Printing (or not printing) Crystal Reports with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1

Some tips for getting your Crystal Reports to the BI 4.1 platform.

I recently wrapped up a BI 4.1 upgrade project that was 80% Crystal Reports and 20% Web Intelligence. The SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 system was older than the tenure of the team that supported it, so some of its tribal knowledge had been lost. One of the things that we overlooked was printing requirements. Very few Crystal Reports were actually scheduled to print; however, many of Crystal Reports had printers defined.

While the challenges were few and easily managed, here are some lessons learned that I’ll be applying to my next BI 4.1 upgrade project.

Printer cartridges for printing

Install Printer Drivers as Part of BI4 Prerequisites

Either immediately before or immediately after BI 4.1 installation but before you begin using the Upgrade Management Tool, take a few moments to install the most common printer drivers in use in your organization. At a minimum, take a walk around your work area and install printer drivers for those models. And choose one of those nearby printers to be the default printer for each node in your SAP BusinessObjects cluster.

Missing printer drivers can significantly increase migration time of Crystal Reports via the Upgrade Management Tool (SAP KB 1701318) requiring the timeout to be increased (SAP KB 1804414). We didn’t realize the reason for needing a much higher timeout was the lack of printer drivers. We had already migrated the content and moved onto testing, only to learn that scheduled Crystal Reports with defined printers would have a job status of running but never complete. Which leads to the next best practice.

Install Crystal Reports 2013 On the Job Server

In our development environment, we installed Crystal Reports 2013 on the node containing the Adaptive Job Server. Depending on which development tools you’re using, you may also want to install the SAP BusinessObjects Client Tools (Web Intelligence Rich Client, et. al.), Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and Dashboards, as they can be helpful when troubleshooting. In most cases, running a Crystal Report in the client yields much more actionable troubleshooting information then the brief error from the Adaptive Job Server.

And with printer drivers in particular, Crystal Reports 2013 offered to install them automatically.

Do You Trust This Printer?

While I wouldn’t criticize somebody for installing the clients on a production node, we never identified an issue that required it. Plus, being stingy with client installs means fewer things to patch later.

Remove Unneeded Printer Specifications from Crystal Reports

If your Crystal Report doesn’t have a schedule to print requirement, you’re better off not specifying a printer.

  • A printer specification can slow the overall performance of a Crystal Report (see SAP KB 1197593 and 1205023).
  • A printer specification can prevent an InfoView (or BI Launch Pad) user from printing a Crystal Report to the default desktop printer (SAP KB 1202786).
  • Unfortunately, there’s no way to make “no printer” the default (see SAP KB 1220244).

To remove the printer specification, simply choose File -> Page Setup from the Crystal Reports 2013 menu and check the “No Printer” box (shown unchecked). This action should be on your checklist prior to publishing a Crystal Report to the BI platform. Or something to verify before promoting the Crystal Report to a higher environment with Promotion Management.

Crystal Reports No Printer

Make Sure Printed Reports Still Deliver Value

We discovered that one of our printed Crystal Reports was no longer in use. In fact, the defined printer was nowhere to be found. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 would run the job anyway with a result of “success”. But BI 4.1 ran the same job with a result of “failed” because the printer was missing and therefore did not send a response.

Consult with users to see if they’d rather receive a printed report on a shared file system or via email. Or simply run the reports on-demand from the BI Launch Pad when necessary. Keep track of any print jobs that you halt in a spreadsheet with its average number of pages and printing frequency. When your upgrade is complete, you can compute the annual cost savings of making the BI 4.1 system more “green” than the one it replaced.

Don’t know who “owns” a printed report? I won’t tell anyone if you simply stop delivering the report after BI 4.1 cutover and see if anyone calls to complain.

Influence SAP to Bring Feature Parity to Web Intelligence

Desktop Intelligence also had the ability to schedule to a printer but this feature is still lacking in the latest versions of Web Intelligence (see related article, All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print). The idea is “under review” by SAP but has languished in the SAP Idea Place for nearly four years. Nobody should be forced into porting an existing Desktop Intelligence or Web Intelligence document to Crystal Reports simply because they have a printing requirement.

If you haven’t yet voted, please lend your support to the idea (see SAP Idea Place, Schedule Web Intelligence documents to a printer).

Are there other Crystal Reports best practices you followed for your SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 upgrade? Please share them in the comments?

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.

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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.

Update (November 30, 2018): As of July 17, 2018 with the release of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 SP6, ALL of the Adobe Flash dependencies mentioned in this article have been replaced with HTML5 equivalents, making it a worthy upgrade from whatever patch level your organization is currently using.

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?

 

True Desktop Intelligence With SAP Lumira

Modernizing Desktop Intelligence without leaving the desktop.

Last October, I performed a system health check for a customer using SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. SAP BusinessObjects is an OEM package that comes with the financial system that runs their large yet highly specialized business. Like their industry peers that use the same solution, the company has upgraded from classic BusinessObjects 5 and 6 to XI R2 and currently XI 3.1, meaning that Desktop Intelligence is the overwhelming source of reports that help them run their business. Aside from the sample documents and universes provided by their ERP vendor, nearly all of the Desktop Intelligence documents live out in the wild, on desktops throughout the organization. Of course, the BI 4.1 platform offers limited support for Desktop Intelligence (see related article, Desktop Intelligence, Back for a Limited Time). But everyone, including this XI 3.1 customer, recognizes that the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack is only a short-term solution.

I’ve seen this Desktop Intelligence scenario a lot since XI R2 was first introduced nearly 10 years ago. As part of my health check, I first made sure that the current hardware was sufficient to support the proposed number of simultaneous Web Intelligence users. Then I made sure that enough Web Intelligence Processing Servers and connections would be available. I explained to the customer the need to work with key stakeholders to identify critical Desktop Intelligence documents, export them to the BI platform into a well-designed folder structure, then convert them to Web Intelligence using the Report Conversion Tool.

This strategy made sense in 2004. But does it continue to make sense in 2014?

As business intelligence professionals, we’ve spent the last 10 years mocking desktop software and worshiping at the altar of web-based software. We’ve rolled our eyes at Desktop Intelligence diehards and showed no sympathy to users that have waited 10 years for SAP to deliver grouping functionality (it finally arrived in BI 4.1 SP2). We laughed in the face of WebiJavaGeddon (see related article, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste). But today a new business intelligence revolution is occurring and its back on the desktop where it all started (see related article, Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying Tableau). Delicious irony.

What if old Desktop Intelligence documents could be modernized without leaving the desktop? What if SAP Lumira could open a Desktop Intelligence document? And even if it couldn’t replicate the tables and charts accurately enough (or at all), what if it at least imported the document’s data providers properly? Ideally, a desktop BI user could convert the documents themselves rather than bundling them up for the IT department’s Web Intelligence conversion project. Self-service BI upgrades, not just self-service BI.

I posted my idea to the SAP Idea Place in December 2013.

SAP Idea Place Allow Lumira to Open Desktop Intelligence

Sadly, the idea was rejected— “not planned by SAP”— because “Web Intelligence is the natural upgrade path for Deski documents.” As much as I love Web Intelligence, I would argue that it’s the historical upgrade path for Desktop Intelligence documents. It’s no longer the logical upgrade path and should no longer be the only upgrade path.

The SAP Idea Place is largely based on the popular My Starbucks Idea site used by Starbucks to engage with its customers. In his recently published book Leading the Starbucks Way, author Joseph Michelli writes that:

As items gain popularity through the votes of members in the community, moderators engage in dialogue about those ideas. Cecile [Hudon] notes, “We encourage the moderators to comment and look for responses to the most popular ideas each week, and also look for diamond in the rough ideas— innovative ideas that have low point scores because they may be too new of a concept for people to recognize as a good idea.” [emphasis mine]

This business intelligence barista thinks a Desktop Intelligence extension for SAP Lumira qualifies as a diamond in the rough idea. I hope SAP will give the idea a second look.

What do you think of my idea for SAP Lumira and Desktop Intelligence? Would you consider voting or adding a comment to my idea on the SAP Idea Place?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sizing the Adaptive Processing Server in BI 4.1

The Server Configuration Wizard just might be the best new feature of SAP BI 4.1.

This week, I installed SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP1 as an upgrade to an existing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 SP6 environment. BI 4.1 brings a lot of small refinements to the BI 4.0 platform but still whets our appetites for the release of BI 4.2 next year.

The Adaptive Processing Server

The Adaptive Processing Server in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 contained twenty-one discrete services. BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3 added the Insight to Action Service. And if the optional Design Studio server components are installed, there will be a total of twenty-four discrete services in a single Adaptive Processing Server.

  1. Adaptive Connectivity Service
  2. Analysis Application Service (optional Design Studio server component)
  3. BEx Web Applications Service
  4. Client Auditing Proxy Service
  5. Custom Data Access Service
  6. Data Federation Service
  7. Document Recovery Service
  8. DSL Bridge Service
  9. Excel Data Access Service
  10. Insight to Action Service (BI 4.0 FP3 and higher)
  11. Lifecycle Management ClearCase Service
  12. Lifecycle Management Service
  13. Monitoring Service
  14. Multi Dimensional Analysis Service (MDAS)
  15. Platform Search Service
  16. Publishing Post Processing Service
  17. Publishing Service
  18. Rebean Service
  19. Security Token Service
  20. Translation Service
  21. Visual Difference Service
  22. Visualization Service
  23. Web Intelligence Monitoring Service

Introducing the System Configuration Wizard

Deciding what to do with the Adaptive Processing Server was probably the single most difficult thing in planning and sizing a SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 environment. Over time, SAP provided much better documentation and a fairly cookbook approach to how to split the Adaptive Processing Server and modify Java heap sizes.

Most of these best practices have been incorporated into a new System Configuration Wizard that can be found in the BI 4.1 Central Management Console.

BI41 System Configuration Wizard Icon

The adventure awaits…
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 01

It’s not a wizard unless it has a chipper greeting.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 02

Select the products you are using. This step goes beyond just the Adaptive Processing Server configuration and will shut down services that you’re not using. I’ll keep all of them selected.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 03

The next step is to choose server node capacity. Although my server has 32 GB RAM, I’m going to choose the 15-25 GB, or Medium, setting. Notice that the wizard will create 7 Adaptive Processing Servers with this selection.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 04

Next, choose the folders for the file repositories, logs, and temp space. In this case I’m upgrading from BI 4.0 and I’d like to keep my existing configuration.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 05

Almost there. Time to review how the wizard has been configured.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 06

Are you sure?
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 07

The mystic portal awaits!
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 08

Changes are completed. You can download a log file as well as a response file.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 09

Java Heap Space

A subtle but much appreciated improvement in BI 4.1 is the UI for the command line parameters. Here’s the text box in BI 4.0.

BI 4.0 APS Command Line Parameters

And here’s the improved text box in BI 4.1.

BI 4.1 APS Command Line Parameters

It is now possible to set the -Xms and -Xmx parameters without waiting what seems like hours for the command line to scroll by as it did in BI 4.0. Notice that -Xms now defaults to 512m instead of 32m and -Xmx defaults to 2g instead of 1g. BI 4.1 also adds the +UseParallelOldGC garbage collection parameter, mentioned in the latest SAP BusinessObjects Sizing Companion Guide, that is supposed to improve performance.

Issues with the System Configuration Wizard

I’m really pleased with how the System Configuration Wizard turned out in its first incarnation. But there are a few minor bugs that are worthy of correction.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and Design Studio

You’ll want to take time to review what the Server Configuration Wizard did and possibly make some adjustments. My only gripe here is that the service for Design Studio is not recognized by the wizard. The two servers that contained my Analysis service, BEx Web Applications service and MDAS service are still intact but they only contain Design Studio’s Analysis service. I will manually move it to the [node].APS.Analysis service, which is where the BEx Web Applications service and MDAS service now reside.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 10 Blur

After calling SAP Support and being told that this behavior was “by design”, I created an “enhancement” on the SAP Idea Place. Would you consider voting for my idea to include Design Studio functionality in the Server Configuration Wizard?

Duplicate CAPS Servers

For BI 4.1 SP1, both the Small (S) and Extra Large (XL) configurations create a duplicate Client Auditing Proxy Service. In each case, it’s easy enough to remedy. For the Small configuration, stop the [node name].APS.Core server and remove the redundant service. For the Extra Large configuration, the redundant CAPS is in the [node name].APS.Monitoring server.

Default File Names for Log and Response Files

The default file names for the log and response files are unique, but I wished they included the server node name, as I’d like to copy them off to a common location and remember which environment to associate them with.

Conclusion

After two years of trial and error and a lot of reading, the Adaptive Processing Server is a lot less intimidating than it was when BI 4.0 went GA back in September 2011. The new System Configuration Wizard in BI 4.1 is well done and may be the most important feature worth upgrading to BI 4.1. Well, that and the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack, of course.

Resources

Are you upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1? I’d love to hear some other upgrade experiences.

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.

LCM Twitter Status 349637215804080131

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.

LCM Twitter Status 347412622875951105

Promotion Management can drive you to your knees in prayer

LCM Twitter Status 307545746121560064

Or more fervent demonstrations of religious expression

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Promotion Management can drive you to drink

LCM Twitter Status 274330101875888129

Or it can lead you to wonder what the Promotion Management development team has been drinking. Or smoking.
LCM Twitter Status 266918716623708160

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.

BI41 Promotion Management Roadmap
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?

Is It Time for Caffeine-Free Web Intelligence?

Are you ready for Java-free Web Intelligence?

Apple_iWork_for_iCloud_600

Last week at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple introduced a product that nobody was really anticipating – iWork for iCloud. iWork is Apple’s productivity suite that includes word processing (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers) and presentation (Keynote) capabilities. Originally designed for the Mac, the apps have also been available on iOS for some time. Later this year, the desktop and mobile apps will be joined by cloud-based siblings, allowing users to access any document from any device (desktop, mobile, web). You can watch the entire WWDC keynote on Apple’s web site.

What was particularly stunning about the WWDC demo were the gorgeous animations and transitions in Keynote, rendered in a web browser without any reliance on plug-ins like Adobe Flash or Oracle Java. iWork for iCloud works on either Macs or PCs with Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later, and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later.

In a similar way, modern browsers have enabled analytics vendors like Tableau to bring browser-based authoring not only to the desktop but to mobile devices as well (see related article, Tableau 8 Roadshow). If the existence of Tableau 8 and Apple iWork for iCloud isn’t enough proof that the time is right for Java-free Web Intelligence, perhaps the existence of SAP KB 1754269 and SAP KB 1868143 is.

In Apple’s Java plug-in for OS X, for reasons related to platform security, Apple has blocked some of the APIs used by the BI 4.0 Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application (Java Applet). We are working with Apple to design and implement a fix. We plan to deliver a fix in H1 2013.

Web Intelligence relies on Java for many of its advanced features (see related article, The Other Web Intelligence Feature Gap). After being criticized for Java-based security holes, Apple has released new Java updates that have the unfortunate side-effect of crippling Web Intelligence. A difficult spot for a company that appears on SAP’s customer list as well as its supported platforms list.

Even Windows PCs think the Web Intelligence Java Report Panel is unsafe (see my related article on EV Technologies blog, Is Web Intelligence Unsafe?).

Web Intelligence is Potentially Unsafe

I am ready for SAP to deliver 100% SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence with zero plug-ins. I have no inside knowledge that SAP is working toward this goal. But I hope that I’ll see a developer labs preview on the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects User Conference keynote stage.

Resources

  • Vote for Jonathan Haun‘s idea to enhance Web Intelligence for HTML (non-Java version) on SAP Idea Place
  • SAP KB 1930493 – When using the Java viewer or Rich Internet Application for web intelligence with Java 7 update 45, a Java warning pop up appears every time you close it
  • SAP KB 1904873 – Web Intelligence Rich Internet Applet loads slower after installing Java 7 Update 25
  • SAP KB 1899825 – Expired Web Intelligence Java Certificates for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0
  • SAP KB 1851792 – In BI 4.x and XI 3.1 when using Java 7 update 21 and Java 6 update 45 when you close the Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application in the browser you will get a prompt to Block unsafe components
  • SAP KB 1754269 – When will Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application support Apple Safari 6 browser?

Are you ready for Java-free Web Intelligence?

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.