Business Objects Summit: Day 1 Keynote

I’m here in rainy Boston at the Business Objects Influencer Summit, which was kicked off with Jonathan Becher, SVP of Marketing for Business Objects. It’s a very process-oriented message (which explains why I’m here): using business intelligence to drive process efficiency, improve insight to close the gap between strategy and execution, and add flexibility to create new business processes that align operations to strategy.

He was joined by Doug Merritt, EVP and GM of Business User Global Sales (moving from a product role), who continued with the message of how total insight allows organizations to optimize business performance. He discussed a number of customer case studies, focusing on how their easy-to-use end-user tools are being used to solve real business problems.

He also showed the strong tie-in between business intelligence to core SAP systems: insight, strategy and decisions feeding into monitoring, process refinement, process execution and events.

It’s only been just over six months since Business Objects’ acquisition by SAP, a period when most acquired companies take a bit of a dip in sales, but they’ve managed to keep their numbers on an upward growth path.

Becher then introduced Dr. Robert Kaplan from Harvard Business School and Palladium Group, inventor of such business strategy and measurement concepts as balanced scorecard and activity-based costing. We’ve also been given a copy of his book, The Execution Premium — Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage, which I look forward to reading. He walked us through the main concept in the book: closed-look cycle that links strategy and operations:

  1. Develop the strategy
  2. Translate the strategy
  3. Align the organization
  4. Plan operations
  5. Execution
  6. Monitor and learn
  7. Test and adapt

In the middle of this cycle are the strategic plan (e.g., balanced scorecard) and the operating plan (e.g., forecasts, budgets, dashboards), with links to the several steps in the cycle that either create the artifacts of the plans or are informed by those artifacts, as well as interacting with each other.

Sep 2 and 3 represent the creation of the balanced scorecard, and translating that into operational improvement programs (step 4) is a new focus in Kaplan’s book. And here we are again, talking about process — since that’s what step 5 is all about — and how balanced scorecard helps to determine which processes have the most impact on a business’ performance, and are therefore the ones that should be the focus of process improvement efforts.

Becher took us back around the cycle, showing how Business Objects is applied at each of those steps (except execution), which provided an interesting perspective on the different roles of Business Objects within cycle that we in the BPM world know as design-execute-monitor-optimize.

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