Lessons on Co-Existence from the Philadelphia Zoo

I just got back from presenting at two in-person BusinessObjects User Group Meetings in Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. The Philadelphia meeting was held at the Philadelphia Zoo and included a free pass to the Zoo afterwards.

I really enjoyed this Zoo because they really have gone all out to create a better experience for the animals. They have these enclosed trails where many of the animals can literally walk around the zoo and they have successfully brought some animals together to share the same enclosures. This included co-housing a huge white rhino, affectionately known as Big Tony, with a group of Zebras. They apparently get on really well and even when Big Tony gets a little playful, the zebras know how to handle him! It makes sense when you consider that this co-existence is closer to how they live in the wild and makes for a healthier habitat all round. It also makes for great viewing from the visitors who can really see the relative size of the two species alongside each other as well as the Zebra adding some nice visual contrast to the grey rhino (By the way I found out that Zebra’s are actually black with white stripes – I always thought it was the other way round).

Coincidently, it also tied in beautifully to one of the presentations I had delivered that morning at the Zoo entitled “BusinessObjects Co-Existence with PowerBI and Tableau”.

I estimate about 80% of BusinessObjects customers in North America use either Tableau, PowerBI or both. This state of co-existence is now the new normal for BusinessObjects with customers retaining Web Intelligence and/or Crystal Reports for BI and operational reporting while using Tableau/PowerBI for BI data discovery and visualization.

No, this was not suggested by the BI vendors and not predicted by the BI analysts like Gartner and Forrester. It was brought about by a combination of necessity and common-sense and then experimenting using the two products side-by-side, just like the zoo did with the rhino and zebras.

Some organizations attempted to convert or replace their BusinessObjects deployments with either Tableau or PowerBI and either failed or ran out of budget. Others realized, ahead of time, that neither Tableau nor PowerBI could replace their mission-critical BusinessObjects reports, many of which were actual production system reports rather than BI reports.

Most business users still need and use reports and they usually want them in one of two formats: Excel or PDF. Tableau does not export directly to Excel and nor does PowerBI reporting. Microsoft ported their reporting services product to PowerBI and call it PowerBI paginated reporting but it is a different tool to PowerBI reporting that has to be learned and has not proven to be very popular.

Most organizations running BusinessObjects have invested heavily over many years in their BusinessObjects universes and reports and it makes little to no sense to convert them to either Tableau or PowerBI .

Not only does co-existence between BusinessObjects and Tableau/PowerBI make good business sense, it can actually help to improve the return on investment and user adoption of Tableau/PowerBI by leveraging the job flows from BusinessObjects. This can be achieved by using tools like InfoBurst Tab and InfoBurst PowerBI that can push data from BusinessObjects workflows directly into Tableau or PowerBI. Using these type of tools you can create and deploy Tableau and PowerBI visualizations much faster with qualified trusted data sets.

There are many organizations taking advantage of this added benefit of co-existence and, if you are not among them, then follow the example of the Philadelphia Zoo and try out mixing your rhinos with your zebras.

Big Tony co-existing with zebras at the Philadelphia Zoo

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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