SAP has been trying to find its way into the data visualization market for a while—a market that is largely dominated by niche players such as Tableau, Qlik, and Domo. For many years, SAP’s answer was to dump development dollars into SAP Lumira. Lately, it seemed that was working, as SAP Lumira’s functionality started to rival the Tableaus of the world.

Then in late 2015, SAP made a software as a service (SaaS) play in data visualization with Cloud for Analytics. This was subsequently named SAP BusinessObjects Cloud before it settled into its current nomenclature: SAP Analytics Cloud. In those past two-plus years, SAP Lumira Discovery (the new name for the user-friendly data visualization half of SAP Lumira 2.0) and SAP Analytics Cloud have shared SAP’s data visualization focus. From now on, that will not be the case—SAP will be investing 100% of its innovation efforts into SAP Analytics Cloud.

Faster Innovation Required

“We have received feedback that we need to innovate faster,” says Mike Flannagan, who spoke with ASUG ahead of the announcement. “More to the point of concern, we were getting feedback from customers who were not really sure if they should be on [SAP Lumira or SAP Analytics Cloud]. We decided it is time to simplify what we are doing, to simplify customer strategy, and also to move at a speed we are being asked to move.”

This doesn’t mean that SAP is stopping its investment in SAP Lumira's Discovery side entirely. The on-premise product will continue to receive performance updates, along with fixes for any functional gaps left behind in the move from version 1.31 to version 2.0. What it does mean is there won’t be any new features added to SAP Lumira—that will only happen in SAP Analytics Cloud.

Why SAP Analytics Cloud over SAP Lumira Discovery?

The decision to pick SAP Analytics Cloud over SAP Lumira Discovery came down to the trending market, Flannagan says. Over the past two years, he says that the percentage of customers intending to deploy analytics in the cloud has shifted from a minority to a significant majority. Additionally, most net new investment in the business intelligence (BI) and analytics space at SAP is directed toward SAP Analytics Cloud.

He adds that integrating data visualization with predictive analytics and planning—two modules offered in Analytics Cloud—was key to the decision. The trend of moving toward analytics over BI played a factor as well.

“If I look at what we are doing with SAP Lumira, it’s certainly a product in which we’ve tried to build a lot of innovative functionality, but still it is ultimately a BI-oriented data discovery product,” says Flannagan.

SAP’s on-premise Predictive Analytics product will also be getting less investment in favor of its SAP Analytics Cloud counterpart. This is largely a decision based on the on-premise product’s inability to fit the needs of customers.

“If you look at the [on-premise] Predictive Analytics product today, it probably isn’t quite hardcore enough to meet the demands of serious data scientists, but it’s complicated enough that it isn’t for the casual business user,” explains Flannagan. “The focus now is on ease of use and simplicity, as opposed to chasing data scientists.”

SAP Still Sticking with Hybrid

Hybrid—the term in enterprise software that describes an architecture that is both cloud and on-premise depending on the product—has been SAP’s recommendation to customers across all of its tools, but especially in the BI and analytics space. The move to a heavier focus on SAP Analytics doesn’t change that, according to Flannagan.

“The most important thing for customers who already have made big investments in on-premise BI is that everything we are doing with SAP Analytics Cloud is being designed to enable a hybrid architecture,” he says. “Look at things like live access to data in SAP HANA, live access to data in Business Warehouse, and live access to SAP BusinessObjects universes, and you’ll continue to see us build those connections. We want to make sure customer investments are protected.”

Another challenge for customers may be around handling the more frequent and automatic updates in SAP Analytics Cloud compared with the every-other-year upgrade cycle of on-premise BI. While it is good to have the latest functionality available, keeping staff updated on what is new can be a major change management issue. To that end, Flannagan agrees that SAP will need to provide guidance for customers on the rapid pace of change in these products.

Bottom Line for ASUG Members

SAP Lumira Discovery is far from a beloved product, so there won’t be much of an uproar in response to SAP’s divestment there. However, there are customers that have bought into the SAP Lumira road map and have invested time and money in promoting its use within their organizations. For those companies, this will be frustrating news.

On the positive side, SAP is providing clearer direction about where it is headed with data visualization, so long as they stick with it. The existence of SAP Analytics Cloud alongside on-premise BI tools has often been a source of confusion for customers. Knowing where SAP’s development heart lies, at least for now, will help customers decide where they direct their own technology road maps.