In the first part of this column, guest expert Jon Reed expressed confidence in the future job prospects of SAP BI professionals. But what does our other expert voice on the Business Object acquisition think? Jon Reed sat down with Information Frameworks Chief Research Officer Naeem Hashmi for a job growth reality check.
“From an SAP BI professional growth perspective, SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects (BO) brings a great opportunity,” Hashmi said. “Business Objects offers a superior and flexible presentation environment. However, whether the back end ends up being BO, SAP BI 7, Oracle, MS SQL, DB2, etc., you still need data warehousing skills to construct a data access environment regardless if you use the SAP BI or BO front end. For that reason, if I am an SAP BI consultant, I do not worry about the BO acquisition by SAP. If I was only a BO consultant, I would be concerned, however.
I see greater hardship for BO consultants learning and becoming fluent in SAP BI. Under NetWeaver, BI training and skills are very important. SAP BI consultants will find it much easier to learn BO and become fluent in BO technology quickly.
Note that the heart of BI usage is not really the technology, but the business side of “business intelligence” and here is where I see the BO acquisition will bring a wide array of good knowledge about building user-friendly business intelligence solutions into SAP (and to SAP BI consultants).
I do not see much of an impact of BO on SAP BI consultants. SAP BI is going to grow. Perhaps there will be a robust RFC (or other high performance data exchange method) to build BO universes automatically, and synchronize them easily from a backend SAP BI broadcaster or other method.
This way, enterprise BI users would still enjoy access to clean SAP and non-SAP data and have the ability to analyze data through a powerful BO user front-end using local universes. At this point, the SAP-BO integration plans are still on the drawing boards, so we’ll have to see how the future BO roadmap will evolve towards disappearing within the SAP Solutions. But at this point, the outlook for SAP BI consultants looks promising.
So what can an SAP BW or BI consultant do to prepare for the SAP BI profession for the future?
1) Take some BO training for your short-term competitive edge. Learn the business intelligence language of non-SAP business users. SAP BI consultants need to become “enterprise bi-linguals.” Learn the BO Data Integrator (which is the Acta ETL tool), which could eventually become the SAP ETL tool for non-SAP data sources without coding ABAP.
2) Get some training in Enterprise Architecture (EA). This will help you understand the actual business processes that span across SAP and non-SAP solutions, how people use information and when/how/why they make decisions that pertain to the BI side. You will be a better BI consultant with some EA understanding, and this will enable you to diversify your profession as well.
3) I would also suggest BO consultants start learning SAP BI and get used to the SAP BI lingo. The BO universes will disappear from the SAP universe sooner than you may have imagined. Prepare yourself with SAP BI.”
I think Naeem has summarized this situation well, both in terms of the big picture of SAP BI and the next steps SAP consultants can take. In addition, he’s shared some useful pointers for BO experts in the midst of this big corporate changeover.
However, there is one other aspect to consider, which Naeem brought up in his original SearchSAP commentary on BO:
“The bad news is, we’re now seeing a momentary confusion among SAP BI customers and consulting partners. We have many different products with different infrastructures, usage and life cycle management environments. Just a few month back SAP acquired OutlookSoft, a corporate performance suite, and before that we saw the Virsa acquisition.”
This is an important point. Naeem is correct that the BO acquisition has definitely created some short-term customer confusion, for understandable reasons. It’s possible we could see the immediate demand for SAP BW/BI expertise go down as SAP customers put the breaks on certain BI initiatives until they determine the best way forward, what their BO options are, and how the two frameworks will be integrated.
However, there are so many ongoing BW and BI projects, covering so many different kinds of initiatives, that I don’t expect a big adverse impact on BI consulting demand. For consultants trying to break into SAP BI, this may create yet another avenue, by mastering the tools on the BO side and approaching SAP from that direction.
The confusion we see in the shorter term about BI should be cleared up for the longer term. I expect in the end, we’ll see even more demand for BI consultants as a result of this acquisition. It’s never ‘smooth sailing’ with SAP for any consultant, and the BO acquisition could create some choppy waves for some, and make it a little harder for junior-level BI folks to push ahead. But I see some promising shorelines ahead for the BI consultants who realize that this development is, more than anything, a recognition of the strategic value of their work.
As SAP shifts from a transactional system to a business process platform that leverages transactional data, BI is in a crucial product position. That strikes me as very good news for the BW/BI consultant.
Bottom line: SAP BI professionals have little reason to worry, but Business Objects experts would be wise to start cracking the SAP books sooner rather than later. Do you agree? Are there factors in play Reed and Hashmi are missing? We want to hear from you — please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, where one random submitter will receive a free copy of “SAP System Landscape Optimization” courtesy of SAP Press.