One of the most attended technology events every year, SAP's Sapphire Now usually resembles a mid-size global village (in terms of population diversity, power consumption, and noise levels) of technology enthusiasts united by their passion for SAP applications, technology, and business. This year, the central theme at the event was "run simple," which had its genesis in in-memory technology and SAP HANA. What many missed, though, was the subtext: SAP was indeed "eating its own dog food." It wasn't just telling customers to simplify their business process or code base, but leading by example by consolidating its massive product portfolio (especially around analytics) to customer use cases. That's a welcome sign from any company that's been in business for over forty years.
SAP is striving for simplification in its analytics product portfolio
At Sapphire, I spoke with a large number of organizations that had a similar story to tell in their usage of SAP ERP. However, in analytics, stories differed widely. There were enterprises that were running one or many avatars of SAP business intelligence solutions, including Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Design Studio, BusinessObjects universes, as well as KXEN (now SAP InfiniteInsight). Anecdotal evidence from these conversations suggested that SAP might have been leaving money on the table: departments in large businesses weren't automatically signing up for SAP data warehousing and analytics, even when their base enterprise application was all SAP.
SAP has had a long history of acquisitions in this space and as a result, has acquired a lot of product clutter. All mega-vendors have some overlap in analytics, which is essentially how the market evolved – not a bad thing in itself. I also do not believe in one tool for all analytic needs, as newer and smaller vendors tend to disrupt the market every now and then. However, product portfolios should also not be extremely complicated as that creates the opportunity for niche point solutions to capture parts of the market.
Thankfully, SAP has long realized this and has done significant work on simplifying its portfolio. Most customers I spoke with also mentioned that SAP has been advocating a simple analytics message to them in the recent past. This year, the vendor simplified its business intelligence and analytics portfolio: 14 analytics products rolled into four major use cases, namely, Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence for reporting, Lumira for discovery, Design Studio for dashboards and applications, and a very strong office integration suite. In the SAP Insider, SAP launched SAP Predictive Analytics 2.0, which combined two separate products, SAP Predictive Analysis and SAP InfiniteInsight (KXEN). All these products boast of integration and modularity: for example, customers who want to use predictive capabilities in Lumira can purchase InfiniteInsight separately, which when integrated opens up a "Predict" tab in Lumira. This implies a coordinated sales force and partners that work in tandem. The next step is making all analytics capabilities (including EPM) available as consumable services or APIs so that business applications on SAP HANA and SAP Cloud can freely consume the capabilities they need. This is by no means the final iteration as I see further integration of features and functionality down the line. But it's a great place to start. For net new SAP customers, understanding SAP's analytics proposition should no longer be a stumbling block.
How to Justify the Business Case for EPM, IT014-002906 (March 2014)
Fundamentals: Enterprise Performance Management, IT014-002874 (January 2014)
A Practitioner's Guide to Self-Service BI and Analytics, IT0014-002967 (December 2014)
Surya Mukherjee, Senior Analyst, IT – Information Management