With New Software, SAP Aims to Create a Google-like Search Experience

In this age of information, it can be surprisingly difficult for companies to access the data needed to make important business decisions.

"The data is in existence, but the insight is not at the fingertips of the people that need it," said Jeff Veis, group vice president, industry solutions and strategic initiatives, SAP BusinessObjects.

Pointing to studies indicating that many business decisions are based on "gut feel" and not definitive supporting data, Veis asserted that too many firms are suffering from "flawed decision making -- which, for some companies, can impact their survival, not just their ability to thrive."

With the recent launch of its BusinessObjects Explorer software, SAP aims to change that. Unveiled at SAP's Sapphire 2009 conference in Orlando, Fla., SAP Business ObjectsExplorer is designed to give any employee instant access to relevant business data through a Google-like search interface.

"You have these starved individuals at the business level who perhaps get these static reports that get pushed out weekly or monthly, but they don't necessarily have the kind of insight and access that they really need," Veis told IndustryWeek. "And that's what we're trying to address here."

According to SAP, the new software combines the "intuitive information search and exploration capabilities" from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio with the "high performance and scalability" of SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator software. The result is a tool that "will empower business users to navigate massive amounts of data in seconds, by leveraging indexed data from SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator software."

The new software allows users to enter keywords to find the data they need to answer critical business questions. Veis emphasized that the software can be used by the "lay businessperson" who may not have experience with traditional business intelligence tools; no training or special skills are required to use the system.

"We wanted something that was as simple as using Google, that had the same speed of search and was just as intuitive," Veis said.

The intuitive nature of BusinessObjects Explorer will help business users discover answers to questions that they may not have been able to articulate in the past, according to SAP.

For example, a sales executive may get a report indicating that quarterly results were good, but he or she may want to determine areas for improvement. With SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, sales executives will be able to investigate growth across the regions, profitability per product line or account executives' performance.

"They can quickly turn a hunch into a data-driven assessment of their business and strategies moving forward," SAP said.

SAP also expects the software to improve IT efficiency, as the system will provide self-service access to information that previously had to be obtained through requests submitted to the IT department. The self-service aspect of BusinessObjects Explorer should free up IT time and resources to work on more strategic projects, SAP said.

The software has earned positive reviews from beta testers such as Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co. Katrina Coyle, global information manager for the beer maker, said the company has been "amazed at how intuitive the software is and how quickly it returns results."

"Employees have already learned things about their data and our business that they didn't know previously," Coyle said. "With visualizations, like the interactive 'heat' maps, results leap off the page. One of our business users was able to identify a brand not sold in other regions using only one click, which is the blink of an eye compared to the former lengthy process.

"Everyone who has worked with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer has appreciated that it is fast and user-friendly, with results that can be easily shared and put to use immediately. We see great potential for this tool to provide all of our employees with better visibility into our business."

There are two versions of the new software: SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW, both of which are available now.


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