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BusinessObjects BI Decision Tree

May 21st, 2012 1 comment

UPDATE 10/5/2012:  Things have continued to evolve since May and therefore this post has been updated based on the latest roadmap information coming from SAP together with, as always, some of my own thoughts and opinions.

The good news, bad news about the SAP BusinessObjects product suite is that although there is a lot of best-of-breed functionality there, it can sometimes be a challenge to know what tool to use in every situation.

As a result, I did some research, leveraged some pre-existing content from SDN and came out with this updated BI Decision Tree.

BI Decision Tree

I have updated this decision tree to include the two recent product announcements

  • SAP Visual Intelligence
  • SAP Predictive Analysis

This chart is not meant to be a definitive guide to selecting the right tool because there are always additional factors to consider, but by and large this will get you there most of the time.

Click on Chart to Enlarge

10/5/2012 CLARIFICATION:  If you are doing Business Intelligence of SAP BW, you should be always look at using Analysis for Office for OLAP Analysis within Excel and Analysis for OLAP for OLAP analysis over the web.  These solutions are premium alternatives to the legacy BEx Analyzer for Excel and BEx Web respectively.  Personally I prefer Analysis for Office for all my BEx Analysis just because I prefer the performance and interface of Excel to the one delivered on the web.

Analysis for Application Design (Code named Zen) is still under development and will be the premium alternative for Web Application Designer.  Here is the official SAP SOD for dashboarding.  So glad Miko pushed for this webinar!

WebIntelligence Rocks

Since I discovered Business Intelligence using Crystal Reports and consider it my “first love”, this admission hurts.  I had this blog 90% written when it hit me.  Does anyone even use Analysis for OLAP?  Why put it on the chart? Everyone uses WebIntelligence for connecting to OLAP data.

Today,WebIntelligence provides OLAP connectivity through the semantic layer and the WebIntelligence user interface is OLAP aware with a grown up OLAP look & feel.  It can feel like a native OLAP tool instead of a relational tool that just flattens OLAP data.

10/5/2012: WebIntelligence is not a native OLAP tool so there are limitations.  If you are using SAP BW, only Analysis for Office and Analysis for OLAP are native OLAP tools and will give the full richness of an OLAP experience.  Some capabilities that are not supported by WebIntelligence are:

  • The ability switch hierarchies without “refreshing” the report
  • Ranking data at a given hierarchy level

The End of Analysis for OLAP?

SAP customers that I’ve worked with are using WebIntelligence to do their formatted reporting and Analysis for Office to keep their finance users happy.  I see some Crystal Reports, but WebIntelligence came a long way in BusinessObjects v4.0 with formatted reporting.

Did you see any Analysis for OLAP sessions at Sapphire this year?  I didn’t think so.  And typically session content is driven by customer interest.

It’s a lonely time for Analysis for OLAP (a.k.a. OLAP Intelligence, OLAP Analysis, Seagate Analysis – boy I’m feeling old).

10/5/2012: I’ve received some feedback from folks saying that Analysis for OLAP is alive and well and has parity functionality with Analysis for Office.  Well, it’s not quite parity when it comes to all the shortcuts and right-clicks, but if you can’t use Analysis for Office, then it does get the job done.  

Your Thoughts

Please let me know your thoughts on this topic.

Do you find it pretty easy to help customers know what tools to use when?

«Good BI»

 

SAP Runs Crystal Reports

December 15th, 2011 8 comments

Say it loud, Say it proud

With the latest development of SAP Business Suite Enhancement Pak 5, SAP users can now enjoy the rich, flexible formatting functionality right from within the application.

ALVs Get An Upgrade

For many years, users have been limited in their ability to provide formatted reporting from an SAP ALV (ABAP List Viewer).  Users could do basic sorting, grouping and filter, but that was about it.  Now the output from an ALV can be pushed directly into a Crystal Report using the new Crystal Reports ALV Adapter.

This solution is currently available for ALV Grid (SAP GUI ALV) and for Web Dynpro ABAP ALV.  ALV List and ALV Classic are not supported.  In my case, I will be running an SAP GUI ALV.

Using the Crystal Reports ALV Adapter

Before installing the adapter you need to be running Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or above.  In addition, because I will be running ALVs run directly within the SAP GUI, I must have also installed SAP GUI 7.10 or above.

Downloading the Adapter

One of the hardest things about installing the adapter is finding in the Service Marketplace. Here is a screenshot of the location

Personally, I recommend searching for it.  Here is how I found it:

From the search screen, search for CR ADD-ON

Software Search Screen

Search for CR ADD-ON

You should see CR ADD-ON FOR BS APPS 1.0 come back in the search results.  This is what you want.

Search Results

Once you select CR ADD-ON FOR BS APPS 1.0, you will be able to download the ZIP archive file.

Service Marketplace Software Download

After extracting the application you will see the xSAPCRVAdpt.exe, which is what we will be installing.

Installing the Adapter

Begin the installation by double-clicking on the install file, xSAPCRVAdpt.exe.

Here we will see the Crystal Reports ALV Adapter ready to be installed.

After choosing Next, the installation will begin:

After a few minutes you should see the following message, which indicates the installation was successful.

Configuring the Adapter

The final step after installing the adapter is telling Business Suite to allow Crystal Reports to be used with ALVs.

We need to use tcode, SALV_GUI_CUST

Here we want to make sure we Allow Crystal Reports to be an option.

Next we need to use tcode, SALV_WD_CUST to go into the Web Dynpro Settings

Here we want to make sure we Allow Crystal Reports to be an option.

Testing the Adapter

You can use any ALV Grid (SAP GUI ALV) or Web Dynpro ABAP ALV for testing.  In my case, I’m going to use the t-code KSB1, Display Actual Cost Line Items for Cost Centers.

Note that at the end of the input screen, I select the layout for this report.  This is important because with Enhancement Pak 5, you can save Layouts that leverage Crystal Reports.

Here are the default results in an ALV Grid:

Pretty boring, eh?

Choose the Change Layout Icon

Under the View tab you can change the Preferred View to Crystal Reports.  This will cause the data to be sent to a Crystal Report using the SAP_GenericTemplate.rpt.

Now you can see the output in a Crystal Report.

Modifying the Crystal Report

We first need to get a copy of the report, so we will chose the option “Export Report”.

Export to Crystal Report

By selecting this option, I will be presented with a dialog box which will allow me to Save the Report to my hard drive.  At first, I found this button confusing because I expected it to work like it does in standard Crystal Reports and ask me if I wanted to export the report in PDF.  It left me wondering how I would go about exporting the results to PDF if I wanted to.  Hmm.

NOTE:  Once the report is exported, you can make changes to it using
Crystal Reports 2011, since at the time of this writing Crystal Reports
for Enterprise does not support direct data connectivity.  Also this template
was created in the pre-Crystal Reports 9 format; therefore you could modify
these reports with older versions of Crystal Reports.

When you open the report to modify it, you will see that the data is being pushed into the report via an ADO.NET (XML) database connector.  This means that this report cannot be refreshed from within Crystal Reports during the report modification process.

Rather than showing you the details about how to modify a Crystal Report, I will simply assume that after exporting the report, you have been able to make a number of changes to suit your needs and are ready to load those changes into the SAP List Viewer.

Select your update report from the dialog box:

After after being imported successfully:

… the new report layout will appear on the screen

Saving the Layout for Future Use

Now that we’ve got the new report loaded, we would like choose this view or layout.  SAP accommodates this.  All you need to do is save the layout under a new name by following the prompts in the Save Layout dialog:

In my case I named my new report layout /ZCRKSB1

After the layout has been saved, users can reference it from the Setting section of the original SAP List Viewer prompt screen.  Under the last section, Settings the user can change the default layout by selecting the layout of their choice.

Summary

For many years now, we’ve been talking to customers and partners about the value of embedded analytics.  Now we are finally beginning to see they rolled out in earnest.  Not only is Crystal Reports now embedded directly into SAP Business Suite, but SAP Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) are being provided out of the box for HR, Finance and other key areas.

The only drawback of embedded analytics today is the lack of built-in intelligence about how to navigate the data.  In the SAP List Viewer today, if you click on a column, the List Viewer is intelligent enough to drill to the associated supporting document.  But even with this limitation, there is still real value in better reporting from SAP Business Suite.

«Good BI»

Welcome To Crystal Reports for Enterprise

August 30th, 2011 17 comments

So has everyone see the new interface for Crystal Reports?  If not, you’re missing out.  SAP BusinessObjects v4.0 includes a brand new version of Crystal Reports called, Crystal Reports for Enterprise.  This version of Crystal is new in BusinessObjects v4.0 introduces the new tabbed user interface which has been rolled out to all the client tools.

Crystal Reports 2011 and Crystal Reports for Enterprise are both available in BusinessObjects v4.0.

You may be asking:  What is the difference between Crystal Reports 2011 and Crystal Reports for Enterprise?  That’s a great question.

In short, Crystal Reports 2011 is the legacy Crystal Reports 2008 with a few new features.  Crystal Reports for Enterprise is the future of Crystal Reports… and here’ s why it makes sense to have two versions.

The Crystal Reports development team wanted to make sure there was absolutely zero disruption to the use of existing Crystal Reports.   Customers are always #1.  It’s all about allowing customers customers and partners to continue to leverage their Crystal Reports investments, while at the same time laying out a future direction for the product.   Those 1B+ Crystal Reports need to keep running.

The new, future direction means delivering the best possible connectivity to the new semantic layer in SAP BusinessObjects v4.0, together will a new charting engine and much, much more.  As a result, they also released the distinct, next generation version of Crystal Reports called, Crystal Reports for Enterprise.

Version Comparison

Crystal Reports 2011 – All legacy Crystal reports 2008 functionality with read-only report format (.rptr), export to Excel workbook data only (.xlsx), integration with Visual Studio 2010 and integration for WPF apps.

Crystal Reports for Enterprise – Next generation Crystal Reports Designer with streamlined user interface, new charting engine, updated report design, connectivity to the new semantic layer (unx), platform driven alerts and 64-bit processing on the server (although the designer is still native 32-bit).

NOTE:  For all new features please see the
release notes.

Result – This gives customers the best of both worlds.  Both versions of Crystal Reports can run side-by-side on the same desktop client.  The associated processing servers and job servers can also run side-by-side on the same server.  Zero disruptions – tons of new capabilities.

Configuring Crystal Report for Enterprise

The biggest challenge I ran into when first using Crystal Reports for Enterprise was getting connected to my CMS.  I had no idea how to configure my server connections.

1.  When you start Crystal Reports for Enterprise you will see this:

2.  Next you will need to connect to your BusinessObjects Enterprise repository (to access the semantic layer).  Choose File -> Log On to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise

3.  You can save connections to multiple repositories.  Lets configure the first server connection by clicking on the box to the right of the Server Connections field.

4.  Enter in the following fields.  Note that the Server Context must be entered as /dswsbobje.  After entering the fields, make sure you can test the connection.

If you have a proxy server in play, make sure that this is configured correctly in Internet Explorer.  Crystal Reports for Enterprise will leverage this configuration when attempting to talk to the server.

5.  After entering the fields you should see an entry similar to the following screen:

Click to see a full size view

6.  You should now be able to connect to your repository and begin building content off any of the new UNX semantic layer definitions you have created.  Make sure and play with the new charting engine and report layout controls.  See how much easier it is to drag, drop and align fields onto the workspace.

Future of Two Crystal Reports Versions

More good news.  Within a relatively short time frame, the Crystal Reports teams plans to bring all the capabilities on the classic Crystal Reports 2008/2011 version into Crystal Reports for Enterprise.  So I don’t expect we will have two versions of Crystal Reports for very long.  Here are a list of some of the things that are NOT in the initial release of Crystal Reports for Enterprise v4.0:

  • No direct data support (ODBC/JDBC, etc)
  • No direct OLAP support (other than BEx Queries)
  • No Live Office support
  • No Enterprise Search
  • API/SDK Gaps

These are all the major things that will need to be added before Crystal Reports for Enterprise becoming the only version of Crystal Reports in the BusinessObjects Suite.

P.S.  I love the new abbreviation for Crystal Reports for Enterprise, it’s cr4e.   Very Cute.

«Good BI»

Crystal Reports and SAP GUI

August 26th, 2011 No comments

First of all my apologies for a long hiatus from blogging.  I had expected to be blogging a lot about BusinessObjects v4.0, but with all the new innovation around HANA, Mobility and a little summer vacation thrown it, I’ve let things pile up a bit.

Can’t Find My SAP Landscape in Crystal

Have you ever added access to an SAP system and not been able to find it when you started Crystal Reports?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Here is a sample of landscapes that appears in my SAP GUI Interface.  My problem is that I added DH3 but it does not appear in Crystal Reports:

Solution

Crystal Reports 2008 requires you to put your latest saplogon.ini into the C:Windows directory of your local system.  The problem is, where does SAP GUI store the saplogon.ini so I can copy it over?

This answer changes depending on what operating system you are using.  In the past SAP stored the file in C:Windows, which is why Crystal looks for it there, but as operating systems have changed, so has SAP’s implementation of SAPGUI.  I recently moved to Windows 7 and SAP GUI 720 was having problems finding my saplogon.ini file.

Here is what I’ve seen:

Windows XP – C:Windowssaplogon.ini
Windows Vista – C:users<user profile>AppDataLocalVirtual StoreWindowssaplogon.ini
Windows 7 –   C:Users<yourname>AppDataRoamingSAPCommonsaplogon.ini

NOTE:  You can store your saplogon.ini in any directory on your
machine. The catch is that you have to set the environment variable
SAPLOGON_INI_FILE to point to the saplogon.ini that you want to use.
I would advise setting this variable at the system level rather
than at the user level if there are multiple users on the machine.

Once you manually copy this saplogon.ini file into your C:Windows directory, you will be able to see all the same SAP landscapes in Crystal Reports that you see in your SAP GUI.

Now you can access all your SAP landscape from Crystal Reports.

«Good BI»

Categories: Crystal Reports, Help! Tags:

Crystal Clarity for BusinessObjects and Visual Studio .NET

March 16th, 2011 No comments

Did you ever read Sherlock Holmes when you were a kid?

…or maybe CSI:Miami is more your style.

Sometimes as I work with software I find a mystery.  A mystery so unusual that I have to go searching for the answer.  At the beginning, I always assume that I know what the outcome will be, but on more than one occasion I’ve been hit by a twist at the end.

Today, my mystery surrounds Visual Studio .NET and the SDKs from BusinessObjects.

The Mystery

One of the ideas I have been promoting for a very, very long time was the idea that organizations should offload all their reporting to an Enterprise Reporting environment like BusinessObjects Enterprise and allow their .NET developers to do the real work of building complex, custom applications.  This is the best way to allow your .NET applications to scale and do what they are good at (building applications), while your reporting environment can scale and do what it’s good at (delivering insightful, actionable reports).

Earlier this week however, my customer intrigued me with a question:

“When we moved to the new release of Visual Studio, we found ourselves running into compatibility issues with the BusinessObjects XIr2 SDK.  Will we have the same compatibility issues with Visual Studio and  XI 3.1?”

My Surprise

As I dug a little deeper I discovered that this customer has significantly curtailed their use of the BusinessObjects SDKs because they wanted to use Visual Studio 2008 and BusinessObjects XIr2 didn’t support Visual Studio 2008.  They moved to Visual Studio 2008 but were only using opendocument to link to new report (instead of using the embedded Crystal Report Viewer) and they had built a custom Web Service to enable scheduling of reports (instead of using the Platform SDK).

Although I am not a developer, I was somewhat surprised at this problem.  I hadn’t done any SDK work since using the COM SDK in Visual Basic 6.  Even then I was just building a few examples.  Nothing big.  All a developer needed to do was point the Studio to the appropriate BusinessObjects Enterprise DLLs and he was off and running.  So what’s the problem?  I needed to investigate.

Was there really an incompatibility or had they missed something?

The Investigation

I started checking the forums and sending out emails to the top tier folks to see what they could tell me and the answer I got back was a complete twist from what I had expected.

First of all, there is a big difference between leveraging Crystal Reports embedded within a .NET application to provide reporting and using our .NET SDK to help provide a scalable, enterprise class reporting for your .NET applications.  I explain the difference in significant detail here:
http://www.trustedbi.com/2008/09/26/crystal-reports-embedded/

Embedded Crystal Reports

For embedded reporting, customers typically would get a free version of Crystal Reports embedded within the Studio IDE.  This version would have a lot of functionality, but the developer could always get even more features, if he paid more $money and purchased the standalone version of Crystal Reports.

NOTE:  These stand-alone versions allowed users to create .rpt files
outside of Visual Studio.  It also meant that less technical users
could build reports for the .NET applications.

It’s important to understand whether or not you are using the ’embedded’ version of Crystal Reports.  If you are doing all your report design from within Visual Studio only, then you are using the embedded report designer.  By definition the embedded report designer is always compatible with the version of Visual Studio it was shipped with.

Starting with Visual Studio 2010, Crystal Reports is no longer included “in the box”, however it is still available as a free download.  Crystal Reports for Visual Studio 2010 supports Visual Studio 2010 only and Microsoft framework 2.0 and higher- Link to PAR

For the best, most up-to-date information about Crystal Reports for Visual Studio 2010 go to:
http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/crystalreports-dotnet

So to be clear, in order to get support for Visual Studio 2010, you need to download Crystal Reports for Visual Studio 2010.  This is the embedded version of Crystal Reports which works with Visual Studio 2010.

Stand-alone Crystal Reports

So now what about those customers who decided to purchase the stand-alone version of Crystal Reports.  What versions of Visual Studio is their Crystal Reports compatible with?

The stand-alone version definitely provides you more functionality.  It allows someone else to create a standalone .rpt file.  The developer can then include the report in his Visual Studio project.  However, not every version of Crystal Reports is compatible with every version of Visual Studio.  You need to make sure that these stand-alone versions are going to be compatible with the report rendering engine that is embedded within Visual Studio.  This rendering engine is what converts the .rpt file to .html during runtime.

Each version of Crystal Reports has an associated supported platforms document or PAR/PAM.

Standalong CR Designer Microsoft Suite .NET Framework PAR/PAM
Crystal Reports XIr2 SP6 Visual Studio 2002, 2003, 2005 Framework 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0 Link to PAR
Crystal Reports 2008 SP3 Visual Studio 2003, 2005, 2008 Framework 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 Link to PAR

Here is another great matrix you should reference:
https://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/BOBJ/Which+Crystal+Reports+assembly+versions+are+supported+in+which+versions+of+Visual+Studio+.NET

NOTE: Crystal Reports 2011 is currently in ramp up and does not yet support
Visual Studio 2010 or the 4.0 Framework.

Crystal Reports & BusinessObjects Enterprise

So this brings me to the situation my customer was asking about.

What if we are a customer who has implemented BusinessObjects Enterprise XI and all the reports are stored within the BusinessObjects Repository?  What support do we have from a Microsoft Visual Studio perspective?

In this situation I initially was unable to get the same clarity I did in the previous two scenarios.  There is no reference to Visual Studio within the BusinessObjects SDK PAR documentation that I could find.  In addition, if you are only using the BusinessObjects Enterprise SDK, then surely Visual Studio would be upward compatible.

As I checked the BOB forums, I did find that some folks had run into problems.

Word of Wisdom:  Do not upgrade to a new version of Visual Studio until you are sure that the compatible SDKs are available from SAP.

Let me say that again.  You should ASSUME that Crystal Reports is NOT compatible with new versions of Visual Studio.  This is due to the fact that there are Crystal Reports controls which are part of the Visual Studio IDE.  Therefore be very careful and always read the PAR.  Repeat:  Always read the PAR.

So, it’s pretty clear when it comes to Crystal Reports, but what about the BusinessObjects Enterprise SDKs alone?

You will notice that there is no mention of Visual Studio in the BusinessObjects Enterprise PAR documents.  This is because there are no embedded BusinessObjects Enterprise components in the Visual Studio IDE as there are for Crystal Reports.  Because of this looser form of integration between .NET and the Enterprise SDK, it is possible to support more variations of .NET and Framework versions.

NOTE:  Know that when you install the BusinessObjects Enterprise SDK for .NET,
the installer installs a new Crystal Viewer SDK.

For BOE XI 3.1 Platform PAR, it shows that .NET Framework 3.5 is supported, and not 4.0.   NOTE that it is shipped with the Visual Studio 2008 redistributable package, therefore use Visual Studio 2008.  Also in BOE XI 3.1, the SDK is installed in a common directory.  By default the directory is:
C:/Program Files/Business Objects/common/

Do know that it’s possible that when you upgrade to a new version of BusinessObjects, there may be issues with trying to connect to a older environment.  It shouldn’t be a problem, since there are other applications such as the Import Wizard, which are able to connect to an older CMS as well as the current environment, but that wasn’t the case for this user:  XI 3.0, .NET SDK and Visual Studio 2008….GRRR!

Although BusinessObjects BusinessIntelligence v4.0 is still in ramp up, early indications are that it too will ship with the Visual Studio 2008 redistributable package.

Compile Time vs. Run Time

After several conversations with technical support, I also found that there were some important differentiations to make between Compile Time and Run Time development and which .NET framework is supported.  Let me summarize how these scenarios are supported so there is no confusion.

BO Version Compile Time Framework Run Time Framework
BusinessObjects XI 3.1 VS 2005 or VS 2008 

Supports .NET 1.1 Framework ONLY.

Anything else may result in compiler errors

Framework 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5
BusinessObjects v4.0 VS 2005 or VS 2008 or VS2010 

Supports .NET 2.0 Framework or higher.

Does NOT support .NET 1.1

Framework 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5

Supporting Escalations

I strongly recommend you call technical support and get clarification about your combination of products and whether or not they are supported.  If you have a problem and it appears to be a bug, engineering will only support it if it can be reproduced on a supported configuration.  Make sure you ask support whether or not you are on a supported platform.

NOTE:  You will also find that your bug will need to be reproduced
in either C# or Visual Basic .NET to be addressed by technical support.

My Advice

At the end of the day, check and double-check the PAR.  You can find them on SDN here or on the Support Portal here.

Clearly if you are going to use the Crystal Reports Viewer embedded within Visual Studio, then you need to check compatibility with your version of Visual Studio and of the .NET Framework.  Be very careful.

If on the other hand, you are only using the BusinessObjects Enterprise Platform SDK, then you are much safer ground.  In other words, if you chose NOT use the Crystal Reports Viewer embedded within your Visual Studio application and only opendocument, you can avoid the most significant incompatibilities between BusinessObjects/Crystal Reports and Visual Studio.

Before You Upgrade

Do not upgrade one part of your infrastructure unless you are sure that this does not include impacts in other places.  Do not upgrade versions of operating systems, databases, development platforms, etc. without fully considering the repercussions across your entire environment.

Sometimes you can get away with an unsupported configuration and not have any problems.  SAP is working hard to keep up with all the changes being made by our technology partners, but do understand that if you are want to use the latest and greatest development solutions from Microsoft, you may need to upgrade your entire BusinessObjects environment as well.

If your BusinessObjects environment is 3 years old, the chances are your Microsoft development environment will need to be 3 years old as well.

«Good BI»

There has always been confusion related to .NET framework for compile time and runtime.

I did not go through the whole thread though, let me summarize it below on what I understood. Feel free to query further.

XI3.1

o supports .NET 1.1 framework COMPILE time only

o A customer using anything else for compile time will result in compile errors.

o In VS version 2005/2008 ( supported for XI3.1), one has to select compile using 1.1 only.

o Above created project can be run in any .NET framework till 3.5 ( runtime support)

XI4.0

o Supports .NET FW 2.0 and above ( till 3.5) COMPILE time

o Does not support .NET FW 1.1