In a nutshell
As you may be aware, SAP BusinessObjects BI platform version 4.1 will be officially designated ‘End of Life’ (EOL) status from 31 December 2020.
Customers still running 4.1 will be able to continue doing so but with all the normal operational, security and compliance risks associated when you use unsupported software.
This December also marks six months since the general release of SAP BusinessObjects BI version 4.3. Featuring a completely revamped user experience along with a raft of architecture and function enhancements, this latest version represents a major improvement of the BusinessObjects platform.
If you are running BusinessObjects BI 4.1 (or below), there is a compelling business case for choosing now to upgrade. For one thing, a shift away from unsupported legacy software means better safeguarding of your data and the future success of your data projects. Further, especially now that v.4.3 has had time to bed in, transitioning to this latest version means a significant boost to your BI capabilities.
End of Life for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1
From 1 January 2021, there will be no vendor support for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1. From the same date, support will also be withdrawn for BusinessObjects Explorer, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and SAP BusinessObjects Widgets.
From January onwards, for these products, you will no longer be able to rely on SAP’s incident logging & response system, the ‘Expert Chat’ or ‘Schedule an Expert Session’ features.
Risk management: Can we continue to use our legacy version?
In theory at least, you can continue to run v.4.1 if you wish. After all, you do ‘own’ your product. But it is not advisable.
If any problem arises, you still have the option of sifting through SAP’s Knowledge Base or SAP Notes. However, these only document solutions to known problems recorded up until the end of December 2020.
The real risks to your organisation emerge if and when unknown - i.e. previously un-encountered - problems arise. Examples include fresh security vulnerabilities, unpatched bugs related to specific platform features, as well as compatibility issues linked to other software in your technology stack.
The longer you continue to use an unsupported SAP BI version, the more significant your risk profile. This includes:
● Operational risks: for instance, where users are prevented from generating or accessing business-critical reports due to functional issues.
● Security risks: such as third-parties exploiting newly-exposed vulnerabilities to gain access to your data.
● Compliance risks: if personal data is compromised, you may find it much harder to demonstrate adherence with GDPR (particularly the duty to ensure ‘data protection by design and default’) if the breach is linked to the continued deployment of unsupported technology.
If we do upgrade, which version should we upgrade to?
While upgrading to v.4.2 may be a possibility, we would instead advise transitioning straight to the latest version, 4.3. The reasons for this are linked to two factors: longevity and functionality.
V.4.2 is currently still supported. However, bear in mind this version was released way back in March 2016 and is no longer the most up to date version of course. Given SAP’s typical 5-7 year end-of-life cadence, we estimate that support for v.4.2 itself is likely to be withdrawn somewhere between 2021 and 2023.
By contrast, transitioning to v.4.3 means you can expect vendor support for your platform until around 2027. Assuming that your priority is to run supported software with as few version upgrades as possible, upgrading straight to the latest version represents best value and the least amount of upheaval.
Unless you knew better, you might assume that the difference between ‘4.2’ and ‘4.3’ was going to be nothing more than an incremental refresh. This is not the case.
V.4.3 is firmly in the ‘upgrade’ rather than ‘update’ camp. Highlights include a much more user-friendly interface, as well as a new data modelling concept. This makes it easier than ever before for ordinary business users to generate reports incorporating multiple queries from multiple sources, add variables and create compelling visualisations.
If your goal is greater user take-up of BI, more on-demand reporting and better business insights, transitioning straight to v.4.3 is the obvious route.
What’s involved in transitioning to BusinessObjects BI 4.3?
If there’s any downside to upgrading from v.4.1 straight to v.4.3, it’s purely user familiarity.
Our own SAP BI experts and customers alike have both commented that it looks and feels like a completely different product (in a good way!).
Users who have only ever worked with the legacy version won’t yet be familiar with SAP’s new ‘Fiori’ interface. It is engineered with self-service BI in mind. That said; some initial expert-led orientation is recommended to ensure your people are able to leverage its full capabilities.
Likewise, administrators will appreciate the platform’s ease of maintenance and new security features. Some initial input on configurations and a walk-through for the all-new administration console will, however, almost certainly be needed.
Fortunately, six months down the line from v.4.3’s general roll-out, our SAP BI team are now well-versed in its capabilities - and how best to make the most of them in-the-field. Shaped by your business-specific needs, we can put together a full training package for both business and technical users.
Your next steps: best practice for BusinessObjects BI 4.1 (and below) customers
For on-premises BusinessObjects BI customers seeking to transition from a legacy version, we would suggest the following course of action:
● Consider your upgrade options. As discussed, transitioning to v.4.3 will almost certainly make the most sense. It might also be a good time to reassess your deployment model. Notably, is this the time to switch to a hosted environment? Do it all at once and let us handle everything going forward for you.
● Organise training for system and general users. Contact our team to discuss your precise needs.
● Run a 28-day trial of 4.3 in parallel to your existing system. Test. Ask our team about our trial run offer.
● Go live! Switch to 4.3 and turn off your old environment. Our experts will be on hand to oversee all aspects of planning, migration, configuration and deployment.
● Ongoing support. From user troubleshooting to bespoke templates & development, we offer all you need to ensure your new BusinessObjects version continues to meet your organisational goals.
Looking for a swift, expert-led transition to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.3? Speak to MHR Analytics today.
Laura Timms is Product Strategy Manager at MHR Analytics. With a background in Psychology and a passion for creating great products, Laura has managed the research, design and launch of data and analytics products for the past five years.