SAP Rolls out SaaS BI for 'casual Users'

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SAP made a major new push into on-demand BI (business intelligence) Wednesday, announcing a new suite that combines all of SAP's SaaS (software as a service) BI products and is aimed at "casual" users who are "underserved" by other products.

Users won't need prior training to start working with the suite, thanks to built-in guides that walk them through the various processes, according to SAP.

One key component is the BusinessObjects Explorer data-visualization and exploration tool, which allows inexperienced users to intuitively and easily search through and analyze business data from a variety of sources, according to SAP.

Users can also create reports and share them with people inside or outside their company in a secure manner, SAP said. The vendor also said the suite will be able to tap data from on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) vendor

SAP will use a scalable pricing model based on the amount of usage. Further details weren't immediately available.

Partners will play a key role in selling the new suite to customers. SaaS BI vendor Oco will offer versions tuned for various industries and lines of business to large enterprises and upper-midmarket companies. The suite will also be sold via SAP's PartnerEdge program later this year.

It was not immediately clear whether SAP would also sell the suite directly to customers.

SAP's announcement ties into ongoing market trends. Analyst firm IDC recently predicted the SaaS BI market will grow much more quickly in coming years than on-premises BI and analytics software sales, although it will remain fairly small.

A wide array of smaller companies such as PivotLink and Birst are fueling that growth, winning deals with smaller customers that are leery of the cost and complexity of an on-premises BI installation, as well as with large companies that want to give rank-and-file business users BI capabilities faster and cheaper.

With the new suite, SAP is hoping to keep its installed base close to home. In a statement, it stressed the benefits of a single-vendor approach to on-premises and SaaS BI, versus taking "a patchwork approach" to deployment.

At the same time, SAP is emphasizing the suite's ability to work with other systems. A customer quoted in a press release issued Wednesday noted her company is "a big Oracle shop on the back end" and also uses

SAP executives are expected to discuss the release further during a press conference Wednesday.

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