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TechEd: SAP customers should look to Business Objects for business intelligence needs

During his SAP TechEd keynote, Business Objects' CEO John Schwarz previewed new joint technology plans and urged customers to start looking to Business Objects for BI.

LAS VEGAS -- SAP customers, especially SAP business intelligence (BI) ones, should look to Business Objects for their new BI projects, the CEO of Business Objects said.

The SAP BI product line will be supported through at least 2016, John Schwarz said, but the intent is for the two to become one product line. The aim is to evolve the two lines and guide people toward the Business Objects portfolio, an SAP spokeswoman said.

"My advice would be to start their new projects on the Business Objects side," Schwarz said after delivering the keynote address at the first full day of SAP TechEd -- SAP's annual conference for IT managers, developers, administrators and business process experts -- which was held this year in Las Vegas.

Many SAP customers have already heeded that call, according to data provided in response to an audience question. Two-thirds of Business Objects customers are SAP shops, according to SAP. Before SAP acquired the company in October 2007, 30% of Business Objects customers were SAP shops. That number includes 2,000 joint SAP/Business Objects shops with 10,000+ seats, Schwarz said.

During his keynote address, Schwarz encouraged the audience of more than 6,000 SAP professionals from 49 countries to look at the combination of Business Objects and their SAP software as the way to close the loop between strategy and execution.

"Think of us not as a product company going forward but as a company that delivers business solutions to business problems," he said. "That industry focus, that industry flavor will become the biggest differentiator for SAP."

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He also encouraged attendees to upgrade to ERP 6.0, highlighting the value of enhancement packages -- downloadable industry-specific functionality and upgrades. And he urged them to try out a beta version of Business Objects' Business Process Management software, available on the SAP Developer Network (SDN).

"Today is a pretty good day on which to start," Schwarz said. "Don't wait -- now is the time to simplify your world by plugging into these."

Customers who already use Business Objects and SAP software were impressed by demonstrations -- displayed during the keynote -- of the two working together.

"What interested me is the collaboration between SAP and Business Objects -- the apparent ease of distributing information," said William Fitzula, an IT manager for Pearson, an international media company headquartered in London.

His colleague, fellow IT manager Scott Kaplan, said he was impressed with Business Objects' search tool Polestar -- particularly with the speed at which it was able to return information. Pearson has been a Business Objects customer for five years and is planning an upgrade in the next year to SAP ERP 6.0 from the two installations it's running of 4.6c and 5.0.

On the other hand, Srini Santhanam and Ram Nathan of the Atlanta-based SAP consulting firm MyTech US came to TechEd hoping to gain a clearer view of SAP's future product direction, particularly its BI products. They said they're finding that their customers are confused about which BI tool they should buy.

"Our customers want to have a clearer direction on what SAP can provide," Nathan said. "In the BI area, there are too many tools. They don't know which tools will be available."

Schwarz said SAP's acquisition of Business Objects brings new value for SAP customers by giving business users access to information without IT having to become involved. It also embeds analytics in SAP processes, has overarching analysis tools to use on top of that, and provides a global risk management capability. A corporate performance management application is in development.

Business Objects also announced a new software tool yesterday -- Metadata Management XI 3.0. It brings metadata from disparate tools and sources into one unified repository and includes a "metapedia" that translates metadata into business definitions, allowing for easier navigation and data discovery by business users. The software is available now.

And going forward, Schwarz said, SAP and Business Objects will be focused on two things: a client adoption layer for information consumption tools that can be made available using any container device; and isolating the application from the end user so that business users can manipulate the information without programming help.

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