All the Web Intelligence That’s Fit to Print

Printing a Web Intelligence document isn’t a necessary evil- it’s simply necessary. And SAP should graciously support users who work in industries where a printer is required equipment.

Back in 2011 when I wrote All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print, I was working on what I hoped would be my last project migrating Desktop Intelligence documents to Web Intelligence. Fast forward six years to 2017 and I’m still helping several customers retire Desktop Intelligence. And in 2017, the Web Intelligence Job Server still doesn’t have the schedule-to-printer functionality that existed for Desktop Intelligence and is still available for Crystal Reports users.

This year, the SAP Idea Place moved to a new home- the SAP Customer Influence portal. The idea to Schedule Webi documents to a Printer– submitted by Brian Thomas on January 10, 2011- was reviewed by SAP and set to “not planned”, despite the idea currently having 64 votes- many more than the ten votes SAP required for consideration. The idea has comments from Web Intelligence users across multiple industries making their case for schedule-to-print.

Instead, Samuel Polichouk, an SAP product expert in Paris where Web Intelligence is developed, wrote:

In our world which become more and more “mobile”, printing is not something we would like to invest in scheduling webi documents. Therefore I prefer to set expectation saying that we will not include this in our backlog for coming releases.

While I appreciate Samuel’s perspective, the world still needs printers. I’m still baffled why I hear a dot matrix printer grinding away at the gate agent’s desk whenever I board a commercial airline flight, but there it is- some kind of compliance requirement that won’t go away.

Please continue to vote for this necessary idea and hope that SAP will review its position on the matter, bringing much-needed printing capabilities enjoyed by Desktop Intelligence and Crystal Reports users to the legions of Web Intelligence fans.

UPDATE: Voting is closed for this particular idea; however, I’d be grateful if you’d leave a comment on this article describing a use case for Webi printing or why you support adding this feature to the platform.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Fourth Edition

The best book on SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is now even better.

Today is an important day for SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence users. I’m proud to announce that the fourth edition of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide is now available in both hardcover and electronic formats from SAP Press.

The book has been significantly updated to include features from SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 Support Pack 4, the latest release. You can learn more and order from my book page.

Talk Like a Web Intelligence Pirate

Ahoy there, mates! It’s September 19, time to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day with the Web Intelligence iRate PieRates. This year you can celebrate by pre-ordering a copy of the fourth edition of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Resource. In addition to welcoming Christian Ah-Soon from SAP’s Web Intelligence product group to the authoring team, the book has been fully updated for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2, including features from the latest Support Pack 4. The book officially goes on sale October 25 in both hardback and electronic editions. The iRate PieRates hope you’ll pre-order a copy today.

Arghh!

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.

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.

UPDATE: The Free-hand SQL option now appears in the BI 4.2 SP4 HTML panel, where only the Analysis View query option is missing.

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, Sherlock 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.