Considerations when choosing to implement BusinessObjects 3.1 or 4.0

14 December 2010

George Campbell-Kelly

George Campbell-Kelly

Former Consultant

Currently, when implementing an SAP BusinessObjects system, you have a choice of versions. Do you want to use the stable 3.1 release? Or do you step forward and use the new 4.0 release?

SAP BusinessObjects 3.1 was released in September 2008 and is presently in “General Availability”. It’s mainstream maintenance lasts up until 31 December 2015.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 – it started its “Ramp Up” release in November 2010. During this phase, customers may start an implementation of the product, but are not allowed to use the software in a productive system until the “General Availability” milestone has been reached. This is expected to be in April/May 2011.

Limitations of BOBJ 3.1 with SAP BW

AP BusinessObjects 3.1 has been available for a long time. It’s widely used and considered a stable product.

As version 3.1 was released in 2008, shortly after BusinessObject’s acquisition by SAP, there are a number of limitations in the way in which the two products integrate. When considering implementation of version 3.1, it is important to be aware of these and consider your requirements accordingly.

There are different limitations in the SAP BW functionality available to each SAP BusinessObjects tool. So depending on where you intend to use Crystal reporting, WebIntelligence or Dashboards (formally Xcelcius), you will have a different set of constraints.

The areas of BEx reporting that will have limitations, inside BOBJ, are:

  • Conditions and exceptions
  • Display settings
  • Hierarchies (when implemented as true hierarchy objects in BW)
  • Time key figures
  • Reporting directly on MasterData objects
  • Time dependent MasterData
  • Default values in variables

If you are dependent on the items above, a detailed investigation is strongly recommended to establish how you would be affected. Alternatively, you may be able to adjust the scope of your reporting to ensure that the above limited functions are not required.

Considering an implementation of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0

Being included in a product’s “Ramp Up” brings a number of substantial benefits: early access to new functionality, a quick response to issues encountered and good access to SAP’s development teams.  Though these benefits come with a potential cost of increased project risk and expenditure.

There are substantial differences and improvements between versions 3.1 and 4.0. Integration with SAP BW is better, user interfaces are improved and terminology has been refined. So early-adoption of version 4.0 could deliver tangible benefits for your organization.

Choosing to implement version 3.1 means that you will need to undertake an upgrade to version 4 at some point in the future. This upgrade project itself will have its costs (both opportunity and financial), which could be avoided by initially implementing the latest release of the product.

To objectively view the costs of entering a “Ramp Up” program, these “Ramp Up” project costs need to be compared to the future upgrade costs you implicitly commit to:

  • An upgrade requires technical resources to plan and undertake the upgrade
  • The business will need to be involved in regression-testing their applications
  • Retraining of the user community will be necessary during the upgrade
  • To take advantage of new functionality, an enhancement of the live applications will be necessary
  • Opportunity cost: instead of undertaking an upgrade project, you could be focusing your efforts on other things

In summary

If you are in the process of implementing SAP BusinessObjects, I recommend that you carefully consider going straight to version 4.0. Whilst a version 3.1 implementation may have lower initial costs, I believe that, looking forward, adopting version 4.0 now, will have lower long-term costs and provide greater benefit.

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