SAP Insider Reporting & Analytics 2016 INTERACTIVE

Join me and my friends at SAP Insider’s Reporting & Analytics 2016 INTERACTIVE conference.

Join me at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida on November 2-4, 2016 at SAP Insider’s Reporting & Analytics 2016 INTERACTIVE conference. I’ll be there with my co-workers, Chris Bushmeyer and Eric Vallo (see the full EV Technologies speaking roster here). I’m giving two presentations about Web Intelligence and will be sharing the latest visualization enhancements included in the latest SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 4.2 Support Pack 3 release.

Leverage the newest capabilities of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence to create powerful visualizations for your data

Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 8:30 AM – 9:45 AM, room TBD

There’s a story in your corporate data, but sometimes it needs an analytic storyteller to bring that story to life. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 introduced a new charting engine, several new chart types, and a redesigned workflow for creating charts. In this session, we’ll look at the features in the latest 4.2 release. Learn not only how to use Web Intelligence charts but when to use them by applying best practices for the display of quantitative information on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

  • Discover Web Intelligence 4.2 charting capabilities, including new geolocation charts
  • Learn best practices for displaying quantitative information
  • Review special considerations for tablets and smartphones

Making mobile magic with SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence

Friday, November 4, 2016 @ 10:30 – 11:45 AM, room TBD

Ready for mobile business intelligence? This comprehensive session teaches you how to create new SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports and tailor existing reports for tablet and smartphone devices. Learn how to configure the BI platform to be mobile-ready as you learn:

  • Techniques to master new mobile-exclusive capabilities, like graphs and scorecards
  • Important differences between card view and page view
  • Using publications to distribute personalized content to users via their mobile devices

Download the presentation slides and sample downloads from the SAP Insider web site.

Image credit: Rosen Shingle Creek

Web Intelligence and Free-Hand SQL

SAP has put yet another nail in the coffin of Desktop Intelligence.

Prepare Yourself Free-Hand SQL 02

SAP has put yet another nail in the coffin of Desktop Intelligence with Free-Hand SQL in the recent release of Support Pack 6 for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1. Steve Yemm has put together an excellent tutorial on the SAP Community Network (see related SCN article, Web Intelligence Free Hand SQL (FHSQL)/Stored Procedures in BI4.1 SP06). I’d like to show just a couple of extra formatting nuances not in Steve’s article.

Free-Hand SQL isn’t a silver bullet (see related article, Free-Hand SQL Isn’t Free), but it is a bullet. It can help query data that no existing universe can access. Web Intelligence now uses a workflow that will seem very familiar to Desktop Intelligence users.

I’m going to use the Web Intelligence Java applet and choose the new Free-Hand SQL option for creating a new document.
SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_01_A
Next, I’ll choose a universe connection.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_02_400

For my query, I’ll paste SQL from an eFashion query for Year, State, and Sales Revenue into the Query Script editor, essentially a large text box.

SELECT
Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr.Yr,
Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr.State,
sum(Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr.Sales_revenue)
FROM
Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr
GROUP BY
Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr.Yr,
Agg_yr_qt_rn_st_ln_ca_sr.State

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_03_400

 

The Query Script “editor” provides the same editing features as its Desktop Intelligence predecessor- none. However, it is possible to validate that the SQL you pasted from elsewhere is valid.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_04

Notice that Web Intelligence inferred that the aggregate function SUM should be interpreted as a measure object. However, the object naming isn’t terribly creative.
SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_05_400

That is why you’ll want to add aliases to your SQL statement.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_06_400

You can manually rename objects, which is helpful for setting column headings. Here I changed Sales_Revenue into Sales Revenue.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_07_400

And voila! The results are exactly what we expect. Except unlike data from the eFashion universe, measures aren’t well-formatted.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_08

Simply right-click on any value in the Sales Revenue column and choose Format Number. It’s near the bottom of what seems to be the world’s longest right-click menu. Does anyone else hope that Web Intelligence 4.2 will have shorter right-click menus?

 

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_09_A

Choose the desired numeric format.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_10

And there you have it, a Web Intelligence document that uses Free-Hand SQL.

Some additional observations. The new Free-Hand SQL is also available in the Web Intelligence Rich Client…

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_11_400

However, it is missing from the HTML panel.

SAPBI41_SP6_Webi_Free_Hand_SQL_12_400

This fact isn’t surprising, since Excel, Analysis View, Text and Web Service options are also missing from the HTML panel. Let’s hope that SAP announces some clear plans on how it intends to bring the HTML panel to feature parity with its two peers (see related SAP blog, SAP BI 4.2 SP3: What’s New in Web Intelligence). Someday, I hope that new Web Intelligence features first appear in the HTML panel.

In addition to creating new Web Intelligence reports from Free-Hand SQL, this feature provides new capabilities to the Report Conversion Tool, which were actually introduced earlier in Support Pack 5. Prior to SP5, Desktop Intelligence documents with free-hand SQL were converted by placing the SQL into a derived table of a new universe (see related article, Retiring Desktop Intelligence Free-Hand SQL). This approach could become problematic when hundreds of Desktop Intelligence documents were spawning hundreds of new single-use universes. The Report Conversion Tool no longer needs to create a universe to successfully convert free-hand SQL documents.

Additional Resources

What are your plans for Web Intelligence Free-Hand SQL?

SAP Paris

In May 2015, I accompanied Eric Vallo to SAP’s offices in Paris.

In May 2015, I went to SAP’s office in Paris with Eric Vallo, EV Technologies’ Chief Architect. While our antics were pretty lame when compared to Harold and Kumar, Bill and Ted, or even Jamie and Clint, we had both a productive and poetic visit to one of the great European cities. SAP is a global software company, which I saw first hand. Paris is the original home of BusinessObjects prior to its acquisition by SAP in 2008. It’s presently the current home for the Web Intelligence and semantic layer teams but the BI platform, Crystal Reports, Design Studio, Lumira, and other BI tools are developed elsewhere.

Christian Ah-Soon was our gracious host and we got to see Saurabh Abhyankar, Olivier Duvelleroy, Timo Elliott, Ian Mayor, and so many other great SAP employees in their native habit. They had all just recently relocated from multiple locations around Paris into SAP’s new office building, the Tour SAP.

Tour SAP

EV Technologies’ core product, the Sherlock Inspector Suite for the BI platform, relies on many SDK’s including those for Web Intelligence and the semantic layer, so it’s great to have a face-to-face dialog about what is coming next. We learned about SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Support Pack 6, which was released on June 15, 2015. And (shhh!) we learned about SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 and its groundbreaking features like [censored] and [censored]. I’d like to share more about [censored] but most of the visit was covered by non-disclosure agreements.

Below is the view from the Tour SAP’s 19th floor. How can you not do your best work with a view like that?

The View

Here’s the Tour Eiffel up close and personal, although not nearly as breathtaking as the photos Timo Elliott takes for his Instagram feed.

Tour Eiffel

The highlight of the trip wasn’t Web Intelligence 4.2. Instead, it was getting to meet my Twitter mate Andrew Fox in person for the first time. In Paris. Below, you can see The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls along with the man himself, The Man Who Could Board a London Train for Paris.

Andrew Fox, the man who could walk through walls

We enjoyed some obligatory pâté and l’escargot before cutting into a fantastic Côte de Boeuf and pomme de terre Lyonnaise. And a nice bottle of Burgundy.

Bons Amis (Good Friends)

 

It was a great trip- my first to anywhere besides the United States or Canada. You can check out some of my other photos on Flickr.

The SAP team is excited about the new Web Intelligence and semantic layer features now available in BI 4.1 SP6 and coming soon in BI 4.2. And I am too.

Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.1

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point.

Two years ago, I took a look at the Mobile BI samples in BI 4.0 (see related article, Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.0). Those samples were focused on older mobile devices like the Blackberry and not newer devices like Apple iOS and Google Android phones and tablets. Today, SAP includes tablet-ready samples as part of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 (also in later support packs of BI 4.0), but you’ll need to complete a few simple tasks to see these reports on your mobile device.

Take a look in the Web Intelligence Samples folder and look in the Mobile Samples subfolder.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Inside are six reports: Chart Demo, Drill Demo, Geo Analysis Demo, Input Controls & Filter Demo, Mobile – Table Demo, and Sections Demo.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Many of these reports look pretty plain in the BI Launch Pad, but they come to life on a mobile device. Out of the box, the documents won’t show up on a mobile device because the categories required by the Mobile BI app do not exist. So take a couple of minutes to create the categories (see related article, Creating Categories for SAP Mobile BI Documents). Next, tag each of the six mobile samples with the Mobile category (at first glance, none of the samples fared better with MobileDesigned, but feel free to compare these two categories yourself).

With the category applied, you should now be able to see these Web Intelligence documents on your mobile device. I’m using my trusty Apple iPad 2 and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 6.1.9 (the most recent release) and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 SP5. Keep in mind that both the version of the mobile app and the version of the BI platform can affect how Web Intelligence documents are displayed.

Chart Demo

The Chart Demo demonstrates how various charts using the new BI 4 visualization engine (aka CVOM) appear on a mobile device. There’s several reports within the Chart Demo document- I’ve chosen one of the more colorful ones here. Notice the bubble and waterfall charts, which we never had in XI 3.1 or earlier.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Chart Demo

Drill Demo

The drill demo demonstrates how to drill down with tables.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_01_600

 

It also shows how to drill down with charts. Clicking on a column of the top chart…

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_02_600

 

…causes it and the pie chart beneath to drill to the next level of the hierarchy.

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_03_600

Geo Analysis Demo

The Geo Analysis Demo demonstrates how to visualize multiple metrics by latitude and longitude. Mapping is only available on a mobile device- this report looks like a bunch of boring tables in the BI Launch Pad.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Geo Analysis

Input Controls & Filter Demo

As the name suggests, the Input Controls & Filter Demo demonstrates how input controls and filtering are very nicely supported via the mobile interface.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Input_Controls_600

Mobile – Table Demo

The Table Demo demonstrates how horizontal, vertical and crosstab tables appear on a mobile device. There’s multiple report tabs showing various capabilities- I chose the most colorful one here.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Table_Demo_600

Sections Demo

Just a simple report showing how the mobile user experience allows users to navigate sections.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Sections_Demo_600

These screen shots only show a fraction of the features SAP has demonstrated with these six samples. I was a bit surprised that there’s no bullet graph in these samples and I hope that SAP will continue to enhance this mobile-ready collection in future releases.

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point. Don’t forget that the mobile app itself has its own samples. But these samples effectively demonstrate what a Web Intelligence developer needs to do. I hope you’ll be encouraged to use the same techniques in your own mobile-ready Web Intelligence reports.

Are you currently using mobile Web Intelligence? I’d love to hear any success stories.

Creating Categories for SAP Mobile BI Documents

How to create the default categories for the Mobile BI app.

One of the current drawbacks of the current state of SAP mobile analytics is that not every Web Intelligence document can be rendered via the Mobile BI app. To get around this, SAP leveraged the existing categories mechanism, a seldom-used feature originally brought to the XI platform to allow the migration of categories from classic BusinessObjects 5.x/6.x. There are four default mobile categories, although only three are presently used by the Mobile BI app: Mobile, Confidential, MobileDesigned, and Featured. These are defined in the Central Management Console (CMC) under Applications -> SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (wouldn’t “Mobile BI” have been enough?) and described in the Mobile BI Report Designer’s Guide on the SAP Help Portal. The details about the Featured category are descibed in the Mobile BI Administrator’s Guide.

BI41 CMC Mobile Properties

Mobile – The “gatekeeper” category that controls whether content appears on the mobile device. It must be selected regardless of whether Confidential, MobileDesigned, or Featured are also selected.

Confidential – Prevents sensitive content from being permanently stored on the mobile device. Useful, but not a replacement for corporate mobile security policies or the use of centralized mobile device management.

MobileDesigned – Use “page layout” (close to original report design as possible) rather than default “card layout” (Mobile BI makes best guess how to display content).

Featured – Content is automatically downloaded to the mobile device when you log on to a server connection, or when the home screen is refreshed.

These categories are not created by the installation program, so you’ll want to create them as a post-installation task. The categories can be created in a flat structure as shown below. With a flat structure, mobile documents must be tagged with the Mobile category and optionally with one of the other three categories.

BI41 Mobile Categories Flat

But I prefer to arrange them in a hierarchical structure, as shown below. The benefit to this structure is only a single category is required to tag the document. Tagging a document with MobileDesigned, for example, will automatically tag it with the Mobile category via inheritance.

BI41 Mobile Categories Hierarchical

Starting with Mobile BI 6.0, additional categories can be used to further organize documents on the mobile device. I’m not sure why folders have been shunned, other than robust folder structures may have proved too cumbersome for the average mobile executive’s thumbs. Below you can see that I’ve added the categories Candy, eFashion, Pizza, Samples, and WDI to the CMC.

BI41 Mobile Categories Additional

And here’s how those categories appear on the mobile device. Notice that category sorting in the mobile app is case sensitive but is not in the CMC.

SAP Mobile BI Categories

I hope this article will inspire you to create the four default mobile categories and begin exploring the features of the SAP Mobile BI app.

Additional Reading

  • SAP KB 1851936 – Web Intelligence reports viewed in the SAP Mobile BI app for iOS are rendered differently between iPad generations
  • SAP Note 2007461 – Non-indexed Explorer Information Spaces are displayed in the report list on the SAP Mobile BI app for iOS
  • SAP Note 2076233 – Respect Category for Mobilizing Explorer and Xcelsius Content

SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook

The SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook is a solid addition to the growing number of books about SAP analytics.

One of the benefits of SAP being the world’s largest vendor of business intelligence software is the number of books available on the subject. We can now add SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook by Yoah Yahav to our bookshelves (ISBN 978-1782172437). The book title says “reporting”, but the book is all about Web Intelligence, not Crystal Reports. And “cookbook” means that the book is filled with over 80 different “recipes” for performing various query and report design activities using Web Intelligence. If you prefer step-by-step tutorials rather than a reference format, you’ll really like this book. Some topics, like data visualization, are covered with more of a reference approach and less of a step-by-step approach.

SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook

The book is covers a broad range of topics, sandwiching chapters on query and report design with an introduction to the BI Launch Pad and concluding with scheduling, BI workspaces, and the Web Intelligence Rich Client. Most of the examples use the eFashion and Island Resorts universes, which are easy to find since eFashion is often pre-installed with product samples and Island Resorts can be loaded from the SAP BusinessObjects sample folder. However some of the advanced query examples like subqueries and combined queries use the Motors universe, which is used by SAP’s classroom training for universe design and a bit more challenging to find and install.

With most of us buying our books online, we no longer have the luxury of thumbing through multiple books at the book store and choosing the one that seems the best fit for our own personality. However, BI competency centers can create their own browsing experience- a reference shelf that places the SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook alongside other titles like Cindi Howson’s Complete Reference (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects 4.0: The Complete Reference) or the book I helped write for SAP Press (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide). As SAP analytics professionals, it’s great to know that so much help is available from so many different sources.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Corporate color palettes in Web Intelligence

Web Intelligence charts can be displayed using your organization’s colors.

In our SAP Press book, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, the Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition, we describe two ways to create custom color palettes with Web Intelligence. The first method allows you to create custom palettes within a specific Web Intelligence document. The second method, which I’ll cover here, allows a SAP BusinessObjects administrator to create a corporate color palette that can be shared by all Web Intelligence users. In many large organizations, the marketing department publishes a style guide for how to properly use the corporate logo. The style guide typically lists the RGB color codes for the logo as well as a list of secondary colors for use in corporate communications, so it’s an ideal reference guide for creating a corporate color palette.

In his book Show Me The Numbers (see my book review), data visualization expert Stephen Few provides three useful color palettes, which I’ll combine to demonstrate how to create a corporate color palette.

Here is the Dark and Bright Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Dark and Bright

Here is the Medium Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Medium

And finally, here is the Light Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Light

Web Intelligence color palettes contain 32 distinct values; however, most charts will only use a few of them. To create a corporate color palette, use a favorite text editor such as Notepad++ and open a file on the BI platform server named <SAP BusinessObjects install folder>\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\images\VisualizationConfig.template.xml. Save a copy of the file with the name <SAP BusinessObjects install folder>SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\images\VisualizationConfig.xml. Specify colors using decimal values for red, green, blue, and alpha (transparency).

In the example below, I’ve concatenated Stephen Few’s three palettes together, starting with the Dark and Bright palette. Because the Web Intelligence palette requires 32 colors, I’ve added five shades of grey to the end of the list.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<CONFIG>
<!-- VisualizationConfig.xml -->
<!-- The following section allows to define a corporate palette which will be used by default in all new visualization. -->

<PALETTES>
<PALETTE ID="corporate">

<!-- Each attributes must take an integer value from 0 to 255 -->
<!-- The palette ID should not be changed. -->
<!-- Stephen Few Dark & Bright -->
<COLOR R="0" G="0" B="0" A="255" />
<COLOR R="38" G="93" B="171" A="255" />
<COLOR R="223" G="92" B="36" A="255" />
<COLOR R="5" G="151" B="72" A="255" />
<COLOR R="229" G="18" B="111" A="255" />
<COLOR R="157" G="114" B="42" A="255" />
<COLOR R="123" G="58" B="150" A="255" />
<COLOR R="199" G="180" B="46" A="255" />
<COLOR R="203" G="32" B="39" A="255" />
<!-- Stephen Few Medium -->
<COLOR R="77" G="77" B="77" A="255" />
<COLOR R="93" G="165" B="218" A="255" />
<COLOR R="250" G="164" B="58" A="255" />
<COLOR R="96" G="189" B="104" A="255" />
<COLOR R="241" G="88" B="84" A="255" />
<COLOR R="178" G="145" B="47" A="255" />
<COLOR R="178" G="118" B="178" A="255" />
<COLOR R="222" G="207" B="63" A="255" />
<COLOR R="241" G="88" B="84" A="255" />
<!-- Stephen Few Light -->
<COLOR R="140" G="140" B="140" A="255" />
<COLOR R="136" G="189" B="230" A="255" />
<COLOR R="251" G="178" B="88" A="255" />
<COLOR R="144" G="205" B="151" A="255" />
<COLOR R="246" G="170" B="201" A="255" />
<COLOR R="191" G="165" B="84" A="255" />
<COLOR R="188" G="153" B="199" A="255" />
<COLOR R="237" G="221" B="70" A="255" />
<COLOR R="240" G="126" B="110" A="255" />
<!-- The Rest (shades of grey) -->
<COLOR R="247" G="247" B="247" A="255" />
<COLOR R="204" G="204" B="204" A="255" />
<COLOR R="150" G="150" B="150" A="255" />
<COLOR R="99" G="99" B="99" A="255" />
<COLOR R="37" G="37" B="37" A="255" />
</PALETTE>
</PALETTES>
</CONFIG>

You must restart the web application server (Tomcat) for the color palette to take effect.

Here is a stacked bar chart that uses the corporate color palette. More recent support packs will show the corporate palette in the Mobile BI app, too.

Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Stacked Bar Webi