QlikView Next front-end vs SAP BusinessObjects Mobile

Posted by on May 4, 2014

I just took the time to watch this video previewing QlikView Next. In the video a good preview is giving of what this new QlikView tool looks like and works, and it seems pretty cool. It also worries me when I look at the mobile BI solutions SAP is currently providing in the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app.

If I understand it correctly Next is some kind of BI vision for the future, where they want users to move from passively receiving reports to more actively participating in analysis. They made a beautiful website for this, but I can’t really find out what the really big deal is here. Things like the Discover, Decide, Do cycle are not really groundbreaking or unique.

But, I can see from the video demo that the tool itself is purely developed from a user experience perspective and fully compatible for mobile usage. It runs in Safari on an iPad without having to install something. You can easily select data and use ‘natural’ gestures as pinching to zoom in on charts. I really like the way you can circle around a group of data points to select them.

The user can create new analyses himself by drag-and-dropping components (charts, filter boxes etc.). From these analyses a story can be composed, including written text. This storyboard can be distributed to others and from a datapoint in this storyboard a user can go back to the original (more detailed) analysis.

So let’s compare this to what SAP is offering in their SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app. The Mobile app can show predefined Webi, Crystal, Dashboards and Design Studio application. Except from some basic annotations and mailing screenshots there are no options to add information or adjust what you are seeing. The interactivity/usability options within the reports (making selections for example) are miles behind what QlikView Next is showing in the video demo.

I also tried SAP Lumira Cloud on the Mobile app. It let’s you create a single chart, add and move some dimensions and measures. You can even click one or more datapoints on the chart to filter, but this doesn’t work really smooth. Also pinching and swiping seems to have no effect. And I just can’t figure out how to add more charts and/or a storyboard. Frustrating.

Conclusion is that the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app still sucks and there is a lot of work to do to close this gap. The problem is that the approach for the Mobile app always has been to make (existing) BI4 reports available on mobile devices, which led to crappy solutions. It is just like publishers trying to port their newspapers and magazines to the iPad, in the exact same format as the printed paper (see my Blendle post).

Instead, SAP should start all over again and recreate their Mobile app from a pure mobile usage perspective (and not just continue to port Lumira to the iPad!). Also for Design Studio we need upgraded components that include these cool mobile gesture features like smart data selections.

By the way thanks to @pieter_hendrikx for the tip on this QlikView Next video.

Posted in: New technology, SAP BusinessObjects

Book review: Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013

hilgefortanalysisolap1SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP is probably the one BI4 tool I have spent the least time in yet. It can be seen as the successor to the BEx Web Analyzer and it is the web counterpart of SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Office.

For my projects this might be a very useful tool to offer to our users since it is fully integrated in the BI Launchpad platform and doesn’t require any locally installed software (in contrast to the Office edition, which uses an MS Excel plugin).

Ingo Hilgefort wrote an eBook that is fully dedicated to Analysis OLAP in combination with SAP BW as a data source: Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW.

I picked up the Kindle edition at Amazon.com which was quite cheap at $14,51. I think if you are living in the USA the price will be even lower (around $10) due to ‘some’ taxes we have to pay in the European Union. Anyway, with or without taxes this obviously is no money for this kind of content.

After positioning the tool within the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio and discussing the data connectivity options the book quickly dives into the details. Since it is focussed on SAP BW environments as a datasource only, literally all the BW and BEx stuff is discussed: BEx Query elements, variable types, hierarchical functionality and so on. For every one of these features it is stated how Analysis OLAP supports it. Also some comparisons are made with the BEx Web Analyzer and Analysis Office.

Next the book demonstrates in a step-by-step manner the features of Analysis OLAP. Here a load of screenshots are used, so it is very clear what you have to do. I didn’t have access to an environment with Analysis OLAP when reading the book but with the clear texts and figures I could easily follow what was happening. The book ends with a chapter on deployment of Analysis OLAP which gives some interesting performance tweaking tips.

hilgefortanalysisolap3 hilgefortanalysisolap2

I got the book on my Kindle, which is a small device and has no colors. A lot of tables are used in the book and the formatting of them gets messed-up on my Kindle. The screenshots are also quite hard to view. Luckily I can also use the Kindle app on my Mac to view the details. Unfortunately the indexing from chapter 4 and up doesn’t work. So you have to scroll page by page to the right section if you want to look up something in stead of just clicking the section in the table of contents. Hopefully Ingo will fix this and also keep updating the contents of the book every time a new service pack is released. Good stuff!

Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW [Kindle Edition] by Ingo Hilgefort.

Posted in: Books, Knowledge sharing, Review, SAP BusinessObjects

Errors after promoting BI4 reports with BEx query data sources

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013

Transporting (or promoting) objects in the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 environment is still a bit weird for those (like me) originally coming from the SAP BW world. The Lifecycle Manager (LCM) webapp somehow doesn’t feel as robust as the Transport Management System in SAP, but in the end it does the same thing of course.

This week a colleague ran into some errors after promoting his new Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports from our BI4 development environment to the production environment. His reports were created on SAP BW BEx query data sources.

Update: We finally figured out how to work with Override Settings for OLAP Connections to solve this issue. Check the blog post here.

First let’s have a look at the Web Intelligence report. After the promotion he was able to open the Web Intelligence report, but when refreshing the data the following errors appeared:

Errors when trying to refresh the current report.

The universe generation using the resource id has failed. (WIS 00000)

webi_change_datasource_1

webi_change_datasource_2

The solution to this issue is quite easy but you just have to know this somehow I guess: You have to manually reconnect each SAP BW BEx query with the Web Intelligence report.

Yes, this just feels odd. We are used to the Transport Management System to take care of these things. Also I think it’s a bit strange to standard having to edit reports in a production environment, just to make them work. On the other hand, if you only have one BI4 environment on top of multiple SAP BW environments, it might be useful to have the ability to change the data sources of a report to connect to a different system.

Anyway, to fix this just follow the next easy steps:

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Posted in: Knowledge sharing, SAP BusinessObjects, SAP BW

Book review: 100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports

Posted by on Nov 9, 2012

100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports by Coy Yonce has been on the market for over a year, but really hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet. Maybe the reason is that Crystal Reports isn’t that new and interesting anymore compared to the other SAP BusinessObjects tools and solutions like HANA. Also there are already a lot of books published on Crystal Reports in the past 10 years. In the past months I had to create a series of Crystal Reports in a very short timespan so I decided to pick this book up for some quick tips that could save me some time.

The approach of the ‘100 Things’ series is very different from other SAP books. It won’t teach you the very basics of report creation and it won’t discuss every menu option available. Instead it covers 100 very practical tasks you might want to achieve in Crystal Reports and it shows you the steps to get them done. I like this approach, which falls within the same philosophy we used in our SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 cookbook. This means that some level of experience in using Crystal Reports is required.

I’ve been working with the ‘newer’ SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise 4.0 which is mainly aimed at report creation on top of SAP BW. This book is written for SAP Crystal Reports 2011 but I guess that over 90% of the material is usable in the Enterprise version without a problem.

Each tip starts with a short introduction or case to explain the purpose and goal of the tip. Next you are taken through the steps and code. I think that about 70% of the tips use some kind of code, but in most cases these are single line statements that are not that complex, so don’t worry. A tip covers 2 to 4 pages.

Some of the tips that I found interesting are:

  • Suppressing duplicate rows
  • Designing a cover page
  • Creating a formula to calculate an average/minimum while ignoring zero values
  • Showing visual indicators
  • Creating tool tips
  • Formatting dates in a chart
  • Creating effective report templates

Also there are a bunch of tips that go beyond the standard Crystal Reports functionality and show some nice third-party solutions you can use in Crystal Reports, for example to create barcodes and QR-codes in your report.  The final 5 tips talk about monitoring and improving report performance.

So if you find yourself Googling a lot to make your Crystal Reports better you should really check out the table of contents of this book. If there is one tip in it you can use immediately I think this book is already worth the money.

100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports by Coy Yonce, ISBN 978-1592293902.

 

Posted in: Books, Review, SAP BusinessObjects

Book review: SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP BusinessObjects – The Comprehensive Guide

Posted by on Sep 15, 2012

Let’s have a look at another SAP BI book that SAP Press released this year: SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP BusinessObjects – The Comprehensive Guide. SAP Press is on a great streak and later this year we can expect even more releases from them on HANA, Web Intelligence, ABAP for BW, SAP BusinessObjects Administration and Security.

But, let’s go back to the SAP BW/BO Comprehensive Guide. My first thought when I unwrapped this book was: “Wow, this one is FAT!” Look at it; almost 800 pages! Like most of the SAP Press books this one text-intensive with a 75/25 text to picture ratio so this would take some time to go cover to cover.

I got a bit worried when I scanned the topic list. This book discusses the whole (!) SAP Business Intelligence spectrum. This is SAP BW en SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform (including Data Services) for the backend, and for the frontend the BEx tools (Query Designer, Analyzer, Web Analyzer, Web Application Designer) and the complete SAP BusinessObjects portfolio (Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Analysis, Dashboards, Explorer). Even BW Integrated Planning and SAP SEM-BCS have their own chapter. This is a whole lot of content to cover, even in a 800 pager.

They left the horrible BEx Report Designer (yes it still exists somewhere!) out of scope and at the time of writing Visual Intelligence and SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio weren’t that far in development. HANA and SAP Mobile are mentioned a few times but not really discussed in detail. By the way this book is updated up to SAP BW 7.3 and SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0.

After reading it I feel a bit confused. It is not clear what the real purpose of this book is and what should be the right audience for this publication? Let me take you through it.

It starts of in the first part with an introduction to the business intelligence and its concepts (“What is BI, what is a Data Warehouse etc.) and introduces the BW and BI4.0 platforms and their features. This ‘overview’ part is written on a level that is understandable for newbies or managers without any knowledge of the SAP BI world they might be entering.

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Posted in: Books, SAP BusinessObjects, SAP BW