May 17 2011

Future BI Directions? Or Just Reviving The Past?

Categories: 2011 Annual Conference / SAPPHIRE Dave Rathbun @ 9:57 am

Yesterday I attended an influence council meeting on the semantic layer. The audience was somewhat sparse for something I consider to be relatively important. Derek kicked off the meeting with an introduction of what the influence council was about, and then Pierpaolo took over and drove through various demonstrations and talked about the future of the semantic layer. I gave them a whole laundry list of improvements to make to prompts. ;)

After that I had some small meetings with various SAP representatives and other bloggers. One of the interesting remarks that came out of one of those meetings was that SAP had completely missed the mark on Android support. Of course everyone knows about the iPhone and iPad; they’re everywhere here. The Blackberry Playbook is also very visible. Both devices were used in the keynote this morning (blog post to follow on that shortly). But the comment that was made yesterday was interesting. It seems that more and more companies are having to deal with employees that want to use only one device. They don’t want a company mobile and a personal mobile, and companies are happy to subsidize a personal mobile for corporate use as they don’t have to track assets and manage upgrades and everything else that goes along with procuring hardware. By most accounts, Android phones now make up a third or more of the mobile operating environment. That means that yes, Android is making inroads into the corporate market. It’s all being driven by corporate acceptance (and support) of personal devices.

And that means yes, SAP has Android on the horizon. I’m attending a private briefing on mobile later today and will share what I am allowed to share.

Another interesting discussion I was able to participate in was related to how to address offline mode for mobile devices. How can I leverage my iPad on an airplane, for example? Can I download a Web Intelligence report and drill down through the local cube? How much data can I cache? One of the interesting distinctions made was that authored content (meaning IT or departmental generated canned reports) are good candidates for offline consumption, but self-service (ad hoc) content should really be limited to online only. I am not sure I agree with that, so I am going to think about it some more. I think that Web Intelligence (which looks absolutely awesome on the iPad, by the way) bridges the gap between authored (published) and self-service information, and that makes the answer to this question a bit muddy in my mind.

Finally, another future (or perhaps now) big thing is the concept of operational or embedded BI. In a very simplistic world, we have operational systems (perhaps mobile) and we have reporting systems. The fact is we don’t live in a simplistic world. We can’t afford to. That means with near real-time instant responses possible with in-memory cloud systems serving our mobile devices (there, did I hit enough buzz-words for one post?) we can merge and embed our BI right into our operational systems. This isn’t a new concept, it’s just being packaged under a new heading I guess. There was a discussion about having “write back” capabilities in our BI systems. It’s not like we don’t have it today (well, Web Intelligence doesn’t have it… yet) it’s just out there under a different name.

Embedded BI would be very interesting, but as I said it’s not a new concept. It’s just being revived under a new name. The Ability to enable BI content inside applications whether custom or not would open some interesting doors. Take the glamor of BI and put on your steel toed boots. Let’s get to work.