Promotion Management gets a Promotion

SAP is listening to our concerns about promotion management on the BI platform.

It’s generally not a good idea to tweet when you’re angry. And I really try hard not to. But sometimes- in a moment of weakness- I’ve been known to say unkind things about SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Promotion Management.

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Or try to laugh through my tears with some humor (see related article, Do I Feel Lucky? Musings on Promotion Management). If you’re not familiar with Promotion Management, I’ll try to describe it. Without using four letter words.

Promotion Management is a feature of the Central Management Console that, along with Version Management and Visual Difference, business intelligence administrators use to move content through a software development lifecycle (SDLC) from one environment to another. For example, from development to test to production. Promotion Management is usually one of the last things that you use in a BI4 migration project. All eyes are watching you. And it’s a really unpleasant feeling to be diagnosing why your job failed to promote properly in the 11th hour. Trust me, I know from experience.

Promotion Management was introduced in 2008 with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 as Lifecycle Manager or LCM (see related article, Business Objects Lifecycle Manager – first impressions) but many customers continued to rely on the Import Wizard for content promotion. In 2013, it’s easy to forget that back in 2005 the original Import Wizard wasn’t without its own flaws. Particularly for those classic BusinessObjects customers upgrading from BusinessObjects 5.1 or 6.x. But after listening to users gripe at each annual conference, the Import Wizard gradually improved. So much that early adopters of BI 4.0 are asking for the return of the Import Wizard, which is no longer part of the platform (see Please bring back the Import Wizard on the SAP Idea Place).

While nobody has gotten fired for using Promotion Management (at least to my knowledge), neither has anybody gotten a promotion by using it.

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Promotion Management can drive you to your knees in prayer

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Or more fervent demonstrations of religious expression

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Promotion Management can drive you to drink

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Or it can lead you to wonder what the Promotion Management development team has been drinking. Or smoking.
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This week, ASUG sponsored webcast What is New in BI 4.1 Promotion Management with Kai Chan of SAP. Promotion Management has officially been given a promotion in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1, which should go into general availability (GA) later this year. Beyond roadmaps and features, the most important thing that Kai said was that SAP was listening to customer concerns about lifecycle management and working to resolve them. SAP has even taken the bold step of reassigning development of Promotion Management to a new team in Vancouver, BC.

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I’m grateful that SAP is taking these steps (see related article, Collaboration). As you can see from the roadmap above, it’s unlikely that all of our concerns will be addressed by the time of 4.1 GA. But like the SAP Lumira team, the Promotion Management team will be taking small steps with each minor release and not making us wait for a major one.

With Promotion Management working better than ever, perhaps I’ll earn a promotion, too.

How do you feel about SAP’s recent announcements about Promotion Management?

Do I Feel Lucky? Musings on Promotion Management

Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Nothing as exhilarating as having all eyes of the project team on you as you use Promotion Management (formerly known as Lifecycle Manager) to move SAP BusinessObjects universes and reports into production at the 11th hour.

Do you feel lucky?

I know what you’re thinking. “Did he create six Web Intelligence reports or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is Promotion Management, the lifecycle management tool for the most powerful business intelligence suite in the world, and would blow your promotion job clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?

Today when I create and run a Promotion Management job, I get nervous, say a prayer, and hope I get lucky. I’m currently helping a customer apply a patch from BI 4.0 Support Pack 5 Patch 6 to Support Pack 6. Unfortunately, Promotion Management does not correctly calculate linked universe dependencies and the core universe does not get promoted to its proper destination (refer to SAP KB 1767657 for details). The issue was corrected in Support Pack 4 Patch 4; however, that patch- and many others- was forward fit to SP6 (refer to SAP BusinessObjects maintenance schedule and forward fit plan), not to SP5.

Let’s hope that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1– which was released to customers (RTC) and into ramp-up this week- brings some improvements to the promotion management process when it goes into general availability (GA), expected in late Q3 2013.

Business Objects Lifecycle Manager – first impressions

My first impressions of LifeCycle Manager for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

One of the most anticipated features of BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 is the new LifeCycle Manager (LCM). In its first iteration, LCM is a separate web-based application from the CMC. According to David Brockington, who presented a breakout at the recent Global BusinessObjects Network user conference, the next release of BusinessObjects Enterprise (XI 3.2?, XI 4.0?, nobody’s telling) will integrate LCM into the Central Management Console as well as introduce additional features and platform support that just couldn’t fit into the inaugural release.

Getting Started with LCM

The LCM installation process was painless. We’re already using Tomcat as our web application server, so the default deployment was sufficient. Finding the documentation was a bit of a challenge. I’ve so far been unable to find LCM documentation on either the SAP Help Portal or SAP Support Portal. I also didn’t find it in an “obvious” installed location but did manage to locate the PDF files in the temporary directory used by the self-extracting zip download.

On the security front, LCM shows up in the CMC as an application. By default, the Administrators group has Full Control and Everyone can View, which is ironic because Everyone cannot (thankfully) log onto LCM. Our pratice is to simply assign administrative users to the Administrator group, either directly or via a subgroup, so no special security tweaks were required to get going.

The inaugural release of LCM utilizes the open-source Subversion as its version control system. Future releases will provide hooks into other version control systems such as IBM/Rational ClearCase. In addition, an unspecified future release of Business Objects Data Services (Data Integrator + Data Quality) will utilize LCM rather than its current stand-alone scheme of local and corporate repositories.

First Impressions

There are some interesting nuances in the UI that we’ll have to see how they play out in the next release. For example, promotion jobs can be organized into user defined folders. However, the movement of jobs is done using a “Cut and Paste” metaphor which is what InfoView XI 3.0/3.1 does, not the “Move/Copy” metaphor from the XI 3.0/XI 3.1 CMC. For whatever reason, I prefer “Move/Copy”, as it’s a single operation, rather than a two-step cut and paste.

Also, I find the workflow for mappings a bit awkward, but I’m grateful that the LCM already supports re-mapping universe connections, QaaWS service URLs (really pumped about this one), and Crystal Reports connections.

It also seems that the addition of CMC folders for QaaWS in XI 3.1 caught the LCM developers off guard. Everything works, but the QaaWS should have a tree control but doesn’t.

As you can see from the screenshot below, success was achievable without too much sweat.

We did have some minor glitches today. LCM appeared to become inoperative; however, the culprit was not LCM. The Administrator account that I was using was accidentally switched from named user back to concurrent (our environment has both license types). Since multiple team members use and abuse the Administrator account, I later learned that we were exceeding the number of concurrent users. The Administrator was switched from concurrent back to named user, and all was well. Don’t hold me to this, but it seems that LCM uses a LOT of connections, so you’ll probably want to run it as a named, not concurrent, user. I’ll need to spend time researching this topic further.

Overall, the LCM software developers and product managers are to be commended for getting so much thoughtful functionality into the first release of the product. As today was my first time using LCM, the purpose of this post is to provide my initial enthusiastic impressions. We will be utilizing LCM extensively through the remainder of the year and I’m sure I’ll have more to say later… Until then…