This year’s SAP BusinessObjects user conference felt a little different from years past. Conversations that I had with customers were generally upbeat. However, a consistent thread to those conversations were how painful the BI4 transition has been. Story after story about hot fixes and bugs being disruptive causing major project delays, missing functionality, performance, and a host of other issues has tarnished BI4. I think the “we are all in this together” attitude is one that the ecosystem has adopted, which isn’t how it should be.
Visual Intelligence was touted on stage as an exciting, new, and innovative tool. In the next sentence, it was described as a technology designed to combat disruptive technologies like Tableau and QlikView which were un-named on stage. So the latest innovation from SAP was intended to play catch up with niche players who have been eating SAP’s lunch… This is of course me reading between the lines. A quick showing of an HTML5 demo of Xcelsius did seem to cause a lot of head nodding but that innovation will need to wait until later this year, when SAP takes the wraps off this new functionality and puts it in the hands of customers. Predictive analytics is an area that I am very excited about but I think the biggest barrier to adoption here is that SAP needs to educate its customers and partners what kind of skill sets are required to make this technology sing. A traditional report or dashboard developer is not going to pick up the predictive analytics tools and run with it. I think the fact that most of the BusinessObjects innovations do not connect back to the platform on day one, is a legitimate concern for customers that came up in many discussions.
Finally, I was able to take part in a live webcast that made some noise of its own, but likely for the wrong reasons.. The topics discussed were support, SAP engagement with customers in social media, feedback, ramp-up, and concerns over tools. The rawness of the live broadcast was criticized, though it really did surface some interesting perspective and positive assurance from SAP leadership.