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BPM Product Review: SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation

Written By: Jorge Garcia
Published On: August 31 2010

Founded in 1972 and currently based in Waldorf (Germany), SAP AG is well known for developing one of the most popular enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications on the market, the SAP ERP system.  

In 2007, SAP acquired France-based BusinessObjects, at the time one of the leaders in the business intelligence (BI) and business performance management (BPM) spaces. With this acquisition, SAP gained entrance to the BI space as a bona fide leader, with a complete solution portfolio for the BI and BPM spaces. One of the products from its portfolio is SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, now part of the SAP BusinessObjects product stack and representing part of its end-to-end BPM offering (which also includes solutions for strategy management, profitability, and cost management).

With SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (branded in SAP’s typical logical but unwieldy fashion), SAP delivers a product intended for organizations that aim to improve their business process efficiency and performance by using tools to plan, follow a strategy, and (most importantly) to consolidate corporate data.

SAP is also positioning the product as a means of helping organizations align all initiatives, from the corporate level to the operational level, by enabling the measurement of metrics against goals and relating these metrics to the operational planning and corporate strategy of the company.

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation: Product Details
 
SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation is available in two versions: one for the Microsoft platform (Windows), and the other for SAP NetWeaver. Major functionality points covered by the product include the following:

  • Planning
    From budgeting to cash flow planning, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation carries out some of the most important planning activities for an organization, addressing expenses and capital among other elements.
  • Consolidation
    Consolidation is one of the most important aspects of the BPM process. This is where all activities are aligned to meet the general and specific goals of an organization, top-down or vice-versa. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation accomplishes this by enabling specific consolidation activities such as intercompany reconciliation and matching.
  • Forecasting
    Forecasting is one of the core functionalities of every BPM software tool. The product comprises a set of tools to deliver advanced forecasting from the ground up.
  • Collaboration
    One of the goals of SAP Business Objects Planning and Consolidation is to provide a set of tools to enable collaboration between business areas, in order to help them meet general and specific goals.

From a commercial perspective, it’s interesting to note the effort and resources SAP has put into the parallel development and expansion of its solution for two major platforms. The pay-off, of course is that SAP stands to gain potential market share in both scenarios.

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation for the Microsoft Platform

By expanding the reach of its product to target Microsoft’s installed base, SAP is aiming to provide high-end BPM functionality to Microsoft-based infrastructures worldwide. Indeed, SAP and Microsoft have a partnership to enable Microsoft support of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, and Microsoft considers it to be a preferred solution for its customers.

As figure 1 demonstrates, this strategy makes sense from SAP’s perspective, given that the Windows platform still maintains market leadership compared to other platforms on the market.


Figure 1. Overall operating system platform distribution across TEC software selection projects (2007 to 2009)

The benefits that SAP claims to offer with SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation include easy-to-use features for non-technical users, integration with core Microsoft applications such as Office, a process-centric set of features that ease the achievement of process consistency and efficiency, and reduced maintenance of these processes.

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation for SAP NetWeaver

SAP has also worked intensively to provide performance management services for customers on its own technology framework, with the obvious advantages of native portability and integration. Leveraging SAP’s BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation functionality within SAP NetWeaver can lower maintenance costs and enable organizations to standardize on a unique and homogeneous IT strategy.

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation Product Strengths

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation delivers a complete solution portfolio for business performance functionality, as well as the possibility to expand to a wide range of analysis and operational functionality from other SAP products.

Other product strengths:

  • Considering SAP’s history of strong support for its various business software offerings, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation users can rely on a strong support structure.
  • From the functionality perspective, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation relies on its easy-to-use features as well as specific features such as its Excel interface, embedded SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius functionality (this is the data visualization tool from SAP), and a complete set of dynamic report templates.
  • Business process flows that guide users through complex business processes.



Figure 2. Xcelsius Dashboard within SAP BO Planning and Consolidation

Note: SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius Enterprise are licensed separately from SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation.

Specific strengths are indicated in the following two figures. When comparing SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation with the “average” BPM solution in TEC’s Evaluation Center (see also TEC’s BPM Vendor Showcase), we see that SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation performs above the average with respect to specific set of functionality features such as enterprise search and reporting.


Figure 3. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation enterprise search capabilities

Enterprise Search is one of the outstanding features of the product; according to TEC’s data, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation has a rating of over 25 points above the average solution,


SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation also offers an advantage when it comes to industry vertical predictive analytics such as Web analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) analytics (see figure 4). In addition, note that the product provides a specific set of features for the banking industry.


Figure 4. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation vertical predictive analytics capabilities

 

Product Challenges

Despite the advantages mentioned above, there are some challenges this product will have to overcome in order to deal with the fierce competition and rapid evolution of the BPM market:

  • The business software landscape is in a state of flux due to vendor mergers and acquisitions (M&As), and many vendors are acquiring functionality that can match or compete with the features provided in SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation. SAP will need to be ready to compete with other software giants in the field that already have strong BPM tools, such as Oracle and IBM, which also offer an advanced set of BPM features.
  • To address the speed at which business needs are changing, SAP must ensure tight integration between SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation and its complete portfolio of solutions, in order to provide its customers with a net advantage when it comes to data and application integration.
  • During the last few years, several innovative BI and BPM options such as QlikView, Cloud9 Analytics, Oco, Inc., and Dashboard Insight have emerged—some taking advantage of new technologies such as in-memory or mobile technology others incorporating new BPM methodologies such as Six Sigma or Blue Ocean strategies, and still others providing innovative platform options such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) BPM offerings. Also noteworthy is the consolidation of open source offers in the BPM space like Actuate. SAP will need to encourage innovation in its marketing and technology offering to keep pace with these new forms BPM development.

Every software solution has advantages and disadvantages, but as a user, what you should focus on is the balance between capability strengths and weaknesses, based not just on the quantitative differences between them, but on the weight and impact that these capabilities may have for you. Every organization has its own set of unique features that a solution needs to address in order to meet buyer needs. A full and judicious evaluation is required in order to determine whether and how SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation meets your requirements, as well as the ability to provide strategy alignment between all levels of your organization.

To evaluate and compare specific functional features of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation and other BPM products, visit our Evaluation Center today.

 
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