Using the new commentary feature in SAP BI 4.2

Commentary is a useful new feature in SAP BI 4.2 but needs configuration beyond the default setup to work optimally.

One of the new features in SAP BI 4.2 is commentary. Although it currently only works with Web Intelligence, it is a feature of the BI platform so we can expect to see other tools such as Crystal Reports adopt it over time. Unlike the depreciated discussions feature, which permitted threaded discussions on a document, the commentary feature allows threaded discussions to occur on a report element such as a Web Intelligence cell.

The commentary feature consists of a Commentary Service (part of the Adaptive Processing Server) and a table named COMMENTARY_MASTER that is created in the Audit schema by default.

Regarding the new APS service, it is not necessary to isolate it in its own process, but it can be added to a “Core” APS as shown in SAP KB 1694041.

Regarding the new COMMENTARY_MASTER table, SAP recommends relocating it to its own database, as the commentary feature can create performance issues for auditing if left configured to the Audit database.

By default, BI Commentary creates and maintains its tables in the Audit database… However, SAP recommends that you configure a new database to store the comments from BI Commentary application. Databases supported for BI Commentary are the same as those supported for Auditing.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 Administration Guide
Section 18.1.3.11 Managing BI Commentary Application Settings

And SAP KB 2346055 describes some of the bad things that can happen if the commentary service uses the audit database on a production system.

You’ll have to configure JDBC drivers for your database vendor on each node hosting the commentary service. Then configure the new data source in CMC -> Applications -> BI Commentary Application, shown below.

Configuring the commentary database

And since you may choose to report on the COMMENTARY_MASTER table, you’ll probably want to configure the data source on all the reporting nodes, too.

In my experience, the COMMENTARY_MASTER table wasn’t created in its new location until a user actually entered the first comment, so I would recommend that the BI administrator use one of the sample Web Intelligence documents or a personal document to create the first comment and confirm that the table is created and populated correctly.

To learn how to use the commentary feature, check out SAP KB 2269131, which includes a video. Using the side panel, comments can be added to sections, table cells, free-standing report cells, or an entire table block. As of SAP BI 4.2 SP5, comments cannot be added to charts but perhaps support will be added in a future support pack.

In the example below, I have added a comment in a Party Pants Trends report on the Printed Lycra Trousers table cell for New York. Other report viewers can see that a comment has been added because of the yellow triangle in the cell’s upper right corner. Comments can be created in either reading mode or design mode, but you must have the Reporting – Enable Formatting security right. This requirement may lead to changes to existing custom access levels.

Web Intelligence report with commentary

I’m personally a fan of enabling new bells and whistles such as commentary. But if your organization is not ready for the commentary service, you can disable it simply by disabling or removing any commentary services in the landscape. Take a look at SAP KB 2313335 for details.

Perhaps we’ll see the SAP BI 4.3 installer prompt administrators to set up the commentary database (and the monitoring database, which defaults to Apache Derby) correctly from the beginning. But for now, setting up commentary is a post-installation configuration step for the SAP BI administrator.

References

  • SAP KB 1694041 – How do you configure the Adaptive Processing Server (APS) for improved performance and scalability?
  • SAP KB 1707921How to display the discussions in BI4
  • SAP KB 2269131How to use the BI Commentary feature and add comments in Webi Reports in BI 4.2?
  • SAP KB 2313335How to disable Commentary from Web Intelligence document in BI4.2
  • SAP KB 2346055Performance degradation while opening a Web Intelligence document with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.2
  • SAP KB 2525675How to configure the BI Commentary Tool in SAP Business Intelligence 4.2 SP02 and onwards – Guided Answers

Things Can Only Get Better

The roadmap of the SAP BusinessObjects platform makes me scared. But I won’t stop and falter. Here’s what Howard Jones taught me about SAP analytics strategy. And growing older.

Earlier this year, my wife and I got to see Howard Jones in concert from the second row. The last time I saw him in concert was way back in 1989, so I was grateful for the opportunity.

I discovered Howard Jones in my teen years. His groundbreaking use of synthesizers as a “one-man band” was a big inspiration for me. After all, there are so many guitar heroes but so few piano heroes. He was definitely mine. Known for the positive messages in his lyrics, Howard expressed my thoughts when SAP announced revisions to its analytics roadmap just a few days after the concert (see related article, Everything Must Change).

And do you feel scared? I do!
But I won’t stop and falter.

Change can definitely be scary. And sadly, you can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop having birthdays.

I’m grateful to artists like Howard Jones because at age 63, he’s not only riding his past success like No One Is To Blame. He continues to tour and create new music like the autographed Engage CD that I picked up at the concert. His success doesn’t magically wipe away the rampant ageism that is in modern IT. But it does give me hope as I grow older.

Howard Jones Engage CD with autographed cover

Treating today as though it was the last, the final show
Get to sixty and feel no regret
It may take a little time a lonely path, an uphill climb
Success or failure will not alter it

Don’t be fooled by what you see. And don’t be fooled by what you hear- especially from Microstrategy. They posted this FUD gem during SAPPHIRE last month.

Things have actually gotten better during the past few months. SAP has moderated its tone when messaging its analytics customers, committing to delivering SAP BusinessObjects 4.3 in 2019 (see related SAP blog by Mike Flannagan, SAP Customers Champion the Intelligent Enterprise with SAP Analytics Innovations). And SAP is making smaller batches of improvements in the forthcoming SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP6, expected later this month. In his aptly-named song Those Who Move Clouds, Howard Jones sings:

I wish that I could offer you a chance to change direction.
But you know that pathways must be followed to near destruction.

Sadly, “You can look at the SAP analytics roadmap, but you can’t change it” doesn’t rhyme. But I’ll continue to work on that. In the meantime, this old dog is committing himself to learn new tricks with SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA, and even non-SAP technologies. Because things can only get better.

In the meantime, don’t crack up. Bend your brain. See both sides. Throw off your mental chains. And don’t always look at the rain.

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