It’s election season in the United States. Thousands of red, white, and blue balloons have dropped from the ceilings of the recently concluded Republican and Democratic conventions. Now it’s time for the final sprint of campaign speeches, baby kissing, debates, and (sigh) incessant negative campaign ads before the November 6, 2012 election.
This week, hundreds of SAP BusinessObjects professionals will gather at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida for our own sort of political convention – the annual ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference. It’s been four years since SAP acquired Business Objects on January 22, 2008 and the question many attendees will be asking themselves is this one:
Are you better off than you were four years ago?
It’s certainly not an easy question.
The relationship between SAP and many of its traditional BusinessObjects customers is “it’s complicated”. It got off to a rocky start with a clumsy transition to SAP support, layoffs in the BusinessObjects sales and support teams, the dismantling of the Business Intelligence University, and a lengthy development cycle for SAP’s flagship business intelligence offering— SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.
Many of these customers have been sitting on the sidelines of the 4.0 upgrade with concerns over product stability, support for legacy technologies such as Desktop Intelligence, a decline in the quality of education materials, and the general perception that most of the exciting features on the 4.0 platform are exclusively for SAP’s traditional ERP customers. Customers have also been checking out offerings from SAP’s smaller and nimbler business intelligence rivals. SAP seems to be hedging its bets by continuing to update the XI 3.1 platform for new features such as mobility, but many innovations require a brave leap to 4.0.
There’s plenty to like in the BI 4.0 suite. And there’s plenty of upside in the SAP acquisition, having a product owner with deep pockets to invest in technologies like mobile analytics and SAP HANA (read Greg Myers’ upbeat assessment, The World Is Changing). On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be part of a panel discussion with SAP Mentors and Diversified Semantic Layer hosts Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald and Eric Vallo entitled “SAP BusinessObjects BI4: How to Make the Magic Happen“. We’re looking forward to answering customer questions and hearing their concerns.
Follow hashtag #SBOUC on Twitter to follow developments from the conference.
The slogan on the conference PowerPoint templates is “Business Intelligence for a Passionate Community,” which is no understatement. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, signing copies of the new SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 book from SAP Press, participating in the Developer Wars with my fellow SAP Press authors (Jim Brogden, Gabe Orthous, and Heather Sinkwitz), presenting two breakout sessions, and hanging out in EV Technologies‘ booth 102 with my awesome coworkers. It’s going to be a busy and exciting week.
But just like American voters, attendees at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference will have the question “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” echoing in their minds as they hear the keynotes, attend breakout sessions, investigate hands-on demos, and wander through the partner showcase. Whether it’s audibly spoken, it is the question that many customers will be asking.
And I hope SAP tackles the question head-on.
Is your business intelligence program better off than it was four years ago? Continue the conversation in the comments section.