SAP Unveils BI Tool Set for Casual Users, SMBs

SAP says its new SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand software offers analytics and reporting tools to casual business users who otherwise might not have the experience or skills necessary to make use of business intelligence in their daily workflow. SAP has increasingly focused on the small and midsize business segment as a way to increase its enterprise applications revenue stream, a move mirrored by its competitors, such as Oracle. The announcement comes on the heels of a substantial management shakeup at SAP.

SAP has unveiled its SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand platform, a platform for what the company described as "casual BI users currently underserved by products on the market." Using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer software, users can combine data from multiple sources and proceed to do an analysis or create a report.

SAP said its intention with the new platform, announced Feb. 24, is to provide a scalable platform that can be used by workers with relatively little experience with business intelligence tools. It accesses data from both the cloud and on-premises applications, and can draw in data from SAP, and proprietary information uploaded from company databases, to be used in reports and analyses.

"Current market trends show strong demand for SAAS BI tools that are easy to use and acquire, and IDC research expects the SAAS BI market to grow three times faster than the overall BI and analytics market over the next five years," IDC analyst Dan Vesset said in a statement. "As organizations look for intuitive, cloud-based solutions that can empower their end users, applications that supplement traditional BI functionality of query, reporting and analysis with support for workflow, search and collaboration will become increasingly attractive to them."

SAP is planning three editions of the platform, which will be released later in 2010 through the SAP PartnerEdge program. From a competitive standpoint, SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand will allow the company to offer a combined package to meet on-premises and on-demand BI needs, as opposed to customers building their own using products from multiple vendors.

SAP has centered its focus on the small and midsize business sector as a potential source of growth, mirroring the competitive angle taken by other enterprise software makers such as Oracle as they seek new revenue streams. Key SMB-focused products include Business ByDesign, SAP Business One and SAP Business All-in-One.

SAP is also undergoing a management shakeup, with the naming of a new chief operating officer and the elevation of the executive vice president of SME (small and midsize enterprise) to the executive board. On Feb. 7, CEO Leo Apotheker announced his resignation, after the company reported a 12 percent drop in operating income and a 9 percent drop in revenue for 2009.

Financial pressures and an increasing cost-consciousness on the part of many of SAP's customers, acknowledged by Apotheker in a Jan. 14 conference call, have led the company to take steps such as offering its flagship Business Suite 7 in modules without requiring customers to upgrade to the whole platform. SAP has also been partnering with companies such as Microsoft and IBM to help promote and sell its products.