In the final excerpt from our interview with Marge Breya, we discuss the role of NetWeaver in SAP’s product strategy. Breya, Executive Vice President & GM Intelligence Platform & NetWeaver of SAP BusinessObjects, oversees full product line responsibility for BI and information management solutions, as well as the company’s OnDemand business. In addition, Breya is responsible for solution management of SAP NetWeaver within the Technology Group at SAP AG. We discussed business strategy and the data warehouse and BI tools in our previous excerpts.
What are your plans for the NetWeaver portfolio, which you took on just at the beginning of 2009? There are pieces there that are clearly in the BI franchise, like NetWeaver BW, but now, with a couple months under your belt to plan, where do you see the whole portfolio now that the spotlight has moved off?
Since the time I spent at Sun Microsystems and BEA, I’ve come to the conclusion there is a new analytical platform layer forming and it’s critical to businesses. Applications serve an important but defined set of functions in any business process that is easily structured or has been automated from manual, transactional input. For me, most are really sub-processes. The core business processes – customer acquisition, product development and delivery, quote to collect, and customer support – are what matters most in every business. For any one of them, the amount covered by an application is very small – important, but small.
My sense is that our industry’s next big opportunity is to cover the whole process. Form a layer that takes all the data that comes out of these transactions and present it in a way that allows the average business decision maker or entry level employer to make decisions and move the workflow to the next step in the process better than their competition. That layer above those applications is what we are providing with SAP BusinessObjects + SAP NetWeaver.
At BEA, when we were working on Aqualogic, we pictured a big box for service bus and metadata management. Then we had small boxes for business process management (BPM), business intelligence (BI), and a business rules engine. At SAP, we see it differently: BI is a big box while the service bus is viewed as transactional infrastructure that is needed to maintain integrity. It’s a means, not an end. We never have had that on our own at Business Objects; it was big BI, little infrastructure. At BEA it was big infrastructure and partnering for BI. Now we have big BI AND big infrastructure, and it’s an interesting combination.
There’s also a metadata layer in here. Some SAP BusinessObjects tools can now pierce through to underlying SAP data assets. What does the timeline look like for unification so that all of the BO tools can drill as deeply down into the SAP data as they need to?
That depends on which tools are appropriate for which jobs. As an industry, we look at that all the time. How do relational tools work with complex hierarchies around OLAP, etc.? Does a universal tool exist, or should it, to do any kind of query against any kind of data?
At some level, the user doesn’t care. They want the right engine to get swapped in for the kind of work they are doing at the moment.
Bingo. That is the issue – not “will every tool do it?” It’s how will the user have a seamless experience. But what does “done” mean? Things continue to move forward, and we’ll want the user to be able to navigate any kind of data store, data warehouse, or data asset. Once we get done with the structured side we’ll want visual images, voice – all of the assets.
In terms of the product offering in the marketplace – in a greenfield situation, a customer walks in wanting 2 or 3 of these modalities – a search metaphor, a spreadsheet, maybe – but not all. In the future do you see a model with multiple tools that I activate and use as I need them? Not a new sales call – click, instantiate, turn it on.
Unquestionably. This will come in stages. On April 15 we announced a new pricing model. We have, for all intents and purposes, one BI engine for everything that users have different access to for everything but the advanced analytics and the predictive side because that workbench [from SPSS] is very different. We’ll have two different user types that can access that engine: one has viewing rights and the other has content creation rights. Content creation is about setting up queries and reports, more advanced analytics, defining metadata, and pointing to data sources. Viewing is not just about seeing the data but it’s also about traversing, so that could include Polestar.
Does your number of SKUs drop?
That is the strategic direction; once we get experience, we may tweak things. Existing customers, as always, will have individual pricing needs based on wanting credit for what’s installed. And over time, the individual products will begin to look and act more and more as a seamless suite experience.
Few things are more core than master data management (MDM). There’s noise in the market about customers wanting to know “what credit will I get for what I’ve already bought?” Can you comment on their investment and how it relates to where you’re going?
This is tougher because we haven’t quite finished defining this. There are 3 assets that come to bear – at the source we will have capabilities to ensure clean content going in. At the application level we will have capabilities around embedding data integration (DI) and data quality (DQ).
Does that sit with you or the other SAP division?
That’s joint; we’ve been creating this together. The suite has had efforts on the MDM side and NetWeaver has had a product that has been successful in some use cases. The Business Objects side has been successful as well, with some DI, DQ, and metadata management. We’re bringing these three assets together, partitioning it between source and target.
Think about it as SAP data and heterogeneous data, because you will want to span multiple companies, multiple industries, multiple multiples. SAP BusinessObjects DI, DQ, and metadata span both sides. The application assets start forming some interesting MDM server stuff and NetWeaver MDM that is looking at consolidation use cases. You’ve got three interesting legs of the stool. That story may be ready to be discussed at Sapphire.