To Xcelsius or not Xcelsius in 2013?

This title seemed to drive a lot of traffic and interest, resulting in over 2200 responses in a few days in a survey

The problem?
Customers have made significant investments in BI4, dashboards, and reporting solutions from SAP. While SAP has a grand vision for the future of analytics, when the rubber meets the road, today’s BI4 offering has been difficult for many customers to implement so far. I have spent the last month talking to customers hearing stories that had me shaking my head.

The PEOPLE who are championing SAP technology internally and using it to build business solutions do not want to look bad. Right now, SAP BI4 is making a lot of customers look bad because they are making promises that they can’t keep because technology is getting in the way of execution.

Why customers are up in arms about tools?

Tools like Webi, Xcelsius, and Crystal are matured products with large user bases, expansive communities, and third party vendors to extend and implement functionality. People generally stick with what they know unless forced to do otherwise. The only two forces I have witnessed to push users to new technology is forced deprecation or the introduction of a new tool with incremental value. When a person’s skill sets are at risk of being obsolete, it creates unrest. At BusinessObjects, customers gravitated to Xcelsius not because it was jammed down their throats by BusinessObjects sales reps, but because it was incrementally better at presenting information than any other tool in the stack.

Now we have new tools, all of which are promising, but are grossly over-hyped for what they accomplish at this stage:

MobI- Is repurposes existing content into mobile friendly content, with some nice enhancements. From improved visuals, to offline, and annotation SAP executed the first phase of mobilizing customers by using existing investments. Will SAP innovate anything new for mobility? That is to be seen.

VisI- I am a huge fan of this tool because I am a business user who is technical enough to pick up and run with it.

Design Studio- This is geared toward developers who start with a blank canvas similar to Xcelsius but is skewed toward developers.

Some of the stuff I am seeing in the field is concerning. The messaging from SAP is inconsistent, and my feeling is the statement of direction in 2011 for technology that is more than 3 years away was pre-mature. For example, I had a customer who was told to not use Xcelsius, and instead move to SAP Design Studio after painfully trying to scale a BI4 dashboard using the SAP BICS Connector.

My question that I advised the customer to go back to SAP: What specific architecture innovations have been applied to Design Studio for connectivity, security, and performance? Furthermore, as a customer why SAP is working on 2 different dashboard / app design platforms in parallel without sharing a common service architecture? Is this not why customers invest in a BI “Platform?” If every tool in the SAP stack uses different mechanisms for security, connectivity, and content delivery, are we moving away from a common semantic layer? These are the questions that I have and hope to hash out on our webinar in December. If you have more things you want to know and have us discuss, let me know.


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