Monday, March 5, 2012

BusinessObjects, the Shelfware Killer

Last week I attended the BI2012 conference (recap podcast here) and was fortunate enough to present two sessions, each of which were centered around the different data connectivity options that a user has when connecting to data that doesn't originate in SAP applications. The conference organizers, cognizant that "SAP BI" now includes a whole lot of customers who don't run anything else from SAP (and may, eventually, include a whole lot of people who don't run BusinessObjects either), sought out speakers who could talk about the BOBJ toolset from a more database-agnostic perspective.

Not wanting to waste anyone's time, I warned people upfront that if they were there to find out how to connect to BEx, BICS, BW, BWA or any other SAP-centric data source/connection they may want to move on. I lost quite a few people every time I mentioned this, which was OK, but I can't help think that a lot of SAP customers are missing out on some big opportunities to turn off some other BI solutions that they have in house.

In my first session, I asked how many folks were already running BOBJ. Almost all hands went up. I then asked how many also had, somewhere in their company, another BI solution to support another applications. About half of the hands went up (and I'd wager those that didn't just don't know about what shadow IT has put out there).

In case you haven't heard, the economy is pretty tight these days, so why are companies still paying maintenance on two BI tools when BusinessObjects can almost certainly handle all of their reporting needs? A few possibilities exist.
  • Because they don't know they can. A lot of SAP customers probably just bought BOBJ because they were told to, and once in, the account rep had no incentive to encourage them off of their existing tools even though the BusinessObjects family can report off of practically anything
  • Because it would cost more. Obviously this will depend on what your licensing looks like, but it is probably worth a look. I haven't seen a formal study, but I'd wager that if you took into account the key cost drivers in a switch from BI tool X to BusinessObjects (retraining people, porting content in, eliminated maintenance and support) you'd come out at least even if not better off, with tons of future savings in only having one toolset to support. 
  • Because change isn't easy. Even if an organization knows what BOBJ can do, and that it will save them money, sometimes it really isn't organizationally worth the hassle. It's "because we've always done it that way" at it's worst.

So what (legitimate) reasons do people have for having an enterprise reporting solution that doesn't cover their enterprise? Am I crazy?


  1. BOBJ is not the only BI tool out there which can do it all - so other vendors are all out in the market telling these very same clients to get off BOBJ, and do more with the other stuff.

  2. That really underscores my point that there is a ton of value to be had by picking one BI toolset to use enterprise-wide.

    Obviously I think BOBJ is the best choice, but any single platform that can do it all is better than several platforms that can all do it all.

  3. The answer is simple... many orgs have entrenched technologies that are "culturally" not feasible to part with. And in addition, there is a level of "ability to execute" brought up by Gartner report... what's your take on?

    1. Culturally not feasible is really what I was trying to get at with my third bullet - people just can't deal with change.

      Regarding SAP's ability to execute - I find it interesting that they got dinged 2 years ago, then complained loudly that it was unfair, then crapped the bed on delivering BI4, FP3, and everything else. What has been delivered (at least in XI3.1) is a perfectly acceptable and largely complete BI enterprise solution. Ironically, what they have trouble delivering is anything that actually ranks them highly in "completeness of vision."