Posts Tagged ‘Best Practices’

Information You Can Trust

December 12th, 2011 No comments

I’ve finally made the switch… I’ve moved from to

First of all I’d like to thank so many of you for following my blog over these last 4+ years.  I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Business Intelligence space and we’ve continue to see BusinessObjects grow up… yet for me, at it’s core, Business Intelligence continues to be all about TRUST.

When selecting a domain name, I thought about what I’ve learned over my 10+ years of helping organizations develop a Business Intelligence strategy.  Successful organizations need to:

  1. Leverage a data governance strategy to guarantee a trusted data foundation.
  2. Provide a Business Intelligence semantic layer to deliver trusted information to the business.
  3. Establish a Center of Excellence to provide a partnership of trust between the IT organization and the business.

Therefore I selected

Data Governance Strategy

When starting a business intelligence initiative, the underlying data architecture is absolutely crucial.  This will be the foundation upon which everything else is built.  Your data sources must be flexible with consistent, up-to-date, quality data.  You must continuously monitor your data foundation via Data Assessment, Data Cleansing, Data Enhancement and Matching & Consolidation.

The old adage remains true, Garbage In = Garbage Out.  It doesn’t matter how beautiful the charts and graphs are if the underlying data can’t be trusted.

Semantic Layer

The semantic layer is a business representation of yoru data warehouse or transaction database.  A few years ago a wrote an extensive article called:  Why Use a Semantic Layer.  The three key values points I made then still exist today.  The semantic layer will:

  • Guarantee trusted results
  • Provide trusted performance
  • Allow IT to trust users to build their own reports.

Center of Excellence

In order to maximize your use of Business Intelligence within an organization, you must establish a BI Center of Excellence.  A Center of Excellence can:

  • Help executives understand the critical role of BI in managing the business better.
  • Communicate to the IS organization the important role of BI applications as part of a BI strategy, encouraging users to work closely with IS to deliver trusted results.
  • Build communication across lines of business to prevent the creation of new BI application silos.
  • Help users understand the benefits of a robust, trusted BI architecture as the foundation for successful delivery of a BI strategy.
  • Help the IS organization realize that users will need multiple BI technologies to meet their varied analytical needs, while getting users to support the IS organization’s need to provide a platform that will support changing user needs.

Note that departments business intelligence might be quicker in the short term to start, but longer term, a trusted enterprise approach allows for sustainable long term success.

Most importantly, the Center of Excellence is Executive Sponsorship, preferably someone within the business, CFO, CEO, etc.  Without Executive Sponsorship, in the worse case your Center of Excellence will fail and in the best case your Center of Excellence will never reach it’s full potential.

For more information about creating a Center of Excellence, check out this post by Timo Elliott:


Successful Business Intelligence isn’t magic, but it does require understanding that every successful Business Intelligence implementation must have trusted data at it’s core.

If you want to understand how Business Intelligence can truly transform and organization, I strongly recommend Cindi Howson’s book, Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App.  Check it out.  It’s on-sale just in time for Christmas!

«Good BI»

Categories: BI Platform, Help! Tags: ,

Experience HANA

September 22nd, 2011 No comments

Want to find out what all the buzz is about?

Want to take your education about HANA to the next level?

SAP has put together an aggregated site which brings together all the current content available on HANA.  The website is called:  Experience SAP HANA

It does require you to register but I found there really was a lot of content to look through and it is well worth it.  There are still lots of videos and customer presentations, but it’s the best one-stop shop to go and learn everything there is about HANA.

I especially liked the »Implement« section, where you can learn about technical details like SQL Script, HANA Backup & Recovery, HANA Modeller, Security, SLT Configuration, etc.  If you want to know it, it’s probably here.


«Good BI»

Categories: HANA Tags: , , , ,

Managing Security Authorizations

February 9th, 2011 2 comments

A very common question when it comes to SAP BusinessObjects is:  How should I manage my SAP BusinessObjects security authorizations?

Although that is an extremely broad topic, today I want to discuss the issue of leveraging an external corporate directory to manage user authorizations.

NOTE:  It's important to remember that only the
user/group membership gets delegated out.
The group/object rights assignments must still be
performed by the BI administrator.

In most large organizations, there is a security team which manages users ids and user groups.  These users and groups are typically stored in a Corporate Directory such as LDAP, Windows Active Directory, etc.

The userid and password from the Corporate Directory is the method through which users are able to authenticate themselves (via secLDAP, secWinAD, secSAP, etc.)  So the question naturally arises:  Should I manage all my authorizations through groups managed via external security solutions?

The answer for your organization will depend on the answers to the following questions:

  1. How much cooperation is there between the BI Administrator and the Corporate Directory Team?
  2. How quickly can new groups be added to the Corporate Directory?
  3. How many groups would you need to add to the Corporate Directory to manage all the BI security scenarios?
  4. Do I want to delegate the bulk of my BI security management to the Corporate Directory Team?

There are pros and cons to any software implementation and the right solution must be made according to the culture and policies that fit your organization.

Leveraging External Security Exclusively

In certain cases the Corporate Directory team may be able to create and manage all the groups BI Administrators will need for security within the Corporate Directory and they are able to assign the correct security when a user is provisioned.

The advantages include:

  • Single location for user/group membership
  • Delegated Model – less for the BI administrator to manage

The disadvantages include:

  • Delegating group creation and user group membership

This model has been successfully implemented at a large insurance company with 500+ BusinessObjects-related groups mapped to an external Active Directory server.

Leveraging A Mixed Model

At a high-level the mixed model leverages:

  1. External security management for course grain security
  2. Internal secEnterprise groups for fine grain security

I recommend course grain security to manage which users should have access to the BI environment (e.g. NY Users, Georgia Users, Reporting Users, etc.)  Once the user has been imported into the system, we can fine tune their access via fine grain security.

NOTE:  We refer to these as Data Access Roles because
the users in the Georgia Users group only get to see Georgia reports
and the corresponding Georgia data.

Administrators can use internal secEnterprise groups for managing fine grain security.  You can create roles such as:  WebI Viewer, WebI Developer, InfoView user, which can control the product specific rights allowed to the users of that role.

NOTE:  We refer to these as Entitlement Roles because
the users in the WebI Viewer group are allowed limited
application functionality.

The advantages include:

  • A clean delineation between the Corporate Directory and the BI Security
  • Balance between corporate control and system flexibility

The disadvantages include:

  • Security being managed in two places
  • The need for the BI Administrator to be notified of fine grain role changes so users can be remapped

It’s hard to say for sure whether the Mixed Model tends to work better in most organizations than the delegated model.  You need to determine which model will work best for your organization.  What I can say is that  both models allow for extremely flexible deployments amongst the multitude of different scenarios that I have come across.

Don’t Forget

Regardless of which model you use there is something you should know…

One organization which had communication problems with their LDAP server and as a result of a synchronization problem, most of their users were deleted from their BusinessObjects environment.  Users – Inboxes – Personal Folders.   Gone.

There is one extremely important rule when leveraging an external Corporate Directory.  Make sure that every external user in your BusinessObjects environment is mapped to at least one secEnterprise group.  This will guarantee the the mapped users id will never accidently be deleted from the system.  For Java SDK samples around user management, go here.

«Good BI»

View or View Lastest Instance

February 4th, 2011 9 comments

To View or View Latest Instance, that is the question.

An Instance

Helpful Tips is also known simply as a Scheduled Instance or Report Instance.

If you are new to BusinessObjects, an instance is what we call a report which contains both a report template and data in a single file.  In the case of a scheduled report, once the report has been run, both the report template and the report layout are combined together and saved back the Repository.  This is called an instance or more specifically a report instance.

On Demand Reports

When a developer publishes a Crystal Report, typically only the report template is saved to the repository.  When the end user clicks on the report, the BusinessObjects platform will connect to the underlying data source and apply the report template to the data coming from the data source and produce a report layout which is then rendered in your browser.

Scheduled Reports

Scheduled Instances are extremely important because they are able to be rendered to the user in a few seconds as opposed to a live retrieval of the data which might take up to a minute (or more depending on your environment).  Users today do not want to wait.  As much as possible, I recommend organizations use report instances to improve the user experience and maximize scalability.

BEST PRACTICE:  Reports which take longer than 45 seconds to retrieve data
from the database should be scheduled.  Many long running "view on demand"
reports can cause an excess consumption of system resources.

View Latest Instance

In XIR2, the user was able to either click on the links, View or View Latest Instance, depending on what actions where available.  In XI 3.1  this was simplified.

In XI 3.1, the user may either click on the report and choose an Action from the menu or they may double-click and open the report.

When the user double-clicks on the report, a default action is taken.  The default action when clicking on reports is to View the report on demand.  This action will run the report retrieving the most current data for this report.

In many cases it is preferable to have the system run the Latest Instance of the report instead of running the report on demand.

This option can be changed globally for your SAP BusinessObjects environment via the CMC.

To change this option in XI 3.1, go into the CMC and Select Applications

From the CMC, InfoView Application Settings

Next Right-Click on InfoView and choose Properties.

Set the Default Viewing Option

When you scroll to the bottom you will see the option: Default Viewing Action on Listing Page.  Here you may choose either:

  • View the object (default behavior)
  • View the latest successful instance of the object

BI Launchpad v4.0

In BusinessObjects v4.0, this option is no longer available.

The default behavior is: View the latest successful instance of the object.  This is the opposite of the default behavior in XI 3.0.

Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.

«Good BI»

Common Questions about Connectivity with SAP

July 23rd, 2008 18 comments

Now that SAP has clearly and unambiguously stated that BusinessObjects is the new face of BI for SAP, we have many customers who want more information about connectivity with SAP and are surprised when we recommend that they connect to an existing BW Query instead of to the entire Infocube.

Why is connecting to SAP BI/BW Queries a best practice?

There are several reasons for connecting via SAP BW Queries:

  • Performance – The BW OLAP Engine performs its processing against the query cube. In the event, you connect an external analysis tool directly to an InfoCube, a query cube consisting of all the characteristics and key figures in that InfoCube is generated on the fly in order to handle the request processing. This process adds significantly to the processing time of the request made by the end-user when compared to reporting against a pre-defined BW Query.
  • Capabilities – There are several capabilities exposed via the interface to BW Queries that are not exposed when connecting directly to the cube such as calculated and restricted key figures to name a few.
  • Flexibility – The BW Query Designer offers an extension to the data modeling environment in which changes are relatively easy to make as compared to the effort required to change an InfoCube.

Is this required across all the reporting tools? (WebI, Voyager, Crystal Reports)

Its mostly applicable to WebI and Voyager. There’s more flexibility with Crystal since it has more connectivity interfaces to SAP and it is not designed to be an ad-hoc reporting and analysis tool. Xcelsius will typically be built against scheduled content since most dashboard data is usually only updated every 24 hours.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this different approaches to SAP Connectivity?

Advantages of BW Query – The BW Query can take advantage of Query capabilities such as CKF and RKF. The BI Team can also provide better control over how much data user can request.

Advantages of InfoCube – The BI Team can expose entire dataset to user without additional work from BI team

Disadvantages of BW Query – Using BW Queries requires additional work from BI team to setup queries specifically around areas of the business, e.g. marketing, sales, etc. It limits amount of information available to user for a given query. That being said, the adhoc report designer can combine multiple queries within a single report. In addition a well defined BW Query can serve as the data sources for multiple reports. (whereas traditionally in SAP BW, we saw 1 query = 1 report)

Disadvantages of InfoCube -Users can get lost in the large amount of data available to them. There is a lack of CKF and RKF, which will lead to users creating more filters and calculations at the report level. These efforts will likely be duplicated across multiple reports. Duplication leads to duplicate work and the potential for different answers based on different formulas (i.e., no “single source of the truth” for those formulas)

Performance of BW Query – Better. Because of the constraint on information available to the end-user, the query design can test a subset of data and guarantee a certain level of performance.

Performance of InfoCube – Vulnerable. Because the entire cube is visible, there is no what to know what combinations of information the user might pick. Without specific controls over the type and amount of data returned, it is impossible to determine who long the query might run.

Flexibility of BW Query – The BW Query is more flexibility in regards to exposing “processed” data (CKF and RKF). It also provides flexibility when it comes to making changes to underlying data because not every change to the InfoCube will impact a BW Query.

Flexibility of InfoCube – The Infocube is the most flexible with regards to the data exposed.

What data structures in SAP are supported within BusinessObjects?

WebIntelligence/Voyager supports: Standard and Transactional InfoCubes, Remote InfoCube (not recommended due to performance), MultiCube, MultiProvider.

Crystal Reports supports: Standard and Transactional InfoCubes, Remote InfoCube (not recommended due to performance), MultiCube, MultiProvider, ODS, R/3 Infosets, ABAP Queries, ABAP Functions. ABAP Data Clusters, Transparent Tables, Pool Tables, Cluster Tables, zTables, InfoViews


It’s been exciting to see how quickly SAP customers have been able to unlock the data that they have in their Business Warehouse to a whole new groups of users.  Users can now create their own reports from scratch using the WebIntelligence interface.  Executive users and front-line contributors can have their personalized data delivered directly to the desktop.

I can’t wait to see what will unfold within our next generation of tools.