Imagine reading the following article on ASUG News in early 2014:
For a company known for breakthrough products with cool features, SAP this week is doing something unusual: It is introducing a key product with very few new features that are visible to its users. This new release, the latest major version of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite, looks and works almost exactly the same as its predecessor, but has been heavily re-engineered under the covers for greater speed and efficiency, and to add future-oriented core technologies.
Sound far fetched? Probably. But those are the (slightly altered) words that the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg wrote in August 2009 about Apple Snow Leopard. For those of you unfamiliar with the Apple Macintosh and its OS X operating system, Snow Leopard, also known as OS X 10.6, was released in June 2009. It was the first OS X upgrade to cost $29 instead of the then-usual $129 and didn’t bring many new features. But it did do a lot of work under the hood that we’ve come to appreciate in OS X 10.7 Lion and the upcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Here’s what David Pogue wrote about Snow Leopard in the New York Times, in Snow Leopard Takes a Page From the App Store Playbook:
Snow Leopard really is faster–and smaller. Yes, smaller: The OS occupies only half the disk space of the previous version, saving you a cool 6 gigabytes. That’s a first in the history of OS upgrades. Apple says that everything is faster, too: Snow Leopard installation is 45 percent faster, shutting down is 75 percent faster, waking up 50 percent faster, 55 percent faster joining Wi-Fi networks, and so on.
Imagine being able to make similar claims about the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
Last week on March 16, 2012, SAP began the ramp-up of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (BI4 FP3), a marriage of Support Pack 3 and what was previously called BI 4.1. Although as easy to deploy as a support pack, it contains a lot of new functionality (think increased user adoption) and new code (think bugs). But it also contains a lot of fixes for last year’s BI 4.0. Feature Pack 3 is slated to go into general availability (GA) in the third quarter of 2012.
Support Pack 4 is most likely already locked in from a feature perspective and will be focused on stabilizing the Feature Pack 3 release. But what then?
I’m proposing Snow Leopard for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. Let’s call it SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.5. Now is a good time for SAP to take a step back, look for opportunities to refactor bloated and hastily written code, reduce system requirements, shorten installation times, increase performance, and address UI consistency. A great time to clean up issues normally tagged as low priority and pushed to the bottom of the fix list.
There’s plenty of time to wait for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 5.0. If my instincts are correct, that release will be fully 64-bit and therefore jettison legacy products like the Universe Design Tool, Business View Manager, and Crystal Reports 2011 (see related article, Thoughts on BI 5.0). That will be a large pill for many enterprises to swallow. And my proposed BI 4.5 would be a great code base to leap from.
So what do you say SAP? Your developers are probably barely clinging onto sanity after two large back-to-back releases (BI 4.0 and BI 4.0 FP3). And your users are a bit stressed, too. We would enjoy some time to actually use the software instead of constantly upgrading it.
I, for one, would love to see a snow leopard running through my data center. How about you?