What are the pros/cons of using Business Objects with SAP BW? I am aware that we do have to build the query in BEX and release to be able to see in third party tool.

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Apart from this do you see any drawbacks?

What are the advantages of using Business Objects as opposed to BEX?

Is there a grid that can work as a template which lists the items we would need to consider in doing such an analysis?

Advantages of BO (as well as other Query/Reporting) are that they provide robust end users interfaces in terms of designing queries, reports and also run on a standalone desktop client. Their user interface is easy to use and much easier environment to design manus, drop-down boxes/lists and buttons and also provide wizards to help users guide. These tools can also work against several heterogenous data sources.

There are several factors one needs to keep in mind when selecting 3rd Party tools for SAP BW. A few are listed below:

BO uses OLEDB for OLAP API via BEX query. This causes extra overhead because here you have BEX resources and then you add up BO resources to manage infrmation to/from BEX query over the OLEDB interface. Some vendors, like arcplan, use OLAP BAPI to access BW data. This API has somewhat lower overhead because it bypasses the OLEDB for OLAP layer.

As you know that BEX is MSExcel based. It is not easy to build sophisticatecd user interfaces without doing extensive VBA or Macro programming. But BEX is the best option to acces InfoCubes (star schema) and InfoSET query to access ODS objects (flat tables in BW). In my book, Business Information Warehouse for SAP (page 359 fig 17-4) shows data access performance stats using 3rd Party tools, BEX, and InfoSET query. Take a look at my latest report on SAP BW certified 3rd party tools at http://infoframeworks.com/BW/SAP_BW_3rd_Party_Access_ETL_Tools.htm. It list the type of APIs individual product has been certified by SAP. Other tools can also access BW data but may have not been certified yet.

Beside pefromance, you also need to keep in mind who are your target end users. If yur current users, especially the FI people, are use to working with Excel, BEX will be an option. If end users are EIS type, then BO or other 3rd party tools may be an option. Data security, language and currency conversions is also a factor if you are dealing with global client. Such features are built in the BEX, while for others you have to design it yourself. Data volume is another issue. How BO or other 3rd party tools handles large data volumes is an important factor, especially when users are distributed across the world.

One key factor in selecting BO or other 3rd Party tool is based on the your corporate information delivery strategy.

Other factor: Roll out strategy, licencing costs, support and administration. With BEX, it requires nothing more that MS office and BEX client. And for 3rd Party tools, you may require additional components setup for BW.

The most important factor to consider is that SAP BW has been going through a lot of changes. The problem that most 3rd party vendors run into is that they literally do not have access to the Software for validate APIs compatibility - even after when software has been released. You can see in the report (above URL) that as Sept 10, 2001, out of 11 data access vendors only 5 have are certified for BW 2.0 OLEDB for OLAP APIs.

Again, without knowing your environment, I can not advice on to use BO or other 3rd Party tools but I do feel that 3rd Party tools do play a significant role in large corporations where you have diverse users. Here rolling out a solution takes lot of time in training, maintaining, and upgrading clients and support and you should consider this aspect as part of your tools selection criterion.

Right now I do not have a template or grid to access 3rd Party tools for BW. But I am planning to do so soon. The first report will be on Data Mining tools for SAP BW. That I will present at the SAP BW User Group Conference (Oct 16-19) in San Antonio. That document will be available on http://infoframeworks.com late October as well.

This was first published in September 2001

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