Today SAP Dashboards Service Pack 05 is released on the SAP SCN marketplace. Of course I downloaded it right away.
The first thing I noticed on SCN is that it is a real Service Pack, not a full installation. So you can install it quite fast.
I installed it on Windows 7 and when you do this, the first time you start xcelsius.exe, you might receive an error message (C++ runtime error). Just right-click the xcelsius.exe file and select “run as administrator”. You only have to do this the first time. I encountered this issue before and already wrote a short blog about it in the past.
Object browser enhancement
SAP added a search box to the object browser pane. For me, this is great since I often have dashboards with lots of objects.
For example, when you enter “actual”, all objects with that name will be shown.
This (simple) feature has been on my personal wish list for quite a while now so I’m glad this feature has made it into this SP05 release.
Mobile compatibility panel
Of course, the main new features are to be found in the mobile and HTML5 support topic. One of the new features in this area is the whole new ‘Mobile compatibility panel’. This panel is new, next to the existing panels (components, query browser, object browser).
If you have an existing dashboard model and you open the mobile compatibility panel, all object names are shown, including a icon to tell if they are supported for mobile export.
In my (quite simple) dashboard example, the print button and sparkline object aren’t supported. This results in not displaying the objects in the dashboard in preview mode. The print functionality is integrated into the SAP BI mobile app so you might not need a separate print button anymore.
You can see in my example above, that the object names contain a number behind the name label. This means there is an error or a warning. In this case, the warnings apply on custom colour and theme settings of the used objects. Only one theme is supported for now, the Nova theme.
Next to this, you can see that there is a general comment, which suggests to change the canvas size to the optimal iPad screen resolution.
The preview button has also changed. It now has two mobile related options. Fit to screen and orginal size.
After you select one of the available options, a iPad case surrounded dashboard will be shown, including the ability to test the interactivity of your dashboard model. Here comes some magic.
Since your navigating the dashboard with your fingers, and not a mouse, it can be tricky to see what line you are watching. SAP added a extra feature, which makes it able to easily analyse the data on mobile devices by showing a ‘mouse-over’ help screen showing relevant info.
Saving to platform
The options for saving your dashboard have also changed. You now have the option to save your dashboard as a flash file, as a mobile file, or both.
One of the SAP developers even put a little ‘easter egg’ or real mistake into this SP05 version. He probably was a Borat fan. See the menu option for ‘Save to platform as > Dashborads object for desktop only’.
iOS optimized font types
If you navigate the properties of the objects, you’ll also notice that some new font types are added, specifically for mobile use.
Support of most used components
I’ve made a little test dashboard with a subset of the components I personally use the most in dashboard projects.
In the design mode, this looks as follows.
If we now check the mobile compatibility panel, we’ll see some errors and warnings.
Note that the spreadsheet table, connection refresh button and horizontal bullet chart aren’t supported. Furthermore, there are some specific warnings regarding the combo box settings. It doesn’t support the number of labels displayed, six in my case.
If we preview it in mobile, you’ll get the following result.
- The bullet chart has disappeared
- The alert functionality in the combination chart is removed
- The design of the buttons has changed
- There was a warning on the amount of labels of the combo box, but they are all selectable
- The refresh connections button has disappeared
- The spreadsheet table has disappeared
I’ve also tested some basic dynamic visibility functionality by using a toggle button to change the visibility of a graph and this worked.
Other general test results:
- The value component is not supported
- The area chart component is not supported
- The list builder component is not supported
- Mouse over interaction for buttons and graphs aren’t supported
- HTML formatting for text boxes is not supported
- Animated entry effects for objects aren’t supported
In general, quite a large set of components is supported in this first release. SAP announced that more components will be supported in the near future. Most of the unsupported components or properties are not critical.
Check the updated help section of SAP Dashboards to see all details on what is and what isn’t supported.
Support for data connections
All connections using the data manager are not supported.
For example, the BICS SAP Netweaver BW connection type through the ‘data manager’ is not supported for mobile. For SAP BW, only SAP BW connections using the query browser are supported. This means you’ll need to re-build all your connections through the query browser. This can result in quite some rework.
If you open the data manager, it states “These connections are not supported on mobile devices”. This means you’ll always have to use the query browser instead of the data manager if you want to use mobile dashboards.
I’ve tested the performance by opening existing SP02 dashboards in SP05 and the results are disappointing in some test cases. The time to open a dashboard is around 5x as long as in SP02 and starting a published dashboard also takes about 5x as long. I encountered the same performance issues while testing SP04 (FP3) in the past versus SP02.
Since performance is one of the core factors for user acceptance, this can be quite an issue. I hope to hear from you if you encounter the same performance issues. In the past, I’ve already logged SAP support calls for the bad performance in SP04 (FP3) but SAP couldn’t reproduce the performance issues.
What are your experiences?
Important update: The performance issues only exist when using custom themes. If you use default themes like Nova, performance is not different from other SP versions.
Prerequisites for use on iOS devices like iPad and iPhone
There are some important technical prerequisites for being able to view mobile dashboards on for example iPhone and iPad.
1. SAP BI 4.0 enterprise platform with SP05
You’ll need 4.0 SP05 for using mobile dashboards.
2. BI Mobile server installed on your enterprise platform
The BI Mobile server handles the synchronization between your mobile device and BO enterprise platform. It checks which BI content (Webi reports, Crystal reports, Xcelsius dashboards and in the future SAP Design Studio (ZEN) documents) is made available for mobile use. Next to this, it passes the parameters set in the opened BI report/dashboard and communicates this with the Enterprise platform and returns the data.
3. SAP Dashboard Design SP05
The SP05 version includes the new mobile panel, compatibility checks and publish to mobile modes.
4. The iOS app SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS version 4.4 (planned release is December 15th 2012)
You’ll need the app for viewing the dashboards on a mobile device since the app includes the HTML5 wrapper.
The overall architecture looks as follows:
I’ve tested this new SP05 version for about two hours now and I must say I’m quite positive about the first results. Of course I’m waiting for the release of the iOS app SAP BI Mobile 4.4 so that I can actually deploy to a mobile device but up till then, this looks positive.
The main concern is rework for existing ‘data manager’ connections.
SAP does show they’re still investing in this existing dashboard product and finally some real innovation and enhancement is in place. If you look at the current state of SAP Design Studio, I think Xcelsius still is the best dashboard solution in SAP’s portfolio for the upcoming years.
A smart guy called Joseph Warbington discovered a way to test your dashboard in HTML5 and get the HTML5 ‘source’ files without publishing to the platform. He uses the temp folder of Xcelsius. Very smart
Check this page to find out how to do this.
The SAP BusinessObjects 4.4 mobile app will be released on December 15th 2012.
SAP press release: click here
This blog post has made it into a official SAP note on SAP Dashboards SP05. That’s funny .
On November 13th, the SAP BusinessObjects BI Suite 4.0 Service Pack 05 will come available on the SAP Service Marketplace.
With this, a preview of the HTML5 export for SAP Dashboards will be included. Since the 14th of November is my birthday, this looks like a nice ‘blue’ SAP present.
Important note! With this release, you won’t yet be able to publish to mobile devices. The technical prerequisite for this is the SAP BI mobile app version 4.4. This version isn’t available yet but is expected somewhere in or near Q4 2012.
So what can you do with this update? You can play around in SAP Dashboards designer mode to get acquainted with the supported components, UI enhancements etcetera. Great to see that SAP is really enhancing this product.
Make sure you’ll note this date in your agenda and start downloading the software right away!
If you’re interested in some pre-launch distributed information, make sure you’ll check the following links.
Update November 12th: Service Pack 05 is available on SCN, one day earlier Thanks to Xavier for the hint!
Live blogging in bullet style…
SAP Dashboards Enhancements:
- FP3 will bring drill from SAP Dashboard Design model to SAP Transaction to empower action-driven dashboards
- SAP Dashboards is not a Deski case because there is no ‘Webi’ replacement
- Not clear when SAP Dashboards will be ‘replaced’ by ZEN
- Still money being invested in SAP Dashboards features and mobilization
- First focus on mobility support
- Looks like there isn’t many being upgraded in the development area
- Focus more on new visualizations (Waterfall chart and alerts for combination charts)
- Focus more on performance and stability
- Mobilized version of SAP BO Dashboards will be released to improve mobile functionality
- SAP for now points towards partners to get SAP Dashboards on mobile devices as long as they haven’t released their own HTML5 version
- Offline access to dashboards will be made available
- Overview of mobile features in slide below
- Great amount of SAP Dashboard components are supported in HTML5 version
- ZEN Preview and beta around summer 2012
- ZEN Ramp-up planned for end of 2012
- ZEN GA somewhere in 2013
- Initial release of ZEN focusses on SAP HANA and SAP BW multidimensional models including hierarchies
- HTML5 SDK being looked into to be able to develop custom HTML5 components
- ZEN only available through SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 platform, not on older versions
- ZEN will be a client development tool to create dashboard models, then distribute through platform
- ZEN stands for SAP Business Objects Analysis, edition for application design
- ZEN will have a SDK
- ZEN is the ‘new’ web application designer
- Uses Eclipse technology
Conversion of SAP Dashboards to ZEN
- There is a plan to bring SAP Dashboard models into the ZEN solution
- It should be a seamless integration (duh?!)
- No needed redevelopment is talked about
- ZEN output / visualisation is natively HTML5
I will share all slides from the webinar after I’ve received them.
More info on ZEN can be found here.
Update May 10, 2012:
ASUG Webcast summary on ZEN. Lots of information.
Update June 2, 2012:
There has been a lot of buzz around the future of SAP Dashboard Design aka Xcelsius. It has been clear that the development in this tool is way behind to the new products popping up like the SAP BO Explorer including the Exploration Views feature. In general, there hasn’t been a major release for SAP Dashboard Design including new functionalities, other than focussing on the integration with SAP BW.
One of the top influencers in the BI community, Mico Yuk, addressed this issue publicly by tweeting about the subject. With this, she drew the attention from many SAP executives.
As a result, a webinar was organized for the 18th of April 2012 in which SAP would unveil their plans for the SAP Dashboard Design product. Will it die? Will it evolve to a web platform? Will we ‘only’ receive HTML5 functionality and when will all these things really start to happen.
Prior to the webconference, Adam Binnie (Global VP & GM, Business Intelligence at SAP) released a blog post in which he gave some more insight on the future of the Dashboarding solutions from SAP. You can check out the blog here.
In this blog post, he describes a new dashboard product codenamed ZEN, that is intended to provide rich, professionally authored, HTML5 applications and dashboards.
- HTML5 for rendering the “mobile first” experience and parity of experience between mobile devices and the desktop.
- Data access layer structured to support both big data (SAP HANA) and SAP NetWeaver BW data sources.
- Rich set of controls allowing both complex application development and quick easy dashboard production.
“It means choice and immediate value for both customer bases. Customers already employing SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) will be able to deliver rich dashboards on mobile devices. While customers looking to create more complex and sophisticated user experiences will have that control within project Zen.
Moving forward, the intent is for these two to slowly merge together, bringing the richness, diverse data source support, and dynamic “what-if” capabilities of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards to the Zen architecture; in addition to bringing the fine grained control and enhanced development experience to the dashboards world”
They also say that the new solution will be opened up to the partner eco-system for adding even more rich functionality. For the current product, SAP Dashboard Design, it has proven to be a very strong plus.
There is also a more detailed ‘Statement Of Direction’ document included which can be found here.
I’m very curious where the difference in ‘fine grained control’ and ‘enhanced development experience’ lies, in relation to the current SAP Dashboard Design product. I think it will definitely be a web-based solution instead of the client solution SAP Dashboard Design is at the moment. With the evolving HTML5 features, this might bring very rich possibilities in which it is much easier to integrate dashboards in web applications and mobile apps.
Also features like write back, annotations, scheduled views and dashboard bursting are mentioned.
Write back can of course be very interesting for specific scenario’s. Especially if you look at it from a ‘action-based’ dashboard perspective. You see a error on the dashboard and want to take action by going to, for example, a SAP transaction to solve issues. Or update your forecast, based on gained insights by the dashboard.
Annotations has been a very long awaited feature. You want to be able to make annotations in your dashboard ‘snapshot’. You want to be able to explain why you were over-achieving or failing. You want your colleagues to be able to learn from your countermeasures so that they can benefit from your experiences. So your colleagues should be able to see what the effectiveness of your countermeasures were, by checking your annotations. Until now, making annotations hasn’t been properly supported so I’m very curious about how this will be implemented.
Personally, I also hope that printing features will be improved heavily, as well as a reduce in needed complexity to create interactive dashboards with drilldowns and filters. The MS Excel layer has provided a great piece of flexibility, but it also often costs to many time to build ‘simple’ drill down features between multiple objects.
Some other stuff like being more flexible to change data visualizations without needing to reconfigure the whole object from data binding, color properties etc would be very nice. We’ve seen in Webi and the BO Explorer that this is possible so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this one.
The intent is that both technologies, and their content and applications, will resolve onto a common tool within a few releases, and with minimal disruption for the customers using them.
Phase 1 (roughly end of 2012)
- SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards gains HTML5 output option to allow delivery to mobile devices.
- Zen’s initial release plans for HTML5 application development connected to SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver BW.
- Both tools plan to leverage the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app to manage them locally on the device and provide a single point of entry.
- The HTML5 component library of Zen is anticipated to expand to match current SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards offerings.
- Third party components support is planned for Zen so the large eco-system of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards can also start to reach out to new customers.
- We anticipate continuing to expand the range of charting and other visualization choices for designers, and include additional features like: Write Back, Annotations, Scheduled Views, Dashboard Bursting to name just a few.
- The plan is to unify the data access technologies allowing the new Zen runtime to access all types of data and converge the two design environments into one.
I think that tonights webinar (it’s the 18th of April today) won’t bring many news other than the information already provided through the blog post of Adam. Personally, I see this a great opportunity from SAP to leverage their dashboarding solution for guided analysis, not to mistaken with ad-hoc analysis solutions like the BO Explorer. The mentioned features sound very nice and SAP preparing itself for mobile is for sure the right path forward. It also seams like they are providing customers with a ‘migration option’ for existing SAP Dashboard Design / Xcelsius dashboard towards this new ZEN product.
In the end, time will tell and I’ll make sure to follow the further developments. To end with, I’d like to thank Mico Yuk, from Benchmarkers.com, for getting SAP Dashboards on the agenda of SAP again and communicating actively on the subject. Thumbs up Mico!
Update May 10, 2012:
ASUG Webcast summary on ZEN. Lots of information.