NEW YORK-SAP used a high-profile presentation to unveil version 4.0 of its business intelligence and enterprise information management solutions from its SAP BusinessObjects platform, in a bid to compete more heartily in the enterprise against Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and other tech giants. In keeping with current trends, the updates emphasize support for mobile devices and information from social networks.
"Being able to engage people, and react instantly to a problem or opportunity, is what we're here to talk about," Steve Lucas, SAP's general manager and global head of business analytics, told an audience gathered in a Times Square hotel. "You want information now, immediately, as it happens."
How people consume their business intelligence has changed, he added. Now, the paradigm is shifting toward mobile. Hence, SAP's latest offerings include support for devices such as the BlackBerry Torch, the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and the iPad.
The rise of social networking has also complicated life for any number of businesses, whose short-term fortunes can sometimes rise or fall based on a single Tweet gone viral. Many of SAP's rivals, notably Salesforce.com, have introduced features into their CRM platforms and other offerings that allow employees to monitor Twitter and similar services in real-time.
SAP's newest software not only lets the user monitor Tweets in real-time, but also extract more granular information about the Tweets and their creators, presumably for later data-mining. In addition to this merging of business intelligence with social-media streams, the software's other new features include real-time in-memory computing, which can rapidly crunch high volumes of data for business insights.
New software released as part of version 4.0 includes SAP BusinessObjects Data Services, which helps consolidate and manipulate data sources for improved quality; SAP BusinessObjects Information Steward, which gives end users the ability to monitor and rate their data sources' completeness, accuracy and consistency; SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight, which lets people monitor the impact of business events throughout a network; and SAP businessObjects Business Intelligence, which offers self-service access to information.
SAP faces substantial competition from a number of rivals. In addition to Oracle, which is pushing business-intelligence applications in the context of its integrated hardware-software stack, companies ranging from Microsoft to IBM and Salesforce.com have their own designs on business IT.
But SAP has taken aggressive steps of its own to counteract that competitive pressure. In early 2010, the company underwent a substantial management shakeup, naming a new chief operating officer and elevating the executive vice president of SME (small and midsize enterprise) to the executive board, a sign of increased focus on that particular business segment. That seismic activity climaxed in February 2010 with the resignation of CEO Leo Apotheker.
SAP followed those internal moves with a big external one, acquiring Sybase for $5.8 billion. Almost immediately, SAP began promising that it would use assets from Sybase, a 26-year-old producer of relational database software and mobile data management products, to deliver a mobile business-applications platform based on open standards, and capable of running on many different mobile devices and operating systems.
In an August 2010 meeting with industry analysts, customers and media, SAP executives confirmed that product development with Sybase's assets would focus on three areas: enterprise mobility, business analytics and enterprise information management. The overall goal would be to make SAP "the only company n the world to deliver the full suite of enterprise software and next-generation business intelligence on any device at any time," according to SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott.
Many of those Sybase assets apparently found their way into this newest release, suggesting that SAP plans to fully tackle its rivals' own moves towards mobility for business users.