SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2012

Much has changed in the past year, but my new year’s resolutions from last year still seem relevant.

Last week, I began a new project helping a customer upgrade from SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP2 to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4). We’re having multiple discussions about which content needs to be moved over, old content and users that need hauled to the curb, the “best practices” that need to continue, and the “worst practices” that need to die. This customer came from “legacy Crystal Enterprise”, which thankfully means that there’s no Desktop Intelligence- roughly 80% Crystal Reports and 20% Web Intelligence. Explorer BW Accelerated and Dashboards are on a BI4 pilot box that’s about ready to go into a small production period before the “big” BI4 environment is ready. Teradata 13. All good stuff.

I’ve been poking through the XI 3.1 Central Management Console (CMC) to decide what should be purged or ignored before running the Upgrade Management Tool into a validation environment. I’m also trying to see if there are any policies or procedures that are evident from the CMC that haven’t been discussed in our kickoff meetings.

I re-read my SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2011 post from last year (available here) to see if it would jumpstart my brain on anything I might have overlooked. At least for 2012, the ten resolutions I mentioned are still good advice, with just a few tweaks.

1. Upgrade or retire older SAP BusinessObjects and Crystal Enterprise versions

Still valid. If you’re not planning to adopt BI 4.0 in 2012, you at least need to get to XI 3.1. Earlier versions of the platform are no longer supported by SAP. And your IT department is bringing in new PCs preloaded with Windows 7 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, the latter requiring SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 5 (SP5) or higher (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7) . Check your current BusinessObjects version’s Product Availability Matrix (PAM) to see where it falls short before the help desk calls start pouring in.

2. Halt all active Desktop Intelligence development

Still good advice. It’s like a smoking cessation program for your business intelligence system.

3. Audit existing Desktop Intelligence reports with an eye toward retirement

Still good advice.

If your team retired all Desktop Intelligence last year, make sure you take time to celebrate the milestone. Oh, and shut down the Desktop Intelligence Cache, Processing, and Job servers.

4. Create a project plan and time line to retire all Desktop Intelligence reports

Ditto.

5. Replace cumbersome advanced rights with custom Access Levels

The system I’m currently working with has a combination of advanced rights and custom access levels. I’m assuming that the former go back to Crystal Enterprise or XI R2. On my current project, I’m going to make the case to replace advanced rights in the BI4 validation environment before moving projects into production with the Life Cycle Manager (LCM).

5. Revisit Active Directory or LDAP authentication

Still good advice. My current project is already 100% LDAP.

6. Celebrate diversity

Last year, I encouraged Web Intelligence users to look at Crystal Reports and vice versa. This year, I would extend that to include Analysis (4.0), Xcelsius/Dashboards, and Explorer. If you’re not using these tools already, take an executive sponsor to lunch and plan a pilot, no matter how small, for 2012. Are your C-level executives roaming the halls with tablets? It’s time to do mobile pilot as well.

I’ve noticed that a lot of organizations, both large and small, are hesitant to deploy desktop software to end users. This means no Web Intelligence Rich Client/Desktop, Live Office, Analysis for Microsoft Office (4.0 only), or Xcelsius/Dashboards. But all of these tools extend the usefulness of Microsoft Excel, your users’ favorite BI tool. Read that last sentence again – I’ll wait for you. I recognize the deployment challenges of desktop applications (I frequently hear that Frank in desktop support is a real pain to work with), but you are missing a huge opportunity to meet your users where they live. I hope to tackle this topic with more depth in a future blog post.

On the browser-only front, remember that SAP BusinessObjects Explorer can visualize Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, not just universes and accelerated SAP BW.

7. Create a BI steering committee

Still good on this one, I think. Has anyone presented at the annual ASUG conference about this topic?

8. Read Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards

What I said last year:

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business is the single best business intelligence book that I’ve encountered. It’s comprehensive, vendor-neutral, and should be read and discussed by both IT and business professionals in your organization.

Wayne’s book is still my favorite “if you only have time to read only one book”, regardless of whether you are a business user or a techie. If you disagree, or have another “must read” BI book, I’d love to hear about it.

The intrepid BI manager will grab the key people on their team, a similar number of power users and executives, cater in lunch once a week (Panera Bread is really good for this), and have a book club for no more than a dozen folks. Tackle one chapter a week. No food throwing during the “Why the business and IT mistrust each other” chapter, please.

9. Start an internal user group

I’m still a huge believer in internal user groups and will be dedicating a huge chunk of my user adoption presentation to them at the upcoming SAP Insider BI 2012 conference.

10. Join ASUG

Yes, I know. Somebody in your organization is going to have to dig into their wallet. But there’s great value in the local chapter meetings, the webcasts, and influence councils. And don’t tell your funding source, but the annual ASUG SAP BusinessObjects conference (SBOUC) is at Walt Disney World (see related article, 2012 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference). Shhhh! Membership details are available here.

So how did I do? Is there something on your team’s new year’s resolutions that I’ve missed? Would love to hear your thoughts.

A Public Service Announcement for Desktop Intelligence

Desktop Intelligence reports are no longer supported in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. We mean it.

A public service announcement from SAP BusinessObjects:

Note: Desktop Intelligence reports are no longer supported in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0. To access your data from a Desktop Intelligence report in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0, you must convert the Desktop Intelligence report to an Interactive Analysis [sic Web Intelligence] report using Report Conversion Tool.

This message has been brought to you by the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Report Conversion Tool Guide, freely available for download on the SAP Help Portal.

All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print

How to retire Desktop Intelligence reports that schedule to print.

Of all of the distribution methods available to SAP BusinessObjects customers, scheduled distribution to printers is easily the most controversial. Using paper is bad for the environment, even when it contains recycled materials. And paper costs money. And let’s not forget the additional costs of printer maintenance and ink supplies. I’ve often joked that most office laser printers should have a built-in document shredder next to the various sizes of paper trays. After all, it seems that lots of material is printed but never read. And what about data security? Aren’t we leaving defenseless customer, employee and medical patient data exposed to nefarious data thieves? SAP BusinessObjects directly supports distribution by e-mail, file system, FTP, and portals such as Microsoft SharePoint. Shouldn’t we use those? Using those destinations may make the SAP BusinessObjects administrator feel green while obscuring the fact that a lot of unnecessary printing is still going on. But it’s no longer “our” problem, right?

Printer cartridges for printing

These are all good conversations to have, particularly when planning a business intelligence system upgrade. I’ve worked with many organizations that use schedule-to-print capabilities. We always strive to reduce printing requirements as a positive side effect of the upgrade. Some organizations can reduce their printing requirements to zero, particularly if a document management system is downstream from their business intelligence system (Although document management systems are their own evil, which I hope to discuss in a future post).

But some organizations- although making reductions- can’t eliminate the need to print entirely. Generally, the distribution requirement is dictated by a business process that has some urgency.

Something is wrong. Now. So grab the report from the printer and do something about it. Right now.

I see this scenario frequently when working with health care organizations. E-mail or file systems aren’t an effective option because not every employee has access. Before you exclaim “how primitive,” keep in mind that health care has high employee turnover- it’s just not worth the effort to administer access to non-patient care systems. Besides, nursing is a team sport practiced round-the-clock in front of patients, not PCs. So sending a document to a single recipient and expecting them to distribute the information doesn’t work well either. I’m certain that there are other use cases in other industries (and I hope you’ll share your printing use cases with SAP on the SAP Idea Place). And instead of clinging religiously to the mantra “printing is evil”, it’s always preferable to ask “what is the best way to solve this report distribution requirement”. And sometimes “best” doesn’t mean “perfect”, just “good enough”.

Organizations that come from a “classic” BusinessObjects background are familiar with using scheduling tools like Broadcast Agent to distribute reports to printers. And this capability continued with Desktop Intelligence XI R2, XI 3.0, and XI 3.1 via the Desktop Intelligence Job Server. But schedule-to-print capability was never extended to Web Intelligence documents and the Web Intelligence Job Server. And as of this writing, the ramp-up build of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 does not support Web Intelligence schedule-to-print. So how should customers migrate these Desktop Intelligence documents to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0? There are two primary options. Either option can be implemented today using XI R2 or XI 3.0/3.1 – you don’t have to wait until BI 4.0 is released to begin planning for it.

Replace Printed Desktop Intelligence Documents with Crystal Reports

The first option is to redesign Desktop Intelligence documents using Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports has been built to create “pixel perfect” boardroom-quality reports and the Crystal Reports Job Server can schedule to printers. And Crystal Reports easily handles report requirements such as complex report layouts, images, and bar coding.  So you might actually be happier with the end result than with the original Desktop Intelligence document it replaces. Unfortunately, there is no automated tool to perform the conversion from Desktop Intelligence to Crystal Reports. In addition, customers with “professional” licenses of BusinessObjects Enterprise will need to upgrade to “premium” licenses to handle the additional document type, so there is some cost involved.

Schedule Web Intelligence Documents with Custom Scripting to Print

The second option is to convert the Desktop Intelligence documents to Web Intelligence using the Report Conversion Tool. Although there is no native schedule-to-print capability, it is possible to schedule Web Intelligence output to a file system (or potentially an e-mail address) then use scripting to print the final result. This option may be attractive for organizations not willing to invest in Crystal Reports. However, custom scripting requires somebody with scripting expertise and the time to maintain it.

Does your organization currently utilize the schedule-to-print capabilities of Desktop Intelligence? Will you be able to replace printed output with some form of electronic distribution? Will you use one of the printing methods described above? Or hope that SAP will choose to add schedule-to-print capabilities to Web Intelligence as a service pack to BI 4.0?

Have you reduced your printing requirements?  Take the time to calculate ROI based on the cost of paper and ink saved.  Use this number to publicize within your organization how the business intelligence team is making a cost-effective (and green) impact.

Retiring Desktop Intelligence Free-Hand SQL

It’s the end of the world as we know it – time to send Desktop Intelligence reports into retirement.

Historically, it’s easier to create a SQL query and slap it into a Desktop Intelligence report than build or augment a universe. There are two methods to do this. The first method is to use the New Report Wizard to create a free-hand SQL report instead of choosing a universe. The second method uses a universe to build an initial query which is further edited in the Edit SQL panel. The Report Conversion Tool (RCT) can handle both cases – let’s take a closer look at what happens. I’ve used SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP3 to generate my examples. In either case, I must convert these reports to Web Intelligence if I want them to continue to exist in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.

Let’s first consider a free-hand SQL query. For a simple illustration, I have used the eFashion universe to build the query and pasted its SQL into a new Desktop Intelligence document.

The Report Conversion Tool will examine the document’s SQL and build a derived table universe (first introduced in BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2) with a single derived SQL table that embeds the query. Here is what the derived table looks like in the universe.

For the next example, I used Desktop Intelligence to build a standard query with the eFashion universe. But I then modified the SQL using the Edit SQL dialog box in the query panel. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious when you open the query panel that the query has been customized. For example, the query panel below appears to show a simple query with Year, State, and Sales Revenue.

However, when the Edit SQL dialog box is opened, it becomes clear that the query has been customized with a WHERE clause limiting the year to 2004. To maintain the custom SQL and prevent the report from reverting back to the universe-generated SQL, I clicked the Do not generate SQL before running box when I authored the query.

When the Report Conversion Tool is used to convert this document, it does not create a new universe. It continues to use eFashion but also customizes the Web Intelligence SQL. As with Desktop Intelligence, this customization is not obvious from the query panel.

However, as with Desktop Intelligence, the customized SQL is visible from the View SQL dialog.

The good news is that in both cases, the Report Conversion Tool was able to convert the Desktop Intelligence report to Web Intelligence. However, there is some bad news, particularly for the free-hand SQL report. First, the Report Conversion Tool creates a cryptically named universe and places it in the Report Conversion Tool universe folder. If your environment has lots of free-hand SQL reports, you are going to end up with a large collection of small universes. It’s a support nightmare – the BI equivalent of suburban sprawl. In addition, reports that contain prompts with lists of values (LOV) will generate some pretty nasty LOV queries from the derived table. Frequently, the performance of the LOV queries is sub-par.

Although the universe LOVs can be modified to run faster, you should be always ask yourself if a universe is truly needed anytime Designer is opened. You’ll be much better served by a smaller number of universes that know how to answer many business questions and not a multitude of universes that each power a single report. When I help customers with migrations, I  prefer to perform an initial run of the Report Conversion Tool on all reports except the Free-Hand SQL reports (by leaving the “Convert reports containing free-hand SQL” box unchecked). The Report Conversion Tool will flag the Free Hand SQL reports as “not converted”. Then, a simple query on the RCT audit table will generate a list of these reports. Next, I’ll work with the customer to see if any of the reports can be retired or redesigned in Web Intelligence. Ideally, some of these reports can be recreated using a universe instead of one generated by the RCT.

If you decide that the new derived SQL universe must stay, take a moment to look at the WHERE clause of the derived table. Try to move as many restrictions as possible out of the universe and into the Web Intelligence report as Query Filters. Fewer restrictions will make the universe more generic and capable of answering more questions (and satisfying future report requests) than the original report. For commonly used restrictions, add predefined filters in the universe to make report creation easier.

If the odds are unlikely that nobody outside of IT will directly use the universe generated by the Report Conversion Tool, evaluate if it makes more sense to replace the free-hand SQL Desktop Intelligence document with a Crystal Report. Honestly, I’ve been surprised that Crystal Reports is barely mentioned by SAP when discussing Desktop Intelligence. There’s even talk of adding free-hand SQL to a future (post BI 4.0) release of Web Intelligence (see related article, Free-Hand SQL Isn’t Free). So perhaps my advice to choose Crystal Reports is ill-advised? Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

It’s the end of the world as we know it— time to send Desktop Intelligence reports into retirement. But thankfully, the Report Conversion Tool, even in XI R2 and XI 3.1, can help us reach our goal. Happy conversions!

SAP Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2011

Here are some BI resolutions that can improve your organization’s BI effectiveness in the new year.

Ahhhh, a new year. Time for IT reorganizations, kick-off meetings, and whiteboards filled with new team goals. And 2011 is the year that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4) will be released – the first major release since SAP acquired BusinessObjects. As part of your IT goal setting, it’s always a good idea to revisit BI strategy and tactics. Here are some BI resolutions that can improve your organization’s BI effectiveness for the new year.

1. Upgrade or retire older SAP BusinessObjects and Crystal Enterprise versions

If you’re enterprise is actively using BusinessObjects Enterprise 5.x, 6.x, XI R1, XI R2 or any edition of Crystal Enterprise, it’s time to upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. You might be tempted to say “everything is working fine”, but a closer examination will show that these products are out of patch support. You might also be tempted to classify your BI environment as “stable”, but the rest of your enterprise has upgraded operating systems, databases, Microsoft Office, browsers and Java in the name of improved security and stability. It’s simply not worth the desktop security risk to keep users on Internet Explorer 6 or out-of-support versions of Java. And none of these older editions of BusinessObjects or Crystal Enterprise support Microsoft Windows 7 (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7).

2. Halt all active Desktop Intelligence development

Whether you are using XI R2 or XI 3.1, it’s time to stop actively building Desktop Intelligence reports. Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 is the last edition – it has vanished from SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 that will be released early this year. Remember that Desktop Intelligence can be deactivated from the Central Management Console, either all at once or on a group by group basis, even if the software is still on your users’ desktops.

3. Audit existing Desktop Intelligence reports with an eye toward retirement

XI 3.0 introduced auditing of Desktop Intelligence (and Web Intelligence Rich Client) via the Client Audit Processing Service (CAPS). Auditing can be a great help for large numbers of undocumented Desktop Intelligence reports and should be on any bullet list of “reasons to upgrade” from the older platforms mentioned above. Use auditing statistics to reduce the number of reports that require conversion to Web Intelligence.

4. Create a project plan and time line to retire all Desktop Intelligence reports

Web Intelligence gets better with each release. Many Desktop Intelligence reports can be retired in XI R2. Even more can be retired with XI 3.1 SP2 or higher.  SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 promises to have the richest set of Desktop Intelligence features in Web Intelligence 4.0. So you may not be able to get rid of 100% of your Desktop Intelligence reports until you adopt BI 4.0, but at least you’ll have a manageable plan. Be sure to include publications (report bursting) in your plan. XI R2 publications only supported Desktop Intelligence. XI 3.0 and higher supports Desktop Intelligence publications but adds support for publications created with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence. Of these, publications based on Crystal Reports have the most robust feature set. Don’t immediately assume that a Desktop Intelligence publication should become a Web Intelligence publication – Crystal Reports may be the best option.

4. Replace cumbersome advanced rights with custom Access Levels

In XI R2, many security situations had to be resolved with advanced rights. Although flexible, they aren’t terribly self-documenting or easy to troubleshoot. XI 3.0 introduced custom Access Levels, which is one of my favorite features. Develop some good naming conventions and you’ll find your security model much easier to build and troubleshoot (if you’re currently on XI R2, you’ll appreciate the improved security troubleshooting tools in the XI 3.1 CMC).

5. Revisit Active Directory or LDAP authentication

If you’re still doing user and password management with BusinessObjects, revisit the use of Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP (depending on your corporate standards) with the security organization in your IT department, especially if you’ll be upgrading to XI 3.1 or BI 4.0 in 2011. Remember that BusinessObjects supports multiple authentication modes, so use of “third-party” authentication like AD and LDAP can be gradually phased in.

6. Celebrate diversity

If your reporting is 100% Crystal Reports or 100% Desktop Intelligence/Web Intelligence, it’s time to embrace the other tool. Many IT organizations are segregated, with Crystal Reports developers in one silo and “classic BusinessObjects” developers in another. In most cases, the entire organization benefits from a central Business Intelligence Competency Center or Center of Excellence. And that centralized organization benefits from having as many different crayons in the BI toolbox as possible. If creating a BICC is too large of a step, at least begin by sprucing up IT’s front door and centralizing and streamlining the business process for new information requests.

7. Create a BI steering committee

If you don’t already have one, create a BI steering committee. Look for your BI organizations biggest supporters. Also identify key data consumers that may not be currently using your current infrastructure. Identify at least three specific goals to assist all of these folks better in the new year.

8. Read Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (read my book review) is the single best business intelligence book that I’ve encountered. It’s comprehensive, vendor-neutral, and should be read and discussed by both IT and business professionals in your organization.

9. Start an internal user group

If you don’t have one, begin a quarterly internal user group. It’s a great way to increase user adoption and knock down the barriers between the business and IT.

10. Join ASUG

ASUG is the Americas’ SAP Users Group and provides lots of resources through webinars, conferences, and local chapters throughout North America.  Membership in 2011 is still free to BusinessObjects organizations. Lobby your organization to join and lower any internal barriers to participation in local and national events.

2011 promises to be an exciting year as technologies such as mobile devices and in-memory databases enter the mainstream. What are your organization’s business intelligence resolutions for 2011 – please post a comment. Good luck with your BI endeavors and enjoy the journey!

Shouldn’t we all stop looking at Desktop Intelligence?

We should stop looking at Desktop Intelligence.

Today I attended an interesting SAP webinar entitled “BI 4.0 – Did you think about your upgrade?” by David Francois Gonzalez with the SAP Technology RIG Americas (the very useful slide deck can be downloaded from the SAP Community Network).  Afterward, I tweeted:

 

To which Pieter Hendrikx responded:

@ericvallo @oswaldxxl @dallasmarks shouldn’t we all stop looking at Deski? That’s what my [Diversified Semantic Layer] conclusion was. Better invest in #WebI

And of course, Pieter is absolutely correct.  We should stop looking at Desktop Intelligence.  But Desktop Intelligence is like a gruesome automobile accident during rush hour- some of us can’t stop looking (see related discussion on the BusinessObjects Board).  But the SAP BI roadmap is clear- Web Intelligence is the future, Desktop Intelligence is the past.  Desktop Intelligence is not supported by SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.  It’s gone.  Really.  Crystal Reports 2011 and Web Intelligence 4.0 represent the future of reporting for SAP.

Some organizations already use Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence exclusively.  For them, the path to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 is relatively straightforward.  Other organizations, particularly those who have used “classic” BusinessObjects releases prior to XI Release 2 (XI R2), still may have an investment in Desktop Intelligence that has to be managed.  But the good news is you can take proactive steps today from either XI Release 2 or XI 3.1 – you don’t have to wait for BI 4.0.

Organizations on both XI R2 and XI 3.1 should immediately begin phasing out the creation of new Desktop Intelligence reports by revoking Deski application rights and retraining users to use Web Intelligence.  Some reports cannot yet be converted to Web Intelligence (I plan to address Desktop Intelligence phase out strategies in the coming weeks).  These reports may have to wait for the BI 4.0 Report Conversion Tool.  But many can be converted today with your current platform.  Organizations on XI R2 have fewer conversion options than XI 3.1 (and therefore much incentive to upgrade to XI 3.1 in the near term).  In addition, Desktop Intelligence reports are audited by the XI 3.x platform (sadly not in XI R2), so it is possible to identify obsolete reports and retire them rather than expend effort to convert them.

Any organizations still on “classic” BusinessObjects 5 or 6 (I know you’re still out there) cannot go directly to BI 4.0 as the upgrade tools only support XI R2 and higher.  These organizations should plan a migration to XI 3.1 so they are poised for the future.

For long-time Business Objects users, it’s the end of the world as we know it.  But SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 will be available early next year.  And I feel fine.

Desktop Intelligence and the Report Conversion Tool

Dates and the Report Conversion Tool

or, The End of the World as We Know It (Part 2)

In Desktop Intelligence, it’s possible to display “yesterday” on a report using the following formula:

CurrentDate()-1

The Report Conversion Tool will convert the formula; however, Web Intelligence will not understand it, displaying the following error:

#DATATYPE

The formula can usually be corrected in either the converted Web Intelligence document or the original Desktop Intelligence document.  However, today I encountered the formula in the document header and was unable to modify the Web Intelligence cell (in Web Intelligence XI R2 – sigh – not sure if 3.x handles this item better).  So I corrected it first in Desktop Intelligence and re-ran the Report Conversion Tool.  The corrected formula should be:

RelativeDate(CurrentDate(), -1)

On a related note, I frequently find CurrentDate() displayed on a scheduled report to indicate when the report was generated.  Both CurrentDate() and LastExecutionDate() return the same date/time at the time of scheduling.  So either one can be used to schedule and distribute an Adobe PDF, for example.  However, if a user views the document instance in the InfoView portal, the CurrentDate() no longer reflects when the data was generated.  Therefore, it is recommended to always use LastExecutionDate() to display the age of the data, because it will always be correct.

In my next post, I’ll look at migration strategies Desktop Intelligence documents that use Free Hand SQL and “do not regenerate SQL” (see related article, Retiring Desktop Intelligence Free-Hand SQL) as we consider a world without Desktop Intelligence.

The End of the World as We Know It (Part 1)

For SAP BusinessObjects customers, the end of the world as we know it will occur in 2011 with the general availability of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.

Although many, including Hollywood, jumped on the 2012 end-of-the-world bandwagon, SAP is getting the party started earlier.  For SAP BusinessObjects customers, the end of the world as we know it will occur in 2011 with the general availability of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (code name Aurora).  Folks in the beta program are revealing that Desktop Intelligence is not present in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 distribution.  While the temptation for some may be to go into shock, the news of Desktop Intelligence’s demise is really old news first announced as part of the XI roadmap in 2004 after then-BusinessObjects acquired Crystal Decisions.  Desktop Intelligence was going to disappear “someday” and now we’re learning that “someday” is really 2011.

Disclaimer: I am not part of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 beta/ramp-up program.  Although I would like to get in, if somebody could please show me the secret handshake.

Desktop Intelligence, in previous versions known simply as “Business Objects”, “Business Objects Reporter”, or “the full client”, used to be the only reporting tool in the BusinessObjects arsenal.  Although Web Intelligence had gone through several incarnations, it wasn’t until Web Intelligence XI R2 that the tool became powerful enough to handle most common reporting tasks.  However, at the same time, Crystal Reports was fully integrated into the Business Objects product portfolio.  Then Voyager appeared, soon to be reincarnated as Analytics (code-named Pioneer).  And Xcelsius, uh, I mean SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design.

What we’ve seen from SAP and other vendors is that there isn’t “one BI tool that rules them all”, but instead tools focused toward specific user audiences and applications.  In its day, Desktop Intelligence tried to cover all known bases.  And although Web Intelligence incorporates most Desktop Intelligence features, it still doesn’t cover all of them even in the most recent XI 3.1 SP3 release.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring The End of the World as We Know It.  Life without Desktop Intelligence.  I’ll explore certain Desktop Intelligence features in XI R2 and XI 3.x and look at some strategies for living in a world without Desktop Intelligence.

Convincing Reasons to Move to Web Intelligence

Henri Theuwissen provides some solid reasons for moving to Web Intelligence.

Henri Theuwissen has written Convincing Reasons to Move to Web Intelligence, a thoughtful and detailed review of how organizations can move from Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence.  Henri makes the case that

The conversion from Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence:
– Reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO).
– Increases the ease of deployment and upgrade.
– Offers better web-based performance and higher interactivity over the web.
– Is more closely coupled with other capabilities offered by SAP products such as Xcelsius, Explorer, Live Office, Mobile or BI widgets

Although I teach the official SAP Web Intelligence course, the course doesn’t draw parallels to Desktop Intelligence.  So I’m very thankful to Henri for putting together a comprehensive resource.  My first exposure to BusinessObjects was in 2003 with version 5.1.  I remember my mentor Jeff Bartel, now an SAP Sales Consulting Manager, telling me to “not worry about Web Intelligence”, as it really wasn’t useful.  Web Intelligence became a much more viable tool beginning with Web Intellgence 6.5, took some additional steps with XI Release 1, and came into its own with XI Release 2.  Web Intelligence XI 3.0 added the Rich Client and Web Intelligence XI 3.1 SP2 continues the trend of adding functionality currently present in Desktop Intelligence along with never before seen features like input controls, which have no Desktop Intelligence equivalent.  Henri indicates that the maturity of Web Intelligence will continue later this year with the next major release, code named Aurora.  Aurora will be the first major BusinessObjects release under SAP’s leadership, so it will be interesting to see what happens with product names (Interactive Analysis?), version numbers (XI 4.0, or something else?), and new features.

In any case, the days of Desktop Intelligence are numbered and customers should embrace Web Intelligence as much as possible.  Any advanced requirement that cannot be handled by Web Intelligence should be implemented using Crystal Reports, not Desktop Intelligence.  But there really are many convincing reasons to move to Web Intelligence and Henri Theuwissen points the way.

Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles

Today is the second day of the 2009 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Dallas, Texas.  This afternoon, I’ll be presenting my second of three breakouts, “Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles.”  This breakout was a bit of a challenge.  On one hand, it’s a remix of my very first user conference presentation that I gave at Insight 2006 in San Francisco, California.  On the other hand, publication capabilities on the XI 3.0/XI 3.1 platform is much more robust than what was possible on XI R2 in 2006.  Honestly, I think two hours would be required to get through everything thoroughly.  So certain topics didn’t make the final cut.  But I’m keeping to an hour and hope that everyone stays awake (I’m presenting at 4 PM – the last breakout slot).

Publications serve a noble role – the efficient bursting of personalized information to a large audience.  I’m currently helping a customer migrate from Business Objects 5.1.8.  From a distance, it looks like there are hundreds of scheduled jobs in Broadcast Agent that need rescheduling on XI.  But upon closer inspection, there are really just a handful of reports that have dozens of variations to support personalization.  Although it’s not within scope of the migration project, I hope that my client will look into publications and see how it can reduce the complexity of too many reports and too many scheduled jobs to maintain.

Do you have a “success story” with Business Objects publications?  Feel free to comment and share your success.