If business analytics was once the domain of a small group of specially trained experts who could generate and comprehend highly detailed reports, it's time to extend this technology to a much broader base of users. That's what Shai Agassi, SAP board member and president of the product and technology group, told a crowded room of users during the company's European Sapphire customer event in Copenhagen.
"Until now, business analytics has been just a lot of statistical reports that financial experts and a few others could read," Agassi said. "We want to bring analytics to the masses."
Masses may be a bit far-fetched but what SAP demonstrated in Copenhagen could indeed be a set of new tools that will help a much broader base of upper and lower-level managers make decisions faster and more accurately.
SAP Analytics are a new breed of business intelligence applications that play across more than 25 industries. SAP has developed more than 100 industry-specific analytic applications, covering retail, manufacturing and tax management, and demonstrated several at the Sapphire.
The applications, to be available at the end of the year, will be sold as add-on products. Pricing wasn't available.
They run over SAP's NetWeaver integration platform, which includes a number of business analytic tools, such as Business Warehouse.
With its new range of analytic applications, SAP is competing with other suppliers of business intelligence products, according to Roman Bukary, vice president of product marketing for analytic applications at SAP. "They're building applications on top of our platform just as we are," he said.
Companies competing in the business intelligence (BI) space include Business Objects and SAS Institute.
The move by SAP could put even greater pressure on vendors of business intelligence systems, a market that SAP executives believe could disappear altogether. "I think BI as a market will cease in about five years," said Doug Merritt, senior vice and general manager of the products and technology group at SAP.
SAP doesn't expect to develop all the analytic applications users may need and, at Sapphire, showed how they can use the company's Visual Composer tool to develop their own.
Under a deal announced at Sapphire, SAP will combine NetWeaver and Visual Composer with Macromedia's Flex presentation system that is designed to help companies visually design application logic and process flows by themselves.
The approach is one of modeling versus coding whereby users don't write applications but rather assemble them in Flash, according to Bukary.
Even if the new system isn't as simple as Lego, the children's building block game, it's still allows for "very easy assembly," Bukary said.
Shai referred to the process as "programming for dummies."