CMC Essentials presentation now available

For those of you who didn’t make it to Dallas, Texas for the first Global BusinessObjects Network (GBN) conference, my presentation, CMC Essentials, is now available for download from the Integra Solutions web site. It compares and contrasts Business Objects security between XI R2 and XI 3.0/XI 3.1, including new features like Custom Access Levels, Permissions Explorer and Security Query in the completely redesigned XI 3.x Central Management Console.

Visit my presentations area for more conference downloads.

What I miss in the Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) and Live Office query panels

I’ve been using Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) as the means to bring live data into executive dashboards. Sometimes, I get frustrated by features that I appreciate in the Web Intelligence query panel that are missing from QaaWS. The Query as a Web Service user guide documents several limitations with the QaaWS query panel.

  • Multi-cubes cannot be used
  • Combined queries and subqueries cannot be used
  • IndexAware prompts are not implemented

And although it isn’t explicitly mentioned, developers will quickly notice that:

  • There is no View SQL button in the QaaWS query panel

Because of the query limitations, it has often been necessary for me to add a derived table to my universe to achieve the SQL that I’m looking for. Today, I discovered yet another limitation:

  • Query filters cannot use universe objects as operands

The QaaWS Query Panel:

 

Query Panel Query as a Web Service (QaaWS)The Live Office query panel, although it is visually different from the QaaWS query panel (different development team?), is functionally identical. There are buttons for sorting and ranking, but combined queries, subqueries, and view SQL are nowhere to be found. And as with the QaaWS query panel, it is NOT currently possible to build a query filter that uses a universe object as an operand. (The screenshot below shows the three supported options: constant, list of values, and prompt).

Query Panel Live Office

Although I’ve focused on design time limitations in this post, it’s worth noting at run time that neither product currently supports object restrictions (restriction sets) defined in Designer.

Clearly, QaaWS and Live Office have similar capabilities and similar deficiencies as compared to the Web Intelligence query panel. Although the QaaWS application has been redesigned in XI 3.1, it does not contain any new query functionality compared to previous versions. It appears that we’ll have to wait longer (XI 3.2? XI 4.0?) for the query functionality gap with Web Intelligence to be closed.

For now, I’m grateful for derived tables in the universe. However, I sometimes feel that I am doing “unnatural” things to the universe that I wouldn’t have to do if these query panels had the functionality I’m accustomed to in Web Intelligence. Fortunately, the only “user” of the universe is our QaaWS-enabled Xcelsius dashboards – there are no “real” users of Web Intelligence.

Do you have similar experiences with Xcelsius + QaaWS? Feel free to post your experiences and clever solutions.

Using @Variable Functions in the Universe

How to use @Variables in your universes.

I wrote an article earlier this year regarding the use of the @Variable universe function in the END_SQL universe parameter to help DBAs identify Business Objects queries (see related article Identifying SAP BusinessObjects queries using END_SQL). The @Variable function can also be used in the SELECT clause of objects for display to the user or in the WHERE clause to restrict data. For example, in my presentation Secure Universes Using Restriction Sets, I implemented row-level security on the eFashion universe using @Variable('BOUSER'). Row-level security can also be implemented inside of the universe by the use of a mandatory condition, a great new feature introduced in Designer XI 3.0.

NOTE: Starting with BI 4.0, the Designer application from XI R2/XI 3.0/XI 3.1 is now known as the Universe Design Tool.

The SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 universe designer manual describes for the first time several new system variables. It’s unclear whether the variables were introduced with XI 3.0 (they’re not documented in the XI 3.0 edition of the universe designer manual) or were simply undocumented in previous releases. While on the subject of documentation, allow me to mention that Dave Rathbun elegantly describes several previously undocumented attributes to the @Prompt function (see Dave Rathbun’s article Designer XI 3 New Feature: Extended Prompt Syntax) that are finally documented in the XI 3.0/XI 3.1 universe designer documentation (p. 537-538).

The built-in @Variables for XI 3.1 are BOUSER, DBUSER, DBPASS, DOCNAME, DPNAME, DPTYPE, UNVNAME, and UNVID. To use them, place them inside of single quotes as a parameter to the @Variable function. It is important to note that @Variable is a universe function (along with @Prompt, @Select, @Where, etc.) to be used in the Universe Design Tool (Designer), not a report-level function to be used within Web Intelligence.

variablereferencetable

I created some objects in a universe to demonstrate each @Variable. Their values can be seen in the Web Intelligence report below. One minor lesson learned during the creation of this blog post: I had originally named the Web Intelligence document Using @Variables, but this wreaked havoc with SQL generation because I was also using @Variable('DOCNAME') in the END_SQL of the universe. A minor recursion problem, apparently. That is why the sample Web Intelligence document is instead named Using AT Variables.

@Variable Web Intelligence Report

The @Variable('BOUSER') returns the name of the InfoView user running queries in the document, which in this example is DMarks. Prior to XI Release 2, there was a @Variable('BOPASS'), but it has been depreciated for security reasons. Similar to BOUSER/BOPASS, @Variable('DBUSER') and @Variable('DBPASS') return the username and password only if the user has database credentials enabled in their user profile in the CMC. If the database username/password is defined by a universe connection, these @Variables will be blank.

@Variable CMC Database Credentials

@Variable can also be used to return information about the current report. The @Variable('DOCNAME') is the saved name of the report. The @Variable('DPNAME') returns the name of the data provider, as defined in the Query properties in the Web Intelligence Edit Query panel. In the screen shot below, I have renamed the default Query 1 to My Data Provider.

@Variable Renamed Data Provider

The @Variable('DPTYPE') describes the data provider type. I was unable to find an enumerated list in the documentation, but a standard universe on a relational database has an @Variable('DPTYPE') value of DPUNIVERS. I can only speculate that universes constructed from stored procedures or OLAP cubes probably have different values.

The @Variable('UNVNAME') returns the name of the universe as defined on the Parameters tab of the Universe Properties. I lamented that XI R2 did not have a variable (at least not documented) to identify the universe, so it’s a welcome addition. In my example, the name of the universe is Dashboard.

@Variable Universe Parameters

The @Variable('UNVID') is a new variable in XI 3.1. It returns the ID of the universe object, which is listed next to the CUID in the CMC. The universe in this example has an ID of 1303.

@Variable Universe ID

Beginning with XI 3.1 SP2, universe designers can use two new locale variables. @Variable('PREFERRED_VIEWING_LOCALE') is the user’s Preferred Viewing Locale, the locale chosen by the user to display metadata and data in his reporting tool. @Variable('DOMINANT_PREFERRED_VIEWING_LOCALE') can be used to categorize or roll up preferred viewing locales.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 supports the following XI 3.1 @Variables: BOUSER, DBUSER, DOCNAME, DOMINANT_PREFERRED_VIEWING_LOCALE, DPNAME, DPTYPE, PREFERRED_VIEWING_LOCALE, UNVNAME, and UNVID.  BI 4.0 also adds a new variable DOCID and CMC-defined user attributes. The @Variable functions can be used in classic UNV universes created by the Universe Design Tool (formerly Designer) or the Information Design Tool. These functions are documented in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Information Design Tool User Guide on the SAP Help Portal.

The last item I’d like to bring up isn’t a universe-level @Variable, but a new Web Intelligence function that has been sorely missed and a welcome addition to XI 3.x. The ReportName() function returns the name of the current report tab in the Web Intelligence document. I’ve often wanted to use the name on the report tab in the report title – and now I can. SAP liked this new function so much that it is used for the default report title cell in Web Intelligence 4.0.

@Variables have many applications and I hope this article will help you take advantage of them in your universes.

Xcelsius and Session Management in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0

Increasing session timeouts for Xcelsius dashboards.

I’m currently on a team building Xcelsius 2008 SP1 dashboards using Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). I’d like to talk about the steps that we went through to increase the default timeout value of our executive dashboards. We’re currently evaluating SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 to see if it corrects some issues we’ve been encountering in XI 3.0, specifically regarding dropped sessions on Xcelsius+QaaWS dashboards that rely on the CELogonToken for the user’s identity.

Out of the box, the default timeout values for the web applications, the Web Intelligence Processing Server, and QaaWS are all 20 minutes. To increase the timeout, several activities are required.

1. Modify the session-config parameter to the desired number of minutes. For example, the default location for the InfoView web.xml is C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INF


<session-config>
<session-timeout>60</session-timeout>
</session-config>

Do this for all web applications. According to the illuminating BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 InfoView and Central Management Console Session Management (available from the SAP Help Portal but sent to me by my good friend Bob Dissinger), it is “strongly recommended that when updating the time-out value for 1 web-app that all other web-apps are updated to an equal value.” So in addition to InfoViewApp, be sure to update AnalyticalReporting, InfoViewAppActions, PlatformServices, etc.

2. Next, modify the Idle Connection Timeout (minutes): parameter for the Web Intelligence Processing Server. Be sure to restart the server (off hours if a production system) so the parameter takes effect; the procedure for restart is a bit different in XI 3.x than XI R2.

 

Web Intelligence Session Timeout3. Combined, the above two actions increase the timeout for Web Intelligence documents. However, a third modification is needed specifically for QaaWS. The value for the Enterprise Session timeout is modifiable by adding a property value to the dsws.properties file in the Web Services Provider web application. This file is found in the dswsbobje.war or BusinessProcessBI.war web application in the folder WEB-INF/classes.


# Increase timeout from 20 to 65 minutes. Value set in seconds
session.timeout=3900

This last step was uncovered by my manager, Alan Mayer, and is documented in SAP KB 1244342 (S-ID required). We opted to set the value slightly higher because we would rather a user get bumped off of InfoView rather than potentially see a dashboard become inoperative.

In a future post, I’ll describe the redesigned Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) application in XI 3.1, which sports an enhanced user interface compared to versions XI R2 and XI 3.0. I’ll also talk about the plumbing changes to QaaWS as well as the inclusion of QaaWS as a management area in the CMC (hooray – we have folders!). I’ll also tell you how we migrated Xcelsius dashboards and QaaWS from XI 3.0 to XI 3.1 and why we chose Windows 2003 Server 32-bit after a brief flirtation running XI 3.0 on WIndows 2003 Server 64-bit. Until then…

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Updated Presentation

As promised in today’s breakout, attendees of the GBN Business Objects User Conference in can download the final version of CMC Essentials. It contains mostly minor tweaks compared to the version that was available prior to the conference. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, all Integra Solutions presentations should be available from the Integra Solutions Library over the next few weeks.

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Day 3

Today was day 3 of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. It was the last day, so activities ended at noon with a few box lunch sessions instead of a full day of activities. Overall, the first GBN conference was a success. Sure, those of us who have attended Insight during previous years could tell that the budget was smaller (no pyrotechnics or dance troupes), but it was still a pretty good conference. After all, we had “real” breakfast this morning – fairly yummy breakfast burritos – when breakfast on day 3 last year consisted of weak coffee and NutriGrain bars out of a box.

The first breakout I attended today was… mine. My topic was CMC Essentials, comparing the security features of XI R2 and XI 3.0/XI 3.1 and demonstrating how the new Business Objects release provides improvements to administrators. A surprising number of people filled the room given that my presentation was so early on the conference’s last day. According to my colleague Dave Rathbun, several had to sit on the floor due to the lack of chairs. A big “thank you” goes out to Dave Rathbun and Amy Betten of Integra Solutions for helping everything go smoothly. Another big “thank you” goes to my very supportive local user group friends like Sandra Brotje (NOBOUG), Tammy Datri (PGBOUG chairperson), and Eileen King (NOBOUG chairperson). Even Giles Farrow of Business Objects, a long-time organizer of Business Objects user conferences, stopped by to make sure everything was going well. It’s humbling to be selected as a speaker and even more humbling to talk to a receptive audience. I’m grateful for today’s experience and hope that it was beneficial to my listeners.

Next, Meredith McLarty, also from Integra Solutions/Quorum Business Solutions presented Auditing for Anyone. Meredith compared auditing in XI R2 and XI 3.0, noting the latter’s improvements such as Desktop Intelligence auditing.

Next was Improved Lifecycle Management for Business Intelligence by David Brockington of Business Objects, who discussed the new Lifecycle Manager available with Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1. Although it’s packaged as a separate application in this release, Lifecycle Manager will be integrated into the CMC in its next release. Business Objects customers currently use the Import Wizard for LCM, which can be challenging. I’m looking forward to working with this new capability.

The last breakout I attended was Creating More Meaningful Data Visualizations in Xcelsius by Dan Robertson, a senior sales consultant with Business Objects. Dan presented some very helpful best practices for visualization projects. I had met Dan, a Michigan resident, at a NOBOUG meeting last year. As with Tim Ziemba’s appearance on Monday, Business Objects would do well to send more support engineers and sales consultants to these events to share their expertise. Nice job, Dan.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back to work on my exciting executive dashboard project. I’ll be creating BIAR files and taking backups as we plan to upgrade our environment from XI 3.0 to XI 3.1.

I’m curious how many of my readers attended the GBN this year and what their overall impressions were. As always, feel free to post your comments.

GBN Business Objects User Conference 2008 – Day 2

Today was day 2 of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. The day began with a general session with Doug Merritt, who discussed “Maximizing Performance in an Under-Performing Market”. His talk focused on the combined entity SAP + Business Objects being able to link strategy to execution. And it might be because this event is a joint conference with ASUG, but although “being open” still gets talking points, vendors such as Oracle/PeopleSoft/JD Edwards, IBM, Microsoft, etc. are never mentioned by name. Clearly, Business Objects is continuing to make strides in the number of supported data sources, but this heterogeneous message may be getting diluted in customer’s minds.

After the keynote, the unstoppable Alan Mayer of Integra Solutions presented “Extreme Reporting”. Noting that this was his first-ever use of the word “Extreme” in a breakout presentation, he proceded to clearly demonstrate how tricky reporting scenarios could be pushed down to the database layer to take advantage of the new stored procedure support in XI 3.x for Business Objects universes. The session was well-attended at one of the Hilton Anatole’s largest rooms.

After lunch, universe ninja Dave Rathbun, also of Integra Solutions, presented “Universe Designer Essentials and Beyond” to a standing-room only crowd. After demonstrating some of the cool new features in XI 3.0 such as mandatory universe conditions, he presented one of the most lucid explanations I’ve heard about aliases, contexts, and the applications for each. He concluded by demonstrating how aliases and contexts could be used to deliver date-range measures directly from the universe, simplifying end users’ creation of reports.

I also attended “Dimensional Modeling Techniques in Universes” by Derric Raggs, a first-time presenter from MCIC Vermont in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve always known that Business Objects universes can handle (in varying degrees) any relational data source. But Derric, a Kimball University alumni, provided clear direction on modeling of role-playing dimensions and conformed dimensions in a Business Objects universe.

The day concluded with Dwayne Hoffpaurir’s (think HOFF-pow-er) “BusinessObjects XI 3.0 Security for Mere Mortals”. Dwayne, a BOB Member of the Year for 2008, shared some great best practices learned from his organization’s recent migration from Business Objects 6.5 to XI 3.0. I was also curious to see if my presentation, CMC Essentials, was too similar in content to his. But XI 3.0 security is not a trivial matter and there’s LOTS to talk about. Conference attendees would benefit from reviewing both presentations.

I’m now back at the hotel, going through the final rehearsals for my 8:00 AM presentation tomorrow morning. Check back tomorrow for the final installment of news from the GBN Business Objects User Conference 2008.

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Preview

Monday is the beginning of the Global Business Objects Network’s (GBN) annual Business Objects User Conference in Dallas, Texas. This will be the first Business Objects user conference since merger with SAP, the first post-Insight user conference, and (at least for me) the first user conference held during a downturn in the overall US economy.

I’m looking forward to networking with my peers, consuming fajitas and guacamole, and presenting my breakout, CMC Essentials. My presentation focuses on Business Objects security administration, comparing XI R2 against XI 3.0 and XI 3.1. I’ll begin with a brief history of Business Objects administration, then move onto the security features that XI R2 and XI 3.x share. Most of my time will be spent discussing and demonstrating the the new security features of XI 3.x like custom access levels, scope of rights, the Permissions Explorer and Security Query.

On a personal note, it’s my first breakout as a member of Integra Solutions, a business unit of Quorum Business Solutions. As Darth Vader said, “The circle is now complete.” When I attended my first Business Objects conference in 2005, I had never heard of Integra Solutions but attended several breakout sessions by Alan Mayer, Dave Rathbun and others. Now, these outstanding professionals are my friends and co-workers. Please join Integra Solutions at the following breakout sessions:

Virtually Yours, by Alan Mayer and James Landis
Monday, October 20, 2008
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Wedgewood

Extreme Reporting, by Alan Mayer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Wedgewood

Universe Designer Essentials and Beyond, by Dave Rathbun
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Wedgewood

CMC Essentials, by Dallas Marks
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

Auditing for Anyone, by Meredith McLarty
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

I’ll be blogging live from the conference. See you in Dallas!

You’re not as smart as you think you are

The formula is correct – maybe.

You’ve got to admire the new confidence-building features of Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0. When you validate a Web Intelligence formula (I’m using the Web Intelligence Rich Client here), you receive the following message:

Web Intelligence The Formula Is Correct

I must admit – receiving a message such as this one boosts your confidence, kind of like a Hallmark moment from Business Objects. It’s nice to know that Business Objects thinks you’re smart. Unfortunately, the message only means that your formula is syntactically correct. Whether or not the formula results are correct requires logical thinking and thorough testing.

If only Web Intelligence could ascertain that I had done my job correctly. Now that would be true Business Intelligence. Until then, perhaps “The formula is valid” would be a more accurate message.

Recommended Reading for Upgrading from Business Objects XI R2 to XI 3.0

Customers upgrading from Business Objects XI R2 to Business Objects XI 3.0 may have been frustrated by the seeming lack of documentation about moving between one environment to another. Some of this frustration would be a result of last July’s abrupt move from the old Business Objects support site to the new SAP support site.

There is a lot of Business Objects XI 3.0 documentation available on the SAP Help Portal. The SAP Help Portal is easy to get to and does not require an S-ID or password. Some useful documents here would include the What’s New in BusinessObjects XI 3.0 guide, BusinessObjects XI 3.0 Feature Evolution, BusinessObjects Enterprise Administrator’s Guide, and BusinessObjects Enterprise Import Wizard Guide.

For whatever reason, migration guides are not available from the SAP Help Portal, although there are links. For these guides, you’ll need an SAP S-ID to access the SAP Support Portal. Customers migrating from Business Objects versions 5 or 6 will want to download the Business Objects 5/6 to XI 3.0 Migration Guide and customers moving from XI R1 or R2 will want to download the BusinessObjects Enterprise Upgrade Guide.

Overall, the documentation is well written, although in some spots it clearly reveals the rush to ship XI 3.0. Fortunately, we should be seeing revised documentation for XI 3.1 over the next few weeks. And we are all encouraged to provide feedback according to this snippet from the What’s New in BusinesssObjects XI 3.0 guide:

If for some reason you do not find what you are looking for in the product’s online help or the available PDF documentation, please communicate your questions and feedback to Business Objects documentation email address
mailto:[email protected]

I selfishly put together this post just so I’d have an easy way to find these bookmarks, but I hope this post will also be helpful to you. Is there a document or “secret” white paper that has really helped your organization migrate to Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0? Please share by posting a comment.