Tough choices for BusinessObjects XIR2 clients

With SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 going GA, SAP will now have two full version number to support 3.x and 4. This spells the end of any support options for those who are still running BusinessObjects XI R2. XI R2 has been on extended maintenance since June 2010, so there are no surprises here, but still, the clients who are running on this version are feeling quite uncomfortable now that SAP will no longer “pick up the phone” if they call for help.
Those who are still running BusinessObjects XI R2 and are looking to get back to a supported version, face tough choices now: upgrade to the latest and greatest version 4.0, or upgrade to version 3.x (3.1 SP4 is the most recent release at the moment). Both choices have pros and cons, and IT and BI managers and professionals should think through these aspects before making the plunge either way.
BusinessObjects 4.0 has several exciting new functionalities and features. Significant improvement in the UI, 64bit support, multi-source universes and a new and improved Designer, strong mobility offerings and more. Not to mention, it is the most current version of the product and will remain in support a lot longer then 3.x. However, as we all well know, any major dot release of any big vendor software is bound to have bugs and suffer from issues. The 4.0 ramp up period offered many of us a glimpse into that with respect to this release. Stability issues on the UI, “spotty” performance and things that simply don’t work might be some of the issues some clients may experience at least until the first service pack is released, probably in six months of so. So those who are thinking about replacing a proven and tried platform that has been in operation for many years with a spanking new version must be comfortable with the fact that they may experience problems due to the “new” factor of any big enterprise system.
On the other hand, upgrading an enterprise platform such as BusinessObjects is not an easy or cheap undertaking. From an IT perspective, on top of standing up a new environment, most of the work will evolve around implementing new security models and upgrading reporting content. From the users and adoption perspective, there is a lot of work to train and educate a large global community about the new features and functionality of the new software. While an upgrade always provide new and exciting possibilities, it is not an easy task, and making a conscious decision to upgrade to a version that will be end of life sooner than 4.0  by a year or more is not easy either.
So, what should you do if you are still running on XI R2? First, consider your organization culture and users community. Will your users generally accept a few wrinkles in favor of new and exciting functionality, or will they reject a package that has any defects? Will your organization be able to “stomach” another upgrade to 4.0 a short year or so from now? What is the system usage like? How much reporting content is involved? Armed with the answers to these kinds of questions, a clearer answer will begin to emerge regarding which is the right option for your organization.
And of course, XI R2 clients can choose to remain on an un-supported (but working perfectly fine) platform, and wait for the first 4.0 service pack to upgrade…

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