SAP Lumira verus Tableau Summary
SAP Lumira is SAP’s response to the burgeoning data visualisation market. Its BusinessObjects platform is fine for large scale production BI, but doesn’t really cater for individual data analysis needs. As such Lumira is an adjunct to BusinessObjects, and the server edition provides fairly tight integration with BusinessObjects. Businesses with substantial investments in SAP technologies will select Lumira, although superior offerings are available. Tableau is essentially a stand-alone data visualisation platform, but with connections to a wide range of data sources – including SAP HANA. It is renowned for its ease of use, and the rich variety of visualisations it supports. Whether an organisation chooses Lumira or Tableau will depend on existing commitments to the SAP platform. In terms of sophistication there really isn’t much to separate them, although Tableau is easier to use and may (depending on configuration) be the cheaper alternative. Lumira on the other hand integrates into the SAP ecosystem, and for SAP users this will probably be the deciding factor.
SAP Lumira is a relatively new component in SAP’s somewhat fragmented BI suite of products. SAP Business Objects is the IT centric production BI platform, which has some limited self-service capability, but is certainly not competitive with the swathe of new products now available. In an attempt to address this shortfall SAP has introduced Lumira. It comes in several versions. The Standard Edition is for individual use, The Edge Edition for SMEs and teams, Server Edition for the enterprise , and a Cloud Edition for – well, a cloud deployment. There is nothing particularly interesting here, and Lumira is most likely to be adopted by businesses already heavily invested in SAP technology.
In a broader context the SAP BI ecosystem does address all that most large organisations might want to do with their data. It is in effect a one-stop-shop with ETL, master data management, data warehouse, reporting (Crystal Solutions), production BI (BusinessObjects) and data quality functions. SAP’s acquisition of KXEN also adds advanced analytics, although KXEN was never a broad data mining and statistics toolkit, but is more focused on specific functions (typically customer analysis). However the suite of products is not particularly well integrated, and this is often an annoyance to customers.
Lumira does what many other products do – charts, dashboards, some level of collaboration, and of course it is particularly adept at using SAP data sources and platforms (HANA particularly). In common with some other big BI suite players, customers complain of high prices and, in SAPs case, poor product stability. Of course those organisations that are locked into SAP will just have to grin and bear it, but businesses looking for a platform that supports data exploration, discovery and visualisation are presented with many somewhat more suitable options.
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Without doubt Tableau Software set the pace for easy-to-use data visualisation and exploration software. In practical terms this means business users can get to their data, typically without assistance from IT, and create graphs, charts and dashboards in a way that is most meaningful to them. Authoring takes place on Tableau Desktop which, as a stand-alone environment, can perform its own analysis, either against the Tableau in-memory database, or against external data sources – databases, cloud data sources, spreadsheets and so on. In a group or enterprise setting Tableau Server acts as a central facility for data access, delivering visualisations, enforcing security and managing user access. Tableau Server distributes visualisations through the web browser to almost any device that supports a web browser – desktops and mobile devices.
The architecture of Tableau Server is scalable, and is well demonstrated by the Tableau Public free service where millions of visualisations (albeit simple ones) are served up every day. It does support some level of extensibility, particularly the coding of bespoke applications that are not natively supported, but users have to resort to XML code to achieve this.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Tableau is its integration with the analytic language R. It is such a stark contrast – the easy to use Tableau product set, and the not so easy to use R programming language. Even so it does give advanced users, and programmers the ability to add other forms of analysis into the Tableau environment, and particularly statistical analysis and predictive analytics. This contrasts with some of the competition (Spotfire particularly) who, in addition to an easy to use visualisation capability also offer easy to use statistics and predictive analytics tools.
I set out by saying that Tableau set the pace, but in reality it is now at least equalled by several other products. Qlik Sense and Spotfire have both been reengineered for an easy to use experience, and there are cloud based products such as Sisense and GoodData. And of course we should not forget Microsoft’s latest foray into the world of data visualisation and exploration with Power BI Designer. It’s immature, but it will be disruptive.
Tableau is not an enterprise business intelligence solution, and the fact that several other suppliers use it as a data visualisation front end betrays its real use. It is a powerful augmentation of a broader business intelligence solution.
As an organisation Tableau is very much in tune with business user sentiment. Their marketing and sales activities are sometimes seen as a bit aggressive, but the rapid growth of Tableau demonstrates its effectiveness. They have taken business intelligence to the masses, and in the process have almost turned business intelligence into a consumer product, with associated marketing style and branding. There are dangers associated with this, but Tableau is addressing the frustrations of business users, who simply want to see their data in a meaningful format.
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