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BusinessObjects Web Intelligence vs. PowerBI – The Truth from the Trenches Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed the top 5 main differentiators between BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and PowerBI, as determined by 2 different independent BI consultants who have worked and continue to work extensively with both tools.

In part 2, I asked the same two consultants to list their Top 5 Reasons Not to Convert Webi Reports to PowerBI.

Here are their responses – in the raw and with only minor editing to keep it readable

Consultant 1 Responses:

  1. Time and money. What issues are there with your current Webi toolset that are making you consider converting to Power BI? First, work within your current BI toolset and see what can be achieved there before bringing in Power Bi. There are a lot of features/capabilities in Webi that many users don’t know about and that go unused. 
  2. You will lose the Universe.  There is no comparable semantic layer concept yet in Power BI. Datasets will take a lot of time and effort to set up in Power Bi and to replicate what you had in the Universe.
  3. Sharing and refreshing reports will most likely end up costing your organization a lot more for expensive licenses.  Free accounts cannot view anything via the App created in a Pro account unless the Workspace is in a premium capacity license.  Otherwise, each user will have to be assigned a Pro or PPU license to be able to view dashboards in the App.  Exporting dashboards/reports with custom visuals to PDF, Power Point may have issues and may require purchasing increased capacity.
  4. There will be a bigger learning curve for users to pick up Power BI and be retrained on the new tool.  It may be overwhelming for many end users as it’s not an end user tool.
  5. Your reports/dashboards will not run any faster in Power BI unless steps are taken to optimize things on the data side.  If speed is a factor in your decision to move to Power BI, first explore data optimization options with your current setup and tools before doing any report conversions to Power BI.

Consultant 2 Responses:

  1. The “hidden costs” of PowerBI can be staggering as compared to your steady cost of SAP BI deployment. The learning curve is a lot higher than anticipated. It’s easy to open the door, but once you’re inside, it’s a dark, dark castle and finding the lights is an ordeal
  2. Things that are essential to reporting are missing in PowerBI. Zero control of “breaking”. Zero ability to sectionize your report. Simple formula language is anything but simple. If you want to share your work, good luck or pony up a LOT of cash.
  3. Reporting and “dashboarding” become a separate exercise and very hard to connect. In SAP BI Webi, the ability to report and dashboard can be combined into a robust “application” style dashboard.
  4. PowerBI is much better suited as a nice to have analyst tool, it is NOT an enterprise ready tool that will satisfy the reporting needs and mission critical data sets that you’ve been using/distributing through SAP BOBJ. PowerBI does not handle large data sets well (please read Kimball books if you plan on using this tool, you’ll need to learn how to model, otherwise performance is DREADFUL for anything with rows over 10k or so.) It is not easily scalable without massive investments. Deployment is often paused or delayed because the licensing system is too complex and when use cases can’t be met, there’s usually “a fee for that”, if it can do it all.
  5. You can use a “wizard” of sorts in PowerBI with the quick measure approach, but it’s obviously limited and it will write the DAX for you. There is a language called M or something strange that is your lingo for the ETL within POWERQUERY. I think most customers that aren’t using DAX are doing their calcs using quick measure or doing it pre-load into PowerBI (ETL, editing spreadsheets, etc..). This is all fine until you are trying to convert complex aggregators from Webi  into PowerBI.

You will not hear this candid honesty for BI Analysts and certainly not from the BI vendors but I felt it was important to both hear and share the truth.

Many BusinessObjects customers have already figured this out and now happily run in a state of co-existence using both BusinessObjects and PowerBI side-by-side and leveraging BusinessObjects in PowerBI with tools like InfoBurst PowerBI.

I would love to hear your experiences using the two tools so feel free to comment.

Update: In Part 3 of this blog, I jumped on a Teams call with a customer working at a large organization who is currently using both solutions who was kind enough to spend some time with me to expand further on his experience and assessment.

About pgrill

Paul Grill started his career in Information Technology in the U.K. in 1978, as an Executive Data Processing Trainee for Honeywell. More than thirty years later, he still has a voracious appetite for learning as Information Technology continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace. He was first introduced to the world of Business Intelligence in 1991, in France, when he saw a demonstration of an early version of BusinessObjects on Windows 2.1. He returned to the U.S. to rave about this phenomenal product, but it was many years before BusinessObjects made it into the mainstream. Paul founded InfoSol in 1997, and made Business Intelligence one of the key solutions offered by the company. Today, InfoSol is a leading SAP BusinessObjects solutions partner, known for its expert consulting, education and innovative add-on solutions. Paul is well known within the SAP BusinessObjects community for his extensive knowledge of Business Intelligence, and he has lectured and written many articles on the subject. Paul enjoys writing, running and coaching kids soccer, and is passionate about Ancient Egyptology.

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