What is SAP Lumira Cloud?
As you might have noticed, SAP recently changed the name of their one year old product SAP Visual Intelligence into SAP Lumira. We have seen this before with the product SAP Dashboards.
I can imagine SAP Dashboards still wakes up at night, bathed in sweat, having nightmares about it’s ever changing name. It went from Xcelsius to SAP Crystal Presentation Design to SAP Dashboards in a very short time frame. Customers are already struggling with the broad BI portfolio product names so changing names isn’t always the best thing to do. In the end, I do agree that SAP Dashboards probably is the best name since it describes the best what the product actually does, making professionally authored and interactive dashboards and BI apps. Back to SAP Visual Intelligence / Lumira.
In this blog post from Timo Elliot, SAP explains why they changed the name of SAP Visual Intelligence into SAP Lumira. I could make jokes again but that would be too easy. In the end, if SAP thinks Lumira is a better name, that’s ok. Just make sure you stick to this new name for the coming years.
The funny thing about the name change is that it actually only is a name change from SAP Visual Intelligence into SAP Lumira. There aren’t any new features or functions released with this name change. Together with the name change, SAP introduced a new product in the ‘Lumira family’, which is SAP Lumira Cloud.
SAP Lumira Cloud gives you the opportunity to upload multiple data sources into the cloud and start analyzing the data in minutes. You don’t need to install software, buy hardware or worry about software upgrades. Just pull your credit card and start analyzing. A very nice and detailed FAQ can be read over here.
SAP aims at small and medium sized organizations or departments within large organizations. The best thing is that there is a free version which enables you to upload a max of 1GB sized data sources into the cloud.
What is the promised business value of SAP Lumira Cloud?
• Deliver faster time to insight in the cloud
• Visualize data quickly with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface
• Reduce time to access and upload multiple data sources
• Maximize business knowledge with a combination of big picture insights and granular details
• Increase self-service data usage with access on any device
• Be up and running quickly without software or hardware
Competitors in the data exploration area like Tableau offer a similar ‘limited’ free to use service to get people enthusiastic about the product. I think it is a good thing that software vendors offer easy and free access to (parts of) their software. This way you can try before you buy.
Getting it started
Of course I signed up for a free SAP Lumira Cloud account and gave it a spin. It took me just 24 minutes to get some first impressions on this product. I kicked my test drive off with a tweet.
I created a very simple dataset in MS Excel as you can see below. I wanted to help Lumira and myself a bit by giving self explanatory column names. As you can see, the revenue ranges from 5 up to 40. This could make a nice graph. As an extra feature, we could add another measure to show the margin. This is the third column.
I navigated to the SAP Lumira Cloud landing page and logged on. As you can see below, there is a (too small) footer text mentioning that it still is in Beta. I would strongly advise to make this as clear as possible, for example by stating it behind the product name in the upper left corner of the screen.
After l logged on I uploaded the dataset and started creating a simple visualization. It took me just a couple of minutes to get the result which is shown below. The remainder of the 24 minutes were spent on trying to fix frustrating behavior of the chart.
It’s obvious that this result is completely useless. All bars have the same height, there is no Y-axis scale and the months are sorted alphabetically. Well I don’t think datasets come easier than the one I created so I should be able to create a very simple bar chart displaying revenue and/or margin per month. Adding two key figures (both revenue and margin) didn’t work out. Perhaps I’m too stupid or it’s just not possible two compare two measures.
Since I cannot manually set the Y-axis scale I tried to fix this by swapping to a line chart. I don’t know why but instead of just a single line, I get about twelve mini line charts including markers, organized in columns. Not what I expected.
Another thing that could be optimized is the horizontal scroll bar on the X-axis of the chart. Why do I have to scroll when there are just twelve values? Since this is all web technology (probably HTML5) and designed also for mobile use, why doesn’t the graph just scale automatically to the available space. That shouldn’t be to difficult?
Normally the X-axis values are being displayed below the graph. For some reason, the enlightening Lumira positions these labels above the graph instead of below the graph where they should be.
I didn’t manage to find out how to activate the properties like like color, transparency, size and animation.
Update: You’ll need to drag one of the measures on the properties.
After little struggle, I managed to use the Trellis functionality. I haven’t seen this term before, perhaps because I’m not a native English speaker? You can add measures in the rows or columns area of Trellis. The result is displayed below. For example, you can see in which months a revenue of 10 exists. In the example below, in dec, feb, jul and perhaps more but I can’t see because of the horizontal scroll bar.
Who failed the test?
After these small exercises I thought it was time to log off. You can probably guess already that I wasn’t very excited about the current state of this product. Perhaps not so smart to make such a marketing buzz about it including a 90% discount offer during Sapphire. I’d rather pay 100% for a great product instead of 10% for a beta product stressing me out.
Of course it’s possible that I didn’t click the right buttons or that I should have watched some tutorials or something. In the end, I’d expect that with quite some BI experience, I should be able to work my way around in this product quite easily.
The question is who failed the test. Did I fail or did SAP Lumira Cloud. To give myself a second chance I started MS Excel again, selected the data range and made just two clicks for selecting a clustered column chart. The result is shown below. Two clicks in MS Excel gave more enlightening insights than spending about 20 minutes in SAP’s latest BI cloud innovation. Quite painful.
Conclusion after first 24 minutes:
Regular readers of my blog know that I’m straightforward and not afraid to share my vision and opinion. That should be one of the value points of blogging. Sharing experiences, good or bad. I’m disappointed that this first speed-date with Lumira Cloud turned out to be a bad one. Perhaps things will improve or get more user friendly towards the future.
I hope that I’ll be able to share some good experiences in the near future on for example version 1.1 of SAP Design Studio, which seems to shape up quite nice.
If you’ve had a experience with SAP Lumira Cloud yourself, good or bad, please share it through the comments.
Martijn van Foeken, also a BI professional, tried to help me:
“I guess you need to change it just a little to get a meaningfull chart. Put the Revenue in the Y-Axis as well. Then the chart will display properly. If you want to define different colors you should place Month in the Color properties.”
Ok, let’s try that. The result is as follows:
This is still not what I want. Who’s next?
On Twitter, Martijn suggests to reboot the application and start all over again. Ok, here we go.
<In this space, I wanted to copy paste the screenshot of the result. However, I couldn’t get the same result twice. I also saw the vertical bar chart was transformed into a horizontal bar chart. This is becoming quite an adventure.>
10 minutes later…
Ok, now it works. The pitfall is that in a dataset, every column is available as both a measure and a dimension. You’ll have to drag the measures from the first columns into the visualization pane instead of the colomn headers of the other columns (2, 3 and 4 in my example). I doubt if a business user will find this out by himself. Perhaps the interface could be optimized for this.
After this fix, it was quite easy for me to drag the ‘margin’ measure onto color property. Because of the scroll bar I can’t see the whole month range. However, it starts to look more what I hoped to see.
Updated conclusion after spending more time:
The user interface isn’t really that self explanatory. Users will probably need a bit of instruction or training before starting to use this application. You’ll need to know what interactions (drag and drop) should be applied to activate the properties. Also you should know that you’d probably only drag measures from the first column on the visualization pane instead of the other columns. Once you know how stuff works and are willing to invest some extra time, you can actually do quite some interesting analyses. Especially the fact that it’s free up to 1GB personal use makes it interesting.
Perhaps I’ll do another analysis with a more complex dataset once I know my way around in this enlightening place called SAP Lumira Cloud. To be continued..
Today, I was scanning multiple websites to get my daily portion of data visualization vitamins. Whilst doing this, I came up across the following graph.
At first sight, I thought I saw a clear correlation between the Internet Explorer Market Share and the number of Murders in the US. When the amount of murders got less, the IEX Market Share seemed to crash. Wow.. how is that possible?
Let’s take a closer look and find out what’s going on with this graph. After a quick examination, I came up with the following:
This graph has two Y-axes.
Mmm.. interesting. How should I read this graph? Mmm… I’ll find out soon enough. I guess..
The Y-axis for the bars doesn’t start at zero
One of the basic principles for designing a bar chart is that the Y-axis starts at zero. Since we can really easy see the difference in size/length of two or multiple bars almost without even thinking (preattentive processing), we’d better show the whole bar and not only a part of it. If we want to show the whole bar, we need to start the Y-axis at zero, at all times.
Confusing title and legend
There’s going on a lot with the title and legend. The title of this graph is named “Internet Explorer vs Murder Rate”. The legend which explains which color represents which data serie, is positioned below the graph. That’s not logical in the first place. It should be more convenient to place it above the graph. That’s a first observation.
Another thing regarding the legend, is that the order of the data series in the title and legend are swapped. The title begins with Internet Explorer and the legend with Murders in US. Why should we do that?
To continue, one of the most confusing things is that the description of the data series in the title and legend are different. The title states “Internet Explorer vs Murder Rate” while the legend states “Murders in US and Internet Explorer Market Share”. Both a rate and a market share can be expressed in percentages so which data serie belongs to which Y axis? You tell me please.
A simple redesign of the legend problem could like as follows.
The (self explaining) legend is incorporated in the title of the graph. This has multiple advantages:
- We only state the data series descriptions once.
- We start reading from top to bottom and after we’ve read the title we immediately know which color belongs to which data serie.
- We know which Y axis belongs to which data serie since we added a tiny bit of extra information to the data serie description. We now included the units of measure in the title.
- We don’t need a separate legend.
Back to the double Y-axis issue
At first, my main goal of writing this blog was to illustrate the possible impact of messing around with multiple Y-axes into a single chart. Whilst writing this blog, I found out a lot more was wrong with this graph and I couldn’t keep myself from not explaining some of them. I’m convinced that if I’d dig even further into this simple graph, I could come up with more imperfections but the main goal wasn’t redesigning this graph, but illustrating the risk of using two Y-axes. Back to this issue.
I’ve drawn a couple of examples of different Y-axis scales to show how the message of the simple graph can be completely different when taking a quick look.
Examine the following examples and find out what your first impression would be..
Without looking to much at the Y-axis scales, the story this graph tells is that when the amount of murders decreases with by only the slightest bit, that the market share of IEX crashes completely. Wow.. what a story.
Again, without looking to much at the Y-axis scales, this graph tells a different story. For every US murder case, Internet Explorer relatively looses the same amount of market share.
For this example, I used a redesign of the graph. What story is this graph telling?
Give it a try
I spent about 15 minutes in SAP Dashboards building an interactive demo in which you can play around with the Y-axis scales. This way you can find out what the impact can be of having messy scale ranges next to having two Y-axes in a single graph.
It’s been a while since I shared some new content with you. The main reason is because I’ve been extremely busy with client projects and expanding the Intelligence team at The Next View.
A couple of months ago, I gave a presentation at SAP Netherlands during the SAP Forum event. The SAP Forum (previously known as SAP World Tour) is a one-day event on which SAP presents their innovations and latest technology. I hosted a presentation on effective dashboard design and data visualization principles. Until now, I wasn’t aware of the fact that the photographers caught me in the middle of the action during the event
Normally session attendees receive the presentation but I wanted to give them something extra. Something that would tickle and excite them even far beyond the moment of the actual presentation.
Together with some of my colleagues, we came up with the idea to create a high quality, A1 sized poster containing 8 tips on effective dashboard design. The idea was born. After many pizza sessions, different prototypes and discussions on content (could we copy Stephen Fews quote “no more pies” ?) the poster came to life. The creative brain for the design of the poster is colleague Frodo Jansen, a very talented UX and BI consultant.
At the SAP Forum venue, every attendee of my presentation received a poster and it was a great success. But we didn’t expect that it would go viral after mentioning it on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The result? We had to print over hundreds of extra copies. Customers even started sending pictures of their BI team putting the poster on their office walls or project war-rooms. A great success we never expected to become so big.
After this, I wanted to be able to spread this data visualization poster with my international followers so Frodo and I decided to translate it. Today, the English version of the Data Visualization poster is born.
Drop me a line to receive the poster digitally in high resolution or printed on hiqh quality A1 sized paper.
If you decide to put it on your office wall, I’d love to add a photo of that to my collection so make sure you’ll share it with me.
I can imagine you don’t all have the privilege of having a large HANA instance in your SAP wonderland. Because of this, you might have to wait a couple of seconds every now and then before your reports and dashboards pop up. Time to throw in some magic.
With this tutorial, I’ll show how you can make the waiting in SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius a little bit more exciting than just having to look at the default SAP Dashboards hourglass load indicator.
What are we going to do?
We’ll build an easy loading screen, which will pop-up whenever the dashboard is busy retrieving data.
Step 1: Setting up the connection properties
Navigate to the data manager and open the ‘Usage’ tab of the connection you want to activate the loading screen for.
In the ‘Load Status’ section of this tab, there are a couple of fields displayed. Normally, you might activate the ‘Enable Load Cursor’ checkbox, which will result in showing the good old hourglass.
If you want to advance things, you might use the ‘Loading Message’ and ‘Idle Message’ texts, which you can bind to a cell through the ‘Insert In’ option. After you binded to a cell, you can have a label component to display the text. This looks better than the hourglass but is still not really what we’re aiming for.
Step 2: Changing the ‘Load Status’ properties
Change the text in ‘Loading Message’ into ’1′ and the ‘Idle Message’ text into ’0′. We’ll use this text as a dynamic visibility parameter, to show and hide our loading screen.
What have we done? Basically, if a connection is retrieving data, the value 1 will be placed into the cell defined under ‘Insert In’. When the data is retrieved and the connection turns idle, the 1 will be replaced by a 0.
It could look something like below.
Step 3: Configure the loading screen
In the demo XLF, I’ve included a very simple but nice loading screen, including a small animation (SWF file). This SWF file is displayed by using the ‘Image component’.
This simple screen, consists of just a small amount of objects which doesn’t affect performance in any way worth mentioning. The most easy trick, is to use a canvas container component to include the separate objects of the loading screen.
Now navigate to the properties of the canvas container and open the dynamic visability properties. Bind the ‘Status’ cell to the cell selected for ‘Insert In’ in step 2 of this tutorial. Set the key to, for example, 0.
This property will ensure that the loading screen will only be displayed if cell A:1 of your worksheet has value 1. The value 1 is inserted on refreshing data.
Step 4: Enjoy the waiting
If you fire up your dashboard and a connection is being refreshed, the load screen will popup. It might look like displayed below.
Click the image for the live SWF demo.
You can download the source xlf file here.
The main goal of adding a better looking loading screen with a more dominant presence, is to improve the overall user experience. The user is being informed in a clear manner, that data is being loaded. If you’d like, you could make specific texts for specific sets of connections. You could also display the average waiting time. The possibilities are almost endless.
I often put a semi transparent topping on the rest of the dashboard when a ‘dialog’ like the load indicator is active. Take a look at the example below (the text is Dutch).
I’ve used a black rectangle with a certain level of transparency. This makes it clear to the user that something is going on. This may prevent mouse clicking frustration without seeing charts being refreshed.
I hope you learned something by reading this post.
Update 12/14/12: My colleague Ralph Knoops came up with a handy site with free load indicator animations. You can also download the sample FLA files from that site and change them according to your own preference.
In this blog post, I want to share a simple feature for SAP Dashboards to visually support the ability to compare multiple KPI’s with each other.
Imagine that you have multiple KPI’s you’d like to analyze. In the example below, I’ve displayed three simple deviation graphs (0 = target; above 0 is ok; below 0 is not ok) that display KPI info. It can be interesting to analyze if there is a relation between the scores of the three KPI’s in a specific month.
In the graph design below, It is quite difficult to compare the values. If you scan from the top graph to the two graphs below, you’ll easily loose track of the right column.
This has multiple reasons:
- The title of the individual KPI graphs is placed above the graph, instead of left of it. While comparing a bar in the top graph with the graphs below, you’ll have to ‘cross’ the title of the graph below. This distracts the reading process.
- Every graph has it’s own X-axis including category labels for the month.
- The distance between the three graphs is quite large.
- The black Y-axis distracts while analyzing (non-data pixels)
Now how can we easily support the process of comparing the KPI values for a specific month? I’ve made a simple demo dashboard to reduce the issue. In the following example, I’ve used five KPI’s.
In this example, you can easily compare the bars of the graphs because the selected month is put into ‘focus’ by marking it with a grey area. I’ve used a simple combination of dynamic visability and drill functionality. From a design perspective, I’ve eliminated some of the graph elements like the Y-axis, the X-axis labels, KPI titles (could be placed on the left) etcetera.
This is just a quick showcase / prototype of the technical functionality.
Let me know what you think of this.
Final note: This dashboard was developed using SAP Dashboards 4.0 SP04 Feature Pack 3