SAP Insider BI & HANA 2018

Come to Las Vegas to learn the latest and greatest about SAP solutions for analytics and HANA.

Join me this February 26 – March 1, 2018 at SAP Insider BI & HANA 2018, hosted by The Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada. BI & HANA 2018 is co-located with Basis & SAP Administration 2018. Registration permits you to attend both events.

This year I will be presenting a single session about universe design.

The fate of the (SAP BusinessObjects) universe depends on you:
Moving your classic universes and reports to the Information Design Tool

Thursday, March 01, 2018 / 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM / Raphael 3

Starting with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 in 2011, SAP introduced a new universe format (UNX) and design tool (Information Design Tool). In the years since its introduction, the Information Design Tool has become more robust and newer BI tools such as SAP Lumira 2.0 and SAP Analytics Cloud prefer its format over the legacy format. Starting with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4, SAP provides the Web Intelligence Change Source Utility to assist organizations in accelerating UNX adoption by converting their inventory of existing reports from the legacy UNV format. In this session, you’ll learn how to install and use this new utility to its maximum effectiveness. Specifically you’ll:

  • Learn how to install and configure the new Automation Framework in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5
  • Create scenarios to convert batches of legacy reports to the new UNX universe format
  • Tune and monitor the BI platform for maximum UNX support

The full conference agenda is available on the conference web site. Follow the conference activity on Twitter using the hashtag #BIHANA2018.

SAP Press will also be at the conference. Stop at their booth and ask for the special #BIHANA2018 discount on SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Fourth Edition!

UPDATE (03/16/2018): I’ve summarized some of the key points of my presentation on the SAP Community site. Read The Fate of the Universe Depends on You, Part 3.

Wait a minute! What about Designer?

Yeah, what about Designer?

Earlier this week, I mentioned an article by SAP trainers Martha Thieme and Antonio Soto about education offerings for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (see related SAP Community Network article, The Quick and Dirty Guide to SAP BusinessObjects Training). The article describes the training offerings for various BI 4.0 tools. But then the following recommendations appear after a discussion of the Information Design Tool classes.

Wait a minute! What about Designer?

Well, if you are a new customer to the SAP BusinessObjects tools, you should not be using Designer. You should be creating your universes using the Information Design Tool. If you are upgrading to the 4.0 tools, you still should be creating all your new universes using the Information Design Tool and using the old Designer (called Universe Design Tool in 4.0) only to maintain your old universes. Oh, and you should use the Information Design Tool to convert those old universes to the new universe format. (Tip: That’s a great job for interns!)

This is good textbook advice, and its what you would expect representatives from the software vendor to say. But two years after the introduction of BI 4.0, the Information Design Tool still isn’t mature enough to handle all of the capabilities of its predecessor, the Universe Design Tool (formerly known as Designer). Although the Information Design Tool in the upcoming BI 4.1 introduces some new features (predominantly around- sigh- SAP HANA), the situation is largely unchanged.  I’ve previously shared my frustrations with object formatting limitations, which remain in BI 4.1 (see related article, Object Formatting with the Information Design Tool). And Ryan Muldowney identifies some of the gaps in his article UNV versus UNX: Consuming Universes in BI 4.0. Ryan points out that some tools support UNV, some support UNX, and some support both formats. Unfortunately, this often means that both the original UNV and converted UNX must be maintained. Dave Rathbun shares similar experiences from Pepsico in his article BI4 UNV Versus UNX … Which Do You Choose?

Probably the most significant barrier to adopting the Information Design Tool is its lack of support for linked universes. Linked universes are universes that share common components such as parameters, classes, objects, or joins. But linked universes didn’t need the BI4 platform to generate controversy. They were a controversial topic long before BI 4.0 arrived. Don’t believe me? Just mention the subject in a bar crowded with SAP BusinessObjects professionals. But the core issue isn’t that the Information Design Tool doesn’t support linked universes. The core issue is that the Information Design Tool still doesn’t do a great job at supporting the benefits of linked universes: team-based development and code reuse. Sure, for team-based development there is project synchronization. But I don’t find this feature mature enough, nor is it integrated with version control, which only exists within the CMC instead of being integrated into the development tools. And while data foundations allow a single data foundation to be shared across multiple universes, there really isn’t a good mechanism for sharing objects from multiple business layers or allowing a composite business layer to be built by a team.

The situation is disappointing because the Information Design Tool and it’s “common semantic layer” were promoted during the BI 4.0 launch as the future of the universe. Perhaps my expectations were set too high by the initial BI4 hype. Because I expect a new tool to be superior when compared to its predecessor, not immature and struggling just to catch up with basic functionality. Perhaps SAP has been caught off guard as well, spending much of the last two years focused on BI 4.0 platform stability rather than analytic innovation. Jonathan Haun shares a similar perspective in his article The Top 5 tips all vendors can learn from Apple in 2012.

[SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0] was chopped full of innovation but its inability to deliver was a “battleship sized anchor” that slowed it down in the race to the finish line.

But perhaps my perceptions are incorrect. What is your experience with the Information Design Tool? Do you agree with Martha and Antonio? Will any concerns you have be addressed by BI 4.1 or will they still linger?

Other Perspectives on Information Design Tool

If you’re coming to next month’s SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Anaheim, California, I’d love to chat. Just don’t mention linked universes in the hotel lounge- you might start a brawl!

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.”

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 The Complete Reference, Third Edition

The best published resource for universe design with the Information Design Tool.

Cindi Howson BusinessObjects Complete Reference Third EditionI started using BusinessObjects in February 2003.  As a newbie, I was so grateful that Business Objects: The Complete Reference was published later that year. According to Amazon.com, I purchased the book on August 21, 2003. I always kept the copy handy until I replaced it with Business Objects XI Release 2: The Complete Reference.  McGraw Hill did not publish an edition for XI 3.0/XI 3.1, but Cindi Howson and co-author Elizabeth Newbould have returned with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference, Third Edition.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference is a book that almost did not get published- Ms. Howson provides the back story on her blog (see The Never Ending Story).  The SAP BusinessObjects product portfolio is substantially larger than the one that was covered in the first edition nearly 10 years ago, which creates challenges for any author. From the book’s introduction, “The Complete Reference brand does not imply the complete SAP BusinessObjects product line, but rather, a complete reference for certain modules… We have tried to focus the content of the book primarily on what business application designers, business analysts, and power users need to know. Software engineers and system administrators were not the intended audience for this book”. The 752-page book is organized into four parts: Getting Ready for Business Intelligence (three chapters), Universes and the Information Design Tool (twelve chapters), Reporting and Analysis (seven chapters), and Dashboards and More (six chapters).

While the book is excellent from start to finish, what really sets it apart are twelve chapters devoted to the Information Design Tool, the semantic layer design tool that replaces the classic Designer tool (now known on the BI 4.0 platform as the Universe Design Tool). SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference is currently the best published resource for universe design with the Information Design Tool. My favorite chapter is chapter 13, Design Principles: Where to Put the Intelligence, which helps the reader understand the tradeoffs between placing intelligence in the database, the universe, or the report. The book also covers lifecycle management (known on the BI 4.0 platform as Promotion Management and Version Management), use of the project synchronization features for team-based development, and maintaining and monitoring the universe after it has gone into production.

I’ve been well served by having Cindi Howson’s books on my shelf for the past decade. If you’re a business application designer, business analyst, or power user working with the BI 4.0 platform, you’ll appreciate having this book. It’s available in paperback form or on the major ebook platforms (Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iBook).

Resources

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from McGraw-Hill, 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.”

I am also an unpaid contributing expert for the BI Scorecard.

The Fun Never Ends with 64-bit Windows and ODBC

Still making fun of the Microsoft Windows ODBC panel.

The new Information Design Tool (IDT) in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, like the other client tools in the suite, is a 32-bit application. Even if the IDT is installed on a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, it wants to use 32-bit ODBC DSN’s created with the 32-bit ODBC panel, not 64-bit DSN’s. If you attempt to create a new universe connection and specify a 64-bit DSN name, the following error appears.

[Microsoft][ODBC Driver Manager] The specified DSN contains an architecture mismatch between the Driver and Application

To resolve the issue, make sure you’re using the 32-bit ODBC panel (see related article) at C:WindowsSysWoW64Odbcad32.exe. If you are running the client tools and server on the same platform, create a 32-bit ODBC DSN for the Information Design Tool and a 64-bit ODBC DSN for the server (BI Launchpad, Web Intelligence Processing Server, etc.). Make sure both DSN’s have identical names.

Remember that Crystal Reports 2011, Crystal Reports 2013, and Crystal Reports for Enterprise clients are also 32-bit. If they are installed on the BI4 server (which is supported, but oddly enough not recommended), they will also require 32-bit ODBC connections even though the Crystal Reports Processing Server requires 64-bit ODBC connections. Note that the legacy Crystal Reports 2011/2013 Processing Server will also require 32-bit ODBC connections.

Having fun with 64-bit Windows and ODBC?  You may find my other articles on ODBC helpful.

Where does the Information Design Tool store universes?

Sometimes answers to the simplest of questions can be elusive.

Q: Where does the Information Design Tool store universes?

A: Universes created by the Information Design Tool are stored in the %USERPROFILE%.businessobjectsbimodeler_14 folder.  For example, C:Documents and Settingsdallasmarks.businessobjectsbimodeler_14

Q: How can I backup and restore local copies of universes created with the Information Design Tool?

A: Listed in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 SP1 release notes as missing documentation, but still missing from the  Information Design Tool User Guide for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.0 Support Package 4 manual.

Information design tool: Missing documentation on backing up and restoring project workspaces.

ADAPT01530987

To backup the project resources created in the information design tool:

1. Exit the information design tool.

2. On the local file system, navigate to the folder “%USERPROFILE%.businessobjectsbimodeler_14”. For

example:

C:Documents and SettingsAdministrator.businessobjectsbimodeler_14

3. Rename the “workspace” folder to “workspace.bak”.

To restore the project resources from the backup in the information design tool:

1. Start the information design tool. A new workspace folder is created automatically.

2. Select “File/Open Project” from the main menu.

3. In the Import Existing Projects dialog box, Select the root directory and browse to the path of the

“workspace.bak” folder created in the backup procedure.

4. Select the projects you want to restore.

5. Check the “Copy projects into workspace” check box and click Finish.

Q: Why is the SAP BusinessObjects documentation on the SAP Help Portal (see https://help.sap.com/boall_en) so poorly organized and categorized?

A: Because it gives bloggers something to write about.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide (2nd Edition)

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide (2nd Edition), coming soon from SAP Press

It gives me great pleasure to announce SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide (2nd Edition), coming October 2012 from SAP Press. Gabe Orthous and I joined the authors of the first edition- Jim Brogden, Heather Sinkwitz, and Mac Holden.

SAP Press Web Intelligence 2nd Edition

Web Intelligence received a significant rewrite as part of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform and the second edition of the book received a significant rewrite as well.  The book is in the final stages of production and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands. I hope you’ll feel the same way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.”

Object Formatting with the Information Design Tool

Something’s missing but I can’t seem to put my finger on it…

UPDATE 06/27/2013: SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 was released to customers (RTC) and into ramp-up last month.  STILL doesn’t have currency formatting – could we get some before GA later this year?

UPDATE 11/09/2012: SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Support Pack 5 (BI4 SP5) was released Friday, November 9, 2012 but STILL doesn’t have currency formatting.

Michael Welter has provided a great write up of the new Information Design Tool (IDT) introduced with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (see his Impressions of Information Design Tool). I’ve had my own journey based on its initial release (see my related articles about the Information Design Tool) so I’ve been spending a few spare moments with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 (BI4 FP3), currently in ramp-up, to see what’s new.

Here is the Object Format panel in the classic Universe Design Tool (UDT) aka Designer.

And here is the corresponding Edit Display Format panel in the Information Design Tool, taken from Feature Pack 3.

Notice anything missing? Go ahead and look closely. I’ll wait for you.

There (still) isn’t built-in formatting for currencies in the new Information Design Tool, only Date-Time and Numeric formats. Instead, semantic layer designers must create a custom display format for each object that needs to apply it, as customized formats are not saved either in the IDT or the universe and therefore cannot be reused across objects.

The last chapter of the Information Design Tool User Guide (available from the SAP Help Portal) is named Format Editor Reference. It states

The Format Editor lets you define the format used to display date-time and numeric values. You can select default formats or define custom formats…

Default formats are available based on Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) recommendations, managed by the UNICODE consortium.

There are enhancements and fixes in the Information Design Tool 4.0 Feature Pack 3, but I was secretly hoping for some usability improvements to some of its existing features (see related article, Ten Features that Absolutely Must be in Feature Pack 3). There are key features and workflows in the classic Universe Design Tool that users should expect in the new Information Design Tool, even if the UI implements them differently. I think currency formatting is one of them.

What do you think?

Information Design Tool Application Rights

A minor security difference between the Universe Design Tool and Information Design Tool

SAP has included a Universe Designer Users group since SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI Release 2 (XI R2). My typical routine is to assign users that create universes to the built-in Universe Designer Users group. Although I can add users directly, I generally prefer to assign users to one or more groups that become subgroups of the Universe Designer Users group (and therefore inherit all of its rights).

I recently noticed that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 assigns security differently between the two semantic layer tools. For the Universe Design Tool (or UDT, formerly known as Designer in XI 3.1 and earlier), SAP uses the built-in Full Control access level.

Using the Permissions Explorer, we can examine what Full Control actually provides to Universe Design Tool users.

But the new Information Design Tool, or IDT, assigns advanced rights, not Full Control, to the built-in Universe Designer Users group.

I’m guessing that the current situation is the result of multiple SAP development teams moving quickly. I doubt it will affect my approach to security.

But for Feature Pack 3 SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 coming later in 2013, SAP should harmonize out-of-the-box security and:

  • Adjust all of the predefined access levels (View, Schedule, View On-Demand, but especially Full Control) to provide varying levels of access to the Information Design Tool (consistent with Universe Design Tool)
  • Assign Full Control of Information Design Tool to the Universe Designer Users group instead of advanced rights (consistent with Universe Design Tool)
  • Consider giving Universe Designer Users group a less application-centric name like Semantic Layer Designers

How do you grant users access to the semantic layer tools? Do you leverage the Universe Designer Users group or create your own? I’m interested in learning from different approaches.

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

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

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

1. Tree control for Web Intelligence universe selection

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

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

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

3. OLAP universe support for Explorer

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

4. UNX universe support for Live Office

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

5. Improved qualification selection in Information Design Tool

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

6. Corporate customization of Central Management Console

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

7. No more monolithic Adaptive Processing Server

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

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

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

8. Improved control of Web Intelligence default paper size

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

9. Improved browser support

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

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

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

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

10. Improved and better organized sample content

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

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

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

Getting Started with the Information Design Tool

What kind of semantic layer tool would SAP create if they could start over?

Today, I’m presenting Delivering Secure and Personalized Business Intelligence at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (SBOUC) at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida (see related article, Delivering Secure and Personalized Business Intelligence). There’s a whole Semantic Layer track at the conference, including several sessions led by Pierpaolo Vezzosi, SAP’s product owner for the semantic layer tools. The presentations at the conference are split fairly evenly between the legacy Universe Design Tool (UDT), formerly known as Universe Designer or just Designer, and the new Information Design Tool (IDT) that debuts with the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform (BI4). I’m focusing on the latter, showing how to do some common data security techniques in a new and unfamiliar tool.

Visually, the Information Design Tool is a radical departure from the legacy Universe Design Tool. Here’s a typical reaction from Mark Bradbourne:

I’m so lost with [the Information Design Tool] at the moment it’s scary… It’s like I never touched Designer… Much less been using it for the last 10 years.

Mark captures exactly how I felt the first time I launched the Information Design Tool. The semantic layer team at SAP pushed aside the old Universe Design Tool, grabbed a clean sheet of paper, and asked themselves “what kind of semantic layer tool would we create if we could start over”. The Information Design Tool is a thoughtful redesign and my reaction has been very positive as I figure it out. Overall, I’m much happier relearning the Information Design Tool than I am Web Intelligence 4.0, which has also been significantly redesigned.

Thankfully, I’ve had several months using the BI 4.0 ramp-up to fumble my way through. I’d like to share three tips with you that can shorten your own personal IDT ramp-up with hopefully less fumbling.

Download free documentation on the SAP Help Portal

I bought a Kindle last Christmas, primarily because it could hold Adobe PDF documents, not because I could buy paperless Kindle books (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 for Kindle). At the time, I was traveling a lot for work and figured that I could read BI 4.0 documentation on the plane.

SAP documentation doesn’t have any pictures, which is a rant for another time. But in this case, it was actually helpful. By not having any pictures about how the Information Design Tool looked, I was able to focus on what it did. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Information Design Tool builds a universe. Seriously. There are still tables, connections, objects, loops, aliases, and contexts. Plus a few new features that users have been requesting for several years. In many cases, we’re performing the same activities, but using new workflows in a new Eclipse-based tool.

Even if you won’t be adopting BI4 right away, you can get this manual now and begin reading at a leisurely pace.

Check out the excellent tutorials on the SAP Community Network

The Quick Reference Getting Around Information Design Tool provides a cross-reference between work flows in the old Universe Design Tool and the new Information Design Tool.

SAP has created free(!) SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.x Product Tutorials, including a whole set for the Information Design Tool. You can see short videos of the Information Design Tool in action, elegantly organized by task.

Both of these resources were personally helpful to me as I created my conference presentation. Nice work, SAP!

Buy the Book, Before the Movie Comes Out

We included a single chapter on the Information Design Tool in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide. But our focus was providing the best resource for Web Intelligence users, not universe developers. Cindy Howson and Elizabeth Newbould provide a much more comprehensive approach, with 11 chapters of universe design in SAP BusinessObjects 4.0: The Complete Reference (read my book review). UPDATE: And in 2014, SAP Press released a 724-page guide devoted exclusively to the Information Design Tool (see my book review of Universe Design with SAP BusinessObjects BI: The Comprehensive Guide).

Get Vendor Training

I’m always surprised how many people never received official training for the old Universe Design Tool (see related article, Avoiding the Big Mess). I can’t comment on training materials for the new Information Design Tool because they are behind schedule and not yet released. But they are coming. Unlike the Universe Design Tool training which is divided into two courses, there is only a single 5-day course for the Information Design Tool. I’m biased toward having a real instructor that can go “off-road” with questions.

Last week, I received 35 lbs of BI4 training manuals for topics such as administration, Web Intelligence, and Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius). I’ll write a review of the Information Design Tool class as soon as I can.

Final Thoughts

I hope that these tips, along with the presentation I’m giving today at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference, will help you get started. There’s a bright future ahead for the universe.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.”