instant messaging and virtual collaboration rooms where KPIs and other business performance metrics can be tracked. They also have general document publishing and tracking capabilities that let users share intelligence insights and their own ideas, simply and securely. Through its knowledge management capabilities, SAP NetWeaver establishes connections to unstructured data it has already indexed, linked, and made searchable. Users can see emails, documents, or other objects that enhance their analyses and reports with contextually relevant information.
Step four: Add access to right-time data with SAP XI and SAP MDM
As a final step, a company may want to add to its traditional operational data sources by tapping into the increasing volumes of realtime messages and connections. The IT team extends the analytics and reporting capabilities to collect data from transactional operational sources, such as real-time applications or messaging middleware, to ensure that business and operational teams are making decisions based on the most accurate and timely information available. SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) provides powerful technologies and services that can transform third-party applications, XML and HTTP-based messages, and other realtime data sources into inputs to the analytics and reporting infrastructure. For instance, SAP XI adapters and prepackaged Web services can link the enterprise analytics and reporting infrastructure to realtime applications running on a strategic partner’s manufacturing system. SAP XI thus enables SAP BI to generate analytical models and reports with near-realtime data and lets users spot problems as they occur.
Meanwhile, another SAP NetWeaver component, SAP Master Data Management (SAP MDM), maintains inter-application data reliability by managing a unified central repository that synchronizes replicated data, a necessary step for automated processes that continually extract data from transactional applications.
By taking a methodical, integrated, step-by-step approach to change, the work of the IT team — and, perhaps more importantly, the business user — gains momentum as these changes bring benefits and foster user acceptance. And because the SAP NetWeaver infrastructure fits within existing IT architectures, it leverages the company’s investments in computing resources, ensuring that the enterprise operates as a truly smart enterprise in its IT infrastructure and business processes.
Source: SAP Insider