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SAP Sapphire 2018 on Analytics and BI

by Cindi Howson  |  June 25, 2018  |  Submit a Comment

This year’s Sapphire was one of the biggest, with an estimated 21,000 people attending in Orlando, Florida.  Sapphire is a huge event, at times overwhelming as the content can range from the business applications to all things Hana, or to my smaller space, BI and analytics. So let’s focus on that first.

New in SAP Analytics and BI

Data and analytics has not always been as core to SAP, so I was pleased to see both make CEO Bill McDermott’s keynote and top ten list for Sapphire. For sure, the role of data and analytics has been elevated in SAP’s portfolio.

Bill McDermott Top 10 Sapphire

In terms of product specific capabilities, as we wrote in both the Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities notes, SAP is at a challenging time. How best to serve its large installed customer base using SAP BusinessObjects while also innovating in the new?  Here, SAP Analytics Cloud is now the lead product for new customers and new innovations, including SAP Digital Boardroom.  This doesn’t mean that any of the old goes away. In fact, Mike Flannagan, SVP of Analytics and SAP Leonardo, clearly stated that there will be a SAP BusinessObjects 4.3 in 2019.  SAP Lumira will be supported through 2024, primarily for on premises deployments and existing customers.

There were three innovations that I caught at various sessions that most impressed me:

BI Search and Natural Language Query:  We’ve written about this trend in the MQ, Hype Cycle, and Augmented Analytics notes. I love it. It brings ease of use to a higher level and to new classes of users. SAP calls this feature “Search to Insight,” newly released in the SAP Analytics Cloud.

SAP Search to Insight

Insight Generation:  SAP Analytics Cloud has had some basic insight generation, as has Lumira with the “did you know” feature, but they have made some material improvements in the last quarter.  I liked the key influencers and simulation.


Benchmarking:  One of the things I wrote about in the case studies in my Successful BI book is how the best organizations use benchmarking in their dashboards to spur improvements.  Like, are sales for team A better than team B? (or in Gartner, do you rate our team’s notes better than another team’s? Yes, we drive ourselves crazy with this stuff, even though few of you rate them.).  Well, with cloud business applications, this can bring benchmarking to a whole new level.  Customers can opt-in to share aggregated, anonymized data across organizations.  So in the below dashboard, you can see if your time- to-hire is slower than others in your industry. Benchmarking is currently available for SAP Field Glass Live Insights and coming soon for SuccessFactors via Live Insights for Workforce.  Both use SAP Analytics Cloud as the front end.  Workday also introduced similar opt-in and benchmarking capabilities last year as part of its Data as a Service.

SAPBill rate vs. benchmark

Those are my top take aways from an analytics perspective. I wish I could have spent more time in the CDO session, but was glad I caught the talk on CDOs, conscience and ethics. It’s so important, and yet, unfortunately not all organizations use data responsibly or ethically.

The Call to Lead session was again so inspiring, but I can’t write about it; it was a limited invite session and I certainly don’t want to misquote a former President.  Here’s a link to last year’s blog. For sure, I’ve become a Condoleezza Rice fan girl. Soccer star Abby Wombach also spoke and I like her point about “leading from the bench” which she shared at Barnard College commencement. The CEO of pharmaceutical distributer Amerisource Bergen discussed the role of data and morality in battling the Opioid Epidemic – the topic of our BI Bake Off this year.

As summer kicks off, I am sure you have a stack of notes ready for your beach reads, right?  Here are two recent updates from our team:

Beyond BI Reporting: Engaging Decision Makers Through Data Storytelling

Select the Right Analytics and Business Intelligence for the Right User and Use Case



Cindi Howson


Additional Resources

Predicts 2019: Data and Analytics Strategy

Data and analytics are the key accelerants of digitalization, transformation and “ContinuousNext” efforts. As a result, data and analytics leaders will be counted upon to affect corporate strategy and value, change management, business ethics, and execution performance.

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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  data-and-analytics-strategies  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

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