Book review: Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud (SAP Press)

Posted by Xavier Hacking

Developing dashboards and reports with SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) does not only require skills on using the tool itself, but also some fundamental knowledge on how to design a dashboard and how to communicate data in a proper way. Of course, there are already some good books and resources on how to work with SAC and we have numerous books on dashboard design and concepts as IBCS. This book by SAP Press – Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud – aims to bridge these two topics and bring these theoretical design concepts into practice in SAC.

The book starts with some pretty extensive chapters on dashboard design principles (they define their “10 golden rules”) and process-related success factors, from understanding the user requirements till measuring the success of dashboard after deployment. It’s a bit dry to read (lots of text) but it definitely contains some interesting stuff, especially if you’re pretty new to this. 

The majority of the book leads you through the practical side of these fundamentals with a series of sample scenarios. We get lots of screenshots and lots of different visualization types (charts). It not only shows you what is possible, but also how to achieve this in SAC in a step-by-step manner. However, I don’t really understand why the authors chose to split the scenarios (and chapters) by for example connectivity type (acquired vs live). It shouldn’t really matter where the data comes from to design a good dashboard, right? Anyway, it at least gives us some more examples to learn from. 

Besides these more standard SAC story topics there are dedicated chapters on designing planning dashboards, using SAC Application Design, the embedded version of SAC (SAP S4/HANA), self-scripted custom R-visualizations and developing mobile dashboards. Especially this chapter on mobile stories grabbed my attention as this is often a bit of an afterthought. It’s just not enough to assume that stories will automatically convert into good working mobile (iPhone ánd iPad) dashboards!

The book ends with a template for a style guide, which is of course very useful in case you want to introduce your own development standards. Also an extensive list of additional resources is provided. 

Throughout the book IBCS is discussed and applied several times, which is of course a big plus. A lot of the examples use the canvas pages option however. I’m not a fan of that and rather just use the responsive pages all the time as they provide structure, perform better and are mobile compatible.

A major drawback of the print edition of this book is that it lacks colors, which is a bit strange for a guide for visual design that costs almost €90. This has been a discussion within SAP Press for a long time, as I remember this from the days that I worked on their books for Lumira. So you probably want to spend the additional €10 to get the PDF version as well… 

Then, for whom is this book? If you are a SAC pro who wants to get some new ideas on dashboard design, there is a lot of useful material here but you’ll also be skipping quite a lot of content. You don’t need to get explained how to add a chart to a story, right? This step-by-step format is on the other hand clear enough for really new SAC developers, as it is easy to follow and learn from and it provides at least a good idea of what is possible with the tool. In additional they then could check out the recent OpenSAP training on SAP Analytics Cloud or get the book on SAC by Abassin Sidiq, as that gives a more complete overview and much more details. 

Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud
Erik Bertram, James Charlton, Nina Hollender, Melanie Holzapfel, Nico Licht, Carmen Paduraru
344 pages,  2021
E-book formats: EPUB, MOBI, PDF, online
ISBN 978-1-4932-2061-8 - Jul 29, 2022 | Books, Review, SAP Analytics Cloud
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