Today was the first day of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. It started with a keynote from John Schwartz, CEO of Business Objects, now a division of SAP. John used sailing metaphors to encourage organizations to continue making strides with business intelligence to help weather economic storms. There were no new product introductions, as the flagship BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 was quietly released earlier in the month. However, there were a few product demonstrations from the Business Objects Labs, such as the ability to post back data to a data source. Conspicuously absent was any discussion of the product roadmap. Also conspicuously absent was Bernard Liautaud, founder of Business Objects. No offense to John, but Bernard’s absence was yet another reminder of the consequences of adding “a division of SAP” to the Business Objects corporate logo.
Next, Ryan Goodman gave a well-attended session entitled “Next Generation of Dashboards Using Xcelsius 2008”. There wasn’t much new information for existing Xcelsius 2008 customers, but he did take the time to show off the new custom Xcelsius components developed by his company, Centigon Solutions.
One of the best sessions I attended was by Tom Nather of the Cleveland Clinic, entitled “Implement Sign On with Dashboards and Xcelsius 2008”. He was joined on stage by Tim Ziemba, a Business Objects support engineer, and discussed SSO using both Trusted Authentication and Vintela. These gentlemen did a great job going narrow and deep on an important topic that has historically not been well documented by Business Objects. Note to Business Objects: get more knowledgeable support engineers like Tim in front of customers at these events.
The least useful presentation of the day goes to Business Objects, with their “Where is Business Objects Headed with Dashboards and Scorecards”. After being promised with the latest information, it appears that the answer is “We don’t know, check back in 2010”. On the Dashboards and Visualization side, the answer is clear: Xcelsius, Xcelsius, Xcelsius!!! Oh, and Dashboard Builder, which as of earlier this year is included as “standard” on all Business Objects Enterprise and Business Objects Edge Series editions. The real mystery is regarding performance management. The end of life (EOL) has been declared for analytics in Dashboard Builder as well as the existing Performance Manager product. These features/products are being phased out in favor of the ironically named SAP Strategy Management, obtained by SAP’s February 2007 acquisition of Pilot Software. Ironic, as nobody at Business Objects seems to be clearly managing the strategy for performance management. The lights in the auditorium went out several times during the presentation, perhaps a metaphor for the current product roadmap, which consisted of black text on dark brown boxes – very illuminating indeed.
Day one of the conference concluded with “Virtually Yours“, a great presentation on virtualization and Business Objects. And I’m not just saying this because the presentation was given by Alan Mayer, my manager at Integra Solutions. Alan was joined on stage by James Landis of Southwest Airlines. The breakout provided solid information about both the benefits and challenges of using products such as VMware. It was a timely topic that provided balance to the seemingly endless Xcelsius 2008 breakouts that saturate this year’s conference schedule.