In the days before the acquisition of Business Objects, the SAP answer to Business Intelligence was simple: SAP Business Warehouse, later known as SAP Business Intelligence. ETL, Datawarehouse, Datamart and BI tooling, all in one integrated environment. Implementing SAP BW was therefore always a complex task. Nowadays SAP has several tools available, including options where no datawarehouse is needed. SAP BW is now positioned on its strongest features, ETL, Datawarehousing and Datamart.
So the question arises, when to use SAP Business Warehouse?
To answer to this question, it is needed to answer two other questions. First, is a datawarehouse needed at all? Second, use SAP BW or an alternative?
The main consideration for deciding on the use of a datawarehouse has to do with size.
If the data volume is small, and the business rules are relatively easy, it is not necessary to use a datawarehouse.
When the data volume becomes large, querying on the transactional database directly will be slow and might influence the transactional users. A datawarehouse can work on a different environment and can aggregate data for management reports. A datawarehouse as SAP BW also has the tools to automate and monitor the loading of the data, thus improving the quality and actuality of the data. In a datawarehouse business rules are stored centrally and used in a uniform manner. All this ensure data quality and integrity, which is absolutely necessary for high quality business intelligence.
The main question for deciding which datawarehouse to use, SAP BW or another, is based mainly on the architecture of the organization.
If the datawarehouse will be using a lot of SAP source systems, SAP BW is the obvious choice. The integration between SAP ECC and SAP CRM is of a very high quality so it saves a lot of time to develop and maintain these interfaces.
If the source systems are non SAP and the BI tooling is SAP BO, it is not an obvious choice. In the current situation there are still several unnecessary technology layers needed between SAP BW and the BO tools to make it work. However, for SAP it is important to improve this integration, so that they can start selling BO to their large BW customer base. At the moment it is not known what the new features are of SAP BO, Aurora, but what I am hoping for is the possibility to use the BI tools directly on the BW cubes and the enhancement of the BI tools with the SAP hierarchy functionality. This release is expected end of this year.
When a datawarehouse is needed in an environment without SAP at all, there are a lot more options to choose from. Which one is best depends on the need at hand.
In conclusion, SAP Business Warehouse is a sophisticated datawarehouse tool with all the necessary functionality. It is the first choice for organizations with a SAP environment, large data volumes and complex business rules.