SAP Simplifies Business Intelligence Deep Dives

 SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. Click to enlarge. Source: SAP.

Enterprise software giant SAP is likely better known for delivering detail-oriented software than for focusing on ease of use.

But today in his keynote at SAP’s SAPPHIRE Orlando conference, Léo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, presented the company’s BusinessObjects Explorer solution, designed to simplify sifting through reams of information. The software enables a manager to enter a natural-language query and obtain an answer based on real data.

Key to delivering the answer is handling immense amounts of business intelligence (BI) data. Apotheker said that food company Sara Lee was able to perform an ad hoc analysis of 400 million records in a split second using the new solution.

“This is a truly revolutionary way to analyze data,” Apotheker said. “I am convinced that [it] will fundamentally change the way decisions are made.”

Ian Kimbell, a vice president at SAP, led an on-stage demonstration of the software.

“Let’s say a car company e-mails an auto insurance company and wants data on bodily injuries, especially head injuries,” he said. “I think, ‘I cannot do this. I’m scared.’ But with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, this is very easy. They say it’s so easy to use that a CEO could use it, and we happen to have a CEO on stage.”

Kimbell copied the text from the e-mail into the Explorer window and obtained the data on the injuries. The software also enabled him to drill down to obtain cross-sections of the data, such as “male” and “over 65.”

“Are you looking at me, Ian?” Apotheker asked.

Apotheker then clicked a button to present the data in pie chart form.

Customers are pleased. “We have been beta testing SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and are amazed at how intuitive the software is and how quickly it returns results,” Katrina Coyle, global information manager at Molson Coors, said in a statement. “Employees have already learned things about their
data and our business that they didn’t know previously.”

Changing of the guard?

The product launch signals the latest fruits of SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects in 2007.

Sources at SAP told that the new release also signals Léo Apotheker’s arrival. When Apotheker was named co-CEO a year ago by SAP co-founder and supervisory board chairman Hasso Plattner, Plattner made it clear that Apotheker would be the successor to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann, who continues today as co-CEO.

“Henning Kagermann requested that the supervisory board appoint Léo Apotheker as co-CEO in order to prepare him as successor in the best possible way during the remainder of Henning’s tenure,” Plattner said at the time.

Today, Apotheker thanked Kagermann for his “uncompromising support” and lauded Kagermann’s leadership. “A fundamental transformation of the product line … was obviously only one of his many contributions,” Apotheker said.

Apotheker also seized the opportunity at SAPPHIRE out outline his vision for SAP’s future. He described ambitious green goals for the company, promised unprecedented transparency as the company will report progress on a set of new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and, most importantly, outlined his vision concerning the role of software in solving current economic ills.

He promised support for current and future investments by promising support for SAP Business Suite 7 through 2015 and through the adoption of Timeless Software principles.

The need for data is growing, he said.

“Strategic decisions are not made every week or month but every day, or in some cases, every hour,” Apotheker said.

As a result, organizations that have insight and clarity into their business data and into the risks they face will thrive.

“SAP will help carry the ecosystem out of the crisis and into the future as strong leaders — companies of all sizes. We will deliver increased value to you, our customers,” he added.

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