SAP plans HANA-ready BusinessObjects for predictive analytics

Todd Morrison

SAP customers have been using BusinessObjects to analyze and interpret historical data for years, but typically had to look to third-party vendors for predictive modeling and visualization functions. SAP says that has now changed with the introduction of SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis.

The software, now in the ramp-up stage, will be available as a standalone application as well as in conjunction with the SAP HANA platform, and it will allow customers to perform forecasting functions on large data sets.

“Predictive’s been around for a long time, but there’s been some changes in the market that we wanted to take advantage of, and one of those is big data,” said Jason Kuo, an SAP analytics marketing manager. “With greater data, there’s more and more value in the questions we can ask and the answers we can get back.”

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According to SAP, the new application will allow customers to perform a range of predictive functions, including determining how past sales and costs relate, how they will affect future performance and how those forecasts stack up against corporate goals. It also allows businesses to better understand sales trends as well as find correlations in the data so they can cross-sell and up-sell.

While there have been aspects of forecasting and planning in some of SAP’s existing business applications before, including software like SAP Smart Meter Analytics, this marks the first time SAP has created an application specifically devoted to predictive analytics. SAP had previously ceded that functionality to its competitors.

“SAP has had a hole in its product offering related to predictive analytics. This helps to fill it,” said David Menninger of Ventana Research of San Ramon, Calif. “In the past, if you were an SAP customer, you wanted to do predictive analytics, you had to turn to someone else like SAS or IBM SPSS or whoever.”

Menninger said the SAP application doesn’t include functionality advantages over its rivals at this point.  However, one key advantage over those third-party applications is that it will integrate with the rest of the SAP environment, including the HANA platform, far more easily than those other applications, he said.

The value of SAP predictive analytics, Menninger said, is that it allows companies to target their efforts in key areas like sales and marketing, which helps brings in revenue with less waste and overhead by focusing more on customers who have a greater chance of buying.

“You’re either going to drive up your revenue or drive down your costs,” Menninger said.

Model management for SAP predictive analytics?
Menninger called the application a strong -- but imperfect -- first release. “As with any organization, [SAP] will get better. They will add more features,” he said.

The one key area that could use improvement is what’s known as “model management” in the predictive analytics space. “It’s the notion is that you keep testing new models. You compare them with old models, and when the new model is better, you replace the old model,” he said.

That ability to compare models and automatically replace models doesn’t exist in SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis, he said.

 

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