Updated: Those tired business intelligence reports--the spreadsheet graphics meet a bunch of text--are becoming increasingly more interesting.
Business Objects CEO John Schwartz delivered the keynote at Tuesday's SAP TechEd session and the presentation carried the usual theme. Using business intelligence to tie data together across the enterprise.
Under the surface, however, are some interesting cross currents. For starters, Schwartz did briefly touch on a theme that fits in with this social networking concept. Schwartz referred to the "process of me." That term refers to the personalization of enterprise apps and could be powerful when coupled with a little corporate social networking--one of the challenges from SAP's InnoCentive partnership.
Meanwhile, Schwartz said SAP needs to be deliver data into any client--browsers, Lotus and Microsoft Office and any mobile devices. Schwartz said the company is creating a "semantic layer" that will distribute information any way the customer wants it. Schwartz acknowledged that SAP isn't there today. "These are very big changes," said Schwartz, who asked developers for feedback on how to deliver SAP to multiple formats.
Whether these concepts come together will largely depend on user interface. Folks are used to social networking and they are used to Web interfaces that are much easier on the eye than what you see in the enterprise. Schwartz's Business Objects demonstration focused on creating reports for those of us that aren't Excel jockeys, but the visualization features weren't exactly revolutionary from a UI perspective. In a followup discussion on business intelligence, Schwartz said the ultimate goal is to "take the spreadsheet jockey out of the way" and allow CFOs to use predictive analysis to become more chief performance officers.
But that may be changing. For instance, one of the more popular sessions on Monday was developing on Adobe Flex and Flash and Rich Internet Applications being connected to business data. In a nutshell, enterprise data may become more attractive to look at (it's a bit homely today). SAP developers are increasingly playing with Adobe Flex software development kit to jazz up graphics.
Instead of this:
You get this:
Is there ROI in those user interface hills? Perhaps. But these better graphical presentations will certainly help the masses get corporate data faster.