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  • Graham Wilson

Is it time to migrate from SAP BusinessObjects to Microsoft Power BI?

Data is king when it comes to informing business decisions. But as organisations deal with an increasing amount of data, the demand for better business intelligence tools to analyse that data also skyrockets. The right business intelligence system provides you with access to critical information and helps you translate raw data into insights to give your organisation a competitive advantage regardless of the market.

For years now, companies have favoured traditional, “enterprise” reporting platforms such as SAP BusinessObjects (BO). SAP BO is a centralised suite that offers data reporting, visualisation and sharing capabilities, easily transforming data into insights and ensuring these are available around the clock anywhere you need them. But while SAP BusinessObjects has its benefits, is it still the best solution out there?

SAP BusinessObjects

SAP BusinessObjects consists of numerous reporting and analysis applications under a single “umbrella”. Some of the most used ones include Webi, or Web Intelligence, a web browser tool that allows users to analyse data, produce reports in specific formats and either distribute them on SAP BO or export them to other formats (including PDF and Excel); Crystal Reports, a data analytics and dynamic reporting tool designed specifically for small to medium-sized businesses and individual users; and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard where users can create custom interactive dashboards, charts and widgets to visualise data.

Additionally, SAP BusinessObjects Data Services, which is integrated natively with the SAP suite, allows users to extract data from a single data source, transform it following pre-specified rules and load the cleaned data into a target system.

Advantages of SAP BusinessObjects

The biggest advantage of SAP BusinessObjects is that it offers you almost all the reporting, analysis and visualisation capabilities within a centralised environment. What’s more, these features are offered within a drag-and-drop interface which means your organisation’s analysts can start using the tools without the need for specialised training or any special coding skills.

The quick learning curve, relative ease of use and the straightforward, drag-and-drop interface combine with good flexibility when it comes to loading data as well. SAP BusinessObjects allows users to load their data in a number of ways, including BAPIs, IDOCS, and Batch input. Additionally, business owners can take advantage of the easy scheduling and job monitoring features. There are also built-in capabilities to reduce repetitive tasks by using variables—such as to change the environment a job should run in, and eliminate, add or change task steps without recreating the entire pipeline. Report scheduling is also quite simple and straightforward.

In short, SAP BusinessObjects offers a robust feature set, almost endless scalability and security capabilities, as well as standardised KPI definitions that make it easy for the end user to interact with the program.

Disadvantages of SAP BusinessObjects

One of the biggest disadvantages of SAP BusinessObjects and the reason why an increasing number of users consider a migration to more agile tools is the huge purchase and maintenance costs. The convenience of working within the same ecosystem comes with a hefty price tag and SAP can be pricy, especially for small-to-medium-sized businesses. Additionally, there are the associated maintenance and support costs and expensive licensing. There are also limited self-service and visualisation capabilities.

On the other hand, there’s already an array of newer, cheaper and more agile solutions when it comes to business intelligence software.

Modern BI systems tend to offer better insight by leveraging the cloud which allows you to access business information in real time. This means easy, straightforward access to custom reports, dashboards and actionable insights anytime anywhere.

Tech is also a rapidly evolving field and talent tends to be drawn to newer technology. What this means in terms of IT support is that legacy products—such as SAP BusinessObjects—might quickly become obsolete and supporting and maintaining them might become harder and thus, more costly. There’s already a wave of SAP BusinessObjects specialists who are making the professional migration and retraining to other tools, such as Microsoft Power BI.

Newer solutions also tend to offer more functionality, including “out of the box” dashboards and custom reports as well as unmatched visualisation. User experience also tends to be better with more agile solutions like Microsoft Power BI, with intuitive menus, information available on the go (including from your smartphone), and interactive UI and more opportunities for seamless collaboration.

Lastly, SAP BusinessObjects runs on premise, meaning it’s only available from one physical location and any maintenance or updates need to be performed on site. As business tools become increasingly cloud-based and more software solutions migrate to the cloud, this can be a huge disadvantage. Tools such as Microsoft Power BI, on the other hand, are cloud native. This lends them a competitive edge compared to SAP BusinessObjects which still lags behind as far as its cloud readiness is concerned. What’s more, the SAP’s analytics upgrade path for BusinessObjects is still unclear.

Microsoft Power BI

Already considering spearheading your organisation’s migration from SAP BusinessObjects to more modern tools such as Microsoft Power BI? Let’s look under the hood.

The biggest advantage Microsoft Power BI offers over enterprise legacy solutions like SAP BO is the pricing. SAP BusinessObjects is expensive, with a large upfront cost and additional maintenance and licensing expenses. Microsoft Power BI, on the other hand, offers a flexible payment model with more built-in features. Because of this, it’s hardly surprising that its user base is growing, especially because MS Power BI is available to end users as part of the Office 365 subscription.

Most people are already familiar with MS products and for them, MS Power BI would feel like an extension to Excel. It has an intuitive, user-friendly drag-and-drop environment and as any Microsoft product, it runs smoothly and is backed up by extensive documentation that makes troubleshooting easy. Compared to SAP BusinessObjects, MS Power BI also has a smoother learning curve for new users. Take Web Intelligence, for instance: while SAP BO’s user interface is relatively simple, Webi does come with a new formula language and concepts that have to be mastered by the user.

Microsoft Power BI is essentially part of the Microsoft 365 and Power Platform “stack” which together, form an enterprise-based solution (and which we wrote about here). Its excellent synergy with other Microsoft products, the array of enterprise-grade self-service, smart sharing tools and excellent visualisation, in-built AI capabilities, end-to-end encryption and real-time access monitoring thanks to the cloud, are only some of the advantages it offers over older BI solutions like SAP BusinessObjects. Rather than a costly upfront cost, it scales with your needs and offers powerful, yet easy-to-use tools for extracting insights from data and transforming them into effective visuals to drive smarter business decisions.

Ready to move over to MS Power BI? Just get in touch with us using the button below. We can design, create, and implement a complete solution built around your systems to help you harness the power of MS Power BI and enjoy increased security, significant cost, time savings, and unmatched agility.

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