What is our primary use case?
I have several use cases, generally in more complex environments. These are typically corporate, requiring functionality such as strong data security, bursting, metadata-based support, scalability, fault tolerance, load balancing, support for high volume, breadth of functionality in one set of products, etc.
It has been used in Retail, Construction, Banks, and Insurance organisations.
It works well for organisations where a structured, common, and more disciplined view of larger, more complex information is required. This is generally with more complex and multiple source systems with larger volumes of information.
How has it helped my organization?
This solution provides much greater and faster access to information for a wide mixture of users. It supports and promotes a common view of information across the organisation. It also removes dependence on spreadsheets and technical resource for report generation.
It supports a wide range of types of users. It is particularly effective for information consumers. Ad Hoc information access and simpler self-service are well supported. Once we had the foundation in place, we also found we could provide most reports in under an hour for smaller company environments. Because of change control, the latter rarely happens in corporate environments but the effort involved was reduced.
What is most valuable?
The common metadata environment means that the entire organisation has the same definition of core measures rather than these being derived in spreadsheets or specific reports. It also provides a structured data security model whereby a single report provides dedicated results to a given usage, such as a branch or department-based. For instance, the same report will provide a branch-specific result depending on the user's branch and can be common to multiple branches.
Similarly, bursting enables provision of tailored static reporting to specific users or user groups that also includes data security.
What needs improvement?
This solution is complex to configure and administer. It is even more so, I believe, than it should be, even with such a complex product. As an example it has many server processes (typically 15+). In Windows these are not services rather they are individual processes managed via a single service called the SIA. Each server process can be separately configured and performs a specific set of functions
It uses Java constructions for specific customisations such as default reporting formats and using SSL for burst email reports. This requires a broad set of skills to set-up.
It is rather cryptic in its error handling when there are issues that require trawling through a number of voluminous log files that are accessed from the server.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using this solution for more than ten years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Reliability dropped in 2017-2018 with a major release but indications are that this has been addressed.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Very scalable across thousands (if not 10,000+) users and large data volumes.
How are customer service and technical support?
Average. Technical support from SAP is mediocre. The local support is decent.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I've used many different BI solutions. The choice was the customer's.
How was the initial setup?
See earlier comments but a vanilla install is not too complex. The moment it is not vanilla it becomes quite complex. The SAP website for software management, downloads, licenses etc makes the Da Vinci Code look simple.
What about the implementation team?
Mix of contractors and vendor. The vendor is skillful though overworked resources.
What was our ROI?
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Cost to setup and run is high as it is complex but then again one also gets a highly functional product. SAP do have a small business pricing so, at least, the licensing is not too expensive.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
The most comparable product is MicroStrategy, which is frankly a better technical product but has not been as commercially successful outside of large sites.
What other advice do I have?
I am a great believe in choosing a commercially successful product rather than technical best of breed as there is nothing worse than having an 'orphan' product. That being a product that is poorly supported, does not have a development path and limited availability of expertise. Business Objects is a commercially successful product and despite SAP's poor management of the product is likely to continue to be so.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?