Where does the journey take us? BI architectures in transition

11. April 2017

“We are in the midst of the BI hype cycle”, as a participant of the BI & Analytics Conference held by Q_PERIOR put it. As a result of increased demands on flexibility, response times, data holding and usage, many companies are moving away from the classic data warehouse to BI ecosystems. SAP encourages this development by presenting new solutions in ever shorter innovation cycles – whether BW on HANA, BW/4HANA or SAP HANA native. On the one side, these solutions offer companies interesting opportunities, and on the other side, they also create new issues, uncertainties and entrepreneurial risks.

Overview of the presentations held at the BI & Analytics conference:

  • Pioneering the hybrid data warehouse with SAP BW and SAP HANA
    Munich Re

  • Implementation of an extensive and sustainable data management system – a solution for increasing regulatory requirements
    IKB Deutsche Industriebank

  • S/4HANA Finance Analytics @ Swiss Re – architecture, modeling and lessons learned
    Swiss Re

  • SAP BI & Analytics news and roadmap, innovations in functionality and future security
    SAP Germany

  • Multitenant HANA architecture: From operative reporting to big data
    Q_PERIOR (use case Swiss Railways SBB)

  • Representation of historical aviation data by means of UI5 and SAP HANA cloud platform

At the Q_PERIOR event, representatives of Munich Re, Swiss Re and IKB Deutsche Industriebank reported on the BI change in their companies. In all presentations, the tension of exploiting the innovation power of modern BI solutions early on without jeopardizing investment security with regard to the dynamic developments on the software market, became clear. After all, the business warehouse is still the central reporting platform in many companies. Massive investments have been made in their maintenance and development in recent years. “BI investments are even more business-critical than before”, says Frank Petczelies, Head of Business Intelligence at Q_PERIOR. “This increases pressure on companies to master this balancing act.”

BI vision is an important anchor

Over the course of the conference day, it became clear that BI innovations and projects always follow company-specific BI visions. These range from “One BI System”, “Self Service BI” to “Embedded Analytics”. Today, a clear BI vision is essential for companies to provide decision-makers with orientation and to keep innovation projects on track according to a clear BI roadmap.

However, in the field of BI architectures one could still observe a certain divergence between the BI vision of a “pure play architecture” and today’s realities on the software side. For example, technical performance values often still oppose the goal-setting of a complete data virtualization. In almost all cases, the presenting companies responded to this with a combination of piloting and flexible hybrid architectures, thus paving the way for the coexistence of standardization, harmonization and industrialization on the one side, as well as flexibility, openness and appropriate investment protection on the other side.

BI roadmaps – Reference architectures and data as an asset

The presented BI roadmaps naturally differ on a detail level. However, also important cross-industry and cross-company aspects were shown. The universal use of reference architectures and frameworks should be mentioned here, the basis on which customized target architectures were defined. Another overlapping aspect is the high importance of a defined and implemented data governance – as an umbrella term for e.g. data management, data quality management or data life cycle management. The term “Data as an Asset” which has been known for some time and which was also used in the presentations, clearly summed up this important element.

BI personnel – Possibly the greatest challenge

In addition to the challenge of adequately responding to the increased dynamics in the BI environment, the company’s own performance power is a central issue for many companies. The professional and technical mastering of the rapidly changing BI solutions and tool kits requires relevant knowledge and operative skills from employees. For example, team members should be able to make far-reaching decisions with regard to the implementation of the requirements in BW versus HANA, reliably and independently. Therefore, companies face the difficult task of either developing internal employees early on, or engaging in the external “War for Talents” in order to attract suitable experts. An aggravating factor is that the traditional boundaries between the specialist fields and IT in the BI environment are becoming increasingly blurred. Entirely new role models with higher requirements are being created.

All in all, it can be summarized that the significant and business-strategic opportunities from new BI solutions face some serious challenges. The realization of potentials without loss of investment security is therefore both a duty and voluntary. The BI & Analytics Conference from Q_PERIOR may not have provided the 70 participants with a universal and trouble-free recipe for success, however, with reliable and successful solution approaches from practical experience.

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