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Business intelligence and 3rd party tool integration

This tip is from our chat "SAP Business Intelligence: what is it?" with speaker Naeem Hashmi, CTO of Information Frameworks.

Business intelligence and 3rd party tool integration

This tip is excerpted from an April 19th Q&A chat entitled "SAP Business Intelligence: what is it?" with speaker Naeem Hashmi, CTO of Information Frameworks.

Q: What is Business Intelligence?

A: Business intelligence, introduced by Howard Dresner of the Gartner Group in 1989, is a set of concepts and methodologies to improve decision-making in business through the use of facts and fact-based systems. These fact-based systems include: Executive Information Systems, Decision Support Systems, Enterprise Information Systems, Management Support Systems OLAP (On-Line Analytical Processing), as well as newer technologies such as: Data Mining, Data Visualization, the Geographic Information Systems.

Q: What is an ERP-Data Warehouse?

A: ERP data warehousing is 'a framework of information objects that becomes the foundation of business intelligence, knowledge support systems, and other business applications across the extraprise, leveraging the infrastructure of ERP applications.' Note that simply extracting data from an ERP application package is not ERP data warehousing. An ERP data warehouse must support services needed to construct a data warehouse and collection of integrated applications, in order to report, analyze, and control business events across the enterprise... not just the data extractions. True, ERP data warehouses leverage the OLTP ERP infrastructure.

Q: Is e-Business intelligence another name for CRM?

A: No. The e-Business Intelligence is just one component of CRM. e-Business Intelligence has to do with any intelligent business activity conducted over the Internet.

Q: In planning the upgrade to 4.6, we are considering adding new modules at the same time, for a manufacturing facility, using both produced and procured goods. BI sounds like it could be of great benefit to us. What are some phrases to help the managers see the value of adding this to our solution?

A: The BW (Business Information Warehouse) is not an add-on module in SAP R/3 alone. SAP BW is a separate Instance. Then you add special components just like standard upgrade or patches in SAP R/3 for BW content. The value of SAP BI is that once you have a license for, BW is already in there without additional cost... a big plus.

Q: Why is Business Intelligence important for eBusiness success?

A: You have to make intelligent decisions to run your business regardless of traditional or e-Business model. However, Traditional business processes were slow, not very integrated, used to follow very rigid business rules, and mostly handled by the company employees. Today, in the eBusiness world, one has to make business decisions at the speed of the Internet, round the clock because there is no day or night concept in the Cyberspace. This forces new business applications providers to architect smart business Intelligence subsystems as an integral components of e-Business applications that are customer, rather company- employee driven. Giving more control to the customers requires good business- intelligence subsystems integration with the e-Business applications to safeguard company's assets and increase customer satisfaction.

Q: What are the advantages & disadvantages to load the BW from flat files vs. with third party ETL tools such as Informatica's PowerCenter ? Would 3rd party tools be more beneficial than the flat-file method if we need to load flat files frequently (every hour)?

A: When you need to load non-R/3 data in the BW, the flat file mechanism requires no tools. It is built in. The disadvantage is that you have to prepare it. The 3rd party tools do provide good ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) functionality and pull data automatically and load in the BW using staging BAPI. But tools are expensive depending on configuration. In my book, I have 3 chapters on this subject and describe pro/cons of each.

Q: For a customer with R/3 and other legacy systems, can you elaborate on any issues that rise when bringing legacy data into the BW?

A: This is reality. I have not seen a company that has 100% SAP data, especially large companies. The main issue is the cultural issue when legacy application folks try to work with the BW. Data mapping and integration is one thing that I could see as a major issue. But that can be handled with a smooth migration model.

Q: Can you discuss the problems that would be encountered when building an SAP BW Warehouse from 2 separate R/3 systems, different versions. Do you have any recommendations on how to approach this from a design point?

A: I do see this is a very common scenario -? and a complex one. I see several models here. One could be two separate BW instances connected to each R/3 and then joined for enterprise reporting. Another option, that I recommend, is to build an Operational Data Store. Move data from both R/3 instances into the ODS and then build InfoCubes or DW BW from there. As I said earlier, it all depends on how information is used by the end users and implementation architecture follows that.

To read the entire transcript of this chat, go here.

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Related Book
Business Information Warehouse for SAP
Author : Naeem Hashmi
Publisher : Prima Publishing
ISBN/CODE : 0761523359
Cover Type : Hard Cover
Pages : 480
Published : Sep 2000
Gain an understanding of what it takes to implement SAP BWTM. Follow along as the author explains the evolution of SAP BW architecture and its components. This book describes the roots of SAP BW and how it has evolved from a simple operational reporting environment to a full-featured information warehouse. Profit from a description of the structure of the SAP BW implementation team and SAP BW ASAP methodology. Learn how to construct data warehouses using BW based on the author's experiences during actual SAP BW implementations.

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