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Hybrid BI with SAP Analytics Cloud: Making the most of your BusinessObjects Investment

4 Jun 2021

“SAP Analytics Cloud is the future of SAP analytics, but BusinessObjects BI will be around for a while yet. How can organisations secure their existing BO investment whilst taking advantage of SAC’s next-generation features?”

BusinessObjects (BO) seems to have been around forever now – SAP’s flagship analytics suite is very mature and I’m sure that many of you reading will have been using it for your reporting for years. You’ve invested time and money getting it just right for your company’s needs. You may therefore feel a little confused  that SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is the future of SAP analytics, asking yourself what happens to that time and money? What’s the effort required to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud?

Firstly, to allay any fears: BusinessObjects BI is not going away any time soon. The latest version, 4.3, will be maintained until 2027, so your investment is secure for some time yet. This gives you plenty of time to take advantage of a hybrid setup to gradually move into the cloud. Indeed, SAP are now offering BusinessObjects BI hosted in the private cloud, with lift-and-shift migration available. Before even coming to SAC, you can lower your total cost of ownership (TCO) in this way.

SAP’s Extend Analytics Program is aimed specifically at customers who are on BO and who want to move into a hybrid environment. Licensing is a heavy part of the overall BO cost and, as part of the program, SAP have introduced a Cloud Extension Policy, which allows customers to partially terminate their licensing and maintenance for on-premise BO when setting up in SAC. They have also introduced new WebI-only BO licenses to fill that gap.

Another prong of the Extend Analytics Program is the introduction of BusinessObjects Live Data Connect. This allows you to feed SAC models and stories with data from pre-existing Universes and WebI reports (BI4.2 SP06+), so your existing BO reporting setup can be directly fed into SAC for continuation reporting and to allow a gradual rebuilding of reporting in SAC. This is helpful if you have complex universes, which can’t be replicated using SAC modelling. Indeed, SAP still recommend that very complex or multi-source reporting is done in BO.

As with any cloud product, security is at the forefront of clients’ minds. Much reporting must be done on-premise, as data cannot leave your secure network.

For many organisations, particularly those who require deeper security such as the defence and financial industries, safeguarding your data is always front of mind and is often the first consideration when choosing an enterprise data management or analytics platform. With a hybrid BO-SAC architecture, these stricter needs can be well accommodated. Both SAC and BO can be hosted on a secure private cloud and, when using a Live Data Connect setup, no data leaves the on-premise network – all processing of data is done in the browser, with only metadata being uploaded. Security experts can design anonymity into the platform. Finally, a further benefit of the Extend Analytics Program is the ability, from BI4.3, for BO users and security setup to be brought into SAC.

Aside from reusable technology, your users’ experience won’t go to waste either. SAC can connect to three separate plugins to Microsoft Excel, which is great news for spreadsheet lovers:

  • Analysis for Office (AfO), edition for BO – the classic AfO now connects to SAC models and can store workbooks on the platform, with no additional BO license cost.
  • Analysis for Office, edition for SAC – a lightweight version of AfO, which comes with SAC connectivity and is free with SAC.
  • SAC Plugin for Microsoft Office – this is a new tool entirely, designed for SAC and installed through the Microsoft Store. It uses a Fiori user interface and can be used with Excel Online in Office365.

With BI4.3 transitioning the BO look-and-feel to the Fiori UI used by SAC, users will find themselves in familiar reporting territory whichever reporting platform they’re using, removing the need for retraining across systems – other than the move from BI4.2 to 4.3, of course! In fact, SAC offers a Catalog, where tile-based links to reports can be set up and tailored to an end user’s security settings (or using single sign-on, with Hybrid Users). In this way, the SAC Catalog can be the single point of entry for all reporting, SAC- or BO-based. Elsewhere, Lumira developers will find much familiar in SAC’s Analytic Application Designer, and the templates that come with this allow quick-start self-service reporting for all users in SAC.

The key here is not to think of the move from on-premise BO to SAC as a single leap across a canyon. A hybrid setup may, admittedly, cost more in total than your existing system – your SAP account executive can provide full details – but it allows both more efficient use of budget for the on-premise licensing and maintenance and gives you all of the added value of analytics in the cloud – managed upgrade and maintenance, no hardware to pay for and keep up, and regular feature updates from SAP. These feature updates are steadily closing the functionality gaps between SAC and BO – for instance, paginated, WebI/Crystal-style reporting is coming in 2021 and SAP are investigating routes for converting WebI and Crystal Reports into SAC. With the death of Flash in 2020, SAC is also the perfect replacement for companies still using SAP Xcelsius/Dashboards or Explorer in their reporting.

Forrester reports that 60% of companies are eyeing a hybrid setup as the next step in their analytics evolution and in the SAP world that step is to run SAC alongside BO and make a gradual move, rationalising your contents (removing unused reports, cleaning up security settings etc.) and rebuilding your reporting and processes using modern best practices.

At Capgemini, we’ve already helped clients to take their first step into analytics in the cloud by building on top of their existing BusinessObjects environment. We’ve shown them how their prior investments are still fruitful and how an investment into SAC will reap rewards in simplicity, next-generation reporting, improved insights, and lower costs. SAC is coming of age and 2021 promises to be a bumper year for new features to fill in the remaining gaps with on-premise SAP BI. To find out how you can get the best of both of SAP’s world-leading analytics suites, get in touch with us.