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SAP: Don't rush from SAP BEx tools to SAP BusinessObjects

Instead of encouraging all NetWeaver BW customers to move to SAP BusinessObjects, one executive said stick with the SAP BEx tools for now if users are happy.

ORLANDO -- SAP NetWeaver BW customers who are happy with their Business Explorer (BEx) tools shouldn't rush to adopt SAP BusinessObjects tools, according to one SAP executive.

"Users in your environment who are comfortable using BEx today, leave them alone," said Jonathan Becher, SAP's senior vice president of large enterprise marketing, when asked what he'd say to NetWeaver BW customers upset with having to make the move. "If they're comfortable doing their jobs … don't mess with what's working."

It's a new message from SAP for SAP NetWeaver BW customers. Shortly after SAP acquired Business Objects, it announced its SAP BI roadmap and said it would phase out the BEx product line -- including the BEx Report Designer, the BEx Web Analyzer and Excel Analyzer, and Web Application Designer -- by 2016. Web Application Designer clients can upgrade to Pioneer in 2010. It combines the BEx analyzer and Voyager tools.

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SAP is still encouraging customers to move to SAP BusinessObjects -- which now encompasses both vendors' business intelligence (BI), governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and corporate performance management (CPM) products. But some of those early messages made it sound as if SAP was telling customers to stop using BEx on Day 1, Becher said. That wasn't their intention.

If customers are happy with the SAP BEx tools, they should keep using them, he said. They still have seven years to decide when and how to move to the SAP BusinessObjects toolset.

Many who purchased NetWeaver BW have been less than satisfied with SAP's BI integration strategy because they have to pay to move to the SAP BusinessObjects front-end tools.

"There are lots of scenarios that BEx does just fine," Becher said. "If you're confident using BEx, don't rush."

He added that "as time goes by, we'll make it easier for BEx guys." He acknowledged he was being "circumspect" on details but mentioned Pioneer as an example, and said SAP would be doing more things like that.

"If I was oversimplifying it, I'd have one of those 'don't panic' signs," he said. "This is not nearly as bad as you think."

That said, customers should look to SAP BusinessObjects tools to fill in gaps in functionality, as well as provide users who don't like the BEx tools with another option.

"BEx is not a CEO tool.… It's not an upper management tool. It's not a dashboarding tool or an ad hoc query tool," Becher said. "Go to the users that BEx is not as good a fit for and find a fit for them."

How are NetWeaver BW customers adopting SAP BusinessObjects?

It's advice Molson Coors Brewing Company followed. Molson Coors has been an SAP NetWeaver BW customer for many years, and had even upgraded to NetWeaver BW 7.0, the most recent version of the platform.

But Molson Coors found significant gaps in SAP BW's functionality, according to Katrina Coyle, who is the global information manager for the company. NetWeaver BW couldn't be run offline. And the BEx Web Application Designer necessitated a lot of work on IT's end to create BW-specific dashboards or cockpits for users who requested them.

Molson Coors decided to deploy two products from SAP BusinessObjects -- Web Intelligence, the company's self-service ad hoc reporting tool, and Xcelsius, its enterprise dashboarding tool.

XCelsius gives the tools to the end users to create dashboards, Coyle said. Web Intelligence provides offline capabilities.

Though the deployments did require additional hardware, the connection to BW was very simple. For instance, they went live with Web Intelligence in six weeks.

"I think you should put Business Objects into your landscape," Coyle said. "It's very easy to do. It's so easy to put on top of the current BW. I think people aren't aware of how easy it is to deploy."

That said, Coyle offered a caveat to end users before taking the SAP BusinessObjects plunge.

First buy a BW Accelerator, which improves query response times, data volume scalability and visibility into non-SAP data, she said.

"Don't go near Business Objects [until you get a BWA]," Coyle said, "because it'll only add more performance problems on top of what's there today."

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