SAP Watch

Aug 14 2008   11:12AM GMT

Are your business intelligence users smarter than a high schooler?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

Having a tough time getting business executives to do their own business intelligence?

Well, at The Thacher School, a 119-year-old boarding high school in California, students and parents are conducting analysis on their own, using Xcelsius Present, a new application that converts Excel spreadsheets into BI tools, to calculate and plan for the cost of college, executive Marge Breya said at the Business Objects Influencer Summit in Boston this week.

The scenario was meant to serve as an example of SAP’s goal to bring BI to a desk near you, and how easy the tools are to use. As Business Objects executive Sanjay Poonen put it, “from the boardroom to every single clerk.”

“Unlike some of our competitors, we have seen Business Objects as a way of moving into business-users,” Poonen said.

Actually, BI vendors have been pitching the BI for the masses line for years — Hyperion/Oracle, Microsoft, and others, including Business Objects prior to being purchased by SAP in October of 2007 have all trumpeted the value of extending BI from the “power users” to the “casual users.”

But some questions remain. Five years later, we’re still hearing the same message. What will it take to get casual users to actually use BI and is it really worth the expense in the first place?

Business Objects is offering one answer. Down the road, executives said they see BI being sold like SAP’s ERP Business Suite — BI for manufacturing, BI for retail. The vision is of a tool that’s “not about feature and function, but about industry-specific scenarios,” Poonen said.

“I think, three to five years from now, this entire space will have a flavor that’s…industry specific,” Poonen said. “It’s a natural evolution. I think that’s where this is headed.”

Why not BI for college financial planning? Do you like the sound of that?

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