Business Intelligence and Data Management Environments are getting complex year after year due to macro industry trends like mergers/acquisitions, rapid growth, outsourcing and others. To maintain the agility of these BI solutions and meet changing business demands, it is imperative that IT teams have good control on their BI platforms.
Given SAP Business Objects has close to 23% market share, in this article I will cover some common change management challenges in a Business Objects environment and discuss possible options to audit, manage and automate activities to address these challenges. With this you will have higher confidence in your systems and deliver more value by keeping the costs flat with increased productivity.
SAP Business Objects as a product has expanded its capabilities rapidly by a series of in-organic acquisitions (Crystal, Xcelsius, Data Integrator, FirstLogic) but has not invested in building key components that would make these different components work cohesively. These white spaces have resulted in increasing the development and sustanance overheads to build, enhance and maintain the BI Solutions based on Business Objects.
To be more specific, some of the key challenges quoted by Customers regularly are around Impact Analysis due to table or universe changes, Versions and universe history management, parallel development of Universe, the complexity in documentation and maintaining subsequent compliance. The following diagram captures a change management cycle which a development team follows for enhancement request.
Now lets review few of the challenges mentioned above with the context of real life deployment in a Business Objects environment.
Changes to database tables and Universe is a pretty constant activity in a Business Environment, however there is no easy way to identify the impact of these changes on the Report content. Our estimates for enhancements are often based on some tribal knowledge within the team but with this approach it is very common that we end up not managing impact to some critical business reports there by impacting Customer Satisfaction.
Currently when adminstrators have to promote a new version of universe into production, there is no way for them to compare the new version with the current version in production and confirm that the changes being promoted are approved and completely intended. So most often we end up realizing that the new version of the universe has a change or two which were inadvertantly made there by impacting the end users reports
Increasing Support Costs:
As Business Objects environments are getting older, complex and bigger they are resulting into increasing support and maintenance costs. This is not sustainable because the higher percentage of yearly budgets are going into supporting existing solutions vs enhancing new business capabilities. The IT support costs could be optimized if we were able to easily tag or retrieve metadata from Business Objects reports and universes.
Today’s Organizations are very compliance driven because their executives need to stand behind the numbers being reported to the industry. Therefore, it becomes vital to have strict controls on changes being made to your BI environment and these changes can be audited and reversed in a controlled manner.
In every Business Objects reporting project, the Universe Design and Development has been a major bottleneck for report creation. The main reason being at any point of time only one person could do the Universe development. An ability to concurrently develop a Universe could drastically cut the development time for an Universe.
Companies spend millions of dollars in deploying the Business Objects environment and consider this as the 1st phase. Moving forward, there is a sizeable effort needed in 2nd phase consisting of enhancement and performance cycles.
The goal of the implementing a solution is the value it adds and the ease of usability. After investing in the deployment of Business Objects environment, companies will look at the performance and enhancement as a key benefit point.