Posts tagged innovation
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 .
There is lots of stuff we’d like to see in a new version of SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius. Probably the HTML5 version will focus mainly on HTML5 export functionality so lets stretch the wish list towards ZEN (I don’t want to type that 2314 counting character official product name).
If I look at SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius I’d love to see the following features being made available in a next version of SAP Dashboards or the new product ZEN. It is quite a wish list and I know that some of these things can be fixed with some creativity, but I’m looking for out-of-the-box functionality.
Here it comes..
- Help screen pop-ups / mouse overs
Now this is possible but requires to much tricks. The time of paper documentation is moving behind us. I’d like to see functionality to easily build integrated help functionality. With this I mean that I don’t need to create a background menu, transparent background to show over the dashboard, 10 custom label objects, a ‘close-window’ push button and some dynamic visibility logic to start the circus. Just provide help menu’s which are easy to configure.
- Decent printing options
I shouldn’t rely on 3rd party solutions for being able to print the dashboard the way I want it, including some simple annotations.
- Decent commenting options
This is not supported. Connecting to a remote database and store/retrieve comments is possible, but too much customizing.
- Flexible change of chart type (like in Webi)
I often use the Combination Chart just in case I want to change the chart type afterwards from line to bar chart. If I don’t do this, I’ll need to reconfigure the cell binding, properties, alignment, etcetera. Webi handles this much better.
- More developer-friendly drag and drop of components and objects
The amount of time you spend to align, resize and position objects can be reduced if this is improved. Selecting objects and moving them around sometimes works a bit buggy. Please fix this.
- New version of the Open Document Statement integration protocol. This should be ‘point-and-click’ easy
I shouldn’t need to be able to read HTML parameters for connecting BI content. Sure, it works OK and offers great functionality but this should be done like a ‘walk down the park’ instead of a ‘walk down the HTML parameter trial-and-error hell’. Make this point-and-click easy with a decent user interface.
- Easier integration between multiple dashboards
Jumping from one dashboard to another including parameters should be easy. This way you should be able to scale your development team without loosing interactivity. Now you often have one big sized dashboard with longer load times etc. Of course you can tune this with dynamic visibility, connection settings etc but cutting one dashboard into smaller pieces can have quite some advantages. Now this is possible, but only for advanced developers.
- Better support for custom fonts (include more than 1 custom font in the dashboard model)
The typography topic for dashboards is often completely skipped. I’ve seen and designed dashboards with a well designed typography model which really made a difference. Now the support for custom fonts is limited. If a user hasn’t got the used fonts on his machine, you can embed them in the dashboard. However, you can only embed one font. And flipping between serif and sans-serif for large headers and titles on one side and small lables and subtitles on the other side requires more than just one font.
- Debug mode for errors
Solving issues is often a complex process. An empty chart pops up. What’s going on? Does the connection not retrieve any data? Is the table range not large enough? Doesn’t the filtered row object pick the right label? Is the chart binded to the wrong cells? Is there a dynamic visability issue? Is there an authorization issue for the user? Is there no data at all in the source? And so on..
An advanced developer will be able to find the issue but this can require quite some time. I have been laughing quite often when an empty error dialog screen popped up in Xcelsius. Laughing only lasted for seconds, than the frustration came..
- CSS editor for easy theme and template creation
Xcelsius has some out of the box themes. Editing these themes is not possible for the average developer. In the installation folders of Xcelsius, CSS files are stored which contain all the styling. I’d like to see a modern CSS editor in which you can load, edit, save and share CSS templates. This way dashboard development can be taken to the next level.
- More flexible and detailed property options for all components
From a design perspective, Xcelsius falls short in some area’s. It does a real great job in the first 95% but as a die-hard, you also want to slam those last 5%. For example, a combination chart has no alerting options (comes in FP3). Setting markers in line charts (sparkline chart excluded) is only possible for every value on the X-axis. I, the designer, want to be able where and how the markers should be applied. For example one on the highest or lowest, and one in the end, not just everywhere.
The default legenda looks just ugly. I want to be able to make a more sophisticated legenda. And why can’t I set the scale range for the microchart? Now two charts cannot be compared since they can have a different scale range. Not to speak about the number of times I had to copy multiple graphs on top of each other to be able to create the chart looking exactly the way I wanted it to do. And for charts with a scale from negative to positive values I want to be able to make the X-axis line for the ’0′ Y-value a bit thicker but I’m only able to make the bottom X-axis line thicker (the lowest value line). This is just a small set of examples of stuff you just wanted to be able to configure slightly different, with a big positive impact on the user experience.
SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius has surprised me time after time by it’s flexibility and ability to realize requirements by applying ‘tricks’ and ‘voodoo magic’. This makes it that I love the product. Possibilities sometimes look endless. But when someone has to support this magic dashboard full of MS Excell spells and dynamic visibility voodoo, you may loose some friends.
Therefore I like to see some of this magic back in the standard component properties and menus. What does your wish list look like?
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.
This year, SAP released BI 4.0, the largest release for the SAP BusinessObjects platform in years. Besides much tighter integration with SAP BW, there are loads of new functionalities available in more specific front-end tool areas.
Because it’s very difficult to find the one-stop-shop with an overview of only the new features, SAP has recorded several “What’s new in BI4?” video’s that specifically explain new functionalities, on a high level including screenshots.
At this moment, there are video’s available for:
- What’s new in BI launch pad 4.0
- What’s new in SAP Crystal Reports 2011
- What’s new in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0
- What’s new in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0
- What’s new in SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.0
There are also some complete new products in the BI 4.0 release. Tutorials for these new products can be explored on the following pages:
- Crystal Reports for Enterprise
- Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office
- Analysis, edition for OLAP
- information design tool
- upgrade management tool
Nowadays, we are all used to being online. It doesn’t matter if you’re at work, at home, at a restaurant or any other place. Through your laptop, tablet or smartphone you’ll be almost always online. You use these devices to check your social media apps, bank accounts, agenda, email, tasks, weather forecast, to upload your Angry Birds high score and so on. The possibilities are numerous.
Until now, your car wasn’t one of the online “devices”. Wel this is about to change. Car manufacturers are really busing hooking your car up onto the online experience. Cars will be able to use online services like we’ve never seen before. For example, you’ll be able to look up a restaurant through Google straight from your car and let you navigate towards it through a Google maps streetview interface. Or imagine that you’re in a traffic jam and a car upfront notices this and sends a “traffic jam warning” message. This way you’ll be able to receive real-time information. Next to this it can also be possible to actually connect to the car driving next to you to exchange information like your business card, points of interest, or even to share music or photo’s. Possibilities are really endless. But also for safety measures you could think of sending an alert to the emergency services if you witness a car accident or to track your stolen car.
Of course there is always a battle of the sexes between for example BMW and Audi.
This picture below shows a BMW which notices an older Audi model with technical malfunctions. The BMW calls in for help for the broken car. What a coincidence that this car happens to be an Audi.
Click the image to go to the BMW connected drive website.
At BMW, they also think that a thief would rather pick a BMW instead of a Mercedes or Audi if he could choose. I find it quite funny. With BMW connected drive, you can track your car’s location within seconds.
Audi also launched a website on which they inform you about their vision for online cars.
They still need to work on some nice video footage but the textual content is available for your reading pleasures.
Also check the following link for Google’s self-driving car:
I’d say, go check it!