Archive for the ‘Semantic Layer’ Category

SAP Discusses Latest BI Roadmap

August 15th, 2013 3 comments


Yesterday, many SAP BusinessObjects customers, mentors, partners and even a few competitors listened in as Steve Lucas as he unveiled SAP’s bold, new analytics strategy.  The twittersphere as active as tweets were tracked using #allaccessanalytics, we had a lot of fun.  Zimkhita Buwa quipped:

Steve emphasized that SAP isn’t delivering a ‘mission accomplished’ banner.  It’s just a ‘mission’ banner.  “Where we are and where we are going.”  There is a bunch still to come…  One of the first bold things he did announce was that the personal edition of SAP Lumira is free and you can download it now.  In addition you can also register for free access to the SAP Lumira Cloud.  You can register for free here.

New Mindset

It was clear to hear Steve’s passion for analytics.  His passion goes way, way back… and is always welcome.  In fact, I think this is an old picture of Steve’s car back in 2003.

He talked about BusinessObjects founder Bernard Liautaud and the rich legacy from which this SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite comes.  Steve took a note from Visha Sikka to say that SAP is and will innovate and that the Innovator’s Dilemma is crap.  Customers will continue to see great new innovations from SAP.

The new mindset from SAP delivers three pillars:

  • Enterprise Business Intelligence – For the Entire Organization
  • Agile Visualization – For the Business
  • Advanced Analytics – Data Science for Everyone

Enterprise Business Intelligence

With 60,000 customers, SAP continues to have to largest market share within the Business Intelligence space.  SAP BusinessObjects didn’t invent Business Intelligence but our experience in the space is very rich… and if not SAP BusinessObjects then who?  SAP is going to continue to build out capabilities for the Enterprise organization.  This is squarely focused on our SAP BusinessObjects product line.

At the same time the market has shifted and everyday business users want to be able to connect to their data quickly and easily and get new insights and share those insights with colleagues… and perhaps not have IT involved at all.  That brings us to agile visualization.

Agile Visualization

In SAP’s mind, Agile means it’s incredibly easy to adopt and deploy.  It should be light-weight.  Visualization means that its high quality and there is storytelling behind it.  The visualization tells a story.  It gives new insights.

So is this just Lumira?

No.  Steve was clear about this.  This is not just Lumira.  Lumira and Lumira cloud are a part of the agile visualization strategy, but the agile visualization strategy.  He promised that more would be shared at TechEd, etc.  I think this is great news!  We are beginning to see integration today between Lumira Cloud and on-premise systems and it sounds like this will continue.

Advanced Analytics

Steve said that this is more than just predictive.  As with Lumira, Predictive is a part, but there’s more.  SAP’s view is that this is not just for data scientists but data science for everyone.  It sounds we might begin seeing more ‘smart’ functionality build into the analytics.  We’ve already seen predictive leveraging the interface of Lumira for easy data access.  I can definitely envision a lot of possibilities here.

Key SAP Executives

Michael Reh (@reh_michael) – is leading development.  Passionate about analytics.

Christian Rodatus (@crodatus)  – Go to market executive for analytics.  18 years at Teradata.  Brings big data perspective.

Shekhar Iyer (@shekharlyer111) is leading the BI organization.  Brings a predictive perspective.

Jack Miller (@jackmillerIII) is Chief Customer Officer – in charge of generating successful, happy customers.

Jayne Landry (@jaynelandry) is Crystal Kiwi, working closely with Shekhar.

Other Highlights

SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite 4.1 is out of ramp-up.  All the KPIs were hit, so I would expect a GA release soon with the release of SP1.

There was a great video of a WebIntelligence-like product that was running on top of HANA.  It was written completely in HTML5.  I’ve never seen this before.

Screenshot of HTML5 WebI-like Tool

There was another nice video of Lumira doing geospatial analysis using the new Lumira Visualization Extensions which were released with SP11.  Timo Elliott recently did a nice blog post talking about this topic.

Lumira with Geospatial Capabilities

Lumira with Geospatial Plug-in

On September 9th, SAP is planning to launch a new BI online support site.  It looks as if they are following in the footsteps of the HANA launch site.  They briefly showed a mock-up of what it might look like.

Magic Bus

Steve revealed the new bus.  Yes, it’s a literal Big Data Bus.  SAP will be rolling out a mobile briefing center that will be used to showcase SAP’s latest and greatest. I think it’s one of SAP’s ways of saying there’s  50 ways to leave your… niche BI tools.   So hop on the bus Gus!

I couldn’t resist.

My Thoughts…

If you are an SAP customer and haven’t yet purchased SAP BusinessObjects, there is no better time than now.  The integration between SAP and the BusinessObjects BI Suite is second to none.  Here are a list of just a few of the unique advantages you can leverage when reporting against SAP ERP and SAP BW with SAP BusinessObjects:

  • Support for SAP CTS+
  • Integration with Solution Manager
  • Support for RRI (Report to Report Interface)
  • Support for BICS (3x faster than legacy BAPI interface)
  • Best Heterogeneous data source support
  • Best Slice/dice performance within MS Excel
  • Embedded Analytics within SAP Business Suite EP6
  • Crystal Reports options for Advanced List Viewer (ALV)
  • Semantic layer support for Infosets, ABAP functions and ABAP Queries
  • 100% In-memory support for all your SAP data

If your organization is committed to SAP Business Suite, then leveraging SAP BusinessObjects to provide reporting off those solutions is a no brainer.

Secondly, have a look at Predictive Analysis.  Although this product is relatively new, SAP has come a long way very quickly.  SAP has combined the core self-service Lumira (Visual Intelligence) product together with the power of R to deliver world class predictive analytics to the data analyst.  The interface is extremely easy to use and if you haven’t seen it, check out the post I did where I provided a product walk-through.  It may not necessarily replace SAS today, but it can deliver tremendous value by shortening the length of time it takes data analysts to build, model and run predictive algorithms.  Users are no longer wholly dependent on the small number of statisticians to provide predictive  and statistical analysis.  Predictive Analysis is a game changer.

Thirdly, get familiar with SAP’s simplified licensing.  Back in the day, when BusinessObjects was just one product, licensing was easy. Over the years as the BusinessObjects BI portfolio has grown, not everyone was ready to leverage the new technologies such as WebIntelligence, Dashboards, Explorer, etc.  As a result, BusinessObjects allowed customers to buy products à la carte to keep the pricing competitive.   A lot has changed.  Today, Business Intelligence is ubiquitous.  Everyone needs it and organizations should want to leverage the same solution for multiple types of users who have different analytic needs.  Back when the only product was had was Crystal Reports, I used to show how Crystal Reports provided enterprise reporting, adhoc reporting and dashboards. SAP’s approach was to simplify this licensing through bundles.  At the beginning of 2013, SAP offered BI Suite licensing which provided two important changes:  concurrent user licensing and a powerful software bundle of nearly every product in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Product Suite.


This #allaccesswebinar didn’t answer all our questions but one thing was clear:  SAP is fully committed to an easy-to-adopt analytics product suite for all users that serves the enterprise through both on-premise and cloud.  They are committed to delivering solutions that: compete head-to-head against the newcomers, deliver customer value and are agile and easy to adopt and use.

If you want more information on the latest published roadmaps from SAP, go here.

Now… hop on the bus Gus!

«Good BI»

Dynamic Data Provider within BusinessObjects v4.0

December 19th, 2012 16 comments

As customers migrate from the classic Business Views one feature missing from the new Information Design Tool is a straight-forward dynamic data connection option when defining connections.  In fact, it’s already been mentioned in  Ideas Place along with a great use case.

Dynamic Data Connections

Dynamic Data Connections allow a database connection to be determined by the answer to a user prompt.  This capability is not often used but is extremely powerful for organizations that have exactly the same database schema across multiple instances.

Normally within the universe you can use table mappings to automatically point the user to the correct database, but in some cases the user must be able too select to desired database on the fly.

Once I began to look into this issue I realized that I could use the power of @prompt and table mapping to dynamically determine the name of the database to connection to.  This solution works extremely well.  The only restriction is that all of my databases through a single Universe connection, e.g. I can’t have my same database schema mapped across desperate databases, e.g Microsoft and Oracle.

My Databases

In my example I am using MS SQL Server 2008.

I setup two databases:  DB1 and DB2.  Both databases contained a single table called Customers.  The report consumer needs to dynamically switch between DB1 and DB2.

Defining The Connection

The first thing you need to do is define a connection.  It’s very important to define the connection using connection that points to the first of my two databases.  By default I don’t want to require a table owner and table qualifier to be defined.  In my case, I setup the connection to be called DDC_Connection and it points to my DB1 database.

The Data Foundation

This will be where the magic happens, but will get to that later.  We are going to add the Customers table to our Data Foundation.  This is where you will define all your standard table joins.  In our case my data foundation is called DDC_Foundation and it contains one table, Customers.

You will want to use Show Column Values and Profile Column Values to test your data foundation.

The Universe

Next we will want to setup our Universe as if it were only connecting to a single database.  Use the Data Foundation we’ve already defined to finish building your Universe.  In my case the Universe is called, DDC_Universe.

You will want to use the Show Values and Queries capability within IDT to test your Universe and make sure everything working properly.  You may also wish to test it with WebIntelligence as well.

The Magic!

Now that you’ve tested the Universe and it’s working with your default database, you want to make it dynamic by replacing the table names with an @prompt statement.  This statement will be interpreted by the reporting engine and replaced with the returned string.  In my case:

@prompt(‘Select DB:’,’K’,{‘DB1′,’DB2’},mono,constrained)
will be replaced with DB1 or DB2.

NOTE:  If you are unfamiliar with the options for @prompt, you may read about
them in the IDT Users Guide

I replaced the Customers table name with the @prompt command and the necessary table qualifier, .dbo.Customers

Therefore the resulting string you will be paste into the table name will be something like:

@prompt(‘Select DB:’,’K’,{‘DB1′,’DB2’},mono,constrained).dbo.Customers

Save the Data Foundation.

The Results

Open the Universe and have a look.  Everywhere you say the table name has now been replaced with the @prompt string.  Below is a screenshot of the resulting Region field.

If I now right-click and choose Show Values…

You will see the @prompt be evaluated at run time and you will see a prompt.

In my case I selected DB1, so the region Georgia appeared in the list.

The only challenge with this magic is that suddenly my universe can seem unnecessarily complex and difficult to maintain.  Therefore in order to keep the universe as simple as possible, we can use table mappings to only apply the prompts at run time to all my non-universe designer users.

Better Magic:  Using Table Mapping

If you use table mapping, then you leave your universe in the default state such that the data foundation does not contain an @prompt.

Next, select the IDT security editor from the top menu bar.

This will allow you to define a security profile and apply it to a set of users.  Typically you would want this rule to apply to all non-Universe Designer Users.

First select Users/Groups at the bottom of the screen so you can select the users you want to apply our Data Security profile to.

Select the Group of users you want to apply the table mapping to.  (I selected Everyone for testing.)   Next, select the universe you want to apply the table mapping to.  In this example I selected DDC_Universe.unx.

Next, you will click to icon to create a new data security profile.  I recommend you rename to profile to clearly indicate what it is used for, e.g. Dynamic DB Connection.

Click on the tables tab and Insert to create a new table replacement

You will be replacing your table names with the @prompt/table name combination values.  The table mapping wants to put quotes around the replacement strings, therefore you must specify the Qualifier, Owner and Table separately.

Here is what it should look like after you have entered in the values.

The final step will be to activate this newly created security profile to the group and universe that you’ve selected.  Simply check the box next to the security profile.

Experience The Magic

After everything has been setup, the WebIntelligence reporting engine will apply the security profile when a matching user runs a reporting using a secured universe (namely a security profile has been applied).

Here is what the user will see in WebIntelligence.   They will select the universe, choose the objects they want for the query and choose run.

When the user selects Run Query, they will receive a prompt to select to database.  This is because the security profile defined on this universe for this user requires the security profile be applied.

After the user selects the database,  they will see the results based on the database they chose.

Extra Credit

In this example I shared here, I hard-coded the list of databases in the @prompt selection.  If you have a large number of universes, you can create a table in your our database which lists all the databases.  In the case of one customer with hundreds of distinct databases, they created a column called DB Name and made it part of the universe for reporting purposes.  They then referred to it in the query as:

@prompt(‘Select Data:’,’K’,’DB VersionDB Name’,mono,constrained).dbo.tablename


If you use the wrong @prompt parameter, namely ‘A’, quotes will be returned surrounding the string and this will cause the syntax to be wrong and you may see a message like this:

Database error: Incorrect syntax near (IES 10901) (WIS 10901)

There were some known issues with the @prompt in earlier releases of  BI 4.0.

This is a known issue fixed in 4.0 SP4 Patch 6

The Semantic Layer Amazes

I’m sorry but I have to say it.  The breath and depth of the semantic layer never ceases to amaze me.  This is a perfect example.  When Business Objects first come up with the idea of a semantic layer, they got it right… and most of the features like table mapping have been there for years!

They say that 80% of customers only use 20% of the functionality that exists in a product.  I’m sure glad the other 80% is there when I need it… and all the pieces fall into place.

«Good BI»



New 90-day free trial to SAP Visual Intelligence

September 11th, 2012 3 comments

It’s New!

It’s Cool!

It’s Wow!

It’s like two aspirin for that DeskI hangover!

… and it’s available FREE for 90 days!

11/12 UPDATE:  This was a limited time offer.  The free trial is now 30 days.

SAP Visual Intelligence is now available for download.  It provides the ability to connect to data sources such as MS Excel, Relational databases (SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase IQ, Teradata), Universe (unx) and HANA.

To enjoy your 90 day free trial go here:

… and don’t forget to leave feedback for our product team so we can continue to make this new innovation product better!




«Good BI»

Date Conversion Made Easy…

October 15th, 2010 3 comments

Have you ever been using SAP BusinessObjects WebIntelligence and wanted to turn a prompt from a date time into a date?

I do a lot of demos using Microsoft SQL Server and by default Microsoft SQL Server saves everything as a date & time.  So what if I don’t want the time?  Simply convert the datetime into a date within the semantic layer.

Ignoring the time 12:00:00

There are many solutions, including many which rely on some form of string parsing, but why make it more complicated than it has to be?  This is what I like to use:


This is the perfect solution if all the data is stored as 1/1/2010 12:00:00, wherein the time element is 0.

Ignoring time and rounding down

If indeed there is a time and it’s important to round down, e.g. 1/1/2010 11:59pm should be rounded down to 1/1/2010, then in this case I use:


This is great when accessing call center data and I need to group calls around a specific day, but the time is still extremely relevant.

Anyone else have any commonly used tips or tricks within the semantic layer?  Post it in the comments below!

«Good BI»

In The Airport

October 12th, 2010 No comments

I was on my way home from a business trip earlier this year when I noticed something strange.  Something that make my BI antennae stick up.

Single Version of the Truth?

How much longer until the train arrives?

That a simple question, right?  I can see on the monitor above the entrance to the Airport shuttle that the next train arrives in 33 seconds.  No problem – that’s easy.


Information Monitors Inform


But Are You Sure?

If it were only that easy.  You see.  There are actually two answers.  If you looked closely at the yellow TV below, you would see some contradictory information.


Information Monitors Confuse


So what do you think now?  Which number is correct?  33 seconds or 40 seconds?  In my case, it didn’t really matter – it was just the matter of waiting, but in the same of CFO accountability and financial scrutiny, it could be a significant problem and even land you in jail.

Do Yourself a Favor

I’m not sure where these train monitors are getting their information but clearly they are NOT doing it the same way because the monitors are presenting two different answers.  This does nothing but spread distrust and confusion.  Help!!

We talk a lot about the strong semantic layer at the foundation of the BusinessObjects Product Suite.  It’s essential to not only make information easy to access and consume, but to know that it’s trusted.  It’s absolutely critical that if two users ask for the same information they get the right results.

Do yourself a favor.  Save yourself hours of time arguing about who’s spreadsheet is right. In an Enterprise Business Intelligence environment, you can provide an environment where regardless of who the user is – if two users ask the same question they will get the same answer.  We call this Single Version of the truth and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence makes it possible.

As far as the Atlanta Airport is concerned – as my 16 year old would say:  FAIL!

«Good BI»

Categories: Miscellaneous, Semantic Layer Tags: