SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Turns 3!

After the candles are blown out, here are some things to work on during the next year.

Happy Third Birthday, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0! You came into the world on September 16, 2011, after a lengthy gestation. We’ve made a lot of memories together, from your birth to taking your first steps. Potty training took a bit longer than expected, but we eventually got there with your BI 4.1 release. And I’ve mostly gotten over that time you pooped in the bathtub. As the parent of three children, I’m familiar with children moving from “baby” to “toddler” to “preschooler”. Software doesn’t mature in the same way as human children. But just like with humans, some things that were expected, manageable or even “cute” in earlier years become wearisome after three years. So I’d like to mention ten things that I hope you’ll work on before your fourth birthday.

10. Group Hierarchy tree control with “too many objects”

We’re thankful that after three years, the “too many objects” error is largely solved in the BI Launch Pad (see related article, Too Many Objects in Your BI Launch Pad). I realize that BI Launch Pad users outnumber Central Management Console users. But any administrator with a large BI installation knows how tedious it is to live without a decent tree control.

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

9. User search feature in CMC

There are a lot of user attributes beyond just title and description. And I’d like to search any of them, thank you. Isn’t this just a few extra lines of code?

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

8. Server search feature in CMC

Although most servers are appropriately named, sometimes they just aren’t. Please make it easier to find a server by type (Adaptive Processing Server, Crystal Reports Cache Server) regardless of what somebody else decided to name it.

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

7. SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio server installation

If Design Studio is the future of SAP dashboards, then please take the time to integrate the required server features directly into the BI platform. The separate (and frequently changing) server components are a huge barrier to adoption (see related articles, Please Integrate the Integrated BI Platform and Over Designing BI Architecture for Design Studio).

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

6. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer administration

We’ve suffered through poor SAP BusinessObjects Explorer administration since Explorer debuted as Polestar on the XI R2 platform. As you fold Explorer functionality into Lumira, please fold its administrative tasks into the Central Management Console (see related article, Family Planning).

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

5. Web Intelligence panel preference

Thankfully you provide a script, setGroupPreferences (see SAP KB 1659566 or SAP KB 1816617), but even simpler would be the ability to set the default Web Intelligence report panel via the CMC. But even better would be retiring the Java report panel in favor of a single kick-a__ HTML 5 panel. Which leads us to number 4.
Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

4. Web Intelligence Java Report Panel

Who can forget WebiJavaGeddon (see related article, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste)?  I’ve logged hundreds of hours in the Web Intelligence Java Report Panel. But with security and performance concerns, it’s time to move on to a plug-in free future (see related article, Is it Time for Caffeine-Free Web Intelligence).

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

3. Monitoring

Monitoring was a big marquee feature of the BI 4.0 launch. It’s a great first step, but it’s time to show us a more mature second generation of this important feature. Oh, and the Adobe Flash interface needs to go (see related article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet).

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

2. Promotion Management/Lifecycle Management

Everyone thought the Import Wizard was evil. Until it went away. Like monitoring, this was a marquee feature of the BI 4.0 and rightly so. Also like monitoring, it re-appeared in BI 4.1 largely unchanged.

While we’re appreciative of the many stability improvements made post-BI 4.1, it’s time for you to show us the next generation of promotion management (see related article, Do I Feel Lucky? Musings on Promotion Management). We’d also be grateful if the user interface was more consistent with the rest of the CMC and eliminated the tiny bit of Adobe Flash that it contains (see related article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet).

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

1. Platform Search

There are over 80 articles in the SAP knowledge base about platform search. Most of them highlight a design flaw or document a workaround, which isn’t terribly flattering. Given that platform search is often the first feature a new user will try, it’s time to put away the duct tape and introduce the next generation of platform search to the SAP BI platform.

Top 10 annoyances of SAP BI4

Make a wish, blow out the candles, and enjoy some well-deserved cake. But I hope you’ll take these things to heart over the next year.

What are your thoughts after three years of the SAP BI4 platform?

Too Many Objects in Your BI Launch Pad?

What to do if SAP tells you that you have “too many objects”.

Has this ever happened to you? You finally manage to bring over your old XI R2 or XI 3.1 content into BI 4.1 using the Upgrade Management Tool only to have the BI Launch Pad inform you that you have “too many objects”.

Too Many Objects in BI Launch Pad

By default, the BI Launch Pad can manage 200 folders. But this number can be increased by setting the max.tree.children.threshold property. But which one? You might think of copying the global.properties file from <SAP BI Install Directory>tomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigdefault to <SAP BI Install Directory>tomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigcustom, then raising the value.

max_tree_children_threshold

But to get the effect you want, you should instead modify the global.properties file in the <SAP BI Install Directory>tomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFinternal directory.

max_tree_children_threshold

Don’t worry. Even the developers at SAP appear to be confused as to which one to use. Notice the comment “TODO: we should revisit this.”? No doubt the same comment appears in the code for platform search. But that’s a topic for a future blog article.

If fixing the tree control by a single parameter sounds like too much good news, don’t worry. It is. The Central Management Console tree controls will still be broken and are ignorant of either setting.

Too Many Objects in CMC

Whenever you modify any of the SAP BI properties files, be sure to copy them to the warfiles folder. Copy files from the custom folder to the <SAP BI Install Directory>SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0warfileswebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigcustom folder. And copy any modified files from the internal folder to the <SAP BI Install Directory>SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0warfileswebappsBOEWEB-INFinternal folder. This extra step will insure that these same properties files are used the next time you patch your BI platform.

Even though computers can manage a large number of folders, sometimes humans can find the best-intentioned of folder structures too complicated. As part of your migration planning, consider reducing the number of top level folders, either by combining reports into a smaller number of folders or by using additional sub-folders. You’ll want to make these changes in your old BI platform, not the new one, so users can sign off on the changes prior to any migration. Also, it’s easier to reconcile content between old and new BI platforms if the folder structure matches.

May your tree controls always display your folders!

Recommended Reading

  • SAP KB 1203108 – InfoView or CMC Tree View Shows a “Too Many Objects” Warning and Does Not Display Contents
  • SAP KB 1715385 – BI Launchpad or CMC Tree View Shows a “Too Many Objects” Warning and Does Not Display
  • SAP KB 1730358 – Error ‘Too Many Objects’ in CMC when you have large number of Folders to Display (this implies that the users and groups tree controls are “fixed”, but that’s not my experience in BI 4.1)

Ten Features That Absolutely Must Be in BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3

My wish list for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3. Or 4.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4 or BI 4.0) went into general availability in September 2011 after a lengthy ramp-up period. But despite the delays, there were still many features missing or deferred to what we now know as Feature Pack 3 (FP3). Here are my picks for “must have” features in Feature Pack 3, based on my experiences so far with the current release. I have no inside information about Feature Pack 3’s final feature list,  I’m just making the case that these ten features should be coming, if not in Feature Pack 3 then in Support Package 4.

1. Tree control for Web Intelligence universe selection

When choosing a universe in Web Intelligence, the user is presented with (cue fanfare of trombones) a list. This sad situation has been the case for far too long. Although the universe folder is displayed next to the universe (in the most confusing way possible), the current UI doesn’t help users navigate through our purposefully constructed universe folder structures. This situation is also a problem on the BI Launch Pad home screen, where I may have recently used universes with the same name but in different folders. Users need to always quickly grasp the universe’s location.  And more detailed information via a mouse-over of the universe name would be a nice touch.

2. Improved visual distinction between UNV and UNX universes in Web Intelligence

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 introduced the Information Design Tool (IDT) and its new semantic layer. Universes created by the IDT have a UNX extension rather than the legacy UNV extension. But in the current UI, the only way to tell the difference is that the UNX suffix is appended to a new universe while the old UNV universes have none. I am finding the process of testing converted UNX universes versus their unconverted counterparts to be very tedious. I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for here (unique icons?) but would like some usability improvements.

3. OLAP universe support for Explorer

Not sure whether this is coming in Feature Pack 3 or not, so I’m mentioning it. Currently, Explorer 4.0 can only create information spaces on relational UNX universes, not OLAP ones (UPDATE: see SAP KB 1559221).

4. UNX universe support for Live Office

Live Office didn’t receive a lot of enhancements in BI 4.0, although the ability to push a spreadsheet back to Explorer is an interesting addition. Live Office currently supports classic universes. Will the situation be changed in Feature Pack 3 to support UNX universes? UPDATE: According to SAP KB 1582061, UNX functionality “is in the roadmap but [has] no confirmed date from the [SAP] product group” (although the rumor mill is suggesting we’ll see this feature in BI 4.1 SP6).

5. Improved qualification selection in Information Design Tool

While there are many new workflows in what is essentially a brand new product, there are several from the old Universe Design Tool that I miss. One is the ability to easily change an object’s qualification from dimension to detail (now called an attribute) to measure. In fact, I have so far been unable to figure out how to convert an existing dimension to a detail (uh, attribute) or vice versa.

6. Corporate customization of Central Management Console

Feature Pack 3 includes vastly improved customization capabilities for the BI Launch Pad, which will be greatly enhanced from what existed for InfoView in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. But what about the Central Management Console (CMC)? I would like to be able to choose from multiple pre-defined “themes” that tastefully change the color scheme of the CMC to indicate which environment I’m using (Development, QA, Production, etc.). These themes should be based on which cluster I’m logged into, not which web application server I’m using. I frequently have multiple browser tabs open to multiple environments but visually they’re alike- indistinguishable. Literally seeing red, for example, would help me remember that I’m working with the production cluster and shouldn’t do anything stupid. I’d also like to see the cluster name at the top of each web page, perhaps next to my login name. And maybe a long “pretty” name for the cluster if my organization has cryptic standards for cluster name. Lastly, the cluster name should appear in the browser <TITLE> tag, so I can infer the environment on minimized browser windows, too.

7. No more monolithic Adaptive Processing Server

The BI 4.0 installation program creates a single, beastly Adaptive Processing Server (APS) that according to “best practices” should be divided into multiple APS’s. Regardless of whether the current situation is a result of the BI 4.0 installation team trying to meet a deadline or concern about minimal memory requirements, this situation must be handled by the Feature Pack 3 installation program. XI 3.0’s revised CMC introduced the ability to view services by application (Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, etc.) and the out-of-the-box configuration of the APS should continue to support this important idea. For example, if I’m a non-SAP ERP customer, I want to see APS’s clearly defined for SAP that can be safely turned off, just like I could turn off clearly labeled Desktop Intelligence servers if I didn’t need them.’

UPDATE: Early adopters of BI4 will want to read SAP KB 1580280,  a chipper article entitled “Adaptive Processing Server and Adaptive Job Server in SAP BI 4.0 are using high amounts of memory and are hard to manage and troubleshoot.”

UPDATE: SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 introduces the System Configuration Wizard for APS configuration and some other post-installation tasks, which you can read about here.

8. Improved control of Web Intelligence default paper size

For those readers outside the United States, A4 paper is as unfamiliar to most Americans as the metric system or soccer (which you call football).  So one of our first post-installation tasks is switching the default paper size to A4 (see my related article on the EV Technologies blog).  Ideally, the paper size should be controlled via the Central Management Console and not by the web application tier per current practice. While we’re at it, let’s add printer support to the Web Intelligence Job Service identical to the Crystal Reports Job Service, both of which are now part of the BI 4.0 Adaptive Job Server.

9. Improved browser support

Everyone assumes that Feature Pack 3 will finally bring Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0 compatibility to the BI 4.0 platform. And SAP has promised to accommodate Mozilla’s need to update Firefox versions what seems like every 48 hours. These are all good developments.

But I’d also like to see Apple Safari for Windows officially supported for the same versions as supported on the Macintosh.  And I agree with Jamie Oswald (see related SAP Community Network article One App to Enable Them All) that we need support for mobile browsers, not just mobile applications.

UPDATE 02/14/2012: Google Chrome support was rumored for Feature Pack 3 but does not appear in the official supported platforms document.  Google’s browser adoption strategy appears to be “make Google Docs flaky enough in IE so enterprise customers will use our browser”.  SAP should officially support Google Chrome in Feature Pack 3.

UPDATE 01/08/2013: Support Pack 5 improves the browser support for both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Sadly, Apple quietly discontinued the Safari browser for Windows platforms.

10. Improved and better organized sample content

BI4, just like XI 3.1 before it, has two versions of the eFashion universe. To make matters worse, they point to slightly different Microsoft Access databases with different year ranges.  But the final insult for me is that the installation program rudely places content in the root universe folder.  So for Feature Pack 3, I’m asking for:

  • No universes placed in the root universe folder
  • A single top-level Samples folder, both for content (objects) as well as universes and connections
  • A single eFashion.unv universe, not two
  • An Information Design Tool that properly converts eFashion.unv to eFashion.unx.  Don’t include eFashion.unx because I think it’s valuable for a customer to try out the IDT conversion feature.
  • A new sample UNX universe that brilliantly shows off all of the new features of the Information Design Tool. And not eFashion, which has become as out of fashion as eBusiness.  Unlike eFashion, this new universe will have at least one date object as part of a date hierarchy. But I hope it still includes party pants.

So that’s my list of ten features that absolutely must be in Feature Pack 3. What’s yours?

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Updated Presentation

As promised in today’s breakout, attendees of the GBN Business Objects User Conference in can download the final version of CMC Essentials. It contains mostly minor tweaks compared to the version that was available prior to the conference. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, all Integra Solutions presentations should be available from the Integra Solutions Library over the next few weeks.