Straight Talk: Pros and Cons of SAP Business Objects

Straight Talk BI ReviewsOur potential customers assume we’ll educate them about Yurbi. After all, that’s the only way they’ll know if Yurbi is the right solution for their needs. What they don’t expect is our Customer Success team to outline the pros and cons of other business intelligence solutions. But helping potential customers understand the advantages and drawbacks of leading business intelligence solutions like SAP Business Objects is part of our customer success philosophy. If Yurbi isn’t the right solution for your organization, we feel good knowing we may be able to direct you to another BI tool that meets your needs.

If you’re wondering whether SAP Business Objects can satisfy your business intelligence needs- and want straight talk, not a marketing pitch, read on.

Background of Business Objects

In 1994, Business Objects went public and became the first French company to be listed on the NASDAQ. Nine years later, Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions for $820 million. Business Objects then released Dashboard Manager, BusinessObjects Enterprise 6, and BusinessObjects Performance Manager. In 2008, SAP bought Business Objects for $6.8 billion. Business Objects became a division of SAP and the brand “SAP BusinessObjects” was established.

Pros of SAP Business Objects

Massive Resources

Business Objects is a well-established brand that’s been in the niche right from the get-go. Backed by massive resources, you can trust that Business Objects is here to stay. In fact, according to a recent study, SAP enjoys more than $3 billion in annual revenues and has captured nearly one quarter of market share1. Suffice it to say, SAP not only has the financial resources, but also the technical resources to go through development cycles and improve their products as necessary. And due to its overwhelming adoption rates, you’ll never have trouble finding a developer skilled in Business Objects’ proprietary language.

Nearly Endless Scalability

Business Objects is an enterprise reporting tool, whereas SAP’s other popular BI tools, Crystal Reports and Crystal Reports Server, are designed to sever small to medium sized businesses. Whether your organization has 10,000 users, 100,000 users, or more, Business Objects can handle the task and scale as your organization grows. Hands down, scalability is one of the primary reasons large corporations choose Business Objects for their BI needs.

Robust Feature Set

In addition to scalability, another big advantage of Business Objects is that it can handle a myriad of complex reporting tasks. As a result, many Fortune 500 companies have “standardized” on Business Objects, meaning they’ve purchased a top level enterprise license and made Business Objects their company’s “reporting standard.”

Versatile Integration

Business Objects can connect to a variety data sources such as OLAP, and XML. It can also connect to any number of integration points like SharePoint, Java, Microsoft Office and .NET. In fact, according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, integration with enterprise applications is one of the primary reasons many organizations select SAP as their BI vendor2.

Solid Administrative and Data Governances

Business Objects has the tools and features needed for large scale user deployment, access and security control. It can integrate with multiple standards such as LDAP security providers and Single-Sign-On (SSO) solutions for user provisioning, and has the level of security needed to restrict access at the report level. Many software vendors are able to integrate their security models with the Business Object API to provide data level security as well.

Cons of SAP Business Objects

Quite Expensive

A significant drawback to Business Objects is its cost- including both its initial and its lifetime cost. From our research and experience, not only does it cost at least $50,000 to purchase (at the very minimum), it isn’t unheard of for companies at the enterprise level to spend millions. Add on labor expense and 18-20 percent yearly maintenance cost, and in no time at all Business Objects becomes exorbitantly expensive. When we took at look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant we discovered that 42 percent of those surveyed identified the cost of Business Objects as a reason they have not expanded its deployment within their organization.

Requires a Number of Servers

Business Objects can require a number of servers and extensive hardware. For example, from our experience we know that the embedded Business Objects reporting option for CA Service Desk requires four serves. The cost of the hardware, expense of maintaining the servers and associated administrative costs can add up quickly with Business Objects.

Upgrading is Difficult

A complaint we hear often from organizations that have used Business Objects is that it’s difficult to upgrade. A Google search confirms that many Business Objects users endure a troublesome migration experience. As a whole, according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, SAP was rated more difficult than the survey average when it came to migration. Furthermore, those using BusinessObjects 3.1 rated it the most difficult to upgrade of all the products in the Gartner survey.

Not Business User-Friendly

Business Objects is a developer platform. That means organizations that want to leverage Business Objects will need the support of a highly skilled development team. End users cannot do things like create reports or build dashboards applications on their own. Not only does the need for an IT team add to the cost of Business Objects, it also means the end user may wait hours or days to get the business intelligence they need to make sound, fact based decisions. When they finally get the data, it’s stale.

High-Pressure Sales and Poor Support

Although SAP is making an effort to improve its customer service by doing things like creating a new BI Customer Success website and expanding online training curriculum, Gartner notes that its customers still rated it below average for support and third-lowest overall for sales experience.

Our Bottom Line: The Pros and Cons of Business Objects

If you’re looking for a “safe choice”- and you can afford it, you can’t go wrong with a market leader like Business Objects. Business Objects may also be the right choice if you need to run complex queries and want a highly scalable solution. However, if you want a BI tool the business user can leverage, Business Objects is not the right solution for you. In fact, if you don’t have a team of IT developers and you can’t afford to hire one, Business Objects is not a viable option.

We hope this review of SAP Business Objects was informative. Now, find out the pros and cons of other popular BI solutions by exploring more straight talk reviews.

Have you used SAP Business Objects? If so, do you have anything to add to our outline of the pros and cons of Business Objects?

1 Gartner, 2014

2Gartner’s Magic Quadrant

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