SAP launches Visual Intelligence for casual BI users

SAP launched a new HANA-powered business intelligence tool aimed at non-IT users Wednesday at its SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando. 

SAP Visual Intelligence is the desktop version of SAP Business Objects Explorer. The company says the first release will give the average business analyst deep insight into huge amounts of data virtually instantaneously. Part of the software development for the platform took place in Vancouver.
The new software “allows them to look at [and] enrich the data,” said Jason Rose, head of business intelligence solution marketing at SAP AG. SAP Business Objects, he added, was a “tool very much targeted towards an end-user community that just wanted to search and explore data without having to build reports or concern themselves with queries really very much–just a point-and-swipe interface to get to answers.”
SAP Visual Intelligence provides further capabilities for users to “mash up” data, create visual reports and share them on the Web or to mobile devices, he said. For example, an analyst could take data from a particular city, looking at top sales performers or top customers, and then create a series of charts comparing it to data from the state or country.
“Really it’s taking the explorer experience and pushing it back one step further for the analyst that needs to do more of that data manipulation, data mashup work,” said Rose.
The software is designed to be simple to use, he added. In the past, this type of analysis would be fairly IT-intensive and would be out of the hands of the business user. Now, he said, the power is concentrated in one place. “This is business analyst mashup and analysis in a one-stop shop.”
For now, Visual Intelligence will only be able to access live HANA data stores. But in the next few months, SAP plans to add the capability to plug into CSV, SQL Server, Microsoft Access and Excel data sources. And later this year, it plans to include Business Objects Universes, BW queries and other sources in that list. In the more distant future, Rose said, it may also have access to Hadoop, though not in 2012.
Henry Morris, senior vice-president of IDC’s software and services research groups, says business intelligence had historically been the domain of IT departments. But then, increasingly, tech-savvy business analysts started to learn the skills themselves and became “power users.””
They’re not part of IT,” Morris said, “but they will support like a line of business, like the finance department, or marketing, or something like that. But more recently, he said, BI software has emerged  that simplifies the experience even more, giving even the least proficient users access to analytics through friendly interfaces and lots of visual tools.
Part of the reason for this, he added, is that organizations are starting to use BI in more lines of business than they did in the past.
“We’re requiring more people to be able to use analytics in their daily job. So they don’t have time to go to IT, and they don’t have time to go to the business analyst or power user.” 

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