MUFI Rating & Risk – SAP BI/BW
MUFI: Maintainability, Usability, Functionality, Implement ability
Vendor: SAP (Select For Vendor Profile)
SAP BI/BW is the only BI solution that SAP owns that was developed by SAP, and it is easily the worst BI solution that SAP has in its stable. The problems with BI were a significant motivator for the purchase of Business Objects, which was beating BI in too many head to head proposals. The idea was that Business Objects – particular, its data modelling functionality would be ported to BI, but this never occurred.
The term “best in class” is often thrown around, however what about the term worst in class? We ask because SAP BI/BW meets the definition of a “worst in class” application. Among the areas that we measure, SAP BI/BW is last in all of them, and we question BI/BW’s ability to exist as a product independent. In BI/BW, there is no bright light to be found. The user interface is inferior; the engineering of the data cubes and overall backend is the worst that we have ever seen (unfortunately, this same solution is replicated in the SAP APO DP product). At every customer that we evaluate, SAP BI/BW, as well as SAP APO DP, can do the least of any of the applications in its category. Both have the highest TCO in their respective software categories. Companies that use BI have bad reports and companies that use DP have high forecast error. However, because the significant consulting companies can bill for their SAP DP and SAP BI/BW resources, and do not have resources trained on more efficient applications, they continue to be recommended to clients.
If you are a buyer that had a major consulting company recommend SAP BI/BW or DP to you, and you have observed the lack of productivity in these applications, you now know why these products were recommended to you. It had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of these applications. BI/BW has atrocious report development productivity. This means that BI/BW reports are universally late; companies that purchase BI/BW are not able to meet their reporting needs. We have occasionally heard BI/BW referee to as a Roach Motel for reporting requirements. That is “requirements go in, but reports don’t come out.”
The entire slow motion and problematic BI and DP product is what happens when a company like SAP, that had no previous experience in advanced data structures creates products in a software category and uses its marketing muscle and partnerships with influencers like consulting companies and IT analysts to present the notion that SAP has competitive applications in these categories.
The Poor Product Productivity of SAP BI/BW (and the related product SAP DP)
Buyer after buyer complains to us about reports that are late or never appear, and this should not be surprising to anyone when we use SAP DP (which uses the same data backend as SAP BI), things that take us days to do, take hours in other applications. The application Demand Works Smoothie has a very efficient approach to building relationships versus SAP DP (Demand Works is profiled in our section in our Software Selection Package for Demand Planning). When we were testing the application, we at first thought Demand Works had developed some new database technology. However, it uses a star schema the same as SAP DP (and the same as BI/BW), yet how Demand Works configured the star schema made the application almost maintenance-free. At the same time, SAP BI/BW makes setting up data structures too similar to a root canal. SAP BI/BW is the prototypical application that comes with a lot of bells and whistles (and is now being promoted to run on “HANA” – an in-memory database technology).
However, HANA will still not address the productivity problems with the application. Other vendors such as Teradata have been using solid-state drives (SSDs) combined with hard drives to improve performance for some time; they don’t make a big marketing push related to offering upgraded hardware to their clients. (SAP proponents would argue that HANA is much more than SSDs, and it is, but because SAP is so grandiose regarding HANA and so much of their statements regarding what HANA includes – it’s a lengthy conversation as to what HANA is, and many of SAP’s comments relating to HANA are also not reliable.) In fact, SAP’s constant harping on HANA is a distraction, as it is intended to be by SAP sales. The sap is attempting to distract customers from looking at the reality of SAP’s dated, expensive and inefficient applications by adding the marketing zest of a further technology promise in the embodied in HANA so that buyers will not notice that its’ previous technology predictions and guarantees have not worked out.
Naturally, buyers can choose any other BI application other than SAP BI/BW and be sure of making a better decision than selecting SAP BI/BW. SAP BI/BW does not even make sense for companies that already own a large number of other SAP applications. Getting a few limited adapters will not make up for purchasing the worst BI/BW application currently sold.
All scores out of a possible 10.
Vendor and Application Risk
SAP BI/BW implementations are some of the toughest in IT. The building of data structures is so antiquated and difficult that it will require gobs of time from some of the most expensive resources that work in business intelligence. Users will complain mightily regarding the reporting interface, and the project will have major user adoption issues. When report changes are requested, they will take a very long period. The project team will have to constantly fight the business users to migrate them away from whatever personal or parochial data tools/reports that they rely upon to redirect them back to SAP BI/BW so that the buyer can get some financial payback on SAP BI/BW.
Likelihood of Implementation Success
This accounts for both the application and the vendor-specific risk. In our formula, the total implementation risk is application + vendor + buyer risk. The buyer specific risk could increase or decrease this overall likelihood and adjust the values that you see below.
Risk Management Approach
SAP BI/BW has extraordinarily low productivity, and so reports should be kept to an absolute minimum. It is better to let the business users know how few reports they will get upfront rather than stringing them out, only to disappoint them. Unfortunately, none of this will be communicated by SAP or by their partners, the major consulting companies. BI/BW is known only to be able to deliver a minimum number of the promised reports at the company after company. We typically recommend hiring an independent consultant – and they can be found readily for SAP BI/BW. However, don’t expect objectivity from this consultant and they will tow the line proposed by SAP and the major consulting company, and a buyer will have a difficult time finding one that will tell them the truth.
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The Necessity of Fact Checking
We ask a question that anyone working in enterprise software should ask.
Should decisions be made based on sales information from 100% financially biased parties like consulting firms, IT analysts, and vendors to companies that do not specialize in fact-checking?
If the answer is “No,” then perhaps there should be a change to the present approach to IT decision making.
In a market where inaccurate information is commonplace, our conclusion from our research is that software project problems and failures correlate to a lack of fact checking of the claims made by vendors and consulting firms. If you are worried that you don’t have the real story from your current sources, we offer the solution.