Ever since the rollout of the first business intelligence application, IT organizations and the users they serve have been at odds. The core issue was that IT organizations preferred enterprise-class BI applications that were easier to integrate with the rest of the ERP application portfolio, while end users tended to favor spreadsheets or any number of BI applications that were easier to use.
This divide led to a bifurcation of the BI universe that SAP is now trying to close in the form of feature pack 3 update for the 4.0 release of SAP BusinessObjects, which includes a 1.0.1 release of SAP Visual Intelligence that among other things extends the reach of that data visualization tool to include Microsoft Excel documents.
According to Jason Rose, SAP vice president of business intelligence marketing, SAP Visual Intelligence is designed to give end users a visual tool for exploring data that they can use to roll up information from any number of sources. Because it’s easy to navigate, Rose says SAP Visual Intelligence solves the problem that end users had with enterprise BI tools that were difficult to navigate. At the same time, SAP Visual Intelligence stores data in a format that makes transferring information into and out of SAP BusinessObjects or any ERP application a lot simpler to manage for the IT department.
As BI becomes a more critical tool that is accessed regularly by more users than ever, it's time to put aside an issue that has plagued organizations for far too long already. SAP Visual Intelligence may not be the right answer for every organization, but BI tools that don’t play nice with other applications frankly defeat the primary purpose of having the BI application in the first place. An individual user may be happy with a particular BI application, but the collective intelligence of the organization is not any better if that application winds up creating yet another stove pipe of data that needs to be managed and stored in isolation.
That’s especially true in an era where those BI tools are being used to kick off more queries than ever, which tend to either exceed the scope of the isolated BI tool or wind up bringing the data warehouse to its knees because the queries can’t be easily optimized. In addition, with the advent of in-memory technologies such as SAP High Performance Analytics Appliance (HANA), Rose argues that a tightly integrated approach to BI is going to be needed to take maximum advantage of advances in in-memory computing.
Regardless of the approach to solving the problem, Rose says organizations need to start thinking more in terms of developing a strategic approach to information lifecycle management and data governance that encompasses everything from how the data is semantically managed all way through to how end users leverage self-service tools to access them via any mobile computing device of their choosing.
Obviously, there are a lot of layers to that data management onion, none of which are going to peel themselves without any intervention from the IT department anytime soon.