SAP BO explained in detail and understandably

SAP BO is a collection of products from numerous individual solutions, with which companies realize analysis and visualization of business management data. But what does this mean in concrete terms?

SAP BO explained in detail and comprehensibly

SAP BO stands for SAP BusinessObjects. It is a platform for reporting and analysis (business intelligence solution) that consists of several products. The SAP BusinessObjects Suite has been part of SAP's BI solutions since 2007. At that time, the Walldorf-based software group acquired the French provider of the same name, BusinessObjects. SAP BO is available in both local and cloud-based versions.

SAP BO vs. SAP Analytics Cloud: What are the differences?

SAP still offers both the platform and the front-end applications for reports and analyses under the name SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence and continues to develop the solution.

The upgrade successor to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3 (Support Package 3) is the SAP BusinessObjects BI 2025 version, which will be released in the fourth quarter of 2024.

However, the strategic successor to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence is already available: SAP Analytics Cloud.

It is currently the most comprehensive tool from the SAP Analytics area and a pure cloud solution. SAC is a central and web-based platform on which all of a company's planning, reporting and analyses can be brought together.

While SAP BO is a pure BI solution that can be used to convert company data into insights, the SAP Analytics Cloud includes both business intelligence and predictive planning.

The SAC uses innovative technologies such as machine learning and predictive analytics.

Ultimately, this enables well-founded decisions to be made on the basis of real-time data - even in extremely complex scenarios. In the context of big data, the SAP Analytics Cloud also enables the connection of various on-premise and cloud data sources from the SAP and non-SAP environment.

What happens to older BO and BI tools?

Many companies are still using solutions from the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite.

As version 4.2 will reach the end of priority support at the end of 2024 and BI 4.3 Support Package 3 has been available since December 2022, SAP currently recommends that all customers upgrade to version 4.3.

According to the standard maintenance policy, SAP will support the SAP BusinessObjects BI 2025 solution at least until the end of 2029 for mainstream maintenance and until 2031 for priority 1 support. According to SAP, companies' investments in the 2025 version are secure beyond 2030.

SAP is currently focusing its SAP BI investments on the most widely used solutions SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions:

  • SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence,
  • SAP Crystal Reports (for Windows only for version 4.3 SP2 and higher),
  • SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office and
  • SAP Lumira Designer.

Certain BO solutions will - with the SAP BusinessObjects BI 2025 version - no longer be included in SAP BusinessObjects BI:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Universe Design Tool and .unv universes,
  • Multi-source universes and associated connectivity,
  • SAP Lumira Discovery,
  • SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Live Office,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Mobile

SAP recommends that users of SAP BO Dashboards switch to Lumira Designer or directly to the SAP Analytics Cloud.

In the long term, SAP Analytics Cloud will follow SAP BusinessObjects BI due to the numerous advantages of the cloud solution. SAC is the strategic successor for analysis and planning with SAP.

What is SAP BO used for and where is it used?

The main aim of SAP BO is to make reports and analyses so intuitive that business users no longer need data analysts or IT support to answer their questions. BusinessObjects can therefore also be described as "self-service BI".

Among other things, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence provides drag-and-drop functions with which users can compile and change their reports independently. Another advantage is the ability to combine information from different sources in the form of multidimensional data analyses.

SAP BusinessObjects is aimed at a wide range of target groups such as industry, public institutions, financial service providers and non-profit organizations. The tools are used, for example, in management, sales, production, finance, controlling and procurement.

How does SAP BO work?

From a technical perspective, SAP BO contains several technologies and applications from the BI area. These include, among others:

  • ETL (Extract, Transform, Load): Extracting, processing and integrating data from different sources
  • Predictive dashboard: Visual representation of key figures and forecasts
  • Tools for creating reports/reporting (operational reporting)
  • OLAP (Online Analytical Processing): Approach to data analysis from different perspectives
  • Ad-hoc reporting functions

Data is mainly obtained from different sources via middleware, also known as "Universe". This means that the data is not stored at SAP BI application level, but is integrated from different backend systems. Thanks to SAP BusinessObjects Universe, users do not need to worry about which database the data comes from, what structure it has or where it is stored.

What are the benefits of SAP Business Objects BI?

Before the introduction of SAP BO, companies had to use various applications from different providers to realize all relevant analyses and reports. As a holistic and integrated platform, SAP BusinessObjects solves this problem.

However, the performance that SAP BO has achieved is also advantageous. Whereas previously only reports based on historical data were possible, the tools now also allow real-time business intelligence analyses. The autonomy of users is also strengthened. Thanks to SAP BO, users are able to create reports independently. It is no longer necessary to involve the IT department to implement individual requirements. Of course, this also increases responsiveness.

Furthermore, the tools can also be used on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, which clearly accommodates a modern way of working.

SAP BO also offers strengths in terms of collaboration. The tools make it easy to share reports and statistics with other users in the company and with external partners. Up to one million users can be automatically provided with relevant information via various communication channels if required.

Components of SAP BO

SAP BO includes or included several reporting and analysis tools, all of which fulfill their own purpose, but some of which are no longer available as of version 4.3. The following are the main components:

  • SAP BO Web Intelligence (Webi)
  • Crystal Reports
  • SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards
  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
  • Query as a Web Service (QaaWS)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio
  • SAP Lumira

Let's take a closer look at these building blocks below.

SAP BO Web Intelligence (Webi)

Web Intelligence (Webi) is a tool for web browsers. It is used to create analyses and formatted reports. Webi also enables reports to be exported in PDF and Excel format and distributed within SAP BO.

The ease of use of Web Intelligence should also be emphasized. Ad-hoc queries can be carried out at any time using the browser tool. Existing reports can be adapted with just a few clicks, allowing individual questions to be answered.

Crystal Reports

Crystal Reports is also a data analysis and reporting application. It is primarily aimed at individual users or small and medium-sized companies. With Crystal Reports, users are able to create dynamic reports, whereby the data can come from a wide variety of sources.

A wide range of formatting and visualization options are also available. Operational reports can be accessed online or offline via applications, portals or mobile devices. Crystal Reports is also suitable for application development.

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (up to version 4.2; formerly Xcelsius) is a tool for data visualization. Users have the option of creating individual dashboards from reports.

Just a few examples of the visualization options are charts and gauges (similar to a speedometer). In particular, SAP BO dashboards are used to dynamically monitor key performance indicators (KPIs).

In SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards are no longer used.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer

Under the banner of "Big Data", this self-service tool (also up to version 4.2) makes it possible to examine and visualize large quantities of data records and make them available to the entire company. This is also referred to as data exploration.

In terms of speed and operation, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is based on modern web search technologies. There are also functions for sorting, drill-down and dynamic visualization while navigating through company data.

The SAP BO Explorer is also no longer available from version 4.3.

Query as a Web Service (QaaWS)

With Query as a Web Service (QaaWS), web services can be created and published. These web services can then be used in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, Crystal Reports and other applications.

The tool also provides dashboard developers with assistance functions that simplify the creation of Universe queries and their provision as a web service.

Query as a Web Service Designer is no longer supplied with the installation of SAP BusinessObjects BI client tools from 4.3 onwards.

SAP Lumira

SAP Lumira is used for both data collection and data visualization in self-service. Users can use the tool to find and examine relevant business content. Lumira can also be used to create individual and interactive dashboards and analysis applications.

More about SAP Lumira


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What is SAP BusinessObjects Analysis?

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis is available in two versions: for OLAP and for Microsoft Office. The latter version is aimed specifically at users who want to integrate SAP analysis options into Excel.

BusinessObjects Analysis obtains its data from either SAP HANA or SAP BW. Tables and diagrams can then be created in Excel on this basis. A connection to Microsoft PowerPoint is also possible. The OLAP version, on the other hand, is responsible for creating reports via any web browser. This makes the application platform-independent.

According to SAP, SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office is still an important add-in for various data sources such as

  • SAP BW,
  • BPC,
  • SAP S/4HANA and
  • Finance for Group Reporting.

The solution can also be used with SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Datasphere.

Which SAP BO front-end tool should companies choose?

As an interim conclusion, it can be said that SAP BO still offers an enormous range of tools. Companies therefore regularly ask themselves which front-end product is best suited to their individual requirements.

This question is particularly relevant if companies are still considering continuing to use SAP BO or are already thinking about switching to the SAP Analytics Cloud.

When selecting tools and solutions, managers should focus on two aspects in particular: the target group and the use case. As far as the target group is concerned, the following questions can be helpful:

  • Who will use the content? (e.g. management, decision-makers, specialist users, professional analysts)
  • How experienced are the identified target groups in using BI tools?
  • What software are the users currently using?

The following factors are relevant with regard to use cases:

  • What are the business requirements? (Definition for each department)
  • How does the target group currently obtain information?
  • How does the target group currently handle the information? (Preparation, visualization, distribution, etc.)

If there are a large number of users, the catalog of requirements can also be derived from a standardized survey. In the second step, the list of requirements can then be compared in detail with the available SAP BO tools and the possibilities with SAP Analytics Cloud.

The tool or overall package with the highest level of agreement is ultimately awarded the "contract", whereby the arguments today generally speak in favor of the most future-proof solution and the strategic successor to SAP BO BI - the SAP Analytics Cloud.

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Meinolf Schäfer, Senior Director Sales & Marketing

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