If you were in Orlando for SAPPHIRE you couldn't miss the launch of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer as it certainly generated lots of attention and interest among all attendees who had the opportunity to see it, hear enthusiast early adopters sharing their experience with it, and even touch this great new BI solution. Those who couldn't make it for SAPPHIRE (even to the great virtual online event!) can of course directly access to very good information about Explorer from this section on the SAP.com portal. Not to mention the SAP World Tour series of event running most likely close to your place in June with live presentations of Explorer. Anyway as a member of the SAP team that has worked hard through 2008 and 2009 to put together Explorer and prepare for its launch I thought I would blog on it to help describing what is it and how it can help SAP customers to bring BI to all business users who have been underserved with traditional BI tools.
So, let me first describe shortly but precisely what the news was about exactly: SAP announced SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW, as a combination of intuitive search and exploration capabilities from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio with the high-performing, scalable in-memory analytics and acceleration capabilities from SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW is a self-service, search-driven, and discovery-friendly solution for interacting with your enterprise data. The primary use case is searching and exploring large volumes of data in BW to discover relationships and uncover root cause to make fact-based decisions at the speed of thought without needing assistance from a business analyst or IT.
These intuitive search and exploration capabilities from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio have been available independently from the combination which was launched at SAPPHIRE. The correct name for this focused set of capabilities is SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. It was formerly known as Polestar and was very recently renamed to clearly describe the value it provides. Other parts of the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio include Crystal Reports, Xcelsius, and Web Intelligence.
Because the basic user experience of both Explorer from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio and the new Explorer solution unveiled at SAPPHIRE is the same, in most cases I simply use Explorer to talk about the solutions' capabilities. When I want to specifically refer to the Explorer solution launched at SAPPHIRE I use the accelerated version.
Here is the typical user experience for Explorer:
Now let's have a closer look at the accelerated version and its key features.
Here is a simple "markitecture" diagram of the accelerated version along with a BW instance:
It certainly helps to further understand how the accelerated version is coming together.
With that understanding as a backdrop, we now need to consider the typical inhibitors to BI in most organizations across all verticals. Market survey show that despite BI being on top of CIO's agenda for several years in a row, and despite significant investments in this area, a vast majority of business users are still lacking appropriate access to the information they need to make fact-based decision. They just feel underserved with traditional BI tools. The key reasons for this user frustration leading to a limited adoption of BI are to be found with:
Traditional BI tools which require significant training and understanding of analytical methods that users simply do not have the time or patience to take on
Dependency on experts analysts and/or IT for accessing to the appropriate reports or analyses which leads to significant delay to access to the information needed
Slow query performance and/or unpredictable response times which are consistently among the biggest complaints of users working with traditional BI tools
With his innovative architecture SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for BW addresses all these key pains. It provides all business users with:
Simple, Google-like, fast search of business terms across multiple data sources, typically BW cubes, but not limited to
Intuitive data exploration and visualization with no need for predefined reports or analyses
Sub-second consistent response time across mountains of data thanks to the BW accelerator engine which processes queries across indexes preloaded in memory on dedicated hardware
For the IT team supporting its deployment, the accelerated version also comes with very interesting capabilities inherited from the BW accelerator technology and delivery model. Those familiar with BW accelerator already will immediately recognize the ability to deliver high performance and scalability with no need to define, maintain, and tune aggregates, as well as the ability to deploy the solution in a very short time within budget thanks to the appliance model.
I'll come back to all these points in more details in subsequent posts. Those too eager to know more who just can't wait have already the option to test drive Explorer firsthand using an Explorer OnDemand environment where one can upload its own sample Excel data.