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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»

 

Sizing Up HANA

May 10th, 2012 2 comments

HANA is here, so I wanted to take a minute a field a few common questions about HANA licensing.

The software stack comes with the hardware provided by the hardware partners, whereas the license has to be obtained from SAP.  SAP HANA is sold in 64GB units.  Although the product is non-discountable, it does come in tiered pricing which means the more you buy the cheaper the units are.

One other interesting caveat with the hardware is that you do not necessarily have to license the entire appliance, so if you want to purchase a large box today, you are required to license at least half the addressable memory.  In other words, if the box is 1TB, you must license between 512GB and 1024 GB (or 8 to 16 units).

In addition to the software license associated with the appliance, SAP HANA also requires SAP Named Users.

For information on available hardware appliances, check out:  http://help.sap.com/hana_appliance/

HANA Editions

HANA is currently available in 3 flavors.

HANA Platform Edition -This is the basic edition.  This contains the software stack needed to use SAP HANA as a database, including the SAP HANA database, SAP HANA Studio for data modeling and administration, the SAP HANA clients, and software infrastructure components.  This is primarily for customers who already have Data Integrator licenses.

HANA BW Edition – This new edition of HANA is for existing SAP BW customers who want to continue doing all their data warehousing within the BW modeling environment.  In other words, you can do whatever you can do today with standalone BW, except that now BW is running on HANA.

Note that this edition does not allow the combination of both SAP and non-SAP data using a transient Info Provider.  That would require the Enterprise Edition.

Example of a Transient Data Provider

HANA Enterprise Edition – This edition extends the HANA Platform Edition with the software licenses needed for customers who want a single solution to import in data from SAP and non-SAP sources.  This edition includes SAP LT replication or ETL-based replication.  The ETL-based replication is provided by SAP BusinessObjects Data Services and the license only allows for the movement of data from external data sources into SAP HANA.  This also includes data distribution rights similar to Open Hub.

**UPDATE 2/1/2013:  There was HANA Enterprise EXTENDED Edition.  This edition has been discontinued.  This edition extended  the HANA Enterprise Edition with the software licenses needed for customers who need replication server to replicate non-SAP data into HANA from DB2.

Let’s drill into the requirements for moving to BW on HANA in more detail.

BW on HANA

AKA:  SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse 7.3, powered by HANA.

This product went GA a month early.  SAP reported a great response from the ramp-up process and news that everything went extremely well was welcome news.  As a result, I’ve seen many BW customers asking about what is required to move to SAP HANA.

The good news is it’s pretty easy.  The migration process is pretty straight-forward.  Assuming you are already on BW 7.3, it requires about the same amount of work as migration from Oracle to DB2.

Here are some details on the minimum requirements for running BW on HANA.

  • The BW environment must be running BW 7.3
  • BW must be running Unicode
  • BW must have updated analysis authorizations
  • SAP HANA requires a split ABAP/Java stack.  If you are running the dual stack on a single server, they must be broken apart.  This was recommended in BW 7.0 but now it’s a requirement.  In some cases I’ve seen customers who had them both installed but were only using the ABAP stack.  Make sure you need both.

How Much HANA Do I Need?

If you need to do sizing for a BW environment, it’s pretty straightforward.  SAP Note 1637145 walks you through the process.  Use the link below to access it:
https://websmp230.sap-ag.de/sap%28bD1lbiZjPTAwMQ==%29/bc/bsp/spn/sapnotes/index2.htm?numm=1637145

NOTE:  The  HANA sizing script that runs against BW assumes that Unicode is not currently configured.  Unless there are lots of text fields, the impact of already having unicode enabled will be negligible.

For non-BW environments (including SAP ERP) you should leverage this note:
https://websmp230.sap-ag.de/sap%28bD1lbiZjPTAwMQ==%29/bc/bsp/spn/sapnotes/index2.htm?numm=1514966

Here is a final note on HANA Sizing:
https://websmp230.sap-ag.de/sap%28bD1lbiZjPTAwMQ==%29/bc/bsp/spn/sapnotes/index2.htm?numm=1609322

The sizing of your HANA environment will depend on the type of data compression you can get from the HANA platform.  Typically organizations are seeing an average of 7x compression, which is pretty good.  Depending on the type of data it can be even larger.  Most of the SAP Notes use a very conservative 5x compress.

#1 Thing to Remember When Sizing

The only thing to keep in mind is that when you are sizing HANA for every 1GB of storage space, you also need 1GB of working space.  Therefore if you have 500 GB of data, you will need an additional 500 GB of working space, therefore you will need to license a 1TB HANA appliance, therefore when doing the HANA sizing it’s best to see how much raw data there is and then divide by 3, that will give you the amount of GB space you will need to license for HANA.

The Value of HANA

It’s critical that you understand the value of HANA for your organization.  Although I have no doubt that HANA can provide value for every organization, it’s important look at the business problem and calculate a solid ROI.  The top three use cases we are seeing our customers leverage HANA is:

  • Analytics & Operational Reporting – Often these are issues around a need for real time, detailed data which represents large data sets which currently have unacceptable query times or data latency issues.
  • Accelerate ECC Transactions – In some cases, there are batch processes with a large number of read operations.  These processes if run through HANA can happen as much as 350x faster than in a traditional database.  If there are any batch processes that have a limited batch window, you should consider how HANA might help you reduce the overall processing time.
  • HANA Based Applications– HANA provides the ability to create applications that have never been able to exist before because the data and algorithms applied to that data was so complex, that they were simply unrealistic to consider.  SAP is now working with customers to develop a number of “killer apps” running on the HANA platform.I loved Steve Lucas’ analogy.  Think of HANA as the Gaming System (e.g. Xbox, PS3) and HANA based Applications as the game that makes you buy the platform (e.g. Halo, Uncharted).

In my next post I’ll be writing about why you should leverage SAP to help deliver HANA Value workshops.

«Good BI»

Categories: HANA Tags: , ,

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»

Information You Can Trust

December 12th, 2011 No comments

I’ve finally made the switch… I’ve moved from www.trustedbi.com to trustedbi.com

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 trustedbi.com.

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:
http://timoelliott.com/blog/2009/05/bi-competency-centers-australia.html

Summary

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

http://www.experiencesaphana.com/

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.

Enjoy!

«Good BI»

Categories: HANA Tags: , , , ,