SAP Analytics Update

A group of bloggers had an update today from Steve Lucas, GM of the SAP business analytics group, covering what happened in 2010 and some outlook and strategy for 2011.

No surprise, they saw an explosion in growth in 2010: analytics has been identified as a key competitive differentiator for a couple of years now due to the huge growth into the amount of information and event being generated for every business; every organization is at least looking at business analytics, if not actually implementing it. SAP has approached analytics across several categories: analytic applications, performance management, business intelligence, information management, data warehousing, and governance/risk/compliance. In other words, it’s not just about the pretty data visualizations, but about all the data gathering, integration, cleanup, validation and storage that needs to go along with it. They’ve also released an analytics appliance, HANA, for sub-second data analysis and visualization on a massive scale. Add it all up, and you’ve got the right data, instantly available.

SAP Analytics products

New features in the recent product releases include an event processing/management component, to allow for real-time event insight for high-volume transactional systems: seems like a perfect match for monitoring events from, for example, an SAP ERP system. There has also been some deep integration into their ERP suite using the Business Intelligence Consumer Services (BICS) connector, although all of the new functionality in their analytics suite really pertains to Business Objects customers who are not SAP ERP customers; interestingly, he refers to customers who have an SAP analytics product but not their ERP suite as “non-SAP customers” – some things never change.

In a move that will be cheered by every SAP analytics user, they’ve finally standardized the user interface so that all of their analytics products share a common (or similar, it wasn’t clear) user experience – this is a bit of catch-up on their part, since they’ve brought together a number of different analytics acquisitions to form their analytics suites.

They’ve been addressing the mobile market as well as the desktop market, and are committing to all mainstream mobile platforms, including RIM’s Playbook. They’re developing their own apps, which will hurt partners such as Roambi who have made use of the open APIs to build apps that access SAP analytics data; there will be more information about the SAP apps in some product announcements coming up on the 23rd. Mobile information consumption is good, and possibly sufficient for some users, but I still think that most people need the ability to take action on the analytics, not just view them. That tied into a question about social BI; Lucas responded that there would be more announcements on the 23rd, but also pointed us towards their StreamWork product, which provides more of the sort of event streaming and collaboration environment that I wrote about earlier in Appian’s Tempo. In other words, maybe the main app on a mobile device will be StreamWork, so that actions and collaboration can be done, rather than the analytics apps directly. It will be interesting to see how well they integrate analytics with StreamWork so that a user doesn’t have to hop around from app to app in order to view and take action on information.

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