Thursday, December 13, 2012

SAP BusinessObjects Migration SWOT Analysis

SAP BusinessObjects migration planning can benefit from SWOT analysis — the more such investigation and planning that goes on upstream, the fewer surprises you'll encounter downstream in your migration project management. But SWOT analysis is even more critical in migration pre-planning efforts — the stage at which you are gathering internal approvals and executive sponsorships.

The business case for SAP BusinessObjects migration is a strong one, but it needs to be examined in light of the particular environment, circumstances, and business needs within your enterprise. Without the business case, there is no project.

As a platform manager seeking buy-in, you need to translate generic benefits into line-of-business-specific selling points to make the case for migration. One way to nail down those selling points while committing to due diligence is to perform formal SWOT analysis

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

APOS Insight Lite - BusinessObjects System Metrics

Are you an SAP BusinessObjects platform manager or administrator being asked to do more with less? Do you need a clear inventory of the objects, schedules and instances in your deployment? Do you want to know which objects in your deployment are most frequently used? Most rarely used? Would the ability to analyze and compare report processing windows help you optimize your system?

APOS Insight Lite can help you deal with these questions and more.

APOS Insight Lite is a subset of the services found in the APOS Insight Advanced Solution, a full-featured system metrics, performance analytics, and system planning solution for SAP Business Objects.

Find out more about APOS Insight Lite BusinessObjects system metrics.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An SAP BusinessObjects Backup/Restore Alternative

Jonathan Haun (@jdh2n) of Decision First Technologies has published a great piece on backing up and restoring SAP BusinessObjects on his All Things BOBJ BI blog.

The essence of his post is that SAP BusinessObjects administrators don't generally give too much thought to backing up their deployment. Usually, they simply give a list of requirements to someone in IT and assume the job has been done to those specifications.

However, restoring an SAP BusinessObjects deployment may not be so straightforward, nor particularly timely. Should some object be accidentally deleted or become corrupted, your options are limited to:

  • Full restore - replacing the entire deployment with the last known good backup.
  • Temporary restore - restoring to a new location and using an import wizard to restore missing or corrupted objects to the production deployment.
  • BIAR file restore - use Business Intelligence Archive files (BIARs) to archive and restore portions of the CMS db system and input/output FRS.

Jonathan rightly notes that all of these methods have issues, and the BIAR file method, which had become an easy-to-use favorite of administrators using XI 3.1, has become significantly less than friendly in early BI 4.0 deployments. Jonathan floats the Upgrade Management Tool as a limited workaround for BI 4.0 issues.

There is no replacement for performing regular backups of your SAP BusinessObjects deployment, but that's the easy part. When it comes to maintaining easily accessible archives, all of the methods listed by Jonathan are time-consuming and error-prone, and they look at archive, backup and restore as simply operational issues. What if you have regulatory concerns? What if you are migrating and need to archive instances that you are not migrating in an easily accessible and secure way?

APOS Storage Center
offers a solution that complements an incremental SAP BusinessObjects backup strategy. It allows you to back up objects securely and selectively restore them in one simple operation. You can also archive instances in formats not dependent on data connections (e.g., PDF) to server as documents of record for compliance purposes.

Download the APOS Storage Center white paper, or watch the APOS Storage Center recorded webinar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

BusinessObjects Migration Challenges & Best Practices

APOS solution consultants have been working with BI 4.0, SAP BusinessObjects XI, and their many precursors for over 15 years. They've been through many migrations and upgrades. In fact, many of our solutions began their lives as migration support applications.

Some of those solution consultants delivered a standing-room-only presentation on BI 4.0 migration challenges at the 2012 ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference in September, and partially reprised their presentation in an October webinar. (Download or view the recorded webinar on SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 migration challenges.)

We've collected some of their planning and preparation best practices for your convenience on our website.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Product Update: APOS Publisher and Xcelsius Bursting

APOS Publisher now includes the ability to burst Xcelsius in the form of a static image (PNG). This new feature lets you export from Xcelsius to a PNG file, and embed the image within PDFs and Excel files, which you can then distribute to multiple destinations, or to print.

This new functionality is in addition to the existing ability to export Xcelsius to SWF files.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Webinar Reminder: Well Managed Migration

When: Oct. 24, 2012, at 10am and 4pm EDT
Migration to SAP BI 4.0 from an earlier version of SAP Businessobjects has been a popular topic at the business intelligence events we've attended this year. If you missed our "Well Managed Migration" presentation at this year's ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando, then here's your chance to catch up.
This webinar will help you establish some of the administrative and platform management best practices you will need to plan and manage the migration process. We will show how APOS solutions can help you before, during and after your migration. Our solutions complement and enhance SAP'S administrative and platform management capabilities, so you can migrate from a clean environment to a clean environment.
APOS has almost 20 years experience improving BI administration, performance and ROI. We know from that experience that our solutions can help you before, during and after the migration process, saving you both money and headaches.
Agenda:
  • Before Migration – Clean up and back up before you move
  • During Migration – Test, evaluate and tweak
  • After Migration – Maintain your well managed BI
You should plan on attending this webinar if you are considering migrating or are currently planning to migrate your system to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Webinar reminder: Well Managed BI Today at 2pm ET

There's still time to register for today's Well Managed BI webinar. APOS COO Allan Pym shows you how  SAP BusinessObjects platform management and administration best practices can liberate your resources for more proactive activities and increase BI ROI.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Visual Discovery Infographic

There's a great infographic, sponsored by SAP, produced by the Aberdeen Group, and incorporated in Pierre Leroux's SAP blog entry, Is Visual Discovery for You and Your Organization?. Leroux's claim is that:

Best-in-class companies are already adopting visual discovery solutions over traditional business intelligence (BI), resulting in more agility for their organizations in the face of decreasing business response time.

The infographic tells us that, in visual discovery (or interactive BI): "Business users receive a rich, highly interactive interface, allowing them to manipulate and explore information directly."

The hope is that, in the age of the social Web, with its multi-voiced conversations between companies and customers, BI itself is becoming more conversational, better meeting the needs of information consumers through interactive, visual discovery. SAP's Visual Intelligence (or Visi), working with HANA, and providing drag-and-drop document creation, is a step toward realizing that concept.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ASUG BOUC 2012 - Thanks!

Judging by the talk around the water cooler, this year's ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference was a golden opportunity for APOS representatives to catch up with old friends and make many new ones. Thanks to all of you who made our time at ASUG BOUC 2012 valuable, interesting, and fun.

Our team delivered two presentations at this year's conference: one on geospatial BI; the other on BI 4.0 migration. If you would like more information on either of these topics, visit:

Friday, September 7, 2012

ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference 2012

We'll have a substantial presence at this year's ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando, September 10 - 13. If you are attending, drop by and see us at Booth 100.

And don't miss our two presentations:

  • Well Managed Migration: Learn techniques, strategies and tips for successful migration to the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 platform. APOS consultants will share insights from our 15+ years of migration consulting and BI solution development, and Mark Richardson of Rose-Richardson Enterprises will share his customer perspective on migration and the relevance of APOS Solutions.
     
  • Geospatial BI 101 - a Primer for Mapping Your Route to a Successful Location Intelligence Deployment: Understand the technology and business potential of location intelligence, and what you have to do to make geospatial BI happen in your organization. Learn how to leverage geospatial technology and techniques to unlock new analysis and insight options with SAP BusinessObjects. Chris Hickman of Decision First Technologies joins APOS to present a series of use-case examples that will help participants understand the business value of deploying geospatial BI.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Need BI 4.0 WebIs from .NET Apps?

If you're investigating migration to BI 4.0, you probably already know that BI 4.0 doesn't include a plug-in to let you schedule Web Intelligence reports from .NET applications. If that's all that was keeping you from migrating, then we have good news: the APOS WebI .NET plug-in lets you schedule WebIs and manage defaults from .NET applications.
We created this plug-in to allow our own well managed BI solutions to work with BI 4.0, and now we're offering to the SAP BusinessObjects developer community. The APOS WebI .NET plug-in lets the developer handle format, prompt information, and other flags while scheduling Web Intelligence reports from .NET apps or saving report defaults.

Another issue that our plug-in solves is prompt reconstruction. When you create a new Web Intelligence report, or update an existing one, the prompt information on the report object becomes unavailable to the developer through the SDK. The APOS WebI .NET plug-in uses prompt reconstruction functionality to let the developer access the prompt information. You can schedule the report with the reconstructed prompts or save the report object for later use. You do not have to update the source report in order to schedule an instance.

You will notice that we are not using the GetPluginInterface method to initialize our plug-in. On a Web Intelligence object that method simply fails regardless of what you try to do with the returned object. We actually support using the plug-in interface to initialize our plug-in but this will not work with a Web Intelligence object. We tested it with other InfoObjects with no issues.

Example:

Using sm As CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.SessionMgr = New CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.SessionMgr
    Using es As CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.EnterpriseSession = sm.Logon("My Account", "My Password", "My CMS", "secEnterprise")
        Using iStore As CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.InfoStore = es.GetService("InfoStore")
            Using objs As CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.InfoObjects = iStore.Query("SELECT TOP 1 * FROM CI_INFOOBJECTS WHERE SI_NAME = 'My Report'")
                Using obj As CrystalDecisions.Enterprise.InfoObject = objs(1)
                    Using plg As APOSWebiPlugIn.webi = New APOSWebiPlugIn.webi(obj)
                        plg.WebiAPOSLicenseKey = "<your key here>"
                        'Choose to schedule to XLS format
                        plg.WebiFormat = APOSWebiPlugIn.CeWebiFormat.ceWebiFormatExcel
                        'Get the list of prompt names
                        Dim prompts As List(Of String) = plg.WebiGetPromptList()
                        'GEt the lsit of values for the first prompt
                        Dim vals As List(Of APOSWebiPlugIn.WebiPromptValue) = plg.WebiGetPromptValues(prompts(0))
                        'Clear the list of values
                        vals.Clear()
                        'Add Texas as the only value for the prompt
                        vals.Add(New APOSWebiPlugIn.WebiPromptValue("Texas"))
                        'Save the list of values back to the report
                        plg.WebiSetPromptValues(prompts(0), vals)
                        'Schedule the report
                        iStore.Schedule(objs)
                    End Using
                End Using
            End Using
        End Using
    es.Logoff()
    End Using
End Using

You are welcome to try it and let me know what you think. Just email webiplugin@apos.com to ask for the library or send in any comments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Big Data Challenge

 

Why are companies such as HP, IBM and Oracle spending big money to acquire big data capabilities? Michael Vizard's Slashdot article, "The Multi-Billion-Dollar Data Management Challenge,"shows how serious the quest for Big Data supremacy has become. (Thanks to Jim Harris (@ocdqblog) for passing this along via Twitter.)

As of 2012, the world creates approximately 2.5 quintillion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data daily (Wikipedia). The mathematical notation in parentheses is not not redundant, because the definition of "quintillion" varies according to which side of the Atlantic you are standing on. In the US and Canada, a quintillion has 18 zeroes; in the UK, France and Germany, a quintillion has 30 zeroes. That's just a simple example of the difficulty involved in dealing with Big Data.

Volume, variety, velocity and veracity are the four "Vs" of Big Data, but there's one "M" we should mention as well: metadata. Metadata is the key to managing and indexing the massive inflow of data, making accurate operational and competitive intelligence available in a timely manner to your decision makers.

For SAP BusinessObjects platform managers, now is the time to get your own metadata house in order. APOS Insight's enhanced audit and metadata management capabilities can help.

Monday, July 16, 2012

RIP Stephen R. Covey

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey told us to begin with the end in mind ("Habit 2"). The end of his life today reminds us of the formative effect he had on so many of us.

In "Habit 2", he told us to
use our whole brain, and especially to find ways to tap into our right brain -- the hemisphere of passionate creativity and visualization.
Location intelligence may not have been what he had in mind as he was writing in 1989, but I'd like to think his whole-brain call to arms was prescient with regard to today's geospatial visualization trend.

Stephen R. Covey dead as a result of a bicycling accident.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going Post-Digital - Deloitte Tech Trends 2012

The Deloitte Tech Trends 2012 report's theme is "elevating IT" in a post-digital business environment, so its focus is on how IT can make an impact, and how the described trends present "an opportunity for IT to truly help elevate business performance" (Preface).

Will these technological trends be disruptors or enablers? Essentially, the way each trend affects your organization is up to IT leadership. The degree to which each technology trend will be disruptive or enabling within your organization depends on how proactive/progressive you are in implementing it.

BYOD and BYOT are two trends not mentioned in the report, but which are related to the status of IT within organizations in a so-called "post-digital" age. (The "post" prefix is somewhat ironic in that it denotes not a lessening of digital technology's impact, but an amplification of its effect within an organization ‑ to the point where it manifests as a paradigm shift.)

The post-digital organization is one in which the role of IT is lessened, because more technology is embedded, more devices are personal, and more networks are outsourced. The technology trends delineated in the Deloitte report present an opportunity for IT to re-assert itself as a progressive voice within the enterprise, but to do so, IT leaders must understand how these trends work individually and together to transform the enterprise.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crowdsourcing Artificial Intelligence

Via Bonnie Hohhof (@hohhof)

This story brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "gaming the system."

DARPA, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is using online gamers as part of its strategy to develop the behavioral intelligence needed by unmanned submarine hunting vessels, according to a post by Stewart Baines on the Connecting Technology blog.

DARPA has released a gaming combat simulator called Dangerous Waters. With the permission of the gamers, the simulator returns information back to DARPA for analysis and application to their unmanned vessel control algorithms. They are, in essence, assimilating the wisdom of crowds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Big Data's Fourth "V"

Volume, Variety, and Velocity are the three "Vs" of Big Data. @RobertKugel tweeting on a talk by IBM's Brenda Dietrich reveals a fourth: Veracity. Here's an IBM presentation slide (PDF) that shows the relationship:

The Fourth Big Data V stands for Veracity

Monday, June 18, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Facebook IPO: Data Rich, Information Poor, Analysis Absent?

Michael Rappa's analysis of the circumstances surrounding the Facebook IPO reveals just how easy it is for a large and seemingly bulletproof enterprise to fail miserably at Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, and Big Data:

Facebook has mountains of data on a scale few companies have ever seen before. Shouldn't it have unparalleled insights into its users and their value to advertisers? Reading the prospectus, I was surprised to see the IPO rested as heavily as it did on the weight of a single trend line ‑ growth in active users over time ‑ and not on data-driven insights into its user community. If Facebook is making good use of its data, it’s not evident to investors.

It seems to be a classic case of selling the sizzle rather than the steak, and the market figured it out pretty quickly, though not quickly enough to prevent a lot of people losing a lot of money. Has the dot-com bubblereally faded from our collective memory that quickly?

It's already hard to remember what we did before social media, but the question about social media, as with the dot-com ventures, has always been how to monetize its great wealth of community and data.

But the Facebook story is now also a Big Data story, because the information Facebook has about each of us is vast, and comes in many formats. It has volume and variety, two of the three defining qualities for Big Data.

The third defining quality for Big Data is velocity: It's not enough to analyze the available data; the analysis has to be as close to immediate as possible. If Big Data offers competitive advantage, it is in the velocity with which insight can be delivered and monetized.

Risk management, management by strategic objective, and public company governance find common cause in Big Data. Jill Dyché says as much in her Harvard Business Review article, "Data: One Antidote to Risky Behavior":

Savvy managers understand that weaving data-driven decisions into the fabric of corporate governance can obviate organizational infighting and drive progress. By establishing clear accountability measures, managers can determine whether and how corporate goals are being achieved, and hold people accountable for how they are achieving those goals. This motivates business people to rely less on hunches and more on hard data.

When we apply what we know, when we know it, to the realization of strategic objectives, we mitigate risk, and increase shareholder value. The attraction of managing by "gut feelings" has always been its immediacy. Providing the hard data to support or counter gut feelings with the same kind of immediacy is the Business Intelligence/Business Analytics/Big Data challenge.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

APOS Insight Baseline Scan

APOS Insight is our enhanced audit and metadata management solution for SAP BusinessObjects. During today's Well Managed Migration webinar, Blair Pzytula noted that APOS offers a service based on APOS Insight called the APOS Insight Baseline Scan. 

The APOS Insight Baseline Scan uses Insight's incomparable audit and metadata management capabilities to identify the objects in your system (Crystal Reports, Webis, Deskis, Universes, Folders) and their structures and dependencies. This information is invaluable for planning migration, or even for system sizing excercises.

The Baseline Scan is offered as a free, limited service to qualified customers. if you want to know whether you qualify, contact your APOS Account Manager.

 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Webinar Reminder: Well Managed Migration

June 5, 10am ET and 4pm ET.
Agenda:
  • Before Migration – Clean up and back up before you move
  • During Migration – Test, evaluate and tweak
  • After Migration – Maintain your well managed BI

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On the Road...

APOS hit the ground running in January and we haven’t slowed down since. We kicked off 2012 with a number of location intelligence events that focused on the geospatial side of our product line. One event in particular was very rewarding: the Esri business partner conference in Palm Springs, where we were presented the award for Enterprise Integration Application. We are very honoured to be identified as a leading partner with the GIS giant Esri.

Since then, we have continued to meet and interact with people focused on location intelligence by attending some industry focused events, such as HiMMS, the Esri Petroleum users group, the Location Intelligence Conference and TDWI, an event that promotes leadership and best practices for BI professionals.

In addition to these LI focused events, we participated in SAP BI 2012 and the Sapphire Now & ASUG annual Conference.

To all of you who dropped by to see us at these conferences and tradeshows, we thank you. Without your feedback,
we can't continue to be the leading provider of well managed BI solutions for SAP BusinessObjects.

The summer is always a slow time for conferences; however, we plan to be out on the road promoting our well managed BI and location Intelligence successes. To find out where we'll be next and arrange to meet with members of our team, please feel free to contact 
Jay Murdoch

SAP BusinessObjects Migration with APOS Publisher


Your organization probably has many reasons for moving to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0. SAP cites data access as one of the key reasons enterprises should upgrade. Better integration with SAP BW, the new dimensional semantic layer, and multi-source universes enhance that access, but enhanced access is only half of the story. If you have more, or more detailed, information at your disposal, then you will also likely have increased or more complex delivery requirements.
What will you do to enhance delivery of information to the all-important information consumers in your organization?

APOS Publisher is a complete publishing solution for SAP BusinessObjects, allowing you to maintain consistent document bursting, consolidation and delivery processes across multiple versions of SAP BusinessObjects.

With APOS Publisher, you can:
  • Use business rules to generate a large number of individually scheduled reports automatically.
  • Burst large report instances into smaller instances based on business rules, convert to a common format and distribute.
  • Emulate Desktop Intelligence's use of scripts to extract data from various data sources.

APOS Publisher is an essential solution for organizations that have complex SAP BusinessObjects distribution requirements with multiple report format and destination types. For such organizations, APOS Publisher is a complete SAP BusinessObjects publishing solution, including robust bursting management, post-processing distribution service, report package management, and assured delivery to extend those available in SAP BusinessObjects. Publisher automates these tasks while providing personalized reporting to your information consumers.

SAP BusinessObjects platform managers and technicians value the flexibility and agility that Publisher's custom properties, flags and settings add to their scheduling, bursting and distribution efforts, and the ability to zip and encrypt reports.

SAP BusinessObjects Migration with APOS Storage Center


APOS Storage Center makes it easy to back up, archive and selectively restore your documents of record in a secure and timely manner — essential to ensuring regulatory compliance and meeting the needs of your information consumers, particularly when you are limiting the amount of content you are migrating.
APOS Storage Center is a dedicated SAP BusinessObjects document lifecycle management solution. It is designed to ensure the integrity of your documents, safeguard data privacy, and support regulatory compliance. It should be a key element in your disaster recovery plan ‑ before, during and after migration.

APOS Storage Center helps you:
  • Mitigate risk by safeguarding objects, document instances, and instance integrity for audit and compliance purposes.
  • Migrate document instances from one deployment of SAP BusinessObjects to another; perform partial or complete migration.
  • Extract and export objects and document instances to other formats such as PDF (e.g., export Web Intelligence reports, which are Universe-dependent, and Desk Intelligence reports, which are deprecated in BI 4.0, to PDF to ensure access to the documents of record).
  • Implement an intelligent means to purge Web Intelligence reports while retaining retrievable versions.
  • Manage disc space carefully.

SAP BusinessObjects Migration with APOS Administrator


APOS Administrator automates and simplifies object, instance, and schedule management. During migration, reports are typically relocated. Use APOS Administrator to save, import, batch modify, and export schedules.

You can:
  • Adapt the migrated source system to the new environment using bulk operations on a large number of system objects (reports, folders, users, security, settings, etc.).
  • Import schedules from the legacy system, then map and export them to the new system.
  • Analyze an entire report instance environment at once.
  • Apply actions to instances in bulk.
  • Establish control over migrated instances/schedules.
  • Modify recurring schedules.
  • Manage scheduling crises quickly and efficiently.
  • Manage objects in bulk.
  • Perform sophisticated deployment of reports and documents to the system.
  • Promote objects from development/testing to production efficiently and in compliance with data security and privacy requirements.
  • Control security to the various objects.
  • Perform common maintenance of Users and Groups, simplifying the onerous task of setting advanced security rights.

APOS Administrator provides administrative capabilities that simplify, complement and enhance SAP BusinessObjects object and document instance management and scheduling features. In the hands of platform managers, BI technicians and other power users, APOS Administrator makes SAP BusinessObjects more responsive to enterprise information needs.

APOS Administrator saves valuable administrative time through automation and task streamlining, reducing human error, and providing the agility and flexibility to meet the changing needs of information consumers. Whether you're managing or re-engineering business processes, establishing crisis management or disaster recovery procedures, or preparing for migration to a newer version of SAP BusinessObjects, APOS Administrator creates value through operational efficiencies, establishing trust through reliability.

SAP BusinessObjects Migration with APOS Insight


The APOS suite of well managed BI solutions simplify, automate and complement many SAP BusinessObjects management and administrative tasks. They enhance system visibility and increase your control over BI content. Because they help you optimize your BI system, they are also extremely useful during all phases of your SAP BusinessObjects BI4.0 migration.

APOS Insight provides a complete snapshot of what is happening at any given time within your system, meaning that you can analyze system usage and bottlenecks over time as a preliminary step in planning your new implementation. You can:
  • Populate a database with point-in-time snapshots of system status
  • Extract benchmark information about your system before the migration, then after the migration, and compare them.
  • Run comparison reports/queries of what has changed.
  • See where reports have moved to in the new deployment.
  • Map IDs in one system to IDs in the other.
  • Compare the security structures between the two environments to ensure groups are in place, users are in groups and all are properly permissioned, thus eliminating security holes.

Once you have deployed the new version of SAP BusinessObjects, APOS Insight continues to provide high value with enhanced metadata management, audit, and monitoring capabilities.

Well Managed Migration with APOS Solutions

From the frequent feedback and numerous requests we've received, it's clear what's on many of our customers' minds: migration. Specifically, migration to the new SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.x platform.
SAP's instructions for migrating to its new version are deceptively simple. If you have any project management experience, you'll know that that apparent simplicity hides substantial complexity and many potential risks. For any enterprise softsware deployment or upgrad, risk mitigation has to be the primary objective.
How can you ensure your risks are low and your ROI is high?
APOS well managed BI solutions should be part of your SAP BusinessObjects risk mitigation strategy ‑ before, during and after the migration process. Together, these solutions form a suite of well managed BI solutions to help you perform due diligence with regard to the "5 pillars" of well managed BI:
  • Strategy / Optimization
  • Security
  • Performance
  • Operational Maintenance
  • Compliance

The time to achieve well managed BI is before you migrate to BI 4.0 FP3, not after, and APOS has the solutions to help you plan, design, implement, cut over and go live effectively. The key to a successful migration is effective risk management. The more variables you account for during planning and design, the fewer deviations there will be from the project plan during and after implementation (and the more likely the project will be to come in on time and on budget). You mitigate risk by knowing your system, your requirements, and your capabilities prior to migration.

That's the role of APOS well managed BI solutions:
  • APOS Insight benchmark and optimize performance, plan the target environment, compare security environments.
  • APOS Storage Centersafeguard object, instance integrity for audit and compliance; save to neutral formats; purge Web Intelligence reports intelligently; manage disc space.
  • APOS Administrator clean up content; manage security and users; apply bulk operations on objects, instances, recurring schedules to simplify complex deployments.
  • APOS Publisher develop enhanced information delivery capabilities ‑ advanced bursting, consolidation and document delivery based on business rules.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SAP Announces Intent to Purchase Ariba - $4.3BN

Ariba, the Sunnyvale, California, based cloud computing developer, is the latest acquisition target for SAP. According to SAP, Ariba "is the leader in cloud-based collaborative commerce applications and the second-largest cloud vendor by revenue." The purchsase price is said to be US$4.3 billion.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Redefining BI

In the March 2012 edition of IT in Europe, SearchDataManagement.co.UK's Brian McKenna presents a simplified definition of BI:

Business Intelligence is ripe for defamiliarisation as a term. For IT professionals, the temptation is to understand it to mean query and reporting tools from the BI megavendors. But for one of the finance professionals quoted in this issue of IT in Europe: Data Management & BI Edition, “business intelligence means trying to make money out of data.” [Emphasis added.]

I like this definition, because it takes us closer to first principles. It takes us back to strategic objectives.

When we get set in our ways, comfortable and complacent in the status quo, we start to mistake the practice for the objective. Why do we do things the way we do them? Because that's the way we've always done them.

But the imperative to optimize the top and bottom lines of an enterprise requires us to re-examine our practices on a continuous basis. Can the practice be improved to bring us closer to our strategic objectives? Can a practice be said to be a best practice if it is not connected somehow to the realization of a strategic objective?

As I said, I like the redefinition. However, I don't think it goes far enough. I'm in the Peter Drucker school of thought on this one. Drucker was suspicious of the profit motive as a primary business driver. The purpose of a business, according to Drucker, is to create a customer. By measuring the success of the company against the ongoing relationship with the customer, we create a business that is first and foremost sustainable, but also mutually profitable.

BI's potential contribution to the pursuit of strategic objectives is obvious but not inevitable. BI professionals need to take a progressive approach ‑ to look for ways to achieve strategic objectives through better utilization of the BI platform.

In an article dedicated to the centenary of Drucker's birth, Oliver Marks notes another Drucker maxim: "Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes." For the BI professional, it's not just about improving knowledge, but about improving the way knowledge is stored, managed and disseminated.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The New APOS Website Is Here

Here's a shout-out to Martijn van Foeken (@mfoeken), who was one of the first to notice and tweet about the redesigned APOS website. Since the site's soft launch at the end of April, we've had lots of feedback from our friends, but none so vocal as Martijn's. Thanks.

The site does not represent a departure for us: it's just catching up. It now shows our focus on the concept of "well managed BI," the organizing principle of our solution set.

What do you think of when you think of APOS Systems Inc.? Maybe you think of report scheduling, or report bursting. Maybe you think of system monitoring and alerts. Maybe you think of backup and selective restore capabilities. Many people use APOS solutions to resolve specific issues they have esperienced in SAP BusinessObjects.

But the point is that APOS solutions grow with your SAP BusinessObjects deployment and your information consumers' needs, helping you become less reactive and more proactive in meeting those needs. APOS solutions resolve the issues you have now, and many of the ones you haven't yet experienced -- but will. They help you in your ongoing quest for well managed BI.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Webinar: Progressive Enterprise Publishing Solutions for SAPBusinessObjects

Are your current publishing processes growing more complex and consuming more and more of your administrative resources? Are they based on costly and outdated legacy software and platforms? This webinar will show you how to plan, automate, execute, and monitor document and statement generation from within a modern BI-integrated enterprise publishing solution.

The APOS Publisher Solution provides the agility, flexibility and security to meet complex BI publishing requirements. APOS Publisher complements the inherent strengths of SAP BusinessObjects, and brings end-to-end monitoring, control and output management to your process.

Join us on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at 10 am or 4pm EDT for this thought-provoking discussion.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Harvard Study: Do eHealth Initiatives Add to the Cost of Healthcare?

 

According to Jesse Hirsh on CBC Radio this morning, a recently published study by Harvard researchers shows that eHealth initiatives may be too successful in that they make it too easy to access and take action on patient data. "It's a classic case of the hidden effects of technology; any time you try to solve one problem, you're inadvertently going to create another."

The Harvard study, published in Health Affairs, looked at two groups of physicians: one that used eHealth technology and one that didn't. The study found that the physicians using eHealth technology were 40% to 70% more likely to order extra tests for their patients. As a result, healthcare costs rise where eHealth technology is used. The study's abstract provides a brief conclusion to the research:

We conclude that use of these health information technologies, whatever their other benefits, remains unproven as an effective cost-control strategy with respect to reducing the ordering of unnecessary tests.

Now, this study, or at least the media coverage of this study, begs the question of the purposes for which eHealth record initiatives were introduced in the first place. Before we trumpet the failure of a certain technology to deliver cost savings, we need to look at the larger picture

One of the purposes for which eHealth records were introduced in the US was certainly to drive healthcare cost efficiencies. But the equal, and in some ways opposite, objective was to improve patient outcomes. (See the IOM's report Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, published in 2001.) It is certainly possible to see how ordering additional tests could lead to better patient outcomes.

The conflict is not a new one. We see it all the time in business. It reminds me of the frustrations of a friend who worked in a call center some years ago. She felt she had been given conflicting objectives. She thought it was unrealistic that management should expect her to improve customer service while decreasing call time.

But are these objectives necessarily in conflict? No, they are only in conflict if we take them as absolute imperatives, and that's simply not how the world works. There have to be tradeoffs, and the real challenge for the customer service representative in the call center, and for the doctor using eHealth technology, is to balance the needs of the customer/patient versus the sustainability of the system.

Triage is not practiced only on battlefields and in emergency rooms. While decisions in the call center or the physician's practice may not always be life or death, they still require a triage mentality that balances the needs of the one against the needs of the many. Anyone who is concerned for the viability of an enterprise makes these decisions every day. To mix a metaphor, do we escalate or do we cut bait? The technology does not take away the need for human beings to make decision, balance priorities, and practice an ethic.

So, are the additional healthcare costs a result of a technological failure. No, they are more likely the result of a failure to train technology users sufficiently, a failure to adapt, and thus perhaps also a failure of vision. It's hard to satisfy your examiners when you are unaware of the criteria on which you are being judged.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

From Legacy Headaches to BI ROI

I remember a time when the biggest debate in enterprise IT departments was whether to purchase "best-of-breed" solutions or integrated systems. Line-of-business managers leaned toward the rich functionality of the best-of-breed solutions, and executives and corporate directors were more interested in the wider and easier access to data provided by integrated systems. IT departments were caught in the middle, trying to please multiple masters.

These past battles come down to us as today's legacy applications. The average enterprise IT department may have dozens of software systems to maintain. But they also have to maintain the numerous platforms on which these software systems reside. And sometimes the demise of the platform overtakes the usefulness of the application.

It's a rare crisis that doesn't also present an opportunity to those who can see through the confusion. Many BI platform managers are in this position today. They have under their control a best-of-breed business intelligence solution that can access all enterprise data sources. The BI system is that formerlly elusive combination of best-of-breed solution and integrated system.

When the ROI of a legacy platform or solution is under review, the first question should be whether state-of-the-art systems such as your BI system can absorb the legacy function for increased BI ROI and reduced TCO.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Live Tweeting APOS #StorageCenter Webinar

I'll be live-tweeting this morning's Storage Center webinar using the hashtag #StorageCenter. The webinar gets under way at 10am, and will be repeated this afternoon at 4pm.

The webinar will discuss the place of robust archive, backup and selective restore capabilities in a well managed BI strategy for SAP BusinessObjects.

Register here.

My Twitter handle: @WellManagedBI.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Healthcare Regulatory Compliance and APOS Storage Center

If you are a provider or payer in US Healthcare, your world has become radically more regulated over the past decade or so, thanks to several pieces of legislation, including:

It's a complex landscape. In no other industry is data such an important asset, and yet such a potential liability. The regulatory burden and responsibility continues to grow for both providers and payers. As a BI platform manager in the healthcare industry, you need to be proactive about data governance.

APOS Storage Center can complement your SAP BusinessObjects system and help you with regulatory compliance through the following features:
  • Rules-based backup, archive, versioning, and selective restore
  • Offline and online archiving
  • Extract and export
  • Versioning, purging retrieving Web Intelligence reports
  • System performance improvements

Being proactive about data governance means not waiting until you have a problem to have a solution in place. APOS Storage Center resolves SAP BusinessObjects document instance archive, backup and restore issues before they become security and regulatory compliance problems.

Webinar: Proactive Information Management for SAP BusinessObjects

Tuesday, February, 28, 2012, 10am ET and 4pm ET.

Register for the webinar.

Most organizations have important compliance and/or operational needs which require them to keep a long history of report instances. Every SAP BusinessObjects platform manager needs control and flexibility over report objects, instances and schedules.

The APOS Storage Center well managed BI solution streamlines administration workflows, minimizes the impact of human error, and gives you more flexibility and control over your SAP BusinessObjects deployment. Storage Center mitigates risk and delivers system storage efficiencies for improved system performance and usability. And it makes migrating your SAP BusinessObjects document instances significantly easier.

Please join us for a 45 minute webinar that focuses on the unique benefits of APOS Storage Center, and the flexible control options that it will provide for you. This webinar will provide a functional overview of the APOS Storage Center solution, including:

Archiving

  • Business rules driven archive of report instance
  • On-line and off-line archiving

Backup and Versioning

  • Business rules driven backup of report instances
  • Business rules driven backup of report objects with version controls

Selective Restore

  • Restore specific objects without system downtime

Dynamic Exporting

  • Conversion to neutral format and compression for long-term storage

Intelligent Purging

  • Selective purging of instances from main environment

Monday, February 13, 2012

Healthcare Outcomes and Business Analytics

In 2001, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an arm of the US National Academy of Sciences, released a report detailing the many failings of health care provision in the US, and laying out a plan to fix health care. The plan was to become more proactive and less reactive in engaging patients and families to manage their healthcare, improving the overall health of the population, improving the safety and reliability of the healthcare system, coordinating patient care amongst multiple agencies, delivering palliative services, eliminating abuse, maximizing access, and improving the healthcare system's information infrastructure.

In fact, the focus on healthcare IT at the IOM goes back even further. In 1991, they published "The Computer-Based Patient Record: An Essential Technology for Healthcare"(revised 1997), a report heralding computerized patient records as the best hope for higher quality of care.

In the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Information Management (a publication of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society ‑ membership required), Judy Murphy writes about the progress that has been made in healthcare since the IOM's push for better healthcare IT began over twenty years ago:
Robert Wachter, author of two books on patient safety and editor of the federal government's two leading safety Web sites, gives efforts an overall grade of B-, a slight improvement from his grade of C+ when he performed a similar analysis five years ago. Wachter says that overall, the past decade has seen progress in hospitals' responses to accreditation requirements, regulation and error reporting, but health IT has lagged behind, with research in the area slowly advancing and remaining underfunded.
As Judy Murphy notes, progress has been at best mediocre:
Unfortunately, the attractive claims linking health IT and quality outcomes rest on scant empirical data. Several studies and system reviews published in 2009 and 2010 have demonstrated some evidence for cost and quality benefits of computerization at a few institutions, but with little evidence of broader application.
And it seems that the long-term strategic objectives of this initiative have been obscured by the shorter-term tactical objectives:
The modest quality advantages associated with computerization are difficult to interpret, and are clouded by the fact that the quality indicators used today often reflect care process metrics rather than patient care outcomes. In other words, we are measuring how many patients receive smoking cessation counseling or prescriptions for beta blockers; we are not measuring how many patients quit smoking or what their reinfarction rates are.
The bright spot in all of this is the use of clinical decision support tools:
...it also seems clear that implementing and adopting health IT is not enough. The evidence points out that, unless you specifically use systems with clinical decision support tools and paired with practice changes, you are unlikely to improve quality and patient safety and unlikely to achieve overall reductions in health costs.
Before computerization of healthcare records, we said that healthcare was data-rich, but information-poor. Post computerization, it seems healthcare IT is information-rich, but analysis-poor. In other words, we have the information we need to make a difference, but haven't yet applied the appropriate analytics tools and mindset to the larger strategic objectives.

Clearly, budget is a large part of the problem, but in the age of doing-more-with-less, asking for a larger budget is probably a non-starter. So business analytics managers in healthcare need to look at ways to liberate resources from repetitive administrative tasks so they can spend more time adding value to outcomes via better decision support capabilities. You can't focus effectively on the larger issues if you spend all your time resolving the smaller ones.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Webinar: Well Managed BI with APOS COO Allan Pym

From time to time on this blog, I have offered definitions and illustrations for the concept of well managed BI (here and here and here and here and here). Today you can join APOS COO Allan Pym for a 45-minute webinar on that will answer the question: How . do you get from a curative (reactive) BI practice to a progressive (proactive) BI practice?

Allan will examine some of the BI platform management trends and issues facing organization today, and discusses strategies and best practices you can implement to establish a well managed SAP BusinessObjects deployment.

Register for the well managed BI webinar.


When Thursday, January 26, 2012, 2pm ET

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Well Managed BI Whitepaper

Our newest whitepaper, "Well Managed BI: Managing Your BI Platform for ROI," is now available for download as a PDF on the APOS website.

The whitepaper presents a detailed look at the APOS Well Managed BI Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Learn how you can become a progressive BI practitioner.


Friday, January 6, 2012

SAP BI 4.0 - One of Top BI Stories of 2011

SearchBusinessAnalytics:
One of the biggest business intelligence (BI) software developments of 2011 was the debut of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0, the first major update to SAP AG’s flagship BI and analytics platform in more than three years. The new version is fully integrated with SAP’s enterprise information management products and offers an improved user interface, better mobility, social networking tools and the ability to analyze unstructured data, according to SAP.
BI 4.0 marks the first major update to BusinessObjects since its acquisition by SAP, and answers concerns about SAP's roadmap for business intelligence. The new release promises better integration and user experience, especially for enterprises running SAP solutions. It paves the way for enterprises to realize huge benefits with in-memory computing (HANA), as well as mobile and collaborative (StreamWork) BI.

Here's a summary of what's new in BI 4.0 (SP2), from SAP's documentation:
  • Extends the information infrastructure provided by earlier releases and integrates seamlessly with the existing product line.
  • Supports all deployment models and lets you fine tune administration and configuration of the entire system.
  • Brings together features from across the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Suite to meet your evolving reporting needs, from providing web access to Web Intelligence, to improving SAP Crystal Reports interactivity and personalization.
  • Facilitates migration from SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 5.x and 6.x to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform 4.0, however you need to migrate to Release XI 2.0 first.
  • Delivers new tools to drive user productivity and self-service reporting.
  • Delivers more reporting capability with fewer reports.
  • Includes a variety of major enhancements spread across our data access methods, administration capabilities, and report design options.

    Simplifies business monitoring with dashboard functionality and improved user experience.
  • Delivers the strongest self-service query and analysis solution for SAP customers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Big Data Analytics Skills Shortage

A recent article at SearchBusinessAnalytics cited "raw and user-unfriendly technology" and lack of "skilled experts" in these technologies as the biggest challenges for large enterprises seeking the considerable benefits of big data analytics. As enterprises become more information driven, and business intelligence and analytics become critical to competitive advantage both strategically and operationally, there just aren't enough skilled personnel to handle the development of the needed predictive modeling and predictive analytics applications.

The greatest need is for more data scientists -- people who have post-graduate educations in statistical analysis. As demand grows, and supply remains relatively constant, individuals with these skills will command larger and larger portions of corporate business analytics budgets.

While this "crisis" seems worrisome, it is a problem that the average business intelligence platform manager would love to have. They would all like to be pushing the data analytics envelope to provide proactive and progressive solutions that meet or exceed their enterprises' information needs. Instead, these managers are dealing with smaller curative or preventive issues that won't go away, and which occupy altogether too much of their budget, and their resources' time.

The oldest (okay, maybe second oldest) service-type business proposition in the world goes something like this: If I can make (or save) you $50, will you pay me $5? In IT, such a proposition speaks to both return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO): you make back the money you invest in the service, and you save on the cost of operating the system.

That's the promise of APOS well managed BI solutions. You conserve the time of your resources, and you can move away from fixing and preventing problems, and toward providing progressive business intelligence solutions for your information consumers.