For the past year, SAP has focused much of its attention on customer experience, particularly via its SAP C/4HANA suite. Recently, it added a new offering known as Qualtrics Experience Management (XM).

SAP pointed out that the operational data (O-data) it has made its living off of during the past 47 years is only half of the equation. As a market researcher who has spent his career digging into experience data (X-data), I can confirm that experience is indeed the other part of the equation and SAP is on the right track.

The Analytics Game

While SAP is pushing Qualtrics XM, other tech companies seem to be playing a different game. The past two weeks have been all about business intelligence (BI) and analytics, most notably with two significant purchases: Google’s acquisition of Looker for $2.6 billion and the Salesforce purchase of Tableau for a whopping $15.7 billion.

Several less-publicized mergers and acquisitions also have occurred in the analytics space in the past few months. It’s clear this is an area that tech companies are paying close attention to and seeing value in.

The truth is that the BI arena has been open to this type of consolidation for a while now. Analytics is a technology asset that cloud providers are able to see direct revenue from. Companies also can use analytics as an entry point into the core of the business to introduce “as a service” offerings via platform (PaaS) or infrastructure (IaaS). Microsoft has been using its Power BI tool in this way for years.

Another factor that has made this technology area so ripe for M&As is that self-service tools have become more readily available and ubiquitous. As a result, it is easy to combine and pull the strengths of multiple versions into one “super tool,” which allows for a competitive playing field based on more than just price.

How This Affects SAP and Its Customers

Many are aware that SAP already has multiple products to help its customers with analytics. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence (Webi) and SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) are the two predominate offerings that ASUG members are currently using. SAP would love to push people toward SAC, but according to ASUG’s latest research, it sits in third place behind Tableau and Power BI among SAP customers. All these platforms are far behind Webi among ASUG members, however.

With so much consolidation occurring in this space, and the fact that SAP’s business strategy appears to be focusing elsewhere (the X-data mentioned above), the recent acquisitions by Salesforce and Google may force SAP to reevaluate the future of its tools. It may have to pour more resources into its BI and analytics software stack if it wants to be able to compete with the heir apparent in the analytics space. Or SAP may be forced to abandon the fight and choose to be a niche offering to those “SAP first” organizations that want to avoid the integration headaches of going best-of-breed simply for access to a different analytics tool.

First Look: ASUG Research on BI/Analytics

In ASUG research that is hot off the presses, we spoke to BI professionals about key topics related to this industry. While SAP’s product map is reorganizing itself, there are still a few practical things that could be helpful for any SAP customer based on the feedback we received. Among these are:

  • Determine how BI can gain more support at the leadership level. Only 21% of companies have executives supporting the organization’s BI health. An executive can take on the tasks of driving data governance/compliance and educating the company about BI standards and key performance indicators.
  • Develop a universal BI strategy. This also can be a function of the executive supporting BI’s health. It is critical because spreading BI professionals out across an organization—rather than having one centralized BI team—is a common approach. Our research indicates 50% of companies are adopting this method, meaning a universal framework that can transcend departments and business processes is of even greater importance.
  • Work toward a single source of data truth. It is not unusual for executives to arrive at a leadership meeting with different data figures, even when sourced from the same dataset. Without standards and guidelines for determining which data depicts the accurate representation of performance, a company may render itself helpless to act or, worse yet, take the wrong action based on incorrect data.

Strategic Decisions Are Fast Approaching

The BI space would appear to be at a crossroads. With so many key technology players jockeying for position, SAP customers are likely to be overwhelmed by the options to choose from to help bring their data to life. While ASUG would never presume to tell you which tool is the right one for your business, we can tell you that the needs and goals of your business will and should remain independent of your technology choice. ASUG members will need to elevate the importance of BI at their companies sooner rather than later—the market is telling us this in real time, which is a term all analytics professionals can appreciate.

Interested in business intelligence and analytics? Join us in Atlanta in March 9-11 for our BI + Analytics Conference. Or learn about SAP’s augmented analytics strategy.