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The Difference Between SAP BI and SAP BW

BI or BW? Different or the same? Let's find out!

The History of SAP BW

Back in the 1990’s, SAP really didn’t have much to offer from an analytic perspective. They sold complex Enterprise Resource Management solutions to tens of thousands of companies. Customers loved how smooth business operations were running and SAP was continuing to dominate the market. Everyone was happy. That is until customers started complaining about performance.

Transactional ECC systems worked great for data entry; it was the getting data out part that seemed to get progressively worse every day. It was an uphill battle to keep up with a growing database. Transactions kept coming in and reports to the business only became more detailed and demanding. This upset customers and made many feel duped by SAP as their solution was no longer able viable for reporting.

Like any business, SAP needed to evolve if they were going to survive in the market. They realized that there was a massive hole in the ERP space for a data warehousing analytic solution and created SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW). If you run a data intensive business, you are going to need both a transactional (ECC) and analytical system (BW).

The SAP BI and SAP BW Timeline

 SAP BIW 1.x — SAP BW 3.5 – SAP created a separate database and application that looks a lot like ECC but allowed for a data modeling workbench to showcase mounds of data in excel spreadsheets instead of using ABAP screens.

SAP BW 7.0 – This release brought a ton of new features to BW.  Critical performance improvements and new objects made this the most impressive release to date.  This was like the Microsoft Windows jump from 95 to 2000.   A job well done.  SAP BW 7.0 remains the most widely used and stable installation among all customers.

SAP BI 7.0 – “Same product, new name.”  SAP changes the name of the component from Business Warehouse to Business Intelligence. Why? I don’t know. Marketing probably thought it sounded better.

SAP BW 7.0 – SAP acquired Business Objects (an Enterprise BI tool), and decided to revert back to the old BW acronym as to alleviate confusion between the two tools.

SAP BW 7.3 – This release is very similar to BW 7.0 and introduced a handful of new objects types along with a number of notable performance enhancements.

SAP BW 7.4 –  An evolved version of BW 7.3 optimized for use on the SAP HANA database.

The Verdict

When someone talks about SAP BI today, they are talking more “big picture solution”.  It’s akin to the literal meaning of Business Intelligence and how we use the BW module to optimize an organization’s analytical and data management strategy.

Started with BW.  Changed to BI. SAP then acquires Business Objects (BOBJ) and considers BOBJ their BI tool.

As far as the SAP Enterprise Data Warehouse is concerned, we’re back to BW

July 24, 2021

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