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?

Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet

Declaring Adobe Flash “dead” sadly does not make it so.

At this year’s SAP SAPPHIRE conference Ty Miller, SAP VP of Solution Management, declared that “Flash is dead!”. He was referring, of course, to SAP’s dashboard roadmap and the transition from Adobe Flash-based Xcelsius/Dashboards to HTML5-based Design Studio (see related article, The Future of SAP Dashboards). While that high-profile transition is well underway, Adobe Flash is still lurking in other dark corners of the SAP BI platform.

Adobe Flash in the Central Management Console

Monitoring

The Monitoring dashboard introduced with the BI 4.0 Central Management Console is built with Adobe Flash. Two years ago, Mirko Langhorst posted the following on the SAP Idea Place:

We would like to totally get rid of Flash, the component in the CMC using Flash is the new Monitoring application. It would be great to change this HTML5, so the CMC would become Flash-free

Get Rid of Adobe Flash 01 500

Sadly, SAP buried this idea in the SAP Idea Graveyard, tagging it as “Not Planned by SAP”. Which is unfortunate, because the monitoring dashboard isn’t the only source of Adobe Flash frustration in the BI platform. Or just frustration in general (see related article, Less Flash, More Substance for SAP Business Intelligence Monitoring).

Get Rid of Adobe Flash 02 500

Visual Difference

The Visual Difference feature introduced with the BI 4.0 Central Management Console is built with Adobe Flash.

Adobe Flash in CMC Visual Difference

Promotion Management

Adobe Flash is used by the Override Settings in Promotion Management. And as an aside, all but the latest support packs of the BI platform use the much maligned Apache Derby for overrides (see SAP Mentor Greg Myers’ epic article, Derby Maybe).

Get Rid of Adobe Flash 03 500

Adobe Flash in the BI Launch Pad

Content Linking with BI Workspaces

Not content to limit use of Adobe Flash to the Central Management Console, SAP uses Adobe Flash in its implementation of BI Workspace content linking in the BI Launch Pad.

Get Rid of Adobe Flash 04 500

 

Crystal Reports for Enterprise Prompts

Crystal Reports for Enterprise uses Adobe Flash for scheduled prompts.

Crystal Reports for Enterprise Prompts with Adobe Flash

Crystal Reports 2013 does not use Adobe Flash.

Crystal Reports 2013 Prompts without Adobe Flash

Explorer

I haven’t mentioned SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, but SAP’s recent plans to fold it into SAP Lumira (and therefore SAP HANA) have effectively marooned it on an Adobe Flash island (see SAP executive Jayne Landry’s related article, Run Simple: Convergence of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Product Portfolio). It’s likely that any Explorer replacement will be built on HTML5, not Adobe Flash. But it’s unclear when SAP intends to deliver Explorer-like functionality by Lumira or any other tool in the BI platform.

Dashboards and Xcelsius

Of course, we can’t forget that SAP Dashboards require Adobe Flash at runtime.

Time to Retire Adobe Flash in SAP BI Platform

A decade ago, Adobe Flash had its place providing rich visuals for web applications. In today’s mobile and cloud-centric world, Adobe Flash is a relic. Instead of visual excitement, it generates support and security anxiety. For example, Apple last week took the drastic step of disabling all versions of Adobe Flash except the latest 14.0.0.145 (see related Apple bulletin). But this is two versions ahead of SAP, which has only recently added official support for version 12 in its latest patch levels of the BI platform.

The time is right for SAP to articulate a clear timeline for a plug-in free version of the SAP BI platform (see related article, Thoughts on BI 5.0). Until then, please show your support for Mirko Langhorst’s great idea.

Update (September 17, 2015): SAP has indicated that Promotion Management in BI 4.2 has been rewritten to no longer require Adobe Flash. However, SAP has not published a roadmap to address these other Adobe Flash dependencies.

Less Flash, More Substance for SAP Business Intelligence Monitoring

Adobe Flash no longer belongs in enterprise software.

This article is my 400th published blog article. Thanks for reading!

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Monitoring

Monitoring, along with Platform Search, Promotion Management (formerly Lifecycle Management), and Visual Difference, was introduced as a marquee feature of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform, the first major release of the platform bearing SAP’s distinctive fingerprints. But after the initial fanfare of the BI 4.0 launch, SAP seemed satisfied that these features could appear on a checklist of “enterprise BI” features. None of these capabilities received significant updates in last year’s BI 4.1 update (although to be fair, there have been modest enhancements in support packs 1 and 2, with more rumored for the upcoming Support Pack 3).

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 Monitoring suffers from two key deficiencies. First, the well-documented reliance on Apache Derby as a trending database on the back end (see related series of articles from EV Technologies, Demolition Derby). Second, the front-end is built with Adobe Flash. While this “rich interface” seemed like a good idea five years ago on the BI 4.0 drawing board, the use of Flash is now a liability. The Adobe Flash plug-in is crash-prone and a source of security issues and frequent patch updates. And as we’ve seen with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, the use of an Adobe Flash interface seems to actually slow SAP’s ability to innovate (a View SQL button, anyone?).

Mirko Langhorst posted the following brilliant idea to the SAP Idea Place, which sadly has already been flagged as “Not Planned by SAP“.

SAP Idea Place Eliminate Flash from CMC Monitoring

And Kristof Speeckaert speaks for many SAP BusinessObjects administrators with the following tweet:

The monitoring engine is an important feature of the SAP BusinessObjects platform. However, its implementation in BI 4.0 was only a first step. The SAP roadmap for dashboards eschews Adobe Flash in favor of HTML5 (see related article, The Future of SAP Dashboards). And while its roadmap is less clear, it’s reasonable to assume that the next release of Explorer-like functionality will share and extend the HTML5 technology present in SAP Lumira. In a similar way, it’s critical that both Apache Derby and Adobe Flash are quickly phased out of SAP’s BI platform.

Nobody demos an administrator’s tool like the Central Management Console from a keynote stage. So it’s easy for SAP product managers to nix enhancements and spend limited resources elsewhere. But keeping less-visible or vocal IT managers and administrators energized about the BI platform is just as important as C-level executives and power users. I hope SAP will take a second look at the enterprise features of their enterprise BI platform and take the next steps to continue their evolution and innovation.

What are your impressions of the BI 4.x monitoring engine?