Will Desktop Intelligence ever go away?
Desktop Intelligence is back. Sort of.
Since the release of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the SAP support center has been flooded with angry callers demanding the return of “f-ing Desktop Intelligence”. SAP has responded directly to this customer feedback and started a new development initiative. It’s known internally as the FUll Client Compatibility Kit, or simply its acronym. The official name of the add-on is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack (DCP)- although the name sometimes appears incorrectly as the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Patch. It will be released in 2013 as part of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 6.1. Thomas Kuruvilla announced the DCP earlier this year at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference and gave an updated presentation and demo yesterday in an ASUG webcast.
What is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?
The Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack will permit Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6.1 to connect to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 platform (BI 4.1). Both products are tentatively slated for release in May 2013. The Report Conversion Tool 4.1 and Upgrade Management Tool 4.1 will also have enhancements to support the Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 SP 6.1 client.
What is missing from SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 and will still be missing in 4.1 are the server-side components of Desktop Intelligence. In other words, the Desktop Intelligence Cache Server, Processing Server and Job Server will not be ported to the BI 4.1 platform. The absence of these servers defines the capabilities of the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack and how it works.
- The Desktop Intelligence client must be upgraded to XI 3.1 Service Pack 6, Fix Pack 1
- The BI 4 platform must be upgraded to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1
- Desktop Intelligence documents can be imported and stored on the BI 4.1 platform via the Upgrade Management Tool
- Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be viewed via the BI Launchpad (formerly InfoView), but only via the Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 application
- Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be scheduled on the BI 4.1 platform. They can only be scheduled from the Windows desktop using “lightweight scheduling”
- Although Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be viewed on the BI 4.1 platform, scheduled instances in agnostic formats like Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel can be viewed via the BI Launchpad
- It is unclear at this time what features will be added to Web Intelligence 4.1 to help continue to close the feature gap between Desktop Intelligence and Web Intelligence
Is Desktop Intelligence Really Dead?
While it’s fun to imagine that Desktop Intelligence is coming back from the dead, it is not (see related article Hell Freezes Over – and please take note of its publication date).
If your organization has already retired Desktop Intelligence, pat yourselves on the back.
If your organization is still working on Desktop Intelligence retirement, the availability of the DCP should not slow or alter your retirement plans. The dates for retiring Desktop Intelligence are unchanged. Maintenance will end in 2015 and Priority One support will end in 2017. Keep moving ahead.
If your organization has not yet begun Desktop Intelligence retirement, the availability of the DCP is encouraging. But the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack is not going to solve your problems. You ultimately have to retire all of your Desktop Intelligence documents (see related article by Eric Vallo and Thierry Audas on the SAP Analytics Blog, Better Content Migration to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0).
What are some drawbacks of the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?
There are several.
First, your Desktop Intelligence users will have to upgrade their systems to Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6 Fix Pack 1. Depending on the size of your Desktop Intelligence user base, just getting the new software in place will be a challenge.
Second, because it is a fix pack, there will be two components to the installation. First, your users will have to install a full build of Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6. Then, they will need to separately apply Fix Pack 6.1. (NOTE: SAP has since shipped XI 3.1 SP7 and an SP8 is planned, theoretically eliminating the need for a separate patch).
Third, because there is no server-side scheduling, at least some of your desktop systems will have to remain powered on around the clock to support off-hours schedules.
Fourth, until we see the final product, there’s no guarantee that your existing Desktop Intelligence solution will map into the DCP solution as-is. For example, existing Desktop Intelligence-based publications or Desktop Intelligence documents that create HTML output may require workarounds to keep working on the BI 4.1 platform.
An Interesting Alternative
In January of this year, I referred to Xcelsius as “the new Desktop Intelligence” (see related article Thoughts on Xcelsius). I made the comparison because Xcelsius is based on dying Adobe Flash technology and Desktop Intelligence is based on dying 32-bit Windows technology. What I did not foresee at the time was renewed interest in desktop analytic applications like Tableau, Tibco Spotfire, and QlikView. Nor could I foresee that SAP would respond by announcing their own desktop data discovery tool, SAP Lumira (originally introduced SAP Visual Intelligence), in May 2012 at its annual SAPPPHIRE event in Orlando, Florida. While very different and very modern, SAP Lumira is the spiritual successor to Desktop Intelligence.
In just a few short months, there have been eight iterations of SAP Lumira. The product shipped with only SAP HANA support but today provides support for free-hand SQL, classic UNV universes, and new 4.0 UNX universes.
So here is my suggestion.
Allow SAP Lumira to open a Desktop Intelligence document. And not just a version XI 3.1 document, but XI 3.0 and XI R2 as well.
Still with me? SAP Lumira does not need to fully recreate the document format as the Report Conversion Tool does. It only needs to import the Desktop Intelligence queries. From there, users can create visualizations that could never be realized with Desktop Intelligence.
Sound interesting? Vote for my idea to allow SAP Lumira to import Desktop Intelligence queries in the SAP Idea Place.
Adding Desktop Intelligence support to SAP Lumira isn’t a silver bullet. But neither is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack. Or for that matter the Report Conversion Tool. But it gives users that prefer the desktop experience of Desktop Intelligence another robust desktop experience. It provides options.
The SAP Lumira development team has demonstrated that they can move quickly. With agility. There’s plenty of time to add this capability in time for the May 2013 release of the other products.
Above all, remember that your users don’t just have Desktop Intelligence documents on their desktops. Those documents address business challenges. And in 2012 the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform has a lot more crayons in its analytics box than when those Desktop Intelligence documents were originally authored.
So don’t just help users get rid of an unsupported document format. Help them run their business. Help them run better. For many of these users, getting the documents converted to Web Intelligence will be sufficient. But for others, use your imagination.
Desktop Intelligence is fading away. But there’s never a dull moment in business intelligence.
What are your thoughts on the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?