SAP Watch

Oct 26 2007   4:58PM GMT

SAP’s BO acquisition impact on SAP BI consulting, part two

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

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 mdanielsson@techtarget.com, where one random submitter will receive a free copy of “SAP System Landscape Optimization” courtesy of SAP Press.

Matt Danielsson
Editor

6  Comments on this Post

 
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  • JackDanahy
    Excellent article. I did have a question about the future of the Bex Analyzer. My experience has been that more customers prefer the BO reporting tool versus the Bex Analyzer product used by SAP. Maybe it is the ease of use? What do you think? I realize that Bex Analyzer is an SAP product, but, do you think BO will ever replace it? I would truly appreciate your thoughts and comments.
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  • JackDanahy
    "Get some training in Enterprise Architecture (EA)." Hashmi said. That's a bit vague. I've been burned by enough flimsy courses over the years. Can you suggest specific courses that'll provide real, definite advantage on my resume? M.Bolag
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  • JackDanahy
    I'm less optimistic about all this. I believe the marriage of SAP BI and biz objects is going to be messy, siumilar to the problems oracle was wrestling with in the early fusion days. That creates uncertainly in the market, which oracle and others are sure to take advantage off now, just like SAP did when the roles were reversed back then. Hyperion and biz objects are quite different animals and I'm not confident this is all going to play out as smooth as SAP says it will.
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  • JackDanahy
    I'm going to try to answer all three of these comments in one longer comment. 1. Gerald - I'm not sure I can venture a guess right now as far as what will happen with the integration of the BO and BI code base and how it will impact features like the BeX Analyzer. I think SAP will eventually announce their plans in this area so I'll keep an eye on it and report back. My gut tells me that SAP will go with the best user interface possible, so if BO provides that, we may see something like BO replacing the BeX Analyzer - but hard to say. It's also possible that SAP would support two similar environments, at least for a transition period. I think you are taking the right approach by getting a handle on the BO and the BI tools in reporting and other areas. 2. "Lost in Dallas" - Well, I can't speak for Naeem on this, but if you read my career column in the "Ask the Expert" section of this web site, you'll see that I don't place a lot of stock in SAP training when it comes to making a resume look better. I think training can be a good investment in terms of making some additional contacts and also integrating that knowledge into your project work. But I'm not a huge course fan in terms of making a resume stand out. I would personally suggest focusing more on self-education: spend time on this site and especially SDN, where you can pick up a lot of eSOA know-how without spending a dime. I'm not in the business of recommending SAP classes but SAP does have some eSOA classes you can consider via their "education" section of their web site. 3. JP - You may be right that the Business Objects acquisition will create some of the pitfalls Oracle has faced during the Fusion process, which is, of course, ongoing. On the other hand, Oracle has been surprisingly successful in this marketplace given they are years away from an integrated Fusion product. I think SAP realized that these kinds of acquisitions give you access to a whole new customer base. That's why I believe this purchase, more than anything, was about SAP's midmarket sales push and getting access to the BO customer base. I may be wrong. But if I'm right, then SAP can save themselves a lot of hassles by not even trying to do a "fusion" between their BI product and BO. Perhaps they can just incorporate some best-of-breed ideas from BO into BI. We'll have to see how it plays out. Your skepticism is understandable, however, I think SAP will be fine unless they try to buy a number of large software providers. Hopefully they won't go that route. As far as the worst case scenarios for BI, the worst case scenario I see is simply a slow-down of projects as customers wait for more on how SAP will use the BO product. But, I stand by my assessment that the BO acquisition, in the long run, is fairly good news for the BI professional, indicating the strategic importance of this aspect of SAP going forward. No one has a crystal ball, so I guess we'll have to stay tuned. :)
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  • JackDanahy
    I agree the marriage from SAP BI and BO will be extremely messy. What amazes me is Hashmi's assurances like a doctor assuring someone dying from brain cancer he as a long life. This is absolute nonsense I do not believe this. There are enough experienced BO people in the market and customers implementing BO and paying top dollars will not employ a NetWeaver BI consultant turncoat into a BO consultant. Why customers pay top dollars is for experience. I am amused and amazed at Hashmi's snake oil message. Netweaver BI consultants have to find a career change end of story.
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  • JackDanahy
    For me the question is, whether the Bo reporting tool can replace the BEX ? So in future both tools are working in a single procedure ? Can the Excel driven BEX harmonize with the BO reporting tool? Is the BO - broadcasting a better instrument than SAP? What features are available in the SAP BW what BO does not have ?
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