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What is the Latest on the BI/BO Product Roadmap?

On Tuesday, December 7, I had the opportunity to sit in on a webcast on the BI/BO product that was open to SAP Mentors. We had the chance to ask questions on the roadmap from Ingo Hilgefort, who is himself an SAP Mentor and a key player instrumental in the integration of BI with Business Objects even prior to the acquisition. Ingo also conducted the Business Object track at the Community Day events in Las Vegas and Berlin. For me, this was a chance to see how SAP had sharpened its view of the BI/BO future since the BO Summit I attended in Boston in August. I wrote a longer piece on BI/BO skills transitions after that event.

Obviously, the BI/BO roadmap is a critically important issue for SAP professionals who need to ensure they are pursuing skills in products that are part of SAP’s future. From the SAP customer perspective, a clear roadmap is crucial before decisions about where to commit resources are made. We know that the demand for BI/BO skills will be impacted by the degree of confidence SAP customers have in this roadmap.
 
  The good news is that I definitely saw an increased clarity in the roadmap since the August event. Dates on future releases and product merges were also more definitive. While this session was for SAP Mentors, the information presented in the webcast is publicly available for anyone to review. The presentation we viewed can be seen here. A very thorough FAQ on the future of NetWeaver BI is also available.
In this blog entry, I’m going to focus on the product directions and dates I took from the webcast. If you’re viewing the presentation link, the pages I am referring to are: page 9 (current combined roadmap), page 10 (additional combined features), and page 11 (future roadmap). These are simple renditions, you can dig much deeper with the links I have included.
 
Here are a few questions I have heard from my readers that I got answers to during the webcast.
 
Will BW be phased out in favor of Business Objects?
No. Rumors that BW is being phased out are very much incorrect. BO is not a business warehouse. The eventual combined offering will rely on SAP BW for data warehousing capabilities. In addition, on the SAP BI side, the BIA (Business Intelligence Accelerator) is a very important part of the combined product offering going forward.
 
So will any BW products be phased out? Yes. In terms of dashboard functionality, BO’s Xcelsius will become the “go-to release.” SAP’s Web Application Designer will be phased out, going into a maintenance release mode for existing customers. The BEx Report Designer will also go into maintenance mode, with the go-to release becoming Crystal Reports. This will be a gradual and supported transition.

Will any BI and BW products be combined? Yes. For OLAP Analysis, the capabilities of the BEx Analyzer and BO Voyager will be combined, code-named Pioneer, with a release year set for 2010.

What other products can we expect? 2010 is also the year set for the release of NetWeaver Crystal Reports for Enterprise Reporting (companies can obviously use Crystal Reports now with BO’s integration tools). Polestar for NetWeaver, powered by the BIA, is expected in 2009.
 
A couple more interesting loose ends: BO really doesn’t have a Master Data Management product, so they’ll rely on SAP’s MDM release for this. However, from what I have heard on SAP MDM so far, its strength is as an operational database. BO has capabilities in the cleansing and transformation of data which could be relevant to an improved SAP MDM product. I would expect to see SAP draw on some of BO’s capabilities in that area, and indeed, SAP is promising a loose integration of the two products shortly, under the new name “Master Data Services,” or MDM+. Note that I just completed a podcast on SAP MDM that delves more into master data issues in an SAP context.
 
I would keep a watchful eye on Polestar. This is a powerful keyword-based search tool, and when it’s properly harnessed to BIA, I will expect many SAP customers to seriously give it a look. I should also note that Visual Composer, which some seem to think is going by the wayside, is still considered a key part of the product mix.
 
There are obviously many more product questions, but this gives you a few of the highlights, I encourage you to view SAP’s FAQ for more.
 
SAP has accomplished an important step with a clear and clean BI/BO roadmap. There are obviously going to be questions from SAP customers who are invested in a release that is heading into maintenance mode, and what it will cost them to transition, but the clear roadmap should aid in BO adoption.
 
However, we can expect to hear more about pricing. BO products do not typically come with a standard SAP license, and as excited as an SAP customer might be about the look and feel of some of the new BO product offerings, we can be certain that pricing will be a major factor in user adoption, especially in this economy. And without user adoption, we won’t see the job opportunities many SAP folks are looking out for. However, with the clear roadmap and best-in-class functionality, SAP has two of the key elements in adoption licked.
 
Pricing is a function of business value and it will be up to SAP customers to decide if that value is there. If it is, they’ll pay the price tag. Slick tools aren’t going to carry the day anymore, however. Since these products are designed to help companies make more informed decisions in real-time, they certainly have as good a shot as any in this economy, but we’ll have to track the level of adoption and see where it leads.
 
In my previous article on BO, I made more recommendations on skills SAP and BO professionals should be looking to pick up and I won’t repeat that here. I will say that any SAP person whose work touches on dashboards and data visualization should start getting acquainted with Xcelsius, moreso because dashboard-oriented projects seem to have traction even in this economy. Those who are involved in SAP mobile development would be advised to keep an eye on Mobile BI. Otherwise, refer to my previous article on BO skills for more SAP/BO skills recommendations.
 
You may have noticed I made it through this whole blog entry without using the phrase “BobJ.” Yes, that was intentional. Until BobJ walks through the door and shakes my hand, I’m calling it BO.

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