SAP-BO puts search tool in packaged Edge BI 3.1 offering

SAP AG released on Tuesday the latest version of its SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI tool with search technology to troll keywords across an organization’s pockets of data, and integration with data sources from Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.

SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI 3.1 now incorporates Polestar software, search technology from the Walldorf, Germany-based company unveiled last year that allows businesses to perform keywords searches across data sources scattered in the organization. Jeff Stiles, SAP’s senior vice-president of SME marketing, said the objective of including Polestar “as an integral part of the solution” is to expand the “utility and value” of the product to more users throughout the enterprise.

And the integration with non-SAP data sources, like those of Microsoft and Oracle, said Stiles, will help drive the “ongoing expansion” of the Edge portfolio whether it’s an SAP customer or not. “Obviously, customers often have many different data sources. So we want to serve their needs as well as stay open to serve the needs of a broad set of customers,” said Stiles.

The release also expands the Edge portfolio to include capabilities like performance management, business planning, consolidation and strategy management, but packaged, engineered and priced for the small to medium sized business, said Stiles.

The SMB-specific packages are part of an overall strategy by SAP BusinessObjects to continue parceling offerings specifically for the needs of this market, especially given the requirements brought on by the economic climate, said Stiles, “(SMB customers) clearly share with us they are looking for things that are easy to install and quick to deploy. They want to leverage broad usage due to limited budgets and IT capacity.”

“One size doesn’t fit all, that’s very clear,” said Stiles, “but the degree to which we can do that and then package content for these different capabilities is what I’m hearing customers are looking for.”

The company’s packaged approach is a recognition that there are standard bundles that organizations tend to use and that “nobody wants to license individual pieces along the way and custom construct them and put them together themselves,” said John Hagerty, vice-president and research fellow with Boston, Mass.-based AMR Research.

“Customers really appreciate the fact that somebody has said that this is a logical grouping of things that should be used together,” said Hagerty.

And, while one objective of the Edge portfolio is to allow customers to make use of the sundry data sources that comprise their heterogeneous IT environment, Stiles acknowledged that the benefits of a search technology like Polestar can only be fully reaped after the data has been cleansed and prepped to attain that single version of the truth. However, the degree of labour involved in preparing data for quality consumption does vary by company, noted Stiles. “The larger the company, the more complex the operations, divisions, legal entities, data sources, that clearly expands the requirement, and therefore the IT effort in prepping effort as well as managing the quality of the data in general,” he said.

Hagerty agreed, saying that an SMB might not have data “that is as dirty as larger firms, because they may not have many different potential permutations of the same thing across the business. It might be easier.”

The capability for organization-wide searches will also bring to the fore the extent, and the point along the process at which, data cleansing must be performed, said Hagerty. “This will point out that the fact that there are changes that must be made at multiple places.”

The inclusion of the Polestar technology into a business intelligence application reflects the way that people look for data these days, said Hagerty, in that “it allows people to analyse information in the way they are used to analyzing it, rather than getting into a structured query in a reporting environment,” he said.

Hagerty thinks some users will quickly adopt the search approach to BI, while others will perceive it as somewhat foreign compared to the traditional BI point of view. “Search is easy to get your arms around because it’s what you’re used to doing in everyday life … but it is a little bit different than what the traditional BI point of view tends to be,” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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