A first look at ZEN (SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012

This week we got access to the beta program for one of the new upcoming SAP BI tools: SAP BusinessObjects Analysis Edition for Application Design, codename ZEN. I played around with it for about an hour to get a quick first impression and to see how fast I would be able to create my first ZEN app with some interactivity.

If you haven’t heard about ZEN before you should check the following blogposts:

The user guide gives the following definition of ZEN:

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for application design enables application designers to create analysis applications and dashboards for browsers and mobile devices on top of BW and SAP HANA data sources. It is the product of choice when full support for BW and HANA data models and engine capabilities is required. The product offers a design tool that allows you to create applications in an easy and intuitive way without the need for native HTML and iPad UI programming skills.

Looking at the SAP BI tools, the features of the current BEx Web Application Designer (WAD) and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) will be merged into this one tool (to rule them all!). Note that ZEN is now in beta, ramp-up is planned for end 2012 and it will be general availability not before the middle of 2013!! So we have enough time to learn about this new tool.

The ZEN software installer required me to install Internet Explorer 9 on my Windows 7 VM. This could lead to some problems in production environments that are using WAD, since WAD only works well with Internet Explorer 8. At one of my current projects we now also have this problem after upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 with IE9. Check SAP note 1635870 for more info on this issue.

Setting up the connection to the SAP BW system was easy; just copy-pasting the settings from the SAP logon settings. There is no ‘check connection’ option, so you have to execute the app to check if your settings are correct. Interesting is the option to create multiple SAP BW and SAP HANA connections. Also it seems like you don’t need a live connection to work on an app. In WAD this was required.

The program looks a bit like WAD and Xcelsius, with several components to choose from on the left, a canvas in the middle and on the right the properties of the selected component.

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Posted in: Knowledge sharing, New technology, Preview, SAP, SAP BusinessObjects, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, ZEN

Book review: Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012

For the past months I’ve been busy reading (and listening) a bunch of interesting tech books so it’s time for another review. It looks like SAP Press is updating its book portfolio this year, since after the Integrating SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.x with SAP Netweaver book I posted about in January we now also have a second edition of Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects, and in April the successor to Creating Dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects is planned for release.

This is a good thing. We’ve seen lots of changes in just a few years; BI4 has been release, new product names are introduced, integration has been improved and so on. If you are just entering the new SAP BusinessObjects world and you would follow the ‘old’ books and documentation it would only get you confused and probably frustrated. We don’t need that. The book is updated for release 4.0 FP3.

So let’s have a look at this new Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects book, which is again written by Ingo Hilgefort, who is one of the ultimate gurus on SAP BusinessObjects and SAP BW tooling and integration and has been blogging and writing books on these topics since SAP acquired BusinessObjects a few years back. Follow this guy if you want to keep updated and learn more.

This book is really an overall overview of the complete SAP BusinessObjects reporting portfolio. It starts with the basics by describing the different reporting capabilities in just a few pages. A lot of SAP BI consultants still can’t name the five main BI tooling areas so there is nothing wrong to start with this again.

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Posted in: Books, Knowledge sharing, New technology, SAP BusinessObjects

#Juice30days Fav Five

Posted by on Dec 25, 2011

This month I’ve been following the #Juice30days guide by Juice Analytics to learn more on data visualization. You really should check their cool website and blog and follow the 30 days program. They are doing a great job setting this up. I put my Fav Five content in this post.

1. A Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use

This 3-part white paper  gives us best practices and guidelines on how to create and design better dashboards.

Part 1: Foundation helps you identify your target audience, understand what type of dashboard you want to create and why it is valuable to your organization. It concludes guidance regarding how to focus your message on the information and metrics that matter.

Part 2: Structure helps you start on designing your dashboard, including what form it should take, how to design for audience understanding, and what navigation, interactions, and capabilities will make your dashboard useful and engaging.

Finally, Part 3: Information Design dives into the details of interface and information design. You will learn how to lay out your dashboard and best practices for charting and data presentation.

2.  Who is Edward Tufte?

I knew about this guy, but hadn’t read a lot of his work yet. So this story resulted in a very large and expensive Amazon.com visit…

3.  5 Phases of Data Analytics Maturation: Part 1 & 2

I found this article very fun to read since I could plot the stages exactly to the environments at the clients I work(ed) for, especially the Tribal Elders phase, which is – sadly enough – still reality.

In this article the 5 different stages of maturity that information workers go through as they try to become more effective and efficient at consuming and acting on information are explored.

Phase 1: Tribal Elders

Phase 2: Static Reports

Phase 3: Bigger Static Reports

Phase 4: Ad-hoc reports

Phase 5: Experienced Guide

4. Before trying to communicate information, first understand it.

When thinking about information, don’t confuse the medium with the message. Watch it:

5.  30 Resources to Find the Data you Need

Need some data for your latest demo dashboard or report? This list has some nice sources to get you started.

Posted in: Data visualization, Knowledge sharing

SAP Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius) Cookbook

SAP Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius) Cookbook
Posted by on Nov 21, 2010

I am very excited to announce the SAP Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design Cookbook I am currently working on together with co-author David Lai. The book is scheduled to be published by Packt Publishing in the first half of 2011.

The cool thing about this book is that it is indeed structured as a cookbook. In at least 75 practical recipes we will show in a step-by-step approach and supported by a large number of screenshots how to create advanced dashboards using the SAP Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design software, formerly known as Xcelsius.

SAP Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design Cookbook: RAW

Besides covering the functionality and working of components, data connections, dynamic visibility, alerts and dashboard publishing we will also discuss some of the top add-ons and provide best practices on dashboard development. This setup makes the book a nice read for both beginners and the more experienced users.

Since the book is currently under development it has the RAW (Read As we Write) status at Packt Publishing, which means that the all material that is written until now is already available in e-book format. We aim to publish the book in May 2011.

Update May 2011: The book has been released as the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 cookbook. You can find more information here.

Posted in: Books, Cookbook, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, Xcelsius

New GMaps Plugin v2 for Xcelsius try-out

New GMaps Plugin v2 for Xcelsius try-out
Posted by on Aug 14, 2010

This summer Centigon Solutions released the latest version of their Google Maps add-on for Xcelsius (uh, SAP Crystal Solutions Presentation Design…). Although I liked the first version of this add-on, I really missed an option for showing regional alerts. You still had to use the standard Xcelsius map-components which did support this feature.

In this post I will show the steps you have to take to create a dashboard showing a Google Map with regions that have alert colors and are clickable with some drill-down functionality like the example below.

Update: First check this post concerning changes on the Google Maps API.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://hackingsap.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/NL_GMaps_demo.swf” height=”600″ width=”600″ /]

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Posted in: Knowledge sharing, New technology, SAP, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, Xcelsius