BO 4.0 FP3: get eFashion and other MS Access datasources working

I’ve just noticed a problem with our IT-Logix Migration Assessment Environment. The problem is with eFashion and other MS Access based demo databases, namely that you get the following error in (online) Webi, both on BO 4.0 SP02 as well as with FP3 – due to 64bit connectivity problems:

You don’t get the error in Webi Rich Client usually. In this post I will quickly outline the reasons for this and how to solve it:

First of all: Others got these errors too:

http://scn.sap.com/thread/2118132

http://scn.sap.com/thread/2043784

The answers from SAP (namely http://scn.sap.com/people/henry.banks) are not really satisfying. Of course it is not very clever to use Access as a demo datasource – but why SAP then provides these (access based) samples in BO 4.0 and not e.g. within the database they include within the setup? Anyway, there are three options you can choose:

  1. Move your efashion and other MS Access databases to a “real” database like SQL Server (Express), MySQL etc. It must be just accessible by 32 AND 64 bit drivers.
  2. Migrate to BO4 FP3 – and read the rest of the blog of how you can get Access databases running…
  3. If you are on BO4 SP2 – sorry, I don’t know a way how to get Access running on a 64bit driver – if you are interested in the reason, read on… (If you know another solution, please post a comment!)

In BO 4.0 still all the client tools (like the Webi Rich Client) use 32bit drivers. Regarding eFashion this is not a problem as any default Windows XP / 7 / Server will provide preinstalled drivers. The BOE setup will automatically create the corresponding 32bit-ODBC datasources. Therefore you’re all fine.

On server side it is important to note that e.g. Webi Processing Server always uses 64bit drivers. As far as I can overlook it as well for MS Access. But these 64bit drivers seem not to be installed by default, at least they weren’t on my cloudshare.com environments. In addition there is a strange thing that the BOE setup creates both, 32bit as well as 64bit ODBC connections for eFashion and club.The below screenshot shows the 64bit ODBC Admin (trust me :-)

But be careful: Whereas the 32bit ODBC connections work fine at least on my side I got the following errors when I wanted to modify e.g. the efashion connection:

If you want to create a new ODBC connection you will notify there are no 64bit drivers installed for MS Access:

My suggestion to solve this is to go here and download the Microsoft Access Database Engine 2010 Redistributable – because there is a 64bit setup / drivers for this:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=13255

Download the 64bit setup… and run it:

Finally your 64bit ODBC Admin “Add connection” dialog should look like this:

Now you can create the efashion, efashion-webi etc. data sources. Make sure you write it absolutely identical as it is written in the 32bit ODBC connection!

So far everything works fine for both, BO 4.0 SP02 as well as FP3. As usual there is a big BUT: You will still get the same errors shown right at the beginning of this post. Remember, you just installed the Access 2010 redistributable. This means you have to change your universe connection to use the appropriate driver (for this log in to Universe Design Tool and choose Tools – Connections). And here is, where at least I had to say there is no (obvious) way of how to solve it with SP02:

Sorry guys, no Access 2010 support in BO 4.0 SP02. But at least FP3 provides something for us:

And finally it should work. To sum up:

  1. On a BO 4.0 FP3 server install MS Access 2010 Redistributable 64bit
  2. Create necessary 64bit ODBC connection
  3. Modify your universe connections to point to the Access2010 driver
  4. have fun with efashion ;-)

PS: I don’t have any issues with our BO 4.0 SP02 environment which has SP02 installed only as a Patch. We installed this environment during ramp-up for SP02 (in these times Webi was still labeled Interactive Analysis, that’s why I noticed the difference…) and only later applied SP02. I didn’t investigate, but it seems like Webi Proc servers uses 32bit drivers here… (no 64bit drivers for access installed on this system…)

PPS: Don’t have FP3 available but you ‘d like to test yourself? I can get you easily access to copy on cloudshare.com – see the corresponding blog post.

Do you have similar experiences? Any other hint I missed? Please post your comment.

How to improve the process of hiring an (SAP BO) consultant

There are some recent blogs about fraud in hiring an (SAP) consultant:

http://scn.sap.com/community/career-center/blog/2012/04/09/sap-consulting-fraud–disturbing-example
http://scn.sap.com/community/career-center/blog/2012/05/01/more-on-sap-consulting-fraud-video-discussion

In this post I would like to share our “best practice” at IT-Logix as it is part of our daily business to evaluate and in some cases hire new consultants, especially for the Business Intelligence sector in general and for SAP BusinessObjects and Microsoft BI as our major technology stacks. As I’m personally a BusinessObjects consultant (besides other skills…) I talk primarily about this area, but of course you can adapt these findings to your own domain.

A first thing which I need to mention here is the lack of quality of SAP (BO) certifications. As long as they are mainly consisting of multiple choice questions, it is easy to simply “learn by heart” the answers, especially if you use the offerings of sites like examkiller.com:

On the SAP partner portal you can do some further “qualifications” like SAP Solution Consultant. You have to do some e-learnings and finally pass web based multiple choice questions. Nothing more easy than get an experienced consultant with you and let him answer the questions you have to fill in…

Therefore I agree with all the blog voices that a face-to-face interview is an important element during the recruitement process. On the other hand it is mentioned several times that it is problematic if you as the future employer do not have the necessary technical knowledge to really evaluate an applicant. There are two ways to address this:

  • You bring in external specialists for all sorts of tasks – why wouldn’t you for hiring? I don’t talk about common head hunters but another task specific consulting company? Of course this is a little bit marketing for IT-Logix and our services: Depending on the project and customer situation we are anyway too expensive as we mainly address the top level expertise market for Business Intelligence. Therefore we can’t compete with any of these outsourcers who provide their people for <400$ a day etc. But at least we can assist customers during the evaluation process and bring in our technical knowledge to make sure people really understand what they claim to do. Maybe you are in  a similar situation: You cannot afford the high rate top consultant but would like to have some cheaper ones. But nevertheless you want to be sure the quality of skills provided are at least according to what they tell you. Then really work together with someone who can challenge the skill set adequately.
  • Let applicants do some hands-on activities. Nothing gives you more insight than how a candidate behaves using a “real” system. Let me share with you how we do at IT-Logix: We use cloudshare.com and for example our preconfigured SAP BO 4.x environment (see my previous blog) and simply share a copy with a candidate, mostly right away at the beginning of the interview appointment. In addition we distribute a set of activity instructions including the tasks to be solved by the candidate. Afterwards he / she will have some time to work on these tasks and finally to present the results. This is sometimes amazing how vast the difference can be between a candidate’s CV and the hands-on experience… I have to add that of course it is fairly easy to setup a cloud environment for SAP BO. It might take some more efforts to do so for other SAP applications like SAP NW etc. But maybe there are other cloud solutions out there or you can somehow use your internal demo environment.

What is your experience with recruiting consultants? How do you verify their skillset? Do you think it is an overkill to do hands-on assessments? I’m happy to ready your comments!

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