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Of Note: SAP’s cloud analytics offering built on the HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) began the year as simply Cloud for Analytics, but by ASUG Annual Conference and Sapphire Now the product’s name had changed to BusinessObjects Cloud. (That’s not to be confused with the original BusinessObjects; it is a completely different product.)
Quotable Quote: “Just giving everybody a pencil doesn’t make them Picasso.”
-SAP Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliott, on the role of back-office IT as businesses move to self-service analytics
The Year in Review
When 2016 began, SAP’s analytics marketing team’s three favorite words were “Cloud for Analytics.” That is SAP’s next-generation cloud product that was aimed at bringing self-service analytics to the newbie and seasoned veteran alike. The product was launched in late 2015, but the Cloud for Analytics name didn’t last long. By May of 2016, it was renamed BusinessObjects Cloud.
Now, I’ve heard from multiple ASUG members who have faced questions from their bosses and coworkers such as “when can we switch over to BusinessObjects Cloud?” That’s under the assumption that BusinessObjects Cloud is a successor to BusinessObjects on-premise (now called BusinessObjects Enterprise). This isn’t the case, and much of the functionality of “old school” BusinessObjects won’t be found in the cloud product by the same name.
So, what exactly is BusinessObjects Cloud? It’s SAP’s attempt make analytics “fun and friendly’and therefore more approachable to business users, as well as analytics professionals looking to simplify some tasks. It’s still in its infancy, and SAP’s most recent update to BusinessObjects Cloud saw a focus on data wrangling through embedded machine learning, as well as connecting to more sources.
When Two Become One
The theme for SAP’s analytics roadmap certainly is consolidation. That happened in 2015 with SAP Predictive Analytics 2.0, bringing the former SAP Predictive Analytics tool and the KXEN self-service algorithm-building tool together into one product. Version 3.0 of SAP Predictive Analytics was announced at ASUG Annual Conference and Sapphire Now 2016, with SAP’s aim in that update to assist companies that want to expand predictive analytics beyond the data scientist role with greater automation of algorithms.
Also at 2016’s big show in Orlando, SAP announced the unification of BusinessObjects products under the same branding. Depending on the toolset a customer needs, the newly named BusinessObjects Enterprise will offer “Premium, Professional and Standard” versions, with specific reporting and analytics functionality assigned to each.
Next on deck for a product merger? SAP Lumira and SAP Design Studio. The two BI tools will be combined into a single product, Lumira 2.0, which is set to be released in the summer of 2017.
Embracing Emerging Technologies
SAP took a big step in embracing Big Data technologies when it made HANA Vora, which allows customers to connect to their Hadoop and other unstructured data sources, generally available in 2016. That wasn’t the only Big Data move SAP made. It also acquired Altiscale, which provides a managed platform-as-a-service for Hadoop and Spark.
And speaking of acquisitions, SAP also bought mobile BI provider Roambi this year, which comes with its own pre-built set of data integrations that the vendor can tap into, as well as a “cool” user interface.
The Customer Stories
SAP may be pushing BusinessObjects Cloud from a marketing standpoint, but its customers are still doing plenty of interesting things with classic on-premise BusinessObjects. For example, the Treasury Board of Canada has come out of the “90s and Excel spreadsheets” by implementing BusinessObjects. Meanwhile, EP Energy is using SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence to combat downtime at its oil wells.
Data Science is also on the rise, and diabetes monitoring system manufacturer Dexcom has built a data science team that is tasked with creating data products to help its customers better manage their disease. At Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD, data science has fueled a transition from on-premise software sales to a subscription-based service.
Customers Power Another ‘Frenemy’ Relationship
If you listen to enough SAP BI and analytics customer stories, you’ll certainly hear data visualization vendor Tableau mentioned. The software was among the first non-SAP products certified on SAP HANA, and it is a common self-service tool in many SAP BI companies, such as the University of Michigan Health System, which has its own Tableau team.
SAP Lumira is a competing product with Tableau, trying to pry away the Seattle-based company's almost cult-like user base with differentiations in data management, storytelling and SAP data integration. However, Tableau knows it must work well with SAP, as many of its largest customers are also SAP customers.
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