Posts tagged SAP BusinessObjects
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 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 .
Want to stay ahead of all future release dates for Major releases, Service Packs and Patches of the SAP BusinessObjects products?
Make sure you check out this URL (SAP S-account required).
Since the information is ‘secured’ behind a S-account I won’t publish screenshots but it contains a calendar showing when every software update will be released (subject to change).
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!
Since SAP Dashboard Design (Xcelsius) uses the internet browser to show your dashboard model, the limitations of Internet Browsers may cause some challenges. One of these challenges can be the issue of showing a non up-to-date version of the SWF model. This may happen because your Internet browser stores the SWF model in the browser cache memory.
What is cache?
Your browser’s cache holds the contents of all the pages that you have visited during a session or period of time, depending on your settings. It monitors requests for HTML pages and image files and saves copies for itself. Then, if there is another request for the same page or file, it will use the copy that it has, instead of asking the server for it again. Since the request is satisfied locally, it takes less time for your browser to retrieve and display the page.
How to fix this?
There are many suggested ‘manual’ solutions for this issue. Most of them show ways how to manually delete your cache, quickly delete it with the use of a hot-key, let your browser delete it by itself every time a page loads, increase the virtual memory, and so on.
I have found just only one solution that really worked in my case, thanks to Centigon Solutions.
They provide a simple solution, by just randomizing the URL every time the dashboard starts. This way, the dashboard can never be in the cache, since the webpage hasn’t ever been visited before. It works quite simple, if you can dynamically change the target URL where the dashboard is located. In my case, I had a ‘welcome screen’ with a URL button integrated into it, from which the real dashboard was started. In this case, I can easily use the ‘randomized URL parameter’ solution for solving the caching issue. You can also add this URL button in your dashboard and let it open the target URL in the same window. This way, it is sort of a ‘refresh’ button.
All the other ‘internet browser settings related’ solutions did not work in my case.
How to do it?
1. Bind the URL button of your dashboard to a cell in your spreadsheet
2. Use another cell with a function “=RAND()” to generate a random value between ’0′ and ’1′.
3. Set a third cell in your spreadsheet model to concatenate the base URL and the random parameter and add a ‘?’ character in between
I created a simple example XLF in which you can easily test the solution and copy paste your own URL witout having to manually add the ‘?’ character.
You can download the example here.
Again thanks to Centigon Solutions for pointing out the direction of the solution.