SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2012

Much has changed in the past year, but my new year’s resolutions from last year still seem relevant.

Last week, I began a new project helping a customer upgrade from SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP2 to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4). We’re having multiple discussions about which content needs to be moved over, old content and users that need hauled to the curb, the “best practices” that need to continue, and the “worst practices” that need to die. This customer came from “legacy Crystal Enterprise”, which thankfully means that there’s no Desktop Intelligence- roughly 80% Crystal Reports and 20% Web Intelligence. Explorer BW Accelerated and Dashboards are on a BI4 pilot box that’s about ready to go into a small production period before the “big” BI4 environment is ready. Teradata 13. All good stuff.

I’ve been poking through the XI 3.1 Central Management Console (CMC) to decide what should be purged or ignored before running the Upgrade Management Tool into a validation environment. I’m also trying to see if there are any policies or procedures that are evident from the CMC that haven’t been discussed in our kickoff meetings.

I re-read my SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2011 post from last year (available here) to see if it would jumpstart my brain on anything I might have overlooked. At least for 2012, the ten resolutions I mentioned are still good advice, with just a few tweaks.

1. Upgrade or retire older SAP BusinessObjects and Crystal Enterprise versions

Still valid. If you’re not planning to adopt BI 4.0 in 2012, you at least need to get to XI 3.1. Earlier versions of the platform are no longer supported by SAP. And your IT department is bringing in new PCs preloaded with Windows 7 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, the latter requiring SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 5 (SP5) or higher (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7) . Check your current BusinessObjects version’s Product Availability Matrix (PAM) to see where it falls short before the help desk calls start pouring in.

2. Halt all active Desktop Intelligence development

Still good advice. It’s like a smoking cessation program for your business intelligence system.

3. Audit existing Desktop Intelligence reports with an eye toward retirement

Still good advice.

If your team retired all Desktop Intelligence last year, make sure you take time to celebrate the milestone. Oh, and shut down the Desktop Intelligence Cache, Processing, and Job servers.

4. Create a project plan and time line to retire all Desktop Intelligence reports

Ditto.

5. Replace cumbersome advanced rights with custom Access Levels

The system I’m currently working with has a combination of advanced rights and custom access levels. I’m assuming that the former go back to Crystal Enterprise or XI R2. On my current project, I’m going to make the case to replace advanced rights in the BI4 validation environment before moving projects into production with the Life Cycle Manager (LCM).

5. Revisit Active Directory or LDAP authentication

Still good advice. My current project is already 100% LDAP.

6. Celebrate diversity

Last year, I encouraged Web Intelligence users to look at Crystal Reports and vice versa. This year, I would extend that to include Analysis (4.0), Xcelsius/Dashboards, and Explorer. If you’re not using these tools already, take an executive sponsor to lunch and plan a pilot, no matter how small, for 2012. Are your C-level executives roaming the halls with tablets? It’s time to do mobile pilot as well.

I’ve noticed that a lot of organizations, both large and small, are hesitant to deploy desktop software to end users. This means no Web Intelligence Rich Client/Desktop, Live Office, Analysis for Microsoft Office (4.0 only), or Xcelsius/Dashboards. But all of these tools extend the usefulness of Microsoft Excel, your users’ favorite BI tool. Read that last sentence again – I’ll wait for you. I recognize the deployment challenges of desktop applications (I frequently hear that Frank in desktop support is a real pain to work with), but you are missing a huge opportunity to meet your users where they live. I hope to tackle this topic with more depth in a future blog post.

On the browser-only front, remember that SAP BusinessObjects Explorer can visualize Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, not just universes and accelerated SAP BW.

7. Create a BI steering committee

Still good on this one, I think. Has anyone presented at the annual ASUG conference about this topic?

8. Read Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards

What I said last year:

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business is the single best business intelligence book that I’ve encountered. It’s comprehensive, vendor-neutral, and should be read and discussed by both IT and business professionals in your organization.

Wayne’s book is still my favorite “if you only have time to read only one book”, regardless of whether you are a business user or a techie. If you disagree, or have another “must read” BI book, I’d love to hear about it.

The intrepid BI manager will grab the key people on their team, a similar number of power users and executives, cater in lunch once a week (Panera Bread is really good for this), and have a book club for no more than a dozen folks. Tackle one chapter a week. No food throwing during the “Why the business and IT mistrust each other” chapter, please.

9. Start an internal user group

I’m still a huge believer in internal user groups and will be dedicating a huge chunk of my user adoption presentation to them at the upcoming SAP Insider BI 2012 conference.

10. Join ASUG

Yes, I know. Somebody in your organization is going to have to dig into their wallet. But there’s great value in the local chapter meetings, the webcasts, and influence councils. And don’t tell your funding source, but the annual ASUG SAP BusinessObjects conference (SBOUC) is at Walt Disney World (see related article, 2012 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference). Shhhh! Membership details are available here.

So how did I do? Is there something on your team’s new year’s resolutions that I’ve missed? Would love to hear your thoughts.

BusinessObjects Expert BI 2012

What happens in Vegas… could transform your business intelligence strategy. Join me in February at BI 2012.

In just a few months, I’ll be speaking at SAP Insider BI2012 in Las Vegas, a conference sponsored by WIS Publishing and BusinessObjects Expert. The conference features more than 200 sessions and labs, a packed agenda of networking events, and hundreds of demos showcasing the latest updates and best practices for business intelligence solutions.

Follow the hashtag #BI2012 on Twitter to get live updates about the conference.

UPDATE: Check out my December 16, 2011 interview,  Security Access Concerns for Administrators to Tackle, with Scott Wallask, Managing Editor, BusinessObjects Expert

There’s an incredible wealth of talent speaking at this year’s event – experienced voices like Chris Greer, Alan Mayer, Dave Rathbun, Jay RiddleEric Vallo, and Michael Welter. A full list of speakers and their presentations is available from the conference web site or brochure.

The BI2012 conference will be my first appearance at a WIS Publications event. Three of my four breakouts will be about SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. The fourth is about user adoption, a pet topic of mine.

What happens in Vegas… could transform your business intelligence strategy. Join me at BI 2012 for expert sessions and professional networking that can change the way you use Business Objects Business Intelligence.

Here are the abstracts from my BI2012 sessions.

Ensuring a successful Business Objects Explorer deployment — A systems perspective

This session offers a system architectural perspective on how to plan, install, and configure Business Objects Explorer. View a system architecture diagram and workflow to see how Business Objects Explorer fits within the overall context of your landscape. Explore various options for Business Objects Explorer installations, from single-server deployments with Business Objects Edge series to larger, multi-server deployments. Examine criteria to evaluate and determine data sources. Understand when it makes sense to leverage existing universes for your Business Objects Explorer environment, and when it makes sense to invest in SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator or SAP HANA. Get advice for managing key security considerations, including tips to set custom access levels in Business Objects Explorer specific to power users and casual business users. Walk through a detailed demo of how to create, secure, and personalize Business Objects Explorer Information Spaces. Get best practices for deploying Business Objects Explorer onto mobile devices.

A comprehensive introduction to the Business Objects BI security model

This presentation offers an introductory look at the Business Objects BI security model, along with guidelines and technical best practices for ensuring your SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise or Business Objects Edge Series landscape is secure. Get an overview of the key components of a Business Objects security model, including functional security, data security, and infrastructure security, and understand which should be implemented first. Explore options for defining custom access levels to simplify user and application security, including tips for assigning multiple access levels to a single user. Prevent unexpected access rights for groups and users with tips to establish varying levels of inheritance. Learn how to leverage the scope of rights component to assign specific access rights to sub-folders. Understand how to use Central Management Console (CMC) features like Permissions Explorer and Security Query to identify and troubleshoot potential threats to your security model.

Guidelines to secure and personalize your BusinessObjects universes

Learn how to leverage the new information design tool in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 to secure and personalize universes using security profiles to address the security needs of distinct user groups within your organization. First, review key differences between the new information design tool and the previous BusinessObjects universe design tool — including the separation of data layer and business layer and support for multiple data sources in a single universe — and gain insight into how these differences impact universe security. Understand how to restrict access to sensitive KPIs in the universe. Walk through live demos to understand how each restriction type configured on the back-end impacts user interactivity on the front end with tools like SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP Crystal Reports, and SAP Dashboards.

E-learning, help desk, and more: Picking the right training and user adoption approach for your user base

This session explores various user training and adoption methodologies for report end-users and provides criteria for selecting the best approach for your business and user needs. Step through examples that weigh the pros and cons of user training methodologies, ranging from traditional classroom learning and e-learning, to one-on-one mentoring. Get tips for analyzing and revamping the relationship between your organization’s user base and help desk to ensure users are getting the right information at the right time. Explore the benefits of creating an internal user group program to increase user self-sufficiency and address common help desk calls. Get tips for leveraging power users as addendums to local and national user group meetings. Understand the importance of routine user training — such as weekly or monthly — rather than just a one-time post-implementation initiative. Evaluate criteria to choose the most appropriate user training method based on your organization’s training budget and geographical make-up. Take home a sample agenda for a user group meeting to reference back in the office.

Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix – Part Two

Despite some missteps and a thorough hammering by technology writers and customers alike, we can still learn from Netflix.

In part one of Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix (see related article, Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix – Part One), I shared a negative lesson about what Netflix is doing “wrong”. In this post, I’d like to look at something that Netflix is doing right. I figured now would be a good time to finally finish this article since Netflix has been declared “broken” (see related CNET article, Netflix is ‘broken’ with no fix in sight) and it’s stock price is spiralling downward.

No, I’m not going to talk about pricing. And I’m not going to talk about selection. Let’s talk about accessibility. You can watch Netflix virtually anywhere. You can watch Netflix on the three popular gaming consoles: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii. You can watch Netflix from an Internet connected HDTV or Blu Ray player. You can watch Netflix on your phone or tablet. You can watch Netflix from a dedicated television appliance like Apple TV, Roku, and Tivo.

Have you thought about all the technology required to make this possible? Ryan Lawler has and wrote an interesting article about Netflix’s innovative use of WebKit and HTML5 (see related GigaOm article, How Netflix uses WebKit and HTML5 for TV devices).

Netflix currently has three tiers of devices based on their configurations, with the lowest tier having zero animation and small cache sizes. On the top end, devices have animations, large cache sizes and frequent pre-fetching of data. According to the presentation, all devices start in the middle tier and are then throttled up or down based on performance.

What are the lessons for business intelligence? Analytics anywhere! For the past year we’ve heard SAP’s co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagermann Snabe talk about “on-premise, on-demand and on-device”.

SAP BusinessObjects can deliver business intelligence to a web browser, to an email inbox, to Microsoft Excel, to the HDTV hanging from the wall in your distribution center, or to a mobile device. But it can only do these things if enabled by you, the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects.

I’ve noticed a bit of reluctance in IT organizations. Mobile? Nope, nobody has asked us for that. We’ll wait until they do and then tell our users that they’ll have to wait months for us to implement a project. Web Intelligence Desktop (formerly Rich Client)? Live Office? Nope, that’s client software. We don’t deploy that here (despite the fact that Microsoft Excel is, um, client software).

Just as Netflix doesn’t care if you own a Nintendo Wii or an Apple TV, you shouldn’t care if your users prefer browsers or spreadsheets. What you should care about is if they are basing their decision making on an accurate, single version of the truth. If your C-level executives carry iPads, you had better carry one, too.  If your users live in Microsoft Excel, decide if Web Intelligence Desktop, Live Office, Analysis edition for Microsoft Office or some combination best meets their needs. Meet your users where they live and give them a tailored experience for their preferred environment.

What steps are you taking to deploy Netflix, uh, I mean, business intelligence everywhere?  Share your thoughts below.

Read Part One of Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix

Business Intelligence Symposium V

Notes from the Fifth Business Intelligence Symposium at the University of Cincinnati.

Lucrum Business Intelligence Symposium

The University of Cincinnati (U.C.) and Lucrum, Inc. sponsored their fifth Business Intelligence Symposium on September 14, 2011 at the U.C. Carl H. Linder College of Business. The theme was “The New World of Technology: Cockpits and Dashboards”.  The excellent group of keynote speakers included:

Filippo Passerini
Group President GBS & CIO, Proctor & Gamble (P&G)

Will Groneman
EVP System Development, TriHealth

John Ward
Director, Health Systems Integration, TriHealth

Jim Scott
CIO, KnowledgeWorks

After a networking lunch, there were three simultaneous breakouts from Mufaddal Frosh and Ted Wimmel of TriHealth, Jim Scott of KnowledgeWorks, and Mike Zeller of University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP).

While all of the speakers were excellent, what I most remember is Filippo Passerini discussing business intelligence at Proctor & Gamble.  He shared that P&G simultaneously centralizes IT, yet embeds analytic experts directly into business units.  The “what” of business intelligence is old news – it’s available to everyone- and automated.  What P&G is now working on is making the “why” just as accessible.

I’m sure that somebody actually working on BI at P&G would tell me the scenario isn’t as rosy as portrayed at the symposium.  But in many organizations, the CEO and CIO aren’t even near the corporate BI system, despite its supposed importance to the organization.  It was very refreshing to see a CIO intimately acquainted and involved with corporate BI strategy and tying it to corporate business strategy.

The next Business Intelligence Symposium, tentatively titled Innovative Analytics, is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13, 2011.  It’s worth checking out if you practice business intelligence within a 2-3 hour drive of Cincinnati.

 

Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix – Part One

Netflix’s recent moves illustrate some fundamental lessons for BI practitioners.

“All I want to do is watch a movie.”

That was my first thought when I heard of the news to separate Netflix’s streaming content from its DVD rental business (see related Wall Street Journal article, Netflix Separates DVD and Streaming Services). I’m a latecomer to the Netflix party, having only recently put a HDTV in our home as a 2010 Christmas present. I subscribed because a coworker sung the praises of Netflix, not only for home viewing. But because movies could be streamed to a PC or tablet over hotel WiFi, a very attractive service for the road warrior. I noticed pretty quickly that I was placing movies into my streaming queue and only resorting to a DVD if the title wasn’t available to stream. So I’m definitely not excited about having two separate queues and two separate bills from two separate web sites.

Netflix is a business intelligence poster child. Much has been written in the BI trade press about Netflix and their use of predictive analytics to recommend movies, including Thomas Davenport’s book Competing on Analytics. But Netflix’s most recent moves illustrate some more fundamental lessons for business intelligence practitioners.

I agree with John Gruber (see his Daring Fireball article) that Netflix is preparing to sell either one or both halves of the company. Why else establish two distinct brands? Qwikster has neither “net” or “flix” in its name, so it’s a clear separation. Despite CEO Reed Hastings’ claims that Netflix and Qwikster will provide customers with faster innovation, the move is clearly an advantage to Netflix and a disadvantage to customers. And here lies a lesson for business intelligence teams.

“All I want to do is run my report.”

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. But just like Netflix, corporate business intelligence can excel at erecting then rationalizing barriers to our users. We have multiple business intelligence tools from multiple vendors. Or we have multiple versions of a single business intelligence vendor’s tool. And many times there is a reason for the current state of affairs. The problem is, the advantage in our business intelligence architecture is really for us, not our users. And many times, we come up with a lame “but this is better” rationalization to our users, just like Netflix & Qwikster.

One Queue
Just like I want a single Netflix queue for both DVD and streaming video, our users want a single queue for their business intelligence. Here are three things we can do to support a user’s vision of one queue (and our vision of increasing user adoption of business intelligence).

One Business Intelligence Portal

Regardless of the number of vendors or portals in your business intelligence environment, all of them can be unified via your corporate intranet. Provide your users with a single, easy to remember web site to access all business intelligence. Want to go fancier? Many organizations have standardized on tools like Microsoft SharePoint and many business intelligence vendors, including SAP, provide integration tools for seamless integration. And yes, you should be asking yourself why your organization has three different installations and three different versions of the same vendor’s BI software.

One Help Desk

Business users need “one number” to call. Look at all of your customer touch points and eliminate complexity. Don’t require that users need to know that they have to call the Cognos team for situation A but the BusinessObjects team for situation B. Or subject them to endless finger-pointing between the reporting team, the data integration team, and the DBA team. Let your help desk software or business processes manage the complexity of getting the right help to your users.

One Governance Board

Create a single governance board for business intelligence. And a single steering committee with input from the user community. And give them authority. If your organization has three BI tools but one is the corporate standard, business process has to insure that new requirements are implemented on the standard platform. Yes, there’s short-term expediency in having Ralph deliver the solution on a three-versions-old BI tool because he has the bandwidth, but it’s really not serving the long-term interests of the organization. Wayne Eckerson has some excellent ideas about governance and steering in his book Performance Dashboards.

I’m not naive. These ideas are difficult to execute because of corporate politics, not technology barriers. So they must be championed at the management or executive level of either the IT or business organization. But there are tangible cost savings in their implementation. And tangible benefits to happy customers.

Just ask Netflix.

Or is it Qwikster? I’m confused…

Has your organization had success implementing a single queue? Share your thoughts with us.

Read Part Two of Business Intelligence Lessons from Netflix

Branding Business Intelligence

Business intelligence teams can avoid being at the mercy of any vendor’s marketing team.

The lone BusinessObjects sign at SAPPHIRE 2011In a recent article, I shared my belief that SAP is phasing out the BusinessObjects brand (see Whistling Past the Brand Graveyard with BusinessObjects). A few weeks later, ASUG News included the following quote in a piece entitled “SAP BI 4.0 Launch: Still Counting Down to GA from John Schweitzer, SVP of Business Analytics for SAP North America:

As to the future of the BusinessObjects brand, Schweitzer is resolute. “The BusinessObjects brand took years to build and has a fanatical following,” he says. “We have no intention to kill it off.”

Regardless of whether the BusinessObjects brand’s days are numbered, we do know that SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 (BI4) has many new product names. For example, “BI Launch Pad” is the new name for the “InfoView” user portal (here’s a helpful SAP Community Network Wiki cross-reference for BI 4.0 names).

Business intelligence teams can avoid being at the mercy of any vendor’s marketing team by building their own business intelligence brand using these three steps.

Create Your Business Intelligence Brand

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Don’t worry if you aren’t creative enough to create a splashy and original name like “Xcelsius” because somebody in your organization will eventually shoot it down and make you change it to something dull like “Dashboards”. Sometimes boring is good. You work for the Acme Corporation? Easy. Call your BI portal the “Acme Business Intelligence Portal”, or “Acme Business Intelligence” for short. Or maybe “Acme Analytics Portal” if the term “analytics” isn’t a loaded term (or somebody else’s turf) in your organization.

Similar branding should occur for your BusinessObjects development team, which should become the Acme Business Intelligence team. If your organization uses multiple information delivery tools or teams, present a single, unified face to the user community regardless of how your development teams are actually structured.

Implement Your Business Intelligence Brand

Once you’ve established your brand, you’ll want to implement it on your SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise server, regardless of which version you are using. I’ve blogged previously about the specific details (see related articles Customizing BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 and Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0, and Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1), but here are the high-level steps:

  1. Work with your corporate art department to create a suitable and small version of your organization’s logo to replace the default “SAP BusinessObjects” logos in InfoView or the BI Launch Pad. Just like SAP, you might want the image to be mostly text (for example, the “Acme Business Intelligence Portal” or “Acme Business Intelligence”)
  2. Modify the InfoView or the BI Launch Pad home page greeting with your own name for the BI portal.
  3. Create a modified version the default InfoView Cascading Style Sheet (style.css) that aligns with your organization’s color palate.
  4. Add a favicon.ico of your organization’s logo to the appropriate directories of the web application server to replace the default InfoView or BI Launch Pad icon.
  5. Replace any common DNS redirects like http://businessobjects.acme.com with http://businessintelligence.acme.com or http://bi.acme.com, although you might want to defer this step and its complexity until your organization adopts BI 4.

You’ll also want to read Eric Vallo’s post, “Defining a Business Intelligence Branding Strategy“.

Promote Your Business Intelligence Brand

This is probably the hardest step, but it doesn’t require much technical skill. Once you’ve created your organization’s BI brand, you need to promote it. Begin by searching your corporate intranet. Replace any links to “Business Objects” or “InfoView” with “Business Intelligence”. Be sure to look for popular abbreviations like BO, BOBJ, or BzO.

Next, look at internal user documentation.  It’s OK (and helpful) to let your users know that they are using software from BusinessObjects (take a moment to update any vendor references to SAP BusinessObjects). But there will be many references to “BusinessObjects” that should be changed to “Acme Business Intelligence” or “Acme Business Intelligence Portal”. Again, eliminate any references to InfoView.

Finally, review your customer support mechanisms such as a help desk systems and software. For example, instead of a user hearing “Press 1 for BusinessObjects”, they should hear “Press 1 for Business Intelligence, including SAP BusinessObjects”. And tickets logged into help desk software should be classified as “Business Intelligence”, not “Business Objects”.

Some of these changes can be made quietly and without fanfare. But at some point, you’ll want to promote your BI team’s new brand in your organization’s corporate newsletter and on the corporate intranet. Larger organizations usually have a change management team that can assist with the communication effort. This is your team’s big moment, so be sure to remind your readers why they need (and should love) your business intelligence team.

Conclusion

Create, Implement, and Promote your organization’s own internal business intelligence brand. Use the brand to establish a stronger connection to your user community and to reduce the impact of vendor name changes.

Has your organization created its own BI brand?  I’d love to hear your best practices.  Please share your comments.

Whistling Past the Brand Graveyard with BusinessObjects

Although nothing official has been announced, the BusinessObjects brand seems to be headed to the brand graveyard.

I’m not sure there’s a prize given for the most stale blog post about last month’s SAPPHIRE 2011, but this one certainly could be a finalist.  But better late than never.  I was part of the 14,000 screaming SAP fans at the recent SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG 2011 combined event in Orlando, Florida.  Even better than getting my hands on BI Mobile for the Apple iPad was getting to see Sting in concert.

SAP SAPPHIRE 2011 Badge

I arrived early on Sunday and took the time to stroll through the conference area at the Orange County Convention Center.  Construction crews were still working feverishly to assemble vendor booths.  But it was a great opportunity to take photos of the main conference area.  Here is the banner hanging in the corner formerly known as the SAP BusinessObjects corner.  As Timo Elliot recently wrote (see his article Business Analytics vs Business Intelligence?), business intelligence is clearly out and business analytics is in.

SAP SAPPHIRE Business Analytics

Most of the traditional “BusinessObjects” products were labeled under Business Intelligence, which according to SAP is a subset of their Business Analytics offerings.  The irony of an out-of-focus iPhone 3GS photo of a “see more clearly” sign is purely unintentional.

SAP SAPPHIRE 2011 Business IntelligenceWhat was conspicuously absent was any mention of the BusinessObjects brand.  After scouring the Business Analytics area, I finally found one sign.  It was on the back of a demo area, not visible to conference attendees walking through the main entrance.  Perhaps it was used to cover up a hole? One lousy mention of SAP BusinessObjects.

The lone BusinessObjects sign at SAPPHIRE 2011

So it would seem that BusinessObjects will soon be in the brand graveyard with other proud brands like Pontiac and Northwest Airlines.  I don’t have any inside knowledge about this prediction – just my own photos and my gut. Customers can get attached to brands.  Consultants, too.  It’s hard to say “goodbye” to something that has been your livelihood for almost a decade.  And you probably don’t even want to ask the Xcelsius Gurus over at Everything Xcelsius for their opinion about SAP’s recent branding moves.

But I won’t be shedding a tear for BusinessObjects, at least not in public.

The forthcoming release of SAP’s BI suite is officially called SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.  But even the Twitter hashtag has succumbed – it’s #BI4, not #BO4 or #BOBJ4.  My prediction is that the next major release will be called simply SAP Business Intelligence 5.0.

If my assumptions are correct, there are two branding questions that deserve further exploration.  First, what steps can an organization that has standardized on BusinessObjects take to prepare their user community for upcoming brand changes (read related article Branding Business Intelligence)?  And second, what steps should BusinessObjects professionals take to update their resume and their own personal brands (read related article SAP BusinessObjects Resume Tips)?  I will answer these two questions in upcoming blog postings.

Will you cry at the BusinessObjects funeral?  Join a twelve-step recovery group?  As always, your comments are welcome.

Performance Dashboards, Second Edition by Wayne Eckerson

If you’re looking for your first book on business intelligence, dashboards and performance management, this is it. And if you own the first edition, you’ll appreciate the new chapters, case studies, and reorganization of the material.

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business by Wayne Eckerson is quite possibly my favorite business intelligence book (Wiley, 2nd edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0470589830). I reviewed the first edition several years ago and recommended it to my clients, regardless of whether they were business users or IT professionals (see my earlier review of the first edition, Performance Dashboards). So I was delighted when a review copy of the second edition arrived at my doorstep. As I began reading, I had two primary questions. First, would it still be the first book I’d recommend? And second, should owners of the first edition purchase the second edition?

I’m happy to say that the answer to both questions is “yes”. Although the book covers the same themes as its predecessor, the book’s contents have been reorganized and over 50% of the material is new. The 308-page book is organized into three parts and 15 chapters. There’s even electronic editions for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Google Books.

The first part, The Landscape for Performance Dashboards, provides a solid foundation of concepts. Business professionals will want to read the chapter entitled Assessing Your Organizational Readiness.  And technical professionals will want to read the chapter entitled Assessing Your Technical Readiness. But both chapters should be read by all readers, as many dashboard projects fail because one side fails to understand the challenges of the other. Which is why part one concludes with a chapter entitled How to Align Business and IT. The chapter on technical readiness presents Eckerson’s BI Maturity Model, which can help technical teams assess not only where they are but also have a productive dialog with their business sponsors about how to get to the next stage in the model.

The second part, Performance Dashboards in Actions, provides brand new case studies for each of the three types of dashboards: operational, tactical and strategic. There are two case studies for each type so readers can compare and contrast the different approaches.

The final part, Critical Success Factors: Tips from the Trenches contains six chapters, each titled “How to…”. These chapters provide helpful checklists that will help organizations structure their requirements and project plans. They’ll also help frame questions to vet potential outsourcing partners.

If you’re looking for your first book on business intelligence, dashboards and performance management, this is it. And if you own the first edition, you’ll appreciate the new chapters, case studies, and reorganization of the material. I’ve seen many dashboard projects fail because either the business sponsors, the IT department, or sometimes both think that they can continue business as usual. There is a third way and Performance Dashboards is a useful guide that can help you find it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2011

Here are some BI resolutions that can improve your organization’s BI effectiveness in the new year.

Ahhhh, a new year. Time for IT reorganizations, kick-off meetings, and whiteboards filled with new team goals. And 2011 is the year that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4) will be released – the first major release since SAP acquired BusinessObjects. As part of your IT goal setting, it’s always a good idea to revisit BI strategy and tactics. Here are some BI resolutions that can improve your organization’s BI effectiveness for the new year.

1. Upgrade or retire older SAP BusinessObjects and Crystal Enterprise versions

If you’re enterprise is actively using BusinessObjects Enterprise 5.x, 6.x, XI R1, XI R2 or any edition of Crystal Enterprise, it’s time to upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. You might be tempted to say “everything is working fine”, but a closer examination will show that these products are out of patch support. You might also be tempted to classify your BI environment as “stable”, but the rest of your enterprise has upgraded operating systems, databases, Microsoft Office, browsers and Java in the name of improved security and stability. It’s simply not worth the desktop security risk to keep users on Internet Explorer 6 or out-of-support versions of Java. And none of these older editions of BusinessObjects or Crystal Enterprise support Microsoft Windows 7 (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7).

2. Halt all active Desktop Intelligence development

Whether you are using XI R2 or XI 3.1, it’s time to stop actively building Desktop Intelligence reports. Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 is the last edition – it has vanished from SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 that will be released early this year. Remember that Desktop Intelligence can be deactivated from the Central Management Console, either all at once or on a group by group basis, even if the software is still on your users’ desktops.

3. Audit existing Desktop Intelligence reports with an eye toward retirement

XI 3.0 introduced auditing of Desktop Intelligence (and Web Intelligence Rich Client) via the Client Audit Processing Service (CAPS). Auditing can be a great help for large numbers of undocumented Desktop Intelligence reports and should be on any bullet list of “reasons to upgrade” from the older platforms mentioned above. Use auditing statistics to reduce the number of reports that require conversion to Web Intelligence.

4. Create a project plan and time line to retire all Desktop Intelligence reports

Web Intelligence gets better with each release. Many Desktop Intelligence reports can be retired in XI R2. Even more can be retired with XI 3.1 SP2 or higher.  SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 promises to have the richest set of Desktop Intelligence features in Web Intelligence 4.0. So you may not be able to get rid of 100% of your Desktop Intelligence reports until you adopt BI 4.0, but at least you’ll have a manageable plan. Be sure to include publications (report bursting) in your plan. XI R2 publications only supported Desktop Intelligence. XI 3.0 and higher supports Desktop Intelligence publications but adds support for publications created with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence. Of these, publications based on Crystal Reports have the most robust feature set. Don’t immediately assume that a Desktop Intelligence publication should become a Web Intelligence publication – Crystal Reports may be the best option.

4. Replace cumbersome advanced rights with custom Access Levels

In XI R2, many security situations had to be resolved with advanced rights. Although flexible, they aren’t terribly self-documenting or easy to troubleshoot. XI 3.0 introduced custom Access Levels, which is one of my favorite features. Develop some good naming conventions and you’ll find your security model much easier to build and troubleshoot (if you’re currently on XI R2, you’ll appreciate the improved security troubleshooting tools in the XI 3.1 CMC).

5. Revisit Active Directory or LDAP authentication

If you’re still doing user and password management with BusinessObjects, revisit the use of Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP (depending on your corporate standards) with the security organization in your IT department, especially if you’ll be upgrading to XI 3.1 or BI 4.0 in 2011. Remember that BusinessObjects supports multiple authentication modes, so use of “third-party” authentication like AD and LDAP can be gradually phased in.

6. Celebrate diversity

If your reporting is 100% Crystal Reports or 100% Desktop Intelligence/Web Intelligence, it’s time to embrace the other tool. Many IT organizations are segregated, with Crystal Reports developers in one silo and “classic BusinessObjects” developers in another. In most cases, the entire organization benefits from a central Business Intelligence Competency Center or Center of Excellence. And that centralized organization benefits from having as many different crayons in the BI toolbox as possible. If creating a BICC is too large of a step, at least begin by sprucing up IT’s front door and centralizing and streamlining the business process for new information requests.

7. Create a BI steering committee

If you don’t already have one, create a BI steering committee. Look for your BI organizations biggest supporters. Also identify key data consumers that may not be currently using your current infrastructure. Identify at least three specific goals to assist all of these folks better in the new year.

8. Read Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (read my book review) is the single best business intelligence book that I’ve encountered. It’s comprehensive, vendor-neutral, and should be read and discussed by both IT and business professionals in your organization.

9. Start an internal user group

If you don’t have one, begin a quarterly internal user group. It’s a great way to increase user adoption and knock down the barriers between the business and IT.

10. Join ASUG

ASUG is the Americas’ SAP Users Group and provides lots of resources through webinars, conferences, and local chapters throughout North America.  Membership in 2011 is still free to BusinessObjects organizations. Lobby your organization to join and lower any internal barriers to participation in local and national events.

2011 promises to be an exciting year as technologies such as mobile devices and in-memory databases enter the mainstream. What are your organization’s business intelligence resolutions for 2011 – please post a comment. Good luck with your BI endeavors and enjoy the journey!

Thrilled To Be On the Team

Quorum Business Solutions, my employer, was recently selected as the SAP BusinessObjects Authorized Education Services Partner of the Year for 2009. This award recognizes the partner that:

  • Delivered the most onsite and public education services revenue
  • Executed excellent class participation rates
  • Consistently achieved top customer satisfaction ratings

Quorum was recognized for being an exemplary Trusted Advisor through its commitment in educating customers on Business Intelligence and providing a solution that is best for the customer.

I’m really thrilled to be part of a great education team and am lucky to have Deanna Glinka, Penny Brewer, Gary Kuertzel, and Pam Johnson as both co-workers and friends.  Great job, team!  And here’s to an even better 2010!