SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition: The Comprehensive Guide

SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition: The Comprehensive Guide from SAP Press will help get you creating engaging data stories quickly, whether you are a first-time Lumira user or upgrading from a previous version.

SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition: The Comprehensive Guide by Xavier Hacking and Martijn van Foeken (ISBN 978-1-4932-1613-0) is an exceptionally upgraded book for a substantially upgraded product. SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition received a major UI redesign and tighter integration with SAP Lumira, Designer Edition (formerly known as SAP Design Studio). Whether you’re new to SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition or have experience with its predecessor SAP Lumira 1.x, this book is a helpful companion. The authors have provided multiple sample data sets in Microsoft Excel that can be downloaded from SAP Press, making it easy to follow along with its examples.

Because SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition was created for business users, not technical users, authors Xavier Hacking and Martijn van Foeken have written in a clear and easily understood style. It works equally well as both an inductive tutorial or a reference guide.

The book also addresses integration with SAP Lumira, Designer Edition, which will have its own SAP Press book in a few more weeks. Whether you’re upgrading from prior versions of SAP Lumira 1.x or taking a first look at SAP Lumira, Discovery Edition, there’s lots of material to like (nearly 500 pages) and lots of hours to save creating data stories by following a useful companion to the product.

SAP Press provided me with a digital copy to review and I must say how impressive the color illustrations look on my iPad as compared to the black-and-white illustrations of the hardcover edition. The digital copy can only be obtained by ordering directly from SAP Press, either with or without the hardcover edition. It comes in three editions (Adobe PDF, epub, and mobi) so you’ll be able to read regardless of whether your favorite reading device is a PC, an iPad with iBooks, or a Kindle device. Having the PDF copy on your workstation is indispensable, as you can make Adobe Reader do all the work looking up a desired keyword.

Killing Explorer

How to remove all evidence of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer.

Last week was a sad week. I helped a customer retire SAP BusinessObjects Explorer as part of their BI 4.2 upgrade. SAP will continue to “support” Explorer until Adobe retires Flash in December 2020 (see related Adobe announcement, Flash and the Future of Interactive Content). But for this particular customer, the application never saw widespread use and was therefore easy to retire. Uninstalling the application is easy enough, but it leaves behind some evidence.

First, there’s a placeholder on the BI Launch Pad’s application menu.

Explorer on Application Menu

Also, there’s a placeholder icon under My Applications.Explorer icon on home screen

Fortunately, SAP has provided a solution in SAP KB 1756172, an SDK script that will remove offending entries from your CMS database. With the obligatory warning to “make sure to have backed up your CMS repository database before proceeding,” the KB article provides clear instructions on how to install and run the script, which generated the following output.


Delete ClientAction Launch Explorer
Number of objects found: 2

Deleted object 3431952 at:Fri Apr 13 11:39:34 PDT 2018
Object Name: BusinessObjects_ClientAction_Launch_ExplorerApplication_dfo.xml
Object Type: DeploymentFile

Deleted object 3431953 at:Fri Apr 13 11:39:34 PDT 2018
Object Name: Launch_ExplorerApplication
Object Type: ClientAction

With the offending InfoObjects removed from the CMS, the applications menu no longer shows a placeholder for Explorer.

Explorer on Application Menu, removed
Nor is there a placeholder icon under My Applications.

Explorer icon on home screen, removed

Nor is there a satisfactory replacement for Explorer, four years after it was announced that Lumira would provide a solution (see related SAP Blog, Run Simple: Convergence of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Product Portfolio). Now we look forward to some kind of Explorer solution with SAP Analytics Cloud, possibly at the upcoming SAPPHIRE 2018 event. However, at present, the lack of an SAP alternative remains a significant issue for SAP customers with large investments in Explorer.

But we’ve discussed that already (see related article, The Road Unexplored: A Future for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer).

If You Love Somebody Set Them Free

SAP, if you love your BI platform users, it’s time to set them free.

BusinessObjects Rainbow Logo

In 1985, Sting stunned the world with Dream of the Blue Turtles, his first solo album after breaking up with The Police. The “hybrid” recording wasn’t jazzy enough for jazz purists nor rocky enough for fans of The Police. But his ambitious effort to combine rock-and-roll with jazz musicians Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland, Branford Marsalis, Dolette McDonald, and Janice Pendarvis yielded several hit singles and insured that Sting would be a relevant artist for the next several decades.

“If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” was the first single released from Dream of the Blue Turtles.

It’s clear from current product roadmaps that SAP’s hybrid approach to analytics is to place all future analytics innovation into SAP Analytics Cloud while keeping the on-premise BI platform, its universe semantic layer, and its Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence document formats at arms length with reduced levels of future investment. SAP’s analytics strategy makes sense if you run most or all of your business with SAP applications, whether it’s the on-premise business suite or cloud applications like Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, and SuccessFactors. The strategy makes less sense the more non-SAP applications power your organization. And as anticipated, the strategy makes the least sense to customers whose only SAP product is the on-premise SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.

But instead of winners and losers, what if SAP’s analytics strategy was changed so everyone became a winner? Let’s explore some ideas.

Universes Everywhere

In the age of Qlik and Tableau, a third-party market has sprung up to provide universe-based data to non-SAP tools. In a curious arrangement, these vendors have LLC’ed themselves to be annoying to SAP product managers without being financially lucrative enough to attract the interest of SAP’s legal department.

No offense to their creators who are fulfilling a market need. But these products should not need to exist. SAP itself should provide the best universe support to both its own analytics tools and beyond – let’s call it “Universes Everywhere”.

Back in 2014, a BusinessObjects Universe connector mysteriously showed up in Microsoft Power BI (see Microsoft’s related article, Power BI Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI Now Generally Available). As mysteriously as it arrived, it then disappeared.

Update May 2016: SAP BO connectivity is no longer available.

With SAP Analytics Cloud restricting the universe to be on-premise, what does SAP have to lose by licensing universe support to Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik, or whoever wants it? Customers would be delighted, probably save for the extra cost of some kind of new BI platform license that legalizes such third-party tool support. Microstrategy adopted a similar approach this year, insuring that its customers are delighted enough to keep licensing Microstrategy’s core technology platform while using their data visualization tool of choice. (see related ZDNet article, Enterprise, self-service BI hook up: MicroStrategy releases connectors for Power BI, Tableau, Qlik).

Web Intelligence Explorer

As part of a renewed commitment to the universe semantic layer and innovation specifically targeted to the on-premise BI platform, SAP should commit developers to an updated version of the BI platform (4.3? 5.0?) with a new version of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer – one that does not rely on Adobe Flash- as its centerpiece. Keep in mind that Explorer without a Flash UI already exists – as SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS. The Explorer web client should be written as tightly coupled to Fiori-fied Web Intelligence as architecturally possible and its Flash-based back-end should be ported to the Fiori-fied BI Admin Console that made its debut with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 (see related article, The Road Unexplored: A Future for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer). SAP customers shouldn’t have to look to other vendors to find the next generation of search-based data discovery (see related article, The Road Unexplored: Alternatives to SAP BusinessObjects Explorer).

If SAP Won’t Invest It Should Divest

It’s perfectly understandable that SAP Analytics Cloud is tightly coupled to SAP’s business applications. What’s less clear is why perfectly good software used by thousands of customers has to die on the vine rather than succeed on its own terms. Even webOS– originally developed by Palm to compete with Apple’s iOS- was given a second life powering LG televisions and appliances. It’s even been open sourced (see related Verge article, webOS ready to move beyond TVs, says LG). If universe technology is no longer a strategic fit to SAP, it should be liberated as open source or put up for sale on the open market. SAP acquired BusinessObjects for approximately €5 billion in 2008 (see SAP’s press release, SAP to Acquire Business Objects in Friendly Takeover). I’m confident SAP could get a good return on its decade-old investment and create favorable terms to OEM the software from its new owner until its current hybrid BI strategy is fully realized in the cloud.

SAP, if you love your classic BusinessObjects customers, set them free!

Should SAP continue to invest in the universe semantic layer? Should it put the technology up for sale? Or open source it? I would love to hear your thoughts on how ALL of SAP’s current analytics customers can have a happy ending.

What we learned from 31 releases of SAP Lumira

Baskin-Robbins, the ice cream retailer, has gotten a lot of mileage from its “Thirty-Onederful Flavors” slogan. What is less clear is how SAP fared after thirty-one releases of its Lumira data discovery software.

Ben at Baskin Robbins 31 Wonderful Flavors

Baskin-Robbins, the ice cream retailer, has gotten a lot of mileage from its “Thirty-Onederful Flavors” slogan over the years, referring to the 31 flavors of ice cream you can find in their shops.  What is less clear is how SAP fared after thirty-one releases of its Lumira 1.x data visualization software. After 31 releases of version 1, customers spent 2016 waiting for SAP to marry Lumira and Design Studio together as Lumira Discovery and Lumira Designer, respectively. Then we spent 2017 waiting for SAP to resolve the infamous compiler issue and ship Lumira 2.1 with additional stability, only to relegate Lumira Discovery to the dustbin of history in favor of SAP Analytics Cloud as the company’s standard bearer for data discovery (see related article, Everything Must Change).

SAP Analytics Cloud is receiving updates roughly every two weeks, which is even more frequent than the point releases of SAP Lumira 1.x we received around every six weeks. I believe that there are three lessons from SAP Lumira’s development that could improve customer appreciation and adoption of SAP Analytics Cloud.

Better to ship when ready, not when the trade show is scheduled.

SAP Lumira debuted in May 2012 as SAP Visual Intelligence at SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE user conference in Orlando, Florida (see Cindi Howson’s blog, SAP Releases Visual Intelligence, Innovates in BI). Many customers heard “it only works with SAP HANA” even though additional connectivity to other relational databases and universes appeared fairly quickly in future updates. Unfortunately, many customers held onto “it only works with HANA” long after it was no longer true and it took significant effort by SAP and its partners to educate its customers about the current state of the product.

Apple abandoned its trade show schedule several years ago with great success. Instead of its previous practice of introducing new products every January at a (now defunct) trade show called Macworld Expo, today Apple releases products throughout the calendar year when they are ready. I recognize this would be a huge marketing shift for SAP and it’s current “SAPPHIRE or TechEd” release schedule, as we will most likely see new SAP Analytics Cloud features demoed on this year’s SAPPHIRE stage.

I wonder if Lumira would have had a warmer introduction if it had been released a few months after SAPPHIRE but with a larger feature set?

Measure twice and cut once?

There’s always a trade-off when introducing a new feature into software. Do you wait until the feature is fully developed? Or do you deliver it gradually over multiple releases? In theory, agile development sounds great because we can get new features now and that they’ll be extended over time to be even more useful.

In practice, we’ve often been given a feature that is so limited that it has to be completely ripped and replaced with something else. Key examples here are SAP’s first attempts at adding universe and BEx connectivity to Lumira. In both cases, first attempts at connectivity were full of limitations. In the case of the universe connector (see related article, Squeezing the Entire Universe Into SAP Lumira), the universe panel didn’t have the user experience of universe panels in SAP’s well-established analytics products, missing many key features. These premature releases become opportunities for customers to conclude that a product still isn’t ready for prime time – a gut reaction that even clever marketing can find difficult to change later.

Integration vs. Add-Ons

Once Lumira went from being a stand-alone desktop tool to one that could be used with the BI platform via an add-on, Lumira’s frequent release schedule became even more frustrating to BI managers and IT directors. To SAP’s credit, each new release of the Lumira add-on for the BI platform introduced a “must have” feature. Unfortunately, most IT departments did not have the luxury of upgrading Lumira every time SAP delivered a new release.

To compound the problem, because Lumira continues to be an add-on and not an integrated component of the SAP BI platform, it adds hours of planning and installation time to what should be simple product patching. Now that Lumira is released on a similar quarterly schedule as the BI platform, it would make sense to finally integrate the two, save for the SAP’s recent roadmap changes. SAP has indicated that for 2018, SAP Analytics Cloud is the preferred solution for data discovery over SAP Lumira Discovery. And as of tomorrow (perhaps as early as this year’s SAPPHIRE?), SAP Analytics Cloud will eventually be the preferred solution over SAP Lumira Designer for dashboards and analytic applications.

Microsoft has a solution for Microsoft Office 365 that could work well if adopted by SAP Analytics Cloud. SAP provides connectivity to on-premise data sources via the SAP Analytics Cloud Agent. In many cases, a new version of SAP Analytics Cloud requires a new version of the agent to work properly. With SAP Analytics Cloud receiving updates every two weeks, this means BI administrators will spend a lot of time either updating the agent or explaining why SAP Analytics Cloud is “broken”. And in some cases, too many updates of a cloud-based product, especially its user experience, could cause frustrated users to wonder “Who Moved My Cheese“.

Microsoft provides three update “speeds” in its AutoUpdate feature for Microsoft Office 365. First, there is the traditional setting, which provides the least amount of change and the greatest amount of stability. Next, there are two variations of its Office Insider program, Slow and Fast.

Microsoft Office Auto Update for Mac

Although most SAP customers probably wouldn’t be a fan of an SAP Analytics Cloud Insider Fast setting, some early adopters and of course partners probably wouldn’t mind seeing new features before everyone else.

Microsoft Office Auto Update Disclaimer for Fast option

Since I do “mind a bit of risk using unsupported builds,” I keep my Microsoft Office Update set at Office Insider Slow. By providing a similar feature, SAP could allow its SAP Analytics Cloud customers to choose their desired rate of change. Some customers may want a cloud product that only receives significant changes on a quarterly or perhaps even semi-annual basis. Other customers will appreciate both the features and the BI platform risks of the current two-week cycle. And still other customers and partners may want to see features before they’re ready for prime time.

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I believe thirty-one public releases of SAP Lumira was too many for the SAP analytics community to pay attention to. And in some cases, agile development delivered a feature that was so problematic, it had to be completely redesigned in a future release. Lessons learned from SAP Lumira could help improve the perception and adoption of SAP Analytics Cloud. What do you think?

Everything Must Change

Like it or not, everything MUST change, including SAP’s analytics roadmap.

You’ve probably never heard of Benard Ighner. But in 1974 he penned a song entitled “Everything Must Change” which he performed on the Quincy Jones album Body Heat. Since then, the song has been widely covered by artists in the pop, jazz and R&B genres.

Everyone must change
Nothing stays the same.
The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.

Everything Must Change by Benard Ighner

Last month, SAP analytics executive Mike Flannagan published a February 7, 2018 blog that was a prelude to a February 15, 2018 #askSAP webinar. His blog was entitled A Deeper Look into SAP’s BI and Analytics Strategy and made two key points, one intentional and one not.

First, the intentional message was that SAP is focusing on one data discovery solution, SAP Analytics Cloud. This means that SAP Lumira Discovery- freshly released in 2017 after an extensive and lengthy redesign- will only see small maintenance releases during 2018 and 2019 while SAP Analytics Cloud will continue to be updated every two weeks. Many SAP analytics customers will be unaffected by this announcement, as they have settled on a best-in-breed analytics strategy with Tableau, Qlik, or Microsoft PowerBI as their tool of choice. There will be some disgruntled customers who bought into SAP Lumira, which does not have an automatic migration path to SAP Analytics Cloud.

Second, the unintentional message in Mike Flannagan’s blog was that SAP Analytics Cloud is becoming the primary analytics offering by SAP. Oh sure, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform is still supported, but the goal is to loosely integrate it with SAP Analytics Cloud via the SAP Analytics Hub, another SAP Cloud Platform-based offering. A red flag for SAP BusinessObjects on-premise customers is this- “SAP has recently extended support for SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.2 by two years”. This “great news” means that End of Mainstream Maintenance for BI 4.2 now occurs on 12/31/2022 and End of Priority One Support Phase now occurs on 12/31/2024.

SAP is to be commended for its current strategy of continuous innovation via support packs, which will continue into 2018 with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 Support Pack 6 being released in the July 2018 time frame and Support Pack 7 being released in the December 2018 time frame. However, contrary to any “rumors” that you may have heard, there are no current plans for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3. This is unfortunate, because there are significant innovations that need to come to the BI platform but won’t on a support pack budget. And according to SAP’s roadmap, the BI platform will become an innovation-free zone, as any cool and modern technology will only be added to SAP Analytics Cloud.

SAP’s new analytics strategy has significant impacts for its customers who love the on-premise (but also cloud-ready) BI platform. Its strategy even has significant impacts for analytics professionals such as myself who find themselves at a skills crossroads. The SAP BI platform isn’t quite dead (heck, Desktop Intelligence has been dead for years and many of you are still out there using it!), but it’s no longer a solid foundation for a career with analytics- SAP or otherwise. I’ll be exploring both of these angles in future blog posts.

Nothing and no one goes unchanged. But for now, enjoy a two-minute, heart-pounding arrangement of “Everything Must Change,” performed by the world-champion Blue Devils drum corps in their 2017 show, “Metamorph”.

Is your organization’s analytics strategy changing in response to SAP’s recent announcements? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

New BI Launch Pad Customization in SAP BI 4.2 SP5

A new and much welcome enhancement for the BI Launch Pad logon screen.

Although SAP is spending most of its analytics budget developing SAP Analytics Cloud, innovation is still happening on the BI Platform. In SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 (released in December 2017), SAP has introduced a new property for controlling the behavior of the Authentication drop-down box on the logon screen.

The behavior of the logon screen can be customized by copying the default BILaunchpad.properties file from C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\default to the adjacent directory C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom (see my original article about BI customization, Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and BI 4.2).

A new property- logon.authentication.visibleList– now joins authentication.default and authentication.visible that controls which authentication types appear in the authentication drop-down list. By default authentication.visible is set to false, but most organizations have to set it to true so the Administrator can choose Enterprise authentication and everyone else can choose something like Windows AD, LDAP or SAP authentication.

logon.authentication.visibleList property for BI Launch Pad customization

Here is how the default list logon.authentication.visibleList=secLDAP,secWinAD,secSAPR3,secOraApps,secPSE1,secpsenterprise,secSiebel7,secEnterprise appears.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

The new logon.authentication.visibleList parameter not only controls which authentication types are displayed, but also the order(!) that they are displayed in. As an example, I’ll move secEnterprise from the beginning to the end of the list.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

And here’s what it looks like when I shorten the list to only the desired authentication types.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

IMPORTANT: Remember that you must copy the contents of C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom to C:\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\warfiles\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom before applying any patches, as the latter is the location the patch installer will redeploy web applications from. I also recommend keeping copies of any customized files on a project intranet or some other location that isn’t a SAP BusinessObjects server.

This small enhancement to the BI platform is a big deal that enables BI teams to simplify the interface, reducing both human error and help desk calls. I’m eagerly looking forward to additional BI platform enhancements that we’ll see later this year in BI 4.2 SP6 (July 2018 timeframe) and BI 4.2 SP7 (December 2018 timeframe).

State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade – February 2018

SAP BusinessObjects 4.1, SAP Lumira 1.x and SAP Design Studio 1.x maintenance all come to an end in 2018. Here’s how to plan for the future.

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these “State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade” articles. In fact, I didn’t write one at all during 2017. But there are some key events happening in 2018 that are going to affect BI strategy for many SAP customers.

Read the State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade – February 2018 on the SAP Community site.

I wrote the article one week before Michael Flannagan posted his Deeper Look into SAP’s BI and Analytics Strategy, but the points are still valid for SAP customers using the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite.