Upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects 4.1

September 3rd, 2014 No comments

 

Don’t Miss Out!

There is an excellent Technical Webinar Series happening right now: Upgrading to the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.1

These sessions started back in July and have been an excellent resource for understanding what’s required to upgrade, best practices, SSO, monitoring, strategy and roadmap, etc.  For details on the schedule go here.

On Thursday we will see part 5 in this 13 part series.  To register, click here.  Harjeet Judge, who presented the session on BI 4.1 Deployment Best Practices will also be leading this session and will be covering:

  • Planning, preparation and prerequisite tips to install and configure SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1
  • Important post-installation configuration that is required on the BI 4.1 server
  • The necessary steps for building up a patching strategy to take advantage of the latest fixes and enhancements

Previous Recorded Sessions

To catch you up on what you may have missed check out sessions 1 – 3.

  1. BI Upgrade:  Value Proposition and Tools
  2. BI 4.1 Upgrade and Upgrade Best Practices
  3. BI 4.1 Sizing and Visualization

I would also strongly recommend that you consider going through the BusinessObjects 4.1 training available on open.sap.com for free!   Here is the URL to access it:
https://open.sap.com/courses/bifour1/items/6hhPDeSmvThBgZwCUmZntT   All the content and videos are also available offline which is really handy when you’re learning on the go.

If you are interested in other upcoming enablement events, you can always see the current list of sessions by going to the enablement website.

It’s time to leverage all the many free resources regarding the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Suite and get your organization upgraded now.

«Good BI»

Categories: Administrators, BI Platform Tags:

SAP Discusses Latest BI Roadmap

August 15th, 2013 3 comments

#AllAccessAnalytics

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.

Conclusion

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»

Migrating BEx-based Information Spaces to BusinessObjects 4.0

August 8th, 2013 3 comments

Sometimes in software it can feel that you take two steps forward and one step back.

One example of this is with BEx-based Explorer Information Spaces when migrating from XI 3.1 to BO 4.0. In 4.0, SAP removed the ability to create information spaces against the legacy universe (unv) and instead required everyone to use the new universe format (unx).

On the surface this lack of support for the legacy universe didn’t seem to really be a problem because BusinessObjects 4.0 provides a painless way to migrate universes from the legacy unv to unx format.

What I didn’t realize initially until a few months ago was that this WAS be a big problem.  A big problem for customers who were creating Information Spaces based on BEx queries and Infocubes.

I’d like to share with you my journey to understand what is really required to move my Bex-based Information Spaces to BusinessObjects v4.0.

Explorer, BEx and Unx

Explorer is NOT an OLAP-aware product, therefore is doesn’t understand hierarchies, so in XI 3.1 the unv would flatten the hierarchies for you can generate a flattened hierarchy as L00, L01, L02, L03, etc. There are some advantages to this approach, but there are obvious drawbacks as well.

With BusinessObjects v4.0, SAP rolled out the idea of a transient universe, such that if you wanted to create a WebIntelligence report you didn’t have to create a universe first. WebIntelligence would create a universe on the fly and a hierarchy is treated as a single column with the ability to use +/- to expand and collapse. (You can read more about WebIntelligence and BICS connectivity here.)

If  you try and convert an XI 3.1 universe based on a BEx query to a unx, it gives you the following error:

Now What?

The only 2 options I came up with to overcome this challenge were:

  • Use WebIntelligence (unv) to generate an Excel file and have Explorer index the xls file.
  • Leverage a Multi-Source relational connection to  connect to the the BEx cube and hierarchy relationally

Approach 1 – Excel Output

The approach I took here was to use the legacy unv file to create a WebI report.  I would then schedule this WebI report and generate an Excel file.  The Excel file would overwrite to ‘source’ Excel file of the Information Space.

To set this up, I created the WebI report with no header and a table that starts at position (0,0).  This table will easily export to Excel.

Sample WebI output prepped for Excel

Next, export the results to Excel 2007 format (xlsx)

Resulting WebI output in Excel

I then uploaded the xls file the BI Launchpad and used it as a source for my Information Space.

 

Once Explorer was able to generate the information space the way I wanted it, I was read to schedule the WebIntelligence report to Excel output.

Information Space based off an Excel file

Now, look at the properties of the Excel file, because we will need this when scheduling our WebIntelligence report.

Find the FRS location of the Excel File

I can now schedule WebIntelligence to run on a schedule and since I know the physical location of the Excel file in the FRS.

In my case the directory is: D:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\FileStore\Input\a_053\035\001\74549\   and the file name is:  work order excel-guid[e93a2669-0847-4cd2-b87d-390beb1c956c1].xlsx.

I can use that file name in the WebIntelligence scheduler and write over the source xlsx file for my information space.

When scheduling the file make sure and select the following:

  • Recurrence – chose the frequency that makes sense for you.
  • Formats – chose Excel.   (The default is always WebI.)
  • Destinations – chose File System.  Do NOT keep an instance in the history.  Use the xlsx directory and filename.

Select the correct parameters in the recurring schedule

As a last step, I would then schedule Explorer to reindex the Information Space after the file was changed and all will be good.

Scheduling Indexing for Explorer

Now the information space should be generated and everything should work just fine.

I must say that at first I really struggled to get this technique to work.  I’m not sure if my WebI output file was too large or if there was some other type of problem.  I spent hours (and hours and hours) trying to troubleshoot why this wasn’t working.  After speaking with technical support and having them attempt the same process, we thought that there was some type of incompatibility between the Excel files generated by WebIntelligence and the Excel format required by the Information Space for indexing.

There were a couple of different errors I encountered.  A few times I forgot to specify Excel as the output type so I got this error:

The only way I was able to fix the error was to restart my Explorer services and reschedule the WebI report and make sure it was exporting in Excel format.

Another error I got was when I didn’t properly exit the information space before attempting to reindex it.  In that case I would get an indexing error and see this when opened up the information space through “Manage Spaces”.

I found that this method of solving the issues was somewhat flaky.  Sometimes I found that after WebIntelligence overwrote the Excel file, Explorer is not longer able to index it.  It’ was very frustrating and technical support was only able to provide limited support because this is not the recommended solution for the problem.

So what did SAP recommend?  They suggested a much less elegant but more robust and fully supported approach — a multi-source universe.

Approach 2 – Multi-source Solution

This solution is less straightforward, but I was able to get it working and SAP says that this is the only solution that’s officially supported.

There are three things we need to do:

  1. Generate the flattened hierarchy lists and load them into another database (e.g. SQL Server)
  2. Read the SAP Note 1656905 about creating a unx universe from a BW Infocube
  3. Link the two systems via a multi-source connection

In order to generate the flattened hierarchy, you must use the legacy unv universe against your Infocube.  The ability to flatten a hierarchy is not available in a unx universe.  (SAP says that BICS is not there to flatten the hierarchy and there are no plans to enable it because then it’s no longer a hierarchy.  Bummer.)

Next, create a WebIntelligence report based on a legacy unv universe.  Add all levels of the hierarchy to the report and run the report.  Once you have the report, export the results to an Excel file and load them into a relational database.

I created a table called: tblPCHier

Flattened BW Hiearchy in SQL Server

Next, I imported the Excel output into my new database table:

BW Hierarchy is loaded in SQL Server

Note:  You need to watch out for accidental duplicate names a lower levels of the hierarchy.  Because WebIntelligence will automatically try and aggregate multiple values, you need to be aware that if the child nodes have the same name but a different parent value, the child nodes will roll up and display and aggregated value within Explorer.  If this is not what you want, then you will want to make sure that the child node names are unique.

Next we are ready to go into the IDT (Information Design Tool) and create our multi-source universe.  Follow the instructions listed in the SAP Note 1656905 to understand how to create a unx on top of a BW Infocube.

Once our BW star schema has been added to our data foundation, we can add another connection to our other datasource, the relational database, so we can bring in our hierarchy.

Lastly, join the column from the BEx fact table (SAP) to the key of my hierarchy table (SQL Server).

When our multi-source universe is complete we should see a connection to SAP, a connection to a relational database, a data foundation and a universe.

Completed unx components

Here is a preview of my hierarchy table from within the IDT:

View of flattened Hierarchy

So now we just need to verify that everything we need is in the universe.  The big challenge being that not everything from BEx is available in a unx.  Here are some of the things we lose when we go to a relational universe:

  • Calculated Key Figures
  • Restricted Key Figures
  • Variables
  • Conditions
  • Unit / Currency Conversion
  • Hierarchies (which we know about)
  • Custom Structures
  • Time Dependent Objects

I suggest you commit this list to memory.

In one case I had over 50 calculated key figures that I needed to map into Explorer and therefore recreating the logic in SQL was difficult and tedious.

In that case I had measures that included some time dependent calculations:

  • Total AR
  • Current AR, Over 30 days, Over 60 days, Over 90 days, Over 120 days
  • Current Debit, Debit over 30, Debit over 60,  Debit over 90,  Debit over 120
  • Current Credit, Credit over 30, Credit over 60 and Credit over 120

In BEx, I had implemented exit variables to do dynamic time calculations.  Now I need to do the same thing for Explorer.

To accomplish this, I built SQL Server Views which dynamically calculated values such as Last Day Previous Month and Last Day Previous Month Previous Year.  I could then use these dynamic calculates in my universe.

Equivalent userexit logic in SQL Server

Although I included these views in the data model, I did not need to join them to anything.

These views were simply used to dynamically generate a date value which was used to restrict the queries to the correct data elements.

Here is a look at the measures that were created in the universe (click on the image to enlarge):

Measures within the Universe

Here is a screenshot of the WHERE logic for “Total AR, Last Month”:

WHERE Logic for restricted key figure

Here is some of the logic spelled out.

WHERE logic for “Total AR” that leverages curDate()

@Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Posting date in the document) <= curDate()
OR
(Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Clearing date) > curDate()
OR
Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Clearing date) < {d ‘1900-01-01’}
)

WHERE logic for “Total AR, Last Month” that leveages Last Day Prev Month view

@Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Posting date in the document) <= @Select(SQL\V Last Day Prev Month\Last Day Prev Month)
OR
(Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Clearing date) <= @Select(SQL\V Last Day Prev Month\Last Day Prev Month)
OR
Select (ZFIAR_C01\Clearing/Reverse/Posting Dates\Clearing date) < {d ‘1900-01-01’}
)

If you have to do a lot of this type of time-based calculation logic, you might also want to review some of my previous blogs on the topic.  You don’t necessarily have to create views in the database to do the time calculations:
http://trustedbi.com/2009/12/29/timeseries1/
http://trustedbi.com/2010/01/06/timeseries2/
http://trustedbi.com/2010/01/18/timeseries3/

Cavet

This method of implementation is not for the faint hearted.  I can potentially mean a lot of work.

I would like to highlight some important considerations:

  • If your hierarchies are change on a regular basis, you will need to automate the updating of the SQL Server table which contains the hierarchy.
  • If you have a lot of calculated key figure which will need to be recreated within SQL.
  • Any logic you built into variables or user exits may need to be recreated within SQL.

Given these constraints it’s hard for me to endorse converting all your Explorer information spaces to BusinessObjects v4.0 without first understanding the complexity of your Infocubes. The good news is that SAP BusinessObjects v4.1 will overcome these limitations.

Try the Excel method first.  It’s worth a shot.

 BusinessObjects v4.1 to the Rescue

Recently in a What’s New in Explorer 4.1  ASUG call, SAP announced that in BusinessObjects 4.1, unv files will be supported.  This is great news.  Of course that begs the question.  If unx is the way forward, how will we flatten our SAP hierarchies in the future?

SAP BusinessObjects 4.1 is currently in ramp-up and the latest information on Service Marketplace says that it is targeted to exit ramp-up on November 10, 2013.  As always, this date is subject to change.

On additional piece of advice, if you are curious to learn about future releases and maintenance schedules, I suggest you check out this site on Service Marketplace: https://websmp108.sap-ag.de/bosap-maintenance-schedule Although these days are only planned dates, they are useful to have when planning system maintenance and upgrades.

Hope you’ve found this helpful.

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Categories: Lumira Tags: , , ,

HANA continues momentum in Utilities…

July 12th, 2013 No comments

I believe HANA represents the most significant innovation in SAP’s history.  A year ago I wrote  a quick summary of some of the key value points that HANA brings to an organization and I focused specifically on BW on HANA, one of the most common HANA use cases for existing SAP customers.  Over the last 12 months and multiple Sapphire’s I’m hearing more and more about out different customers are leveraging HANA to get access to detailed, real-time data to analyze massive amounts of information in seconds and solve issues that couldn’t be solved before.

Common Use Cases for Utilities

Part 1: Leveraging SAP HANA to Improve Back-Office OperationsSee a presentation on how utilities can leverage the SAP HANA platform to Improving operational reporting within the utilities infrastructure, finance, and procurement, andd transform the strategic use and value of current SAP investments such as SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse.  This session was lead by me.

Part 2: Energy Analytics for Customer Operations

Learn how leveraging the incredible speed delivered via SAP HANA in-memory analytics can impact revenue assurance, energy efficiency programs and customer insights.  This session was lead by Sven Bergstrom.

 

Part 3: Intelligent Data for Smart Grid Operations

Explore how analytics can help you better understand and manage smart grid operations and performance—including outage management, energy portfolio management, fault analytics, and retrospective asset health analytics.   This session was lead by Carol Arneson.

Watch This Space

We heard a lot about HANA at Sapphire (See Replays here).  Now the adoption of HANA continues to spread across Utilities.  Expect to hear a from your colleagues at the SAP for Utilities conference this fall in Huntington Beach.  I hope to see you there!

sap-for-utilities2013

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Categories: HANA Tags: , ,

ENTICE Users with Interactive Dashboards that work…

July 11th, 2013 No comments

I was delighted to see yet another extremely informative webinar from Antivia.  They partnered together with FedEx to deliver a compelling webinar that discusses how organizations can use dashboards to simplify the consumption of key corporate information.

Donald MacCormick kicked off the webinar with a reminder that we don’t always see what we think we see and that dashboards in their interactive variety aren’t really dashboards, but rather the future of end-user business intelligence, especially when it comes to delivering content to mobile devices.

Checkershadow Illusion by Edward Adelson (MIT)

Donald used the BBC Weather website and Yahoo!MarketDash iPad app as examples of interactive “ENTICE”-ing dashboards that are:

  • Easy to Use
  • No-Training Required
  • Task focused
  • Interactive
  • Connected
  • Engaging

FedEx ICE Project Results

ICE stands for In-Center Excellence and was deployed to help the organization improve performance across  FedEx Office (Kinkos) locations.

Andy Mills and Charlotte Huff discussed their use of SAP BusinessObjects and how together with the leadership from their new COO, Kim Dixon, they were able to transform the way the FedEx Office Personnel access critical business metrics and information.  They focused on leveraging dashboards to provide a ‘one stop’ for information coming from multiple systems.  They also make sure the information was actionable.  In addition, by leveraging the Sharepoint portal to allow users to collaboration and provide ‘kudos’, the team helped FedEx Office to create a positive energy with friendly competition and positive peer feedback.

Here is a video of the presentation… and listen to all the great ideas they used for generating BUZZ prior to the release.

What struck me was the emphasis that these interactive dashboards aren’t ‘done’, but rather continue to involve to include new elements of FedEx’s ongoing strategy.  As needs arise to include additional financial reporting or voice of the customer information, their dashboards are evolving as well.

Are You Building Relevant Analytics?

What was apparent from the results is that FedEx Office is forward thinking and putting together an evolving, future-proof analytics strategy.  Through their example’s like theirs many customers are leveraging a new type of dashboard that is built was the following important concepts in mind:

  • Dashboards Replacing Reports
  • Simple and Sophisticated
  • Wide Adoption (1000’s of users)
  • Lean / Agile / Iterative Approach
  • Feedback from End-users
  • Engaging BI
  • Actionable BI

BI is not there to let you know, it is there to let you act.   – Andreas Bitter

If you’d like to contact Antivia, visit their website and they’ll be in touch,  http://go.antivia.com/Contact.html

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