Ryan Goodman’s last post, Understanding BI4 Dashboards and XWIS, drew a couple of comments (here and there) expressing frustration that capabilities of third party extensions ought to be delivered as a native part of the SAP Business Objects product.
To my mind this is a glass-half-empty view of things. Although the BI4/XI3 platforms come with numerous connectivity options for Xcelsius, no software is ever 100% feature complete (that is what upgrades are all about), so inevitably there is room for people to dream up ways in which features could be better. The great thing about SAP BusinessObjects is that (through both their Crystal and BusinessObjects histories) they have had the foresight to make sure their products are open to third-party developers to extend and enhance their BI platform through an ecosystem of innovation. So the glass-is-half-full view is that rather than having to wait for SAP BusinessObjects to provide a particular feature in a future release there is a product which fills them today.
(As a side note, the nature of third-party extension means that this also follows Vishal Sikka’s vision of “innovation without disruption”, with extension products integrating seamlessly with existing versions of the platform.) As I mentioned in a recent post on BI standardization, this partner ecosystem is one of the key advantages of choosing a large BI platform vendor.
In one of the comments the concern was that customers have to spend more money on such partner extensions. Again this is a glass-half-empty view because, whilst extensions will usually come at a cost (third-parties have to make a living too) they will also usually be designed to provide a return on investment. Anything else is just too hard to sell, so using the right extensions should be a financial saving rather than a financial drain.
The other comment seemed a bit confusing, it started by asking “why are we looking for different products to try and integrate with one another” and ended up suggesting a jump to a completely different dashboarding environment, which would require much more integration effort with the core BI platform, than any well designed platform extension would need. This comment is doubly ironic as many platform extension products are specifically designed to add features which avoid the need to jump to new non-integrated environments.
Overall I would recommend you resist the urge to be indignant and reject third party tools because they “should have come in the box”, this is a classic instance of being “right rather than effective”, make full use of the power of the ecosystem around your BI platform, assess extensions on the ROI they generate for your current situation and only when you run out of options inside your ecosystem consider non-integrated tools outside it.
Donald MacCormick is the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Antivia, an SAP® software solution partner, and creator of XWIS the Xcelsius-to-SAP BusinessObjects connectivity solution. In past years, he was a long term member of BusinessObjects and Crystal, and part of the team that brought Xcelsius into the BusinessObjects portfolio.