Is Microsofts business intelligence solution worth a look for SAP users? [Shuteerstock: 530262751, Tashatuvango]

Is Microsofts business intelligence solution worth a look for SAP users? [Shuteerstock: 530262751, Tashatuvango]

MS Business Intelligence: An Option for SAP users?

Implementation of business-intelligence solutions among SAP application-user companies has occupied my attention for more than ten years now. Notably in the last year, these companies have expressed massive interest in comprehensive Microsoft business-intelligence solutions. Several times in the past, I have detected a readiness on the part of these application users to look beyond the immediate SAP field of vision.

The first wave familiar to me came with MIS ALEA (now Infor PM10); this brought the first really ‘simple’ business-intelligence solution onto the broad-based market. Further waves followed, with Qliktec and (lastly) Tableau.

Yet the MS SQL Server’s (Analysis Server)’s boom over the past decade does not at all change the fact that how the portal and front-end are perceived determines the level of recognition and regard, and thus the actual comprehensive use;  in this respect, Microsoft’s offering still looked thin until a few years ago.

Granted, SharePoint and Excel feel as though they have already been around forever and, at some point,  the Performance Point Services also appeared – well, OK.

By now though, the range of business-intelligence front-ends and portals in the Microsoft Store presents a much brighter picture. For the most frequently-used application classes – portal, dashboard, reporting and analysis – I have attempted to categorise Microsoft’s own products by using the form of a Gaussian-bell graph as a description.

I make no claim that the presentation of this material is complete or correct. The potential use can be presented in a much complicated way, according to preference. Before I turn to the topic of potential Microsoft Business Intelligence among SAP companies, let me first take a brief, subjective status snapshot on the use of SAP-in-house BI tools among the application-user companies.

In this regard, some companies view the question of (non-)use of third-party products as having taken on almost religious significance. My experience is that the SAP application-user firms can broadly be divided into three groups with regard to their business-intelligence strategy.

The purist SAP enthusiasts not wishing to, or intending to, taint their installation by contact with any external software.
At the other end there are the application-user firms, thoroughly exasperated with their SAP-ERP solution, those who reject SAP and avoid a further extension (e.g. to include SAP BI components) like the devil avoids holy water.
In between is the largest group, the pragmatists. My gut-feeling estimate is that the split between the groups corresponds to the Gaussian-bell shape.

Using this basis, I currently see three main strategies among SAP users, with regard to future architectures for business intelligence:

The pure SAP strategy, from the database and right through to the front-end and portal, for all application classes and users.
The mixed strategy: SAP is deployed for company-wide application classes. Third-party providers (like Microsoft) come into consideration and are brought into use respectively, in the medium-term, particularly for specialist-department solutions and non-company-wide application classes.
The re-engineering strategy: This is where existing (SAP, Oracle, etc.) enterprise architectures for business intelligence are massively being subjected to critical scrutiny and are thereby very likely to be compared with Microsoft Enterprise architectures.


By now, for the second and third strategies respectively, Microsoft really has good products to offer, beyond the use of the pure SQL database. Here, the current hype surrounding Power BI reminds me of the above-mentioned enthusiasm for Qliktec that prevailed up until a few years ago.

At present, users and potential users alike are responding positively to the following developments: the placing of large parts of the BI functions, away from Excel and into Power BI; the summarising of data-extraction and the modelling (in Power Query) into a new, joint tool, used for reporting and dashboarding – one that, at the same time, enables on-premise, mobility and cloud operation.

Certainly there are business-intelligence providers that make better solutions available than the combined use of Microsoft and SAP; nevertheless, decision-makers of major companies (with SAP customers in the front row here) have an affinity to large-scale providers with a comprehensive portfolio of solutions.

Now that Microsoft is masterfully fulfilling these two criteria, exciting developments can now be expected in this market segment over the years to come.

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