The SAP BusinessObjects Community Means Business - An SAP BOC Podcast - Podcast Transcription
The SAP BusinessObjects Community Means Business - A BOC Community Podcast
Hosted by Jon Reed of JonERP.com
Podcast Interview Date: July 13, 2010

Jon Reed: Welcome to this special SAP BusinessObjects Community podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed of JonERP.com. Joining me today are Jason Cao and Kirby Leong. We're here to talk about changes in the BusinessObjects Community, the impact of the community on SAP users, and how you can get involved.

Why don't we kick off by having you tell us a little bit about the BusinessObjects Community and some of the changes that are going on now.

Kirby Leong: I'm one of the community managers who manages the content strategy for the BusinessObjects Community. The community is really focused around SAP BusinessObjects portfolio of client tools and applications, such as Crystal Reports, Dashboard Design (formerly known as Xcelsius), and those types of products. The kit is primarily to report in dashboard designers, power end-users, business analysts, and business users.

One thing we're pretty excited about is that recently the community has been undergoing a major transition. Starting earlier this year, we migrated a lot of the technical content - a lot of the content related to SDK application development, BI platform administration, and BI integration on SAP installations, etc. That has all been moved to SDN. This move was driven largely by our need to align with the technology map so the community can talk about the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio in a way that is consistent with the rest of the organization. Now that we are in sync, that's a great foundation to build on.

To add to that, the next phase of this alignment is to tackle the forms, the wikis, and the blogs to bring them in alignment as well. There are quite a few exciting things that are going on at the moment.

Jason Cao: I agree. I call myself a Community Helper for the BOC. I just wanted to add that our organization is making a large investment for the business users. On a BI front, solutions like Crystal Reports, Dashboard Design, and Explorer and Web Intelligence help empower the business users with BI. BOC helps this community of business users find the resource they need to improve their understanding and performance within their organization.

Reed: What else can we expect to see from the BOC in the short and medium term?

Leong: We're really gearing up pretty hard for the XI Release 4, so expect to see new content, new content framework, and lots of new e-learning with special emphasis on having very modularized learning. Users will be able to drill down specifically on one or two functions and get a handle on that, then at their own pace learn about another aspect of the release. We're really excited about all the things that are coming on. This is a major release for the company and we're right there to support them.

And, as Jason mentioned, with this increased emphasis going forward on this BI business-user/end-user type of audience, we do want to look at the redesign of the BOC home page to make it more conducive to that audience. We're also looking at ways of making our dashboards more attractive on the site. Right now when you look at and try downloads on the dashboard, it's very text heavy. We're looking at ways we can make it more visual and more accessible.

We'll also be looking at drilling down our industry areas, specifically helping to build up the BPX industry areas by adding a BI component to that. We're trying to have a very broad reach for our audience and address a lot of their needs in different ways.

Reed: I'm going to put you on the hot seat for a sec with some buzzword translation. We hear a lot from SAP about "insight" these days and going from "insight into action." In your view, what does insight mean and how is the BOC supporting this approach?

Cao: To me insight means knowledge, understanding, and awareness. Kirby is nodding here so I know we agree. This is really key to organizations because without insight there is no understanding and direction. When organizations have insight, it becomes even more important that they can take advantage of it. We liken insight without follow-up action to a brand new Porsche parked in your driveway but missing the engine.

Our new tagline, "Turn Insight Into Action," conveys the purpose and value of our community by helping individual members gain insight, then turn it into greater business performance. You could say we want to help our members put the vroom-vroom into their organizations.

Leong: In the medium to long term, our focus will be to transition from focusing exclusively on helping our members develop their competency or their expertise with the client tools and applications, to one of helping our members figure out or help them empower members to figure out how to solve their business problems using our client tools and solutions. The key question is, what are the main business issues that our members face?

One approach we can take to that, as I mentioned before, is expanding the industry areas on BPX. If you were to drill down, let's say, on the retail industry, what are the key business issues there that BI can help solve? How do we bring people together and empower them with the right tools and knowledge to solve that?

Given today that business users can be incredibly complex, by working on the BPX Community we can approach it from a more integrated approach. Rather than approaching it again just from one single view of BI or a process, we need to evolve with our customers and approach these business problems from a multi-faceted integrated approach, from a technical point of view, from a BI point of a view, and a process point of view. I think the community has a great opportunity to rise up and meet this challenge with our members.

Reed: Recently there were a bunch of new SAP mentors named who were heavily involved in the BusinessObjects world. How do you think this can impact the BOC?

Leong: We're so excited. We've witnessed the great impact that mentors have had on SDN and BPI in terms of increasing expertise and facilitating collaboration and conversations. When we were able to have these mentors for BOC, we were incredibly excited. They've got extensive background and skills in the BusinessObjects world and they're leaders in that world. We're eagerly anticipating working with them to grow a community storehouse of knowledge, and to call out and to bring out the other experts community and to really build that expertise within the community.

In the short time they've been on board, we've already been busy launching a couple of new initiatives. One of them is a series called, "Real World BI Stories," and by the time this podcast is up we'll have launched it. Internally we've code-named it "BI in the Trenches." The series aims to tell how BI works in the field.

On the community right now we do a very good job of telling how the solution of a product works, but when you're on the field the story gets much more complex. There's interplay of technical process, political resource, and other factors. We wanted to start the series to talk about how these solutions are impacted by various factors and the challenges that our members face.

By starting this stream of stories, we hope members will not only learn from it but also identify with the people telling the story. We believe there are some amazing and positive stories out there waiting to be told, and we're so excited about that.

Cao: I want to take the opportunity as well to tell you about another very, very exciting advice column that we're launching on the BOC as well, and it's called Dear aBI, and that's spelled with an "a" with a capital "BI" for Business Intelligence, and it's a new and exciting way for our community members to ask our panel of SAP mentors and BI experts for advice. This doesn't replace the excellent discussion forums that we have, but you can certainly submit questions for our BI experts to answer via the Dear aBI wiki page in the BusinessObjects wiki home. Jon, I'll send you a link to that as well so hopefully you can share that with your listeners.

Reed: In terms of some of the mentors, to give us an example, I know there's one from the group that's been very active on the SAP Crystal Dashboard design front. Can you tell us more about that?

Cao: We have quite a few very passionate members. One we're very happy to have as an SAP mentor is Mico Yuk. Most of our community members and perhaps your listeners might know Mico Yuk as the founder of the Xcelsius Guru's Network and EverythingXcelsius.com weblog. But since becoming an SAP mentor we've had a hard time keeping up with her. She's been working closely with us on several initiatives including the Xcelsius community page redesign, as well as the Dear aBI advice column I just spoke about. She helped us kick that off as well.

What's really amazing is that Mico is a full-time Dashboard consultant and she juggles her work with her own community as well as the work she's doing with the BusinessObjects Community. Anybody who knows Mico is also familiar with her sister Sue, who is her number one; both Mico and Sue bring a level of excitement and commitment to our community that we don't often see.

We need more passionate members like Mico who epitomize the community spirit of helpfulness, of dedication, and high quality contributions, and we're grateful for Mico and other SAP mentors to help lead and grow the community with us.

Reed: I wanted to ask you about that briefly, These rock stars who are doing all these amazing things - they're awesome, but it can also feel to others like, "How can I even compare? How do I get started?" What would you say to someone who is kind of intrigued but they really want to get their feet wet and they're not sure quite how to begin?

Cao: I would say that for those new to BOC, find us at BOC.SAP.com. For those who are already there, make sure you take a look at all the resources we have available from the forums, the wikis, the white papers, as well as the webinars that you can go and check out.

For those who have already been contributing, don't hesitate to contact us. If you have any new ideas about what you want to contribute and how you want to add to the community, make sure to reach out to Kirby and myself. We can get you started.

Reed: As we wrap up the podcast today, are there any remaining points you'd like to clear up about the BusinessObjects Community or some additional topics of emphasis?

Leong: There are three main misconceptions we'd like to clear up. One of the misconceptions is that the BusinessObjects Community doesn't cover the Crystal products, Crystal Solutions, because they are kind of two parallel product families. But the Crystal Solutions portfolio is definitely a core part of BusinessObjects Community: Crystal Reports, Interactive Analysis, and Crystal Dashboard Design are key parts of it.

We also have, as I mentioned before, this whole BI area on SDN. That's where the other half of the Crystal Solutions portfolio resides: the Crystal Reports Server, the Visual Studio and Eclipse versions of Crystal Reports.

The second misconception is that the BusinessObjects Community is the only place you could find BusinessObjects content. But as we just mentioned, we have this whole new BI area in SDN. So really we like to think of the community as two parts: the core part is the BusinessObjects Community, but there is definitely a very important part on SDN that we manage as well.

The third misconception is that BusinessObjects is largely about SAP installations. While SAP installations are a core or key part of our solution and our focus on BOC, BOC also tries to be true to its roots of working with different platforms. We cater to the audience that needs to install BusinessObjects solutions on Microsoft and Oracle platforms as well. We need to maintain that rich history but also cater obviously to this very important SAP audience. It's again another dual focus we're more than happy to take on.

Reed: Jason, any last thoughts?

Cao: I definitely want to encourage everybody to come and check out the BusinessObjects Community. If you're interested in Turning Insight Into Action, this is the place to go. Don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or any suggestions about how to get involved.

Reed: Kirby and Jason, thanks for taking the time today to provide us with an inside view of the BusinessObjects Community and some of the latest developments.

Before we sign off I want to make sure our listeners know how to access the BusinessObjects Community. The direct URL is BOC.SAP.com. If you're not yet registered with SAP's online communities, you can register for the SAP BusinessObjects Community, the Developer Network, and the BPX Community at the same time. If you're already signed up for one but not signed up for the SAP BOC yet, you can simply update your profile, and check off the BusinessObjects Community on your member information.

The BusinessObjects Community can be found anywhere on the SAP Community Network site just by clicking on the BusinessObjects tab on the main horizontal menu bar. On that note, I'd like to thank our listeners for joining us today for this BusinessObjects Community podcast. This is Jon Reed of JonERP.com signing off. We'll see you online soon at BOC.SAP.com.