Posts tagged iPad
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!
Yesterday, Steve Lucas (General Manager Business Analytics and Technology at SAP) published a blog post with the title “Putting Mobile First and the New Business Intelligence Priorities”.
His blog post contains a numerous of topics on mobile SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions including an overview slide of the strategy for 2012 which is displayed below.
Though, there is one specific message that stands out. Steve says that SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) will be HTML5 enabled in 2012.
“The most important message is that we aren’t going to leave customers in a lurch and plan to deliver an HTML 5 version in 2012. This may not make life perfect, but it’ll provide a way to get the incredibly valuable content and assets available in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards files, over to all mobile devices. More specific timeframes will be communicated in Q1 2012. So for all of our loyal dashboard customers out there - stay tuned and rest assured that we will deliver an insanely great experience for mobile dashboards.”
This means that in 2012, this year, SAP Dashboards will be available to all mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad.
Impact on functionality?
Well SAP, it’s about time.. Hopefully this brings a solid solution for running SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) on mobile devices since customers have invested heavily in dashboards. I’m still convinced that there is a large market for (interactive) guided analysis dashboards with pixel perfect UX design. Not to be confused with the SAP BO Explorer, for more ad-hoc analysis.
Let’s wait and see what SAP will bring this year and if functionality is limited for HTML5 format. If you scan the online BI community you see that many thought leaders are afraid that Xcelsius HTML5 functionality will be limited.
Some random questions:
- What if strong features like, for example, dynamic visability won’t be supported?
- Or if there is a limit to the maximum number of objects?
- How will it perform?
- Is there a limited amount of visualizations available for HTML5?
- Will you need a separate HTML5 development file?
There rise many questions with this announcement where we would like to see some clear answers. Perhaps it’s only good news and all answers will be positive, we’ll just have to wait and find out.
How does Xcelsius / SAP Dashboards fit into the roadmap?
The front rows of the mobile product roadmap fashion show are booked for SAP BusinessObjects Mobile, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and the Sybase Unwired Platform where you can build your own apps. It almost feels like Xcelsius is locked up in a toilet and receives a HTML5 lollipop to prevent it from starting to cry. This doesn’t feel good in some way. I’d also expect announcements on enhanced product features of Xcelsius itself. And if I talk about product enhancements, I’m not thinking about only technical stuff like supporting SAP BW hierarchies. And adding a waterfall chart type isn’t what we are expecting either. So yes, Feature Pack 3 will bring better support, but mainly on the technical axis. We also expect product enhancements on the design and user experience axis.
Make it easier and less time consuming to use features like Dynamic Visibility, which now often requires a large and complex MS Excel magic show. Make it also possible to dynamically switch between visualizations, like in Webi, without having to set al properties again so that perhaps users can select from a (by the developer) predefined set of chart types. Make it possible to add notes and comments to a certain snapshot of your data and share it with colleagues. I could continue for over an hour so there still is a lot of potential in this product.
In short, please give us a more flexible and efficient development environment where we can build dashboards in less time, without having to give up the strong visualization options so that we can continue to deliver an excellent end-user experience, because that still is where Xcelsius is the King of the SAP world, instead of a boy locked in the toilet with a lollipop. The visual glory of Xcelsius cannot be compared to the new announced SAP BusinessObjects Explorer feature called Exploration Views. Sure, it looks great but it isn’t a guided analysis tool. There will always be a demand for pixel perfect intuitive guided analysis dashboards, mobile or not, that shouldn’t matter.
Well, I think this is enough for now. I’m very curious to your opinion on the subject. Will Xcelsius disappear in the upcoming years and be replaced by SAP BO Explorer Exploration Views? Or will there be more product enhancements for Xcelsius on it’s way? I hope the latter, please let me know what you think..
At home, we are used to have smart phones and tablets to access our “critical” information like email, agenda, bank account, social media, news, etcetera.
It doesn’t matter where you are, the only thing you need is an internet connection and off you go. With just the touch of a finger you can access a treasure of information through the internet. It feels like it’s never been any different, but that’s not true. We only have this technology since a couple of years.
As an example, we can take a look at the Apple iPad. Apple has already sold over 25 million iPad products in just less than two years. Not to mention the 140+ million iPhone sales since 2007, which is barely 4 years back in time. If you don’t look only at Apple, but at mobile devices in general, just only in Q3 2011 over 440.5 million (!!) mobile devices were sold, according to a Gartner report.
We can hardly understand how “booming” this new type of device is and how it will have an impact on the way we interact with each other as humans but also on how we interact with systems and information. You could compare it with the revolution from bringing your information on your pc from the desktop to the internet, through for example web portals. Content was no longer “off line” but accessible from out of the office. This was a major step forward and learned us to think in terms of role based content and personalization. It learned us how to integrate different kind of applications and information into a single and integrated environment. It was the portal to everything you needed to do your job at work. If you logged on, onto the portal, you only saw the information that was relevant for you as an individual. The best thing was, that it was online so that you could access it from any PC in the office, or even from home if supported by a secured connection. Challenges were mainly in the areas of personalization, company branding, using one user ID for all integrated applications but especially connecting and integrating all the separate applications into one environment.
Now we are pushing the boundaries by entering the mobile world. The number of mobile devices is growing extremely fast and this will be the next revolution, without a doubt. But is your enterprise ready for supporting you and your fully personalized mobile device stuffed with apps mixing personal and business content?
Mobile devices entering the enterprise
So at home, we’ve got things in place quite nicely. But what about the office? The business asks for content. They want apps. Apps that are intuitive, user friendly, easy to use and have great performance. Just like they are used to at home. And with today’s technology, we are able to create superb user friendly apps that are really good at doing one thing. For example sharing documents (Dropbox), manage your social network (Facebook, Twitter), communicate with each other (WhatsApp, iMessenger, Mail) or just to create PDF’s, read the news or manage your task lists. These apps are focussed on being good at one specific thing with a clear scope. And we don’t bother using a specific app for a specific purpose. We understand that you cannot have this one “Swiss knife” app to do everything in a great way without having impact on the user experience.
So we have proved to be able to design and develop great apps which have a great user experience. But now how do I connect these to my company data? When you bring your personal mobile device into your office, you cannot connect to your company’s wireless network, access your work email or retrieve the latest financial reports. The IT infrastructure doesn’t support all these different platforms like iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etcetera. Not to mention all the different software and hardware versions of the devices and platforms. There are iOS devices with hardware versions iPhone 3, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S and the iPhone 5 is probably only being pushed back by the marketing department of Apple because they want to make enough money from the Siri function on the 4S before releasing number 5. There is even a bigger challenge for Android devices since they have different manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, LG, etcetera with different screen size, resolutions, hardware capabilities. Some of them have GPS functionality, some of them don’t. You see the challenge for supporting this? This probably helps you understand that companies are afraid to give you access to this information walhalla. Are connections secure? What if your device get’s stolen? How can we erase data from a remote location? How do we upgrade and maintain company apps? How can we provide support if you’re not in the office? Can we use the same support protocols for all these different devices? Many questions arise and the problem is that the answers aren’t all there yet. Or are they?
Bring your own equipment
Many companies are giving C-level executives and managers iPads to prevent them from bringing in their own devices. But that’s not efficient, because these people already have one or more iPads at home. One for themselves, one for their wife(s) and an older model (iPad 1) for the kids. In fact, nowadays almost everyone has a mobile device. You don’t have to make a lot of money anymore to be able to buy one, and that’s a good thing without a doubt.
We should start thinking about how we can bring our personal devices into the enterprise with being able to support them. Large vendors like for example SAP are heavily investing in this area. They acquired Sybase a couple of years ago and with this suite, they also have access to Afaria, a solution for remote device management and security. It makes you able to wipe all data from a device when it’s stolen with a push on a button. You can publish and push updates on corporate apps to devices, any place, anywhere. So SAP for sure is making steps in this front. My company, TheNextView, is currently working with the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) to develop, deploy and maintain a custom iPad app for a Dutch Public Transport company to support the work of on-site service engineers. I must confess, this looks very promising so perhaps the solution to the challenges lies within reach. Of course, now we have a new (or old) challenge, the price tag for such support platforms..
Where is this all heading to?
There is one thing I know for sure. Tomorrow, the challenges of today are history. If you imagine that smart phones and tablets are available just only a couple of years, it will be only a matter of time until companies will be able to support these new infrastructure challenges. Large vendors like for example SAP already have solutions in place so many will follow.
The real challenge lies in how we change the way we work and adapt to the new possibilities it creates when you have access to your enterprise information at any time, location or device. That’s the real challenge. Especially when you combine it with in-memory solutions like SAP HANA. It creates new possibilities of interacting with customers because you can retrieve, process and action upon new information where ever you are. Five minutes before a customer visit, you can take a look at their order history and discover the order they placed this very morning or high prio issue they registered (retrieve), interact with your sales or support team to discuss what to do (process) and make this customer a new offer (act) because he ordered a larger amount or you want to compensate for having an issue.
Companies that only bring online their devices without changing the way they do business, won’t survive so start thinking about your mobile strategy. And a mobile strategy is not about getting the hardware and bits and bytes online, it’s about making mobile part of your core business processes and change the way you work. And that doesn’t mean accessing the same old reports just only once a week but now from your iPad with new visualizations.
That’s food for thought..
For more info on SAP’s solution for managing mobile devices, download the Afaria presentation from SAP directly from my site.
A while ago I posted a blog which described how you can use iSwifter to run Xcelsius dashboards on your iPad. Now I’ve made a short movie which actually shows it step by step with an easy listening beat on the background.
In this movie the iPad app iSwifter is used to open webpages that contain SWF files. It more or less works as an internet browser. Check out the movie for the details.
Enjoy and let me know if this is useful.