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?

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5 for iOS includes Lumira 2.0 compatibility and is the first version to support a new iOS version before it is released.

SAP gave its mobile BI users a surprise over the weekend by releasing SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.6.5 for iOS. Not only does it include support for SAP Lumira 2.0 SP02 (the GA release) but also includes support for iOS 11, which will be released to the general public this Tuesday, September 19, 2017. This is the first time that SAP has provided compatibility for a new version of iOS before its release.

SAP RoamBI Analytics , SAP RoamBI Flow, and SAP Analytics Cloud  don’t explicitly promise iOS 11 compatibility, so users of those apps will want to defer updating their iOS devices to iOS 11 until SAP has issued minor releases that explicitly promise iOS 11 compatibility.

SAP still keeps the stand-alone version of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer in the Apple App Store despite the fact that SAP BusinessObjects Mobile has supported Explorer content for many years and the app hasn’t been updated since 2013, which is nearly an eternity for mobile apps. It’s probably time for SAP to consider retiring the app.

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 6.2.20 for Android was released on August 22, 2017 but lacks any Lumira compatibility at this time.

Lastly, iTunes 12.7 was released last week and no longer includes the App Store.

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks.

Apple release notes for iTunes 12.7

This means that you’ll have to use your iOS device and the updated App Store included in iOS 11 to review release history and release notes.

I recently recycled my old iPad 2 and replaced it with a new A9-powered iPad. I’ve already updated it with the latest SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app and eagerly plan install iOS 11 when it is released later this week. I intend to write soon about its new Lumira 2.0 features and delve into the growing Web Intelligence functionality gaps between the Mobile BI app and its browser-based cousins.

Good luck with your iOS 11 upgrade!

UPDATE: SAP Roambi Analytics 9.1.17 now available in Apple App Store with iOS 11 compatibility (September 22, 2017)

UPDATE: SAP Analytics Cloud 2.8.0 now available in Apple App Store with iOS 11 compatibility (September 23, 2017)

SAP Lumira 2.0 compatibility with SAP BI platform

Which versions of the BI platform are compatible with SAP Lumira 2.0?

I imagine that most organizations will combine SAP Lumira 2.0 SP2/GA with an upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 1. However, according to the PAM, the SAP Lumira add-on to the BI platform is compatible with recent support packs of BI 4.1. Note that due to an issue with promotion management (see SAP Note 2437742), those support packs will also need to be patched.

The following versions of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform are compatible with SAP Lumira 2.0/GA and promotion management:

  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP8 Patch 10 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP9 Patch 5 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP10
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP2 Patch 12 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 Patch 8 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 1 or higher (see also SAP Note 2467541)

Multilingual organizations that rely on Translation Manager will want to consult SAP Note 2515265, which requires even higher patch levels. NOTE: not all have been released as of this writing):

  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP8 Patch 11 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP9 Patch 6 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP10 Patch 1 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP2 Patch 13 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 Patch 10 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 3 or higher (see also SAP Note 2467541)

You’ll also want to read Matthew Shaw’s SAP Community blog, A ‘simple’ guide to Updating (Upgrading) your SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform – the rules.

What are your organization’s plans for SAP Lumira 2.0? Leave a comment below.

Can SAP BusinessObjects Lumira 2.0 Move Out of Fourth Place?

Can SAP break the rule of threes?

As humans, we love to group things into threes.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze…

Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude…

GM, Ford, Chrysler… and American Motors.

Wait- what?!?!?

Remember American Motors? Until Chrysler acquired the company in 1988, it was primarily known for two things. The Jeep brand. And the AMC Pacer, an oft-ridiculed vehicle most notably featured in the Wayne’s World movies. But American Motors was always in the shadow of the “Big Three”.

On the eve of the general availability of SAP BusinessObjects Lumira 2.0, I am reminded of American Motors by Tech Target’s recent publication of “Self-service BI software comparison: Tableau vs. Power BI, Qlik Sense“.

Was Lumira removed from the article because of missing features? No. It was merely overlooked because of the unwritten rule of threes. Unless a contest is held by Gartner or Consumer Reports, it’s generally limited to three participants. For example, the Olympic Games only puts three competitors on the awards podium- unless there’s a tie. And Steve Jobs product keynotes were famous for three main points (and hopefully just one more thing). Tech Target is simply writing about the three BI tools that currently have the most mindshare, just as fifteen years ago much ink was spilled over the BusinessObjects/Cognos/Microstrategy horse race.

Probably the biggest surprise here is that a mere two years ago tech journalists would describe data visualization as a two-horse race- Tableau and Qlik. Tibco Spotfire would occasionally get a shout-out when a third horse was needed for color. Microsoft- once thought to have its best days behind it- has really done an enormous job to be mentioned in the same breath as the other two horses.

Only time will tell if the innovations of SAP BusinessObjects Lumira 2.0 elevate it to “top three” status. In the meantime, party on Wayne and Garth!

Peace, Love, and Happiness!

What do you think SAP must do to get out of fourth place?