Posts tagged SCDD
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?
In the meanwhile, there are some nice alternatives for Xcelsius in the SAP portfolio / eco-system if you’re looking for a mobile dashboarding solution that works seamless on Apple devices. At the moment, I think RoamBI is the best 3rd party alternative in terms of usability, user experience, integration with SAP back-ends, short development time, etcetera.
In the meanwhile, you also see that SAP is investing heavily in the Apple devices. One of the examples is the interview with SAP CIO Oliver Bussman which is a real interesting article. SAP is aware, without a doubt, of the potential impact of Apple products for businesses. That’s just one of the reasons why they deployed 3,500 iPads in less then one year within SAP. With the upcoming release of BI4, not only the SAP BO explorer, but also WebIntelligence will be iPad enabled. These kind of product development choices aren’t made while making your peanut-butter sandwich in the morning before going to work. SAP has a clear mobile strategy for the future which gets empowered even more after the acquisition of Sybase.
So back to one of Ryan’s questions: “Does SAP need to completely change a highly successful dashboard design platform to serve one single device even it is not the best possible approach to dashboards oniOS? ”
My answer, no they don’t. Xcelsius will continue to be the number one dashboarding application within the SAP portfolio for the desktop users. That’s for sure without a doubt. I specifically say “within the SAP portfolio” since Xcelsius (SAP BO Dashboards arrrrgh) isn’t the holy grail. It takes quite some development time before you have a pixel perfect solution and it’s visualizations aren’t always as flexible as you’d hope they’d be. Especially User Experience designers who can make real, real, real, real (you get it?) awesome designs of dashboards without tool limitations in mind, often walk up the Xcelsius wall. Don’t understand me wrong, I’m a great “fan” of Xcelsius, but also Xcelsius has it’s limitations.
If you take a look at BO Exploration Views it comes very close to dashboarding functionality like Xcelsius, and this app is optimized for mobile devices. I dedicated a blog to it earlier and explained some differences and overlap between BO Exploration Views and for example Xcelsius. It’s just an example of SAP focussing on mobile and online platforms for the future with a stronger focus on information consuming than on information designing.
Another important thing is that ”porting” a dashboard from Xcelsius to a mobile app with exactly the same design, layout etcetera is a bad thing in the first place. The presentation of the information must be optimized for the platform and device your consuming it on. Looking at a dashboard on your 17″ monitor which receives input from a mouse and keyboard is completely different than a dashboard that is used on a mobile device like a phone or tablet which gets it’s input from a finger. User Experience wise, porting a dashboard 1-on-1 from desktop to mobile is a bad idea from the beginning. Ryan mentions a solution by Antivia which is being developed to port dashboards to flash enabled devices. This is a good thing, as long as the developers have designed the Xcelsius dashboard with this purpose in mind from the beginning. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a dashboard that looks stunning, but with the touch of your finger, 10 filters will be activated instead of just 1 which was supposed to be activated. Great potential, as long as UX is embedded in the dashboard developers mind. I’d love to play around with a prototype of this tool so if Antivia is willing to give me a test version, give me a sign! I think Antivia is a great 3rd party developer for Xcelsius solutions so I’m convinced they’ll release a nice solution. But beware, it’s not about technology, but about people.
SAP understands this quite well as you can see in the differences in the desktop version of the SAP BO explorer and the iPhone app. The information that is presented is exactly the same, but the way you interact with it, based on UI buttons etcetera is different. As an example, I’ve added two screenshots.
Well I hope this gives a better view of my vision on mobile devices and how you should publish and present BI content on them. SAP is investing in it without a doubt and they are making great steps forward. In the meanwhile, tools like RoamBI are great alternatives and I’m quite curious about their own strategy and future releases and how they’ll manage to integrate with upcoming SAP solutions in the BI4 platform. Time will tell.
Enough for now. Feel free to share your thoughts trough the comments, mail, twitter, etcetera. You’ll know how and where to find me.
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