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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:
http://www.sap.com/tryvisualintelligence

… and don’t forget to leave feedback for our product team so we can continue to make this new innovation product better!
https://cw.sdn.sap.com/cw/community/ideas/businessanalytics/sap_visual_intelligence

Enjoy!

 

 

«Good BI»

Merging SAP and non-SAP data: Overcoming Hierarchies

May 29th, 2012 12 comments

Even though SAP provides connectivity to both SAP BW and relational data, combining these data sets into a single report can be tricky.  There are lots of ways to do it:

  1. A Single, Federated Query combining an SAP DSO and Relational data at the universe tier.
  2. A Single, Federated Query combining an SAP Infocube Relational Schema + Relational data at the universe tier.
  3. Two non-Federated Queries, one BW Query and one Universe query, merging the data at the report (WebI) tier.

The first method has long been supported but you loose all the value-added elements of the Infocube.  Most customer I work with want to connect to the BEx Queries that run against the Infocubes.

The second method is supported, but not recommended.  The semantic layer via the federation engine is able to interrogate the Infoprovider and expose it as a relational star schema.  Here are a list of some of the elements you lose:

  • BW Hierarchies
  • Restricted and Calculated Key Figures
  • BEx Queries
  • BW Variables
  • Currency & Unit Conversion
  • Exceptions, Conditions

>> I always use the third approach, but there’s one big problem.  Hierarchies have remained a huge challenge.  Until Now.

SAP Hierarchies

Many customers have SAP Hierarchies that they have developed that they want to combine with non-SAP data.  The problem is that when you merge the data at the report level, the roll-ups no longer work.  Today I’ve discovered that there is a “secret formula” that solves this issue and I think you’ll like what you see.

Step by Step

Let me walk you through an example step-by-step.

The first thing I have to do is create an Infocube with a hierarchy and create a BEx Query on top of the InfoCube.  In my case I have a characteristic called District, which contains a hierarchy called, Regional.  In my example the hierarchy is a simple, two level hierarchy.

Infocube 2-level Hierarchy

I then created a BEx Query for that leverages this hierarchy.

BEx Query which references a hierarchy

Next I created an OLAP connection within the CMC to the associated BEx Query.

Create OLAP Connection in the CMC

Once the connection to the SAP data is complete, I created a data set in SQL Server which matches all the base level members.  Here is a view of the data:

View of SQL Server data which matches my SAP data

I then created and published a universe that connects to the SQL Server data and returns the correct results.

Universe Connecting to Data in SQL Server

Now it’s time to create a WebIntelligence Report.  First I’m going to connect to the BEx Query and pull in Regional (Hierarchy) as well as the measures Actual Amount and Budgeted Amount.

Next, I accessed the Data Access > Data Providers > New data provider and selected Universe.  This allowed me to connect to the SQL Server universe and added the elements from SQL Server and run the second query.

Query Panel Connecting To SQL Server (non-SAP) data

Now I had all the data I need from the two queries.  One query is pulling data from BW with a hierarchy and the other query is pulling data from SQL Server.  Here is what the data providers looked like once both queries have been added to the report:

The Available Objects from Query 1 & Query 2

Now I simply needed to merge the two data elements Regional together.  All you have to do is highlight to two values and choose Data Access > Data Objects > Merge.

From here select the Regional objects.

Merge Regional Objects

Once that was done, the key figures from the SAP and Relational data can be combined together is the same table and this is what the results look like when put into a table.  The first 3 columns come from SAP and the last two columns come from SQL Server:

Data Is Merged But Calculations Do Not Roll Up

You see that the elements all match and appear together at the lowest level, but the parent values are not rolling up.  This is because WebI is also looking for the values Metropolitan and Rural in the dataset.  If I was not doing simple addition, I would have no choice but to add these into the original data in SQL Server.  In my case I am doing a simple roll-up SUM(), therefore I can fix this with a new formula!

Magic Formula

Here is the magic formula:

=If( [].[].IsLeaf =1 )
Then [<relational_measure_name>]
Else Sum( [<relational_measure_name>] ; Descendants([<olap_webi_query_name>].[<olap_hierarchy_name>];1;Self_After) )

I say “magic” because when I first saw this formula, I was blown away.  Now that WebIntelligence contains a number of native OLAP functions, these types of OLAP-centric calculations are possible.

Leverage This New Formula

In my case I had two key figures which were coming from SQL Server, so these values would need to be replaced with formulas that included this new OLAP roll-up math.

I created a formula for the Citc Credits first:

New Citc OLAP Formula

I did the same for Turbine Totals and ended up with the following Available Objects.  You can see my two new Variables: Citc Credit Totals and Turbines Total.

Available Objects with New Variables for OLAP Rollups

Once I replaced the SQL Server key figures with the new OLAP formulas, I was able to see the magic in action.

WebI Report With Correct Hierarchical Rollups

 Conclusion

It’s not perfect but it works… and it works very well.  Ideally it would be best if we could merge the data at the semantic layer so that for each report the user didn’t have to have to create a series of formulas to solve this problem… however until a better semantic layer solution exists that supports hierarchies like this, I’m going to be a big fan of this new workaround.

«Good BI»

 

 

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»

 

Histograms in WebIntelligence

September 27th, 2011 1 comment

Every once and a while I run across a reporting technique that makes me say:  Wow – that was really clever.

In going through the new charting in BusinessObjects v4.0, I noticed that there was no histogram available.  After doing a Google search I found a great article by Alastair Gulland.

Alastair uses  a combination of straight-forward formulas and out-of-the-box thinking.  A brilliant combination.  He also introduces a way of making the histogram dynamic by using a Input Control.  Very nice.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

You will find the full blog post here:
http://www.gulland.com/wp/?p=662

Click on the image to see the finished report with Histogram and Input Control

«Good BI»

Xcelsius for the iPad – Today!

September 19th, 2011 5 comments

If you’re like the other thousands of SAP BusinessObjects customers, you would love to move your Xcelsius dashboards to the iPad.  Right?

The problem is flash.  Steve Jobs hates flash and steadfastly refuses to support flash on the iPad.  Even on tablet devices that do support flash such as the Samsung Galaxy, some people complain that flash applications are too sluggish.

So What’s the Solution?

I discovered a very special app on iTunes called iSwifter .  iSwifter allows flash to run on the iPad… so to speak.  Actually flash does not run on the device at all but it is streamed to the tablet.  I have visions of thousands of computers with Internet Explorer sessions running.

Within a few minutes and $4.99 later, I was up and running.  I was able to connect to an instance of SAP BusinessObjects that was accessible over the Internet.  There are however multiple problems with this app.  I found that iSwifter:

  • Only connects to publicly available websites.  The URL you are connecting to must be a publicly accessible site
  • Requires a WiFi connection
  • Isn’t completely secure.  Your connection with the iSwifter server doesn’t appear to be secure.

Apparently there is a large demand for this type of technology because the company recently reported revenue to exceed $10M and they have moved from a one-time fee to a monthly subscription service.

Enter Exxova

Exxova is a subsidiary of Bartronics India Ltd.  Their US Headquarters is located in Alpharetta, GA and Mark Hillam, who used to work at BusinessObjects, is the president of their BI practice.  I saw Mark at Sapphire after his team made quite a splash showing Xcelsius dashboards on the iPad using their app MyBI.  More recently Mark invited me to their offices to spend more time with the solution and I was very impressed.  Although it is still relatively early days for this solution, it holds a lot of promise.
Today with Exxova,  you can deploy ALL your existing BI content to the iPad without any modifications.

For more videos click go here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/ExxovaWorldwideCorp

I recommend that you download it and play around with it.  It’s free.

There are several really nice features.   I found that MyBI:

  • Can be implemented within your corporate firewall.
  • Does NOT requires a WiFi connection (although 3G is pretty slow).
  • Provides special gestures to simulate right-click, scroll, pan, zoom in and out.

Here are some screenshots from MyBI

Exxova Help Screen

Exxova Home Screen

Xcelsius Dashboard

WebIntelligence on the iPad

What Approach Will Your Company Take?

We seem to be at one of those paradigm shifts where organizations need to make a decision.  There is no doubt that companies are adopting the iPad device in ever growing numbers.  The $million$ dollar question is:

Do we create custom interfaces for the iPad or simply make our existing content available there?

Are you prepared to invest heavily in the iPad and build your own apps or purchase additional apps that require additional development and redesign efforts  or are you going to wait and see how the tablet market plays out.  The iPad is the predominate player today, but who’s to say that this dominance will remain?  And besides, the iOS platform only supports Apple devices.  Oh what I would give for a crystal ball.

The choice is yours, but today, I see MyBI from Exxova as a good alternative to redevelopment.  (and just in case you are curious — no, I did not get paid to write this article nor have I ever received any compensation from Exxova, but I’ve seen the solution, played with it and think that it’s worth considering.)

I am curious to hear from you.  What do you think?  Is a custom iPad interface worth the redevelopment?

«Good BI»