SAP StreamWork – Enterprise 2.0 of collaboration portal and BI

August 13th, 2010 admin Posted in BI, Collaboration 1 Comment »

холови гарнитуридомейнSAP has released a new collaboration portal that the vendor says will help end users make faster and better business decisions, the latest in a wave of products bringing collaboration to business intelligence (BI).

SAP StreamWork, previously known as 12Sprints while in beta testing, allows users to access and share documents, including Excel spreadsheets, BI reports and data visualizations, all from one environment.

Users can create action plans around specific tasks, invite colleagues to participate, and track their progress against business goals.

As for StreamWork, which was released at the end of March, SAP is working on integrating it with its business software – specifically CRM – but wasn’t ready to specify when that would be ready. The focus now is on bringing in more tools and templates from partners, facilitated through StreamWork’s open APIs.

StreamWork is a collaboration portal that allows users to work together on one screen — creating action plans around specific tasks, inviting colleagues to participate in work, and tracking progress against business goals. There’s a free version and an enhanced version that costs $108 per year on average, according to SAP. The professional edition – which has higher limits for recording and storing information — costs $9 per user, according to Gartner.

But StreamWork as a collaborative decision-making platform isn’t quite there yet, according to analysts.

It has some good capabilities – including tracking activities and recording collaborations, as well as integration with email, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Adobe, WebEx, Evernote and But it has limited capabilities for defining decision attributes such as success criteria, priority and due dates as metadata. It doesn’t show participants where they are in the decision process. It doesn’t suggest the right participants based on relevant skills or past successes with similar decisions. Also, according to a Gartner report, it doesn’t allow participants to mine previous decisions for best practices, techniques and templates.

According to an Article in Forbes magazine (by Dan Woods – where he compared various collaborative software offerings by other companies) SAP StreamWork has taken steps in the direction of offering structure to one form of collaboration: making decisions. StreamWork proposes a model for making a decision, tracking the arguments for and against, capturing the supporting evidence and the key objections. The goal of the product is to not only accelerate collaboration during the decision-making process, but also to provide a historical record. As the results of decisions come in, it is possible to see what was right and what was wrong about how the decision was made.

Some reviews of StreamWork have focused on the lack of one feature or another without recognizing the potential that such a decision-making system could have on management. For example, it is not at all unusual in business for a team to be tasked with making a decision, prepare a methodical case and then have the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) carry the day without much regard for the analysis. If an archive of the decision is available at the time of the decision, and more importantly, known to be available later, it is much less likely that the analysis will be ignored.

In a sense, StreamWork applies the Lean Manufacturing concept of standardizing work to the process of decision making, which makes a variety of continuous improvement processes possible. First of all, you can see what evidence turned out to be most predictive. I was surprised when the StreamWork product managers told me that they did not consider direct connectivity to SAP ERP data such as purchase orders or materials masters or budgets to be of primary importance. They said business intelligence analyses were the key evidence most of the time to support decisions.

Another nice feature according to Dan: Because you can see who said what about the decision, it is possible to see who has the best intuition for predicting the behavior of consumers, markets, competitors, regulators or anything else. Also, in most companies decisions take far too long. By standardizing the process, people can stop reinventing the wheel again and again and start focusing on the data needed to justify a decision.

And according to an article on, with demise of Google Wave, could SAP’s Streamwork be next for the chop?

SAP Mentors use it and as part of that see plenty of problems with that technology, not least the persistent email notifications when something changes. It’s downright annoying. But for some the big issue is that they don’t get it.

During SAPPHIRE 2010 a senior evangelist for Streamwork was asked what it’s about. She replied that Streamwork is a social application that helps people make collaborative decisions. But still one wonders where is the process element that ties a user back to economic activities? Perhaps not easy to find.

As a user pointed out, people who live in the enterprise world have a hard enough time juggling different applications. Why would they step into something like Streamwork and then back out to the app they use on a day to day basis? It doesn’t make sense.

Hopefully SAP will keep Streamwork alive and find a way to integrate it to apps in a contextual manner. If its own mentors using it are at pains using it, how can SAP sell it as an innovation?

Enterprise 2.0 is the strategic integration of Web 2.0 technologies into an enterprise’s intranet, extranet and business processes. Enterprise 2.0 implementations generally use a combination of social software and collaborative technologies like blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, social networking and wikis. Most enterprise 2.0 technologies, whether homegrown, free or purchased, emphasize employee, partner and consumer collaboration. Such technologies may be in-house or Web-based. Companies using YouTube for vlogging or a private Facebook group as a modified intranet, for instance, are implementing a form of Enterprise 2.0.икони на светциСувенири

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BI user experience with SAP’s own Business Objects

October 8th, 2007 admin Posted in BI 2 Comments »

>матрациng the Teched in Las Vegas last week, BI201 – SAP NetWeaverBusiness Intelligence Roadmap touted new Java-based Front-end and BI Integrated Planning as having high adoption and perceived as quantum leap in user experience.
And on Sunday, SAP’s planned acquisition of Business Objects creates interesting situation for end user (front end) access to SAP Business Intelligence (BI, or BW) data (good SAP has started inserting a disclaimer on every Roadmap document).
While the ‘new’ technology roadmap is far from clear, there is going to be significant overlap of end user tools amongst SAP BI, Business Objects and even an earlier acquisition from this year: OutlookSoft. Specifically, the performance management tools of OutlookSoft buyout (in turn acquired from Cartesis) overlap with Business Object’s own performance management offerings to a good degree.
This is just a clear admission on SAP’s part that its own BI end-user tools were not real. There indeed have been recent major reverses for SAP when big companies went through an evaluation of BI frontend tools, and many came up recommending Business Objects for giving end users’ valuable access to enterprise data in SAP BI cubes. This will clearly be a win situation for many clients, and market intelligence of this nature could have be a factor in influencing SAP’s move in acquiring Business Objects.
For foreseeable future, Business Objects’ products are expected to remain “agnostic” – able to work just as well with databases and applications from competitors as with SAP systems. In its understanding of the world, SAP may be able to teach a lesson or two in process ‘centricity’, as compared to data-centric view most BI Vendors traditionally hold. What will be critical in coming months would be how much a focus does Business Object entity loose on innovaton and product improvement as it tries to integrate with the acquisition. And in longer term, as it tries to integrate its products with SAP’s product line.
SAP’s Web Services enabled Netweaver platform, standardized on top of J2EE should make integration easier. Business Objects end user queries run on Java, .Net and COM technologies. One quick next step could be to standardize BusinessObjects Enterprise, Application Foundation, BusinessObjects Enterprise XI and specifically BusinessObjects Analytics on SAP’s own Java application server. Then may follow other products like SAP Identity Management as the LDAP repository.

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SAP SEM gives way to OutlookSoft based BPC

September 23rd, 2007 admin Posted in BI 3 Comments »

There is shuffle in one more area of SAP. The SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management) module build on top of BW is loosing out of favor. For all practical purposes, the future direction in Performance Management and planning seems to be the new avatar of SAP’s acquisition Outlooksoft. Outlooksoft was a medium size player in this area. But SAP has known to have problems with SEM. The product and its platform have been rigid. The models created by planners have been very difficult to be integrated into the SEM module, and have very often required intervention of developers to enhance the code. On top of it, SEM had limited web based tools, and the platform basically posed challenges on the frontend side. Give and take, SAP’s own offering has been a laggard and it was a matter of time before the realization to plug the whole dawned.
Outlooksoft had lowered the cost of entry to integrated business performance management by creating applications based around Microsoft’s SQL Server database and Excel. The latest Outlooksoft 5 release has been redesigned with a service-oriented architecture that makes it easier to deploy the product via the web and with different databases – which closely mirror’s SAP’s product philosophy. This also simplifies integration with SAP’s own NetWeaver Business Intelligence (BI) infrastructure.

Industry analyst Gartner reported that SAP would continue to develop its Strategic Enterprise Management (SEM) and Business Warehouse products and seek to roll out OutlookSoft as a companion application to act as the “face” of the underlying SAP systems.

SAP said it planned to sell the integrated OutlookSoft-SAP products by the end of this year. SAP acquired Russian strategy management specialist Pilot Software, while it also sells the Profit Analyzer program developed by Acorn Systems.
An example scenario for end user interaction is – say a car manufacturer using Outlooksoft for budgeting would be guided through changes in product plans by a set of Excel-driven wizards, email alerts and narrative guides in Word and PowerPoint format. There is some level of integration with the Microsoft Office 2007 suite allowing Word, Excel and PowerPoint users to “consume” business performance information over the web

In SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidation’s ((formerly Outlooksoft)current 5.1 release, there is almost no change from Outlooksoft – its the old product with an SAP logo. Future releases will be based on the NW OLAP engine (ROLAP) engine, leveraging the capabilities included in NW around access performance. Future release will also be available on the Microsoft stack

The next release of BPC will not be integrating to BI-IP. That is, the next release of BPC will read/write to NW BI InfoCubes built specifically to support BPC. Front-end convergence (i.e. being able to use the OSFT front-end on say a BI-IP cube) is planned for the subsequent release.

The OutlookSoft solution does require a specific data model (i.e. certain mandatory dimensions which have certain mandatory properties, different way of handling non-cumulative figures, currency conversions, etc). So, unfortunately, it’s not “plug and play” as far as front-ends and functions, etc go.
You will still create your own Dimensions and assign them to cubes. There will also be additional meta data tables that the OutlookSoft application and client uses, which are also very important. You cannot just pick a cube and make the OutlookSoft solution run on top of it (at least not for the release next year).

More information on this topic:

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Going BI 7 – Cannot escape a Federated Netweaver portal landscape

May 12th, 2007 admin Posted in BI, Netweaver, Portal 5 Comments »

With new Business Intelligence version 7, SAP has moved it BEx Web Analyzer to a pure Java framework. This necessitates that there be usage type BI Java, the prerequisite of which is usage type EP. Which means every BI 7 upgrade or installation needs a Netweaver Portal together with KM and Collaboration installed. This has been an interesting way how the landscape has been laid out.
Now it does not really mean that BI Java has to be set up on your primary portal instance. Instead what it means for all practical purposes is that it will almost necessitate setting a separate portal instance. While users will not necessarily know (and should not know) that there is another portal, this additional portal will be real for portal administrators and BI team to manage. The framework for this new portal can (and should) be kept dormant (hidden). The real use of this portal instance should be limited to the use of its underlying J2EE engine to run the BI Query runtime and BEx web analyzer. And probably to use the KM that comes with it for information broadcasting functionality.
In BI 7, The AS ABAP usage type continues to have the BW 3.5 Web Runtime together with IGS for graphics, and is topped off with BI Content Add-on. Which is inclusive of all that is required for web based BEx reporting as people have seen coming out of BW 3.5. Whats new is really the BI Java Usage type that brings all the new added functionality (the IT Scenarios like Enterprise Reporting, Query, and
Analysis) to the fore for the users. For example Analysis Item, Formatted Reporting, Web Printing, PDF Export, etc. Its also required for rendering Webdynpro for Java apps for BI Integrated Planning.
So while technically one could do a “technical” upgrade to BI 7 without the Java engine, any new functionality will need Java (and hance the dormant EP instance).
How is the BI Portal different from the user facing primary portal instance?
Even if your company did not foresee a need for a federated portal, looks like there is no escape from it since in this new architecture, the BI Portal becomes a producer portal and the main portal the consumer portal. Content from the BI producer portal surfaces inside the consumer portal as url iViews, remote role assignment is possible, etc.

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