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SAP Business Objects Review

3

Problems reporting against an OLAP database.

BI Analyst at a large electronics manufacturer struggles with SAP Business Warehouse / Business Object integration issues. Upgrading to Version 4.0 has helped significantly, but issues remain.

Overall Satisfaction

On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend SAP Business Objects if asked by a colleague?

6/10
This review6
SAP Business Objects Average8.4
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.5
Corporate Performance Management Average8.1

Please provide some examples of things that SAP Business Objects does particularly well.

  • I would score an 8 if reporting on a relational database - performance is good and the product works well.
  • Features and options are good. It can cater to many different use cases, depending on end-user requirements.
  • The suite contains multiple tools - OLAP, Explorer, Dashboards. It's highly versatile with a great variety of tool-sets. It doesn't force people to do things one way using a single tool.
  • However, continuing problems in reporting against an OLAP database reduce the overall score to a 6.

Please provide some examples of areas where SAP Business Objects has room for improvement.

  • BW / Business Objects integration: SAP has more work to do here. Version 4.0 has removed major obstacles in stability, but we still have a lot of performance issues. The Business Objects features have been limited by the BW background. I would give this a score of 5 overall.
  • SAP is pushing an in-memory database solution - HANA. SAP resources are focused on moving BW to HANA database. I believe BO performance will improve significantly as a result of this. We want to re-evaluate our data warehousing strategy, middle of next year. We are going on two paths currently. We want to take a step back and re-evaluate if SAP has a better solution.
  • Dashboard tool sub-standard relative to Tableau. Takes weeks to get working vs. days in Tableau to build.
  • Mobile compatibility is far ahead in Tableau.
  • From the admin perspective, Business Objects is not fine tuned out of the box.
  • Rolling out support packages is not disciplined -sometimes every 2 weeks, sometimes every 2 months.
  • No good alerting and monitoring systems.
  • No handshake to BW - e.g. send something on a trigger basis from another system to Business Objects.

What positive or negative impact (i.e. Return on Investment or ROI) has SAP Business Objects had on your overall business objectives?

  • Sales - helps track revenue, shipments, pay commissions to reps.
  • Operations - usability of tool is good - one common repository for every body to see reports. This really is a one-stop-shop for reporting.
  • Inter-operability of analysis views.

On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to renew your use of SAP Business Objects?  Why do you give it this rating?

8/10
We will likely make this decision at the end of next year. We have 2 paths. We have to determine how we consolidate our various data warehouses, and what are the enterprise promoted tools.

Most of the operations reports are in the WebI ad-hoc reporting tool, and we don't have any complaints about them.
This review8
SAP Business Objects Average8.4
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.7
Corporate Performance Management Average7.9

Product Usage

How many people in your company use SAP Business Objects?   What business functions do they represent?

300 - Operations

Finance

Sales

How many people do you have in-house to support SAP Business Objects on an on-going basis.  Describe the types of people or skills required to support SAP Business Objects.

2 - One is a DBA, the other is SAP Basis person.

What are the 3-5 most important use cases for this product in your organization?

  • Operations: We use Business Objects to create operational reports on manufacturing processes. We pull data from SAP ERP into BW and then report on that data.
  • Finance: We bring in data from SAP ERP to BW and report using the native BW reporting tool called BusinessExporer (BEx). This has all GL information, and we use a profitability analysis tool called CO-PA (cost and profitability analysis) to track revenue, and sales goals.
  • Sales:we pull data from all systems - SAP ERP, Salesforce.com, SAP CRM - and bring the data intoto BW, for where we report on it using Business Objects. We use Business Objects to build pipeline reports, revenue reports, shipment reports. and also to track the revenue quarter to quarter. We have another system called Adexa Collaborative Demand Planning (CDP) - for trend analysis and forecasts.
  • We are not using Salesforce as revenue system. Everything related to revenue has to come from SAP. Primary report that SAP is looking for is revenue. We collect all data from transactional systems into BW.

What are some unexpected or innovative ways that your organization has been able to use SAP Business Objects?

What are some additional ways that your organization might be able to use SAP Business Objects in the future?

Evaluation and Selection

Did SAP Business Objects replace another product in your organization?  What products did you replace and why did you want to replace them?

We were using the SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) for reporting, visualization etc. - We are still using Business Warehouse for for certain sets of users.

The primary reason for BO was that we had a data source coming from MySQL - a non-SAP system. The options we had were to bring this data into the SAP BW or purchase Business Objects so that we could report on this data without having to bring it into BW. We were pushed hard by SAP to purchase Business Objects. Our first use case was for the non-SAP data source.

In general, we are a heavy SAP shop. Our Enterprise Resource Planning system is SAP, but recently we started using Salesforce in addition to SAP CRM (Salesforce is not used for revenue tracking).

Business Objects comes with several component tools:

- Dashboards for visualization (previously known as Xcelcius)
- Web Intelligence (WebI) and ad-hoc reporting and querying environment
- Universe for data exploration (enables the end-user to interact with data without having to understand the complexities of database logic)
- Crystal Reports for more formatted reports.

Every tool has its own strength. Previously we only had OLAP analysis capabilities via the BW. For more web reporting, we used web application designer.

The switch to Business Objects allowed us to report on non-OLAP, SQL data sources which is great. However, before Version 4.0, it was not performing well on OLAP data in BW. We had a bunch of performance issues. BO was acquired in 2008 and it took four years to come up with more stable version. SQL-based access to BW data is now included and Business Objects running against a relational database, is much more powerful. But if I try to do the same thing against an OLAP source like BW, performance is constrained, and some of the features are not unlocked. we are still hampered in OLAP.

To a certain degree it's fixed in 4.0, which is a pretty big leap from Version 3, but it's still not 100% fixed. We still have some issues.

Which other products were on your short list as alternatives to SAP Business Objects?  What made you choose SAP Business Objects over the alternatives?

Originally, Business Objects was implemented before I joined.

When we had issues with Business Objects Version 3, we evaluated:

1) Tableau - This is a great product, really rich/appealing, and good mobile finctionality, but the price and the ETL functionality were issues. Allso performance of Tableau against OLAP data was not that good. It was much better against relational databases.

2) SQL BI - This had most of the features looking for. We have started to use SQL BI tools - not in production, we are stilltesting. We are not using with OLAP - we bring data from BW and store in a SQL data mart, stage, transform if required, model, then report.

- Finance still using old SAP BW tools.
- Operations is using BO 4.0
- Another group using Business Objects 3.1, and is going to try out SQL BI tools

We also evaluated another product called Greenplum (acquired by EMC). This has no front end to it, and is essentially a data warehouse.

Which factors were most important in your decision to purchase SAP Business Objects?

If you had it to do over, how might you change the evaluation and selection process that you went through?

Implementation

On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied were you with the implementation?  Do you have any key insights regarding implementation of SAP Business Objects?

5/10
For both 3.1 and 4.0 implementation was a combination of us and SAP Professional Services.

Tool implementation is overall pretty easy.

In addition to SAP, we hired another consulting company to help audit and troubleshoot. They didn't find anything wrong with what we were doing - although we were experiencing some issues.
This review5
SAP Business Objects Average7.3
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.5
Corporate Performance Management Average8.6

How did your organization implement SAP Business Objects?

  • Vendor implemented
  • Implemented in-house
  • Professional services company

Was the implementation broken up into phases?

Was organizational change management a big part of the implementation?

What were the most significant issues encountered during implementation?

Training

What kind of training did your organization get on SAP Business Objects?

  • Online training
  • In-person training
  • Self-taught

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the in-person training?

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the online training?  Why do you give it this rating?

I haven't used it or got feedback from the end user.

Content looks to be pretty detailed. Focused on SQL but not BW.

Was the product easy to learn without training? Would you recommend this approach to others?

We learned through on the job training as administrators.

End users learn through documentation, online training and classroom training that we put on. We put on a class whenever we roll out a new report.

Support

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the overall support for SAP Business Objects?  Why do you give it this rating?

7/10
Initial level of support is normal. Used to respond quickly, now less so. Quality seems to be degrading a little.

Level of expertise - sometimes it takes months to get to the right level of information, sometimes it can be fairly quick. On average it's pretty fast compared to other SAP tools. Business Objects support is better than that for other SAP products.
This review7
SAP Business Objects Average7
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.1
Corporate Performance Management Average7.3

Please rate customer support for SAP Business Objects for each of these factors .

/10
PositivesNegatives
None
None

If available, do you pay for premium support?  Why or why not?

Yes - Seeing how difficult the tool is to keep up and running, our CIO decided to do this.

Have you ever reported a bug with SAP Business Objects?

Can you describe a time when SAP provided you with exceptional support for this product?

Usability

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate SAP Business Objects's overall usability?  Why do you give it this rating?

7/10
If end users are trained enough, this tool is pretty slick. People can create reports without too much trouble.

Training is a very important component to use the tool. Most training is pretty straightforward. Classroom training comprises 3-4 sessions or two weeks of orientation.
This review7
SAP Business Objects Average8.5
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.6
Corporate Performance Management Average8.6

Please rate SAP Business Objects for each of the factors on the System Usability Scale.

/10
PositivesNegatives
None
None

What functions are particularly easy or elegant to perform using SAP Business Objects?

What functions are particularly difficult or cumbersome to perform using SAP Business Objects?

Does SAP Business Objects provide a mobile interface?

Reliability

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the product's overall scaleability?

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the product's overall availability?  Why do you give it this rating?

6/10
When we implemented 3.1, we had a tough time managing the system: It took almost a year to stabilize.

With 4.0, we want to roll out to more users, and are holding back because of fears about the performance issue
This review6
SAP Business Objects Average8
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average9.1
Corporate Performance Management Average8.4

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the product's performance?  Why do you give it this rating?

6/10
Highly contingent on source database.
This review6
SAP Business Objects Average8
Business Intelligence/Analytics Average8.3
Corporate Performance Management Average8.2

Integration

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate SAP Business Objects for ease of integration?

What systems have you integrated or attempted to integrate with?   What is the depth of integration and how difficult was it to achieve?

  • SAP Business Warehouse
  • SQL relational database tool called Planview
Data from SAP CRM, etc, into BW.

Are there systems that you would like to integrate with or plan to integrate with?   To your knowledge, do the vendors support or plan to support this integration?

SAP ERP directly
SAP has given a few direct integration points for specific use cases. This helps us to avoid ETL processes.

Which of these integration technologies have you used with SAP Business Objects?

What advice do you have regarding integration with SAP Business Objects?

Vendor Relationship

On a scale of 1-10, how easy was the vendor to work with during the sales process?  Why do you give them this rating?

It's tough.They are very bureaucratic - there's no one person to go to who can directly help us .We have a service coordinator - every meeting has 10 people.

No dedicated technical account manager.

On a scale of 1-10, how easy was the vendor to work with after the sale?

What were the principle terms that you were able to negotiate with the vendor?

Do you have any tips or advice for more effectively dealing with the vendor?

This review covers the 3.1, 4.0 SP edition of SAP Business Objects.

About the Reviewer

This review reflects the author's perspective as Senior BW/BI Technical Analyst at Silicon Labs.
Industry:
Electrical/Electronic Manufacturing
Company Size:
501-1000 employees

About SAP Business Objects

This review covers the 3.1, 4.0 SP edition of SAP Business Objects.