Will SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 help to drive the user adoption of SAP BI solutions?

14 November 2011

Philippa Holland

Philippa Holland

Founding Director

I regularly have discussions with customers and account teams regarding the user adoption of SAP BI and what can be done to drive this forward. I've found that a typical complaint within large enterprises is..."We've spent all this money on SAP BI technologies but our users still complain and we don't feel we are getting the value back".

With the move of the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 product to general availability (see John Appleby's blog - Answering the key SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 questions following general availability), I found myself asking whether this is likely to provide the solution to some of the common user adoption challenges.

So why don't users use their SAP BI solutions? Here are some of the most common reasons we come across.

  • "It takes month's to get small changes to reports made"
  • "I don't find it easy or quick to use"
  • "My current system deliverers what I need"
  • "I don't trust the reports"
  • "There is missing data so I now need to  create manual spreadsheets"

So does SAP BI 4.0 help overcome these challenges and if so how?

"It takes month's to get small changes to reports made"

A key indicator of a successful SAP BI implementation is users wanting more! So the project implementation has been successful project and you've got the initial buy-in but the more your users use the system the more they want. But what if your support organisation can't meet this business need and the time taken to change reports runs into months? Users become disillusioned and disengaged with the new product and find work arounds. We see this happen very often and it's probably one of the main reasons why a good project can turn into a source of dissatisfaction.

So will SAP BI 4.0 help with this?

With SAP BI 4.0 there is an emphasis on self-service. The Webi tool in particular is designed to be easy to use with an interface that enables users to build their own reports. This was always the area where SAP BusinessObjects had the edge over SAP BW. Now with a fully integrated product, companies can be more open to extending the user base across the business.  Empowering the business user as much as possible is key to avoiding a bottle neck with IT and therefore improving buy in. We see this is one of the best reasons to implement SAP BI 4.0 and depending how your support department is set up can also provide an ROI in terms of allowing them to focus in other areas.

"I don't find it easy or quick to use"

SAP BI needs to be user friendly and perform or quite simply people will find a workaround or just not use it. As individuals become increasingly used to information at their fingertips, both at home and at work, the days of execute a report and go for lunch are no longer acceptable. Performance is important and one of the key areas SAP has focused on with the latest version. Three main areas we see as affecting usability are...

  1. Greatly improved performance for SAP BW - It is claimed that this can be up to 5 times faster.
  2. Similar interface for all products - Less confusion and easy to use and more importantly the interface looks good. This is important for SAP BI as users want to consume information in a way that is attractive and easy to navigate or the experience will not be as good.
  3. Better mobile SAP BI - This enables information to be quickly sent to mobile devices and consumed in this way.  I believe this is going to be one of the biggest changes to how people use SAP BI moving forward.

"My current system deliverers what I need"

Often replacing legacy systems with a new SAP BI system is a bigger exercise in change management than it is from a technical perspective. If you try and implement a system without taking this into account the result is likely to be users that don't understand or see the need for change and therefore are going to be resistant to it.

Another colleague of mine, Emma Moss, wrote an excellent blog titled Do yourself a favour - find out what BI users want up front. Here's how...

Her key points in this area are that the project will not be successful unless you clearly align SAP BI to the business strategy and work with them to understand what they want. It needs to be delivered in a collaborative manner and with regular involvement of the business during the development process.

By doing this you will ensure you have some major advocates on board from within the business and they will help drive user adoption across each area. The ownership then sits within the business rather than IT and legacy systems get quickly forgotten.

Will SAP BI 4.0 help with this?

In my view this is more about how you approach the project and how great the collaboration with the business is. SAP BI 4.0 might help slightly due to the business liking the tool earlier but this is more about addressing some of the other concerns like performance and usability. Using SAP BI 4.0 alone won't ensure you meet the business needs you need to work with them to do that.

"I don't trust the reports"

So why wouldn't users trust business intelligence reports? Normally because the data isn't what they were expecting, so it's natural for them to assume the data is wrong and not use it! In order to address this a few things are key...

  • Ensuring the data reconciliation process is clear, visible and understood by the business
  • Ensuring the right people are involved in UAT from the business and support the accuracy of the system
  • Focus on driving a single version of the truth and ensuring everyone agrees this. This is where on complicated projects there might need to be an exercise to agree the common business language first. Unless the definitions are clear and agreed by everyone it will be hard to get a single view of the data.
  • Don't forget the change management parts above.
  • Finally if you are on the technical side of implementing the project make sure the data is correct and thoroughly test this above anything. Nothing destroys confidence more than incorrect information and for every issue gaining business buy in becomes harder. 

Will SAP BI 4.0 help with this?

Putting in SAP BI 4.0 isn't going to simply address any issues in this space, although a new prototype or project using the technology might be a good chance to draw a line under existing concerns and ensure these are focused on. To help drive this making sure it is a key success factor of any project or prototype is a good place to start.

"There is missing data so I now need to create manual spreadsheets"

We often find that even though legacy systems have been removed and the business is creating reports themselves, they are still downloading the data into excel to manipulate and add extra comments. If this is common then the danger is that the single version of the truth is lost as the data is being manipulated before being presented.

This is something that for certain users, especially those in finance departments who use excel daily, might be necessary and certainly will be very hard to stamp out completely. There are ways to ensure it's only done when really necessary and that minimum information needs to be changed.

Almost certainly the users doing this are those who would be most likely to change their own reports if they had the access. This is where self-service becomes key and the improved ability to do this in SAP BI 4.0 is likely to go down well. Improved user ability and performance will also help with this.

For other users the best way to tackle this is really the points made above on approach. Get user buy-in for the project by involving them up front. Ensure you deliver a solution that they are happy with and they are more likely to use the result.

So to conclude

This is a step forward in technology that does help with some adoption issues, but using it alone won't ensure the success of the project. Yes it can absolutely make it more attractive to the business and improving the level of self-service for the business is really key. However ensuring it's a collaborative solution that is aligned to the business strategy is still by far the biggest pre-requisite to a successful project. If you do a SAP BI 4.0 prototype, which is a great way of gaining the business buy in, make sure you run it in a collaborative way. Agree the success criteria up front and use this as a way to kick start next generation SAP BI in your organisation.



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About the author

Philippa Holland

Founding Director

Diversity of people inspires new ideas.  One of the reasons why I co-founded Bluefin was to create a supportive environment where people – client and consultant – can come together to find answers to business and technical problems. 
Since 2002, I have been lucky enough to work with the world’s largest manufacturers such as Rolls Royce and Lafarge-Tarmac, helping clients win by giving them the most talented people in the industry.   Client success starts with our people.
We have won six “best place to work for” awards in just 11 years because we recruit and retain consultants that are passionate about learning and sharing their insights and ideas with clients.  This includes attracting university graduates into our sought-after annual recruitment programme.
When I’m not spending time engaging with our clients and consultants, I enjoy nothing more than socialising with family and friends. For relaxation, I try and take holidays in interesting places and watch a variety of sports, either live or from the comfort of my home.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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