August 25, 2014 Leave a comment
Just recently I published a blog about the following topic on sap.com
The blog of Raphael Branger
April 21, 2014 1 Comment
My workmate Christoph Gnodtke wrote an excellent blog about how to identify SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports which are impacted by various calculation changes in newer BO versions. What I would like to point out here is that not only BO 4.x migrations are concerend but also “simple” service / support package upgrades e.g. from XI 3.1 SP2 to SP6. In my current customer case we’ve found many many reports which obviously were created in a wrong way, namely that the table structure contains the merged dimension (e.g. [Merged Country]) where as the cells within the row use a variable containing e.g. a Where operator using the original dimension ([Query1].[Country]). In our case the business requirement would have been to use the merged dimension here as well. As outlined here, in former BO support package levels a bug resulted in the effect, that the just mentioned example still showed what the business expected. Now (e.g. in XI 3.1 SP6) that the bug is fixed, the reports start to show wrong values. Although the software 360Eyes doesn’t solve the problem, it at least helps to identify concerned reports. Unfortunately we still need to look into every single report and compare between the version running on the XI 3.1 SP2 environment and the SP6 environment. In order to speed up this process we use 360Cast. This software provides similar features like BO Publications e.g. for report scheduling and bursting. The main advantage namely in the case of report testing are two fold (compared to BO out of the box features):
After all, also 360Cast doesn’t solve the initial problem. But at least we don’t need to run every report (identified by 360Eyes earlier) on its own but can automate the refresh process and we can easily rerun reports (e.g. with different prompts by simply modifying the values in the Excel list).
March 27, 2014 1 Comment
A BI Picture Book is a structured collection of “pictures” aka screenshots of features illustrating one or multiple products. It describes and illustrates the available options in a compact and easy to handle manual. It should help the user to identify what options they have in a given BI front end application.
Referring to scenario A and B above, in an ideal world one would create a BI Picture Book during the initial tool selection process (scenario B). In this context, the BI Picture Book helps to illustrate the available features of the different tools under consideration. Some (or all) of these tools will become “strategic” and therefore the preferred tools to be used during subsequent BI projects. In the same way, the corresponding parts of the original BI Picture Book will also be included in the “daily business” BI Picture Book, which only contains the available options regarding the strategic tool set.
One main characteristic of a BI Picture Book is that we compare feature (or requirement) categories one after another and not a tool (with all its different features) after another tool. This helps to clarify specific differences between the tools for each category.
Based on the previously described structure, the BI Picture Book should contain notes which highlight unique features of one tool compared to the rest of available (or evaluated) tools, e.g. a specific chart type which is only available in one tool. On the other hand, one should highlight limitations regarding specific features that are initially “not obvious”, e.g. in cases where the color palette of charts cannot be customized. Another example is to specifically highlight a tool which does not contain an Excel export (because end users might assume that there is an Excel export for every imaginable BI tool, so that they think they do not have to specify this).
Building a BI Picture Book is primarily about taking screenshots and arranging them in a structured manner, e.g. following the seven feature categories introduced above. As with every other project, certain points need to be planned and clarified before you start:
After having answered these questions, you can start: Take whatever screen capture program you like and start taking the screenshots. Use either a tool like Microsoft Powerpoint or Word to collect and layout the screenshot in a meaningful way. Keep an eye on the point that the BI Picture Books’ main characteristic is about comparing a specific feature over multiple tools. Therefore, put the screenshots of a given feature for multiple tools side by side on the same page or slide.
The subsequent paragraphs will illustrate how a concrete BI Picture Book might look. Screenshots are taken from various SAP Business Intelligence front end tools.
Content options are difficult to illustrate using screenshots regarding scenario A). For scenario B) we can, for example, compare the different available data connectivity options:
For navigation options outside of information, products typically screenshots of a BI portal are to be taken. This can be either based on a vendor specific portal or your company’s intranet site (or both if end users have a choice and need to decide which one to use).
On the other hand, a tool provides navigation and selection features inside information products. We usually take screenshots for at least the following elements:
Some of these elements are illustrated as follows:
The drill-down example, in particular, shows that it is not enough for an end user to simply specify “we need drill-down functionality” as a requirement. End users need to specify requirements in alignment with the different options of drill-down available.
We suggest taking screenshots for the following elements:
Make sure you list all important features and highlight the unique ones as well as limitations that are not obvious. This helps end users to compare the different options. In some cases, it is important to shed more light on the settings of features such as charts. By way of example, specify if it is possible to change the colors of a pie chart?
Next up are functional options, for example export. It is quite simple to find the available options and therefore it is easy for end users to choose from the existing options. It is useless, for example, if you let someone define that he wants a PowerPoint export from a front end tool, if it does not exist. Of course this would be nice, but it is simply not part of the catalog.
Another category of functions is printing. Usually it is not precise enough if an end user specifies he needs to print a document. Giving them a picture book, they can easily find out the available printing options. The BI Picture Book should clarify points such as if you can mix landscape and portrait page mode or choose «Fit to page». Below is our list of typical functions which could be integrated into the BI Picture Book:
An up-to-date topic which falls into the category of delivery options is mobile-device compatibility. This is becoming increasingly important at a time when all information should be available independent of the end users geographical location. Depending on the BI vendor and the BI tool itself, mobile devices support can differ considerably. Some serve the information products 1:1 to mobile devices. Others transform existing information products into specific mobile versions, which might have quite a different look and feel compared to the original information product.
As with content options, it is somehow difficult to visualize security options using screenshots in a meaningful way. Try to focus on the comparison aspect between different tools and highlight unique features and limitations that are not obvious. The following example illustrates the available access rights for two different tools. One tool can simply restrict the export functionality in general, whereas the other tool can control the different export formats.
It is hard to illustrate this category using screenshots. Yet, as indicated in a previous paragraph, you can try to find other illustrations to guide your end users in specifying qualitative requirements.
As with my other blog posts this article doesn’t aim to be a complete list of something. A BI Picture Book is neither the only way to define BI specific requirements nor is it enought to define a complete BI front end tool strategy. It shows you a particular idea and it is up to you to apply it in your organization in combination with other appropriate methods.
Please share your experience – I’m looking forward to reading your comment just below!
January 7, 2014 Leave a comment
After some more “theoretical” blog posts back in 2013 I’d like to start the new year with a short technical contribution. As some of you may know I’m trying to upgrade the BO XI 3.1 SP2.7 environment of one of our major customers to XI 3.1 SP6. This is sort of a painful experience as we are working on it since more than 12 months now. Still, there is some light at the horizon as back in December Fixpack 6.3 was released which contains an important bug fix. Not to mention that the bug wasn’t yet there in SP2.7 but was introduced somewhen between SP3 and SP6. The issue is referenced in the SAP KB1897777 and it seems to be fixed now.
What is our situation? We have Webi reports containing containing multiple queries and merged dimensions. If we use dimensions from two different queries in the same table, variables as well as filters containing “IsNull” functions do not work properly.
Here we are with the report in XI 3.1 SP2.7:
Now the result in SP6 (prior to Fixpack 6.3):
… and finally how it looks like with Fixpack 6.3 applied:
The tricky part was to detect this error (the above screenshots are very simplified tables for debugging purposes). Obviously even our business users didn’t caught this at first sight. Therefore I’m glad if I can contribute that you double check this if you are on a lower version than Fixpack 6.3. On the other hand: Please let me know if you find other (newly introduced) bugs in FP6.3…
And by the way: Happy New Year and lot’s of fun in the Business Intelligence world ;-)
April 17, 2013 40 Comments
What is the right SAP BusinessObjects frontend for a given situation? A question I’m asked nearly every day. When I was confronted first with this topic a few years ago the taken approach was a highly sophisticated Excel spreadsheet in order to assess all available BOBJ tools based on a feature list. The only problem was: At the bottom line there was never a clear winner. Next approach were the famous decision trees like the following:
Not bad as a first guess. And in an ideal world where the basic functionality would be the same for all BOBJ tools such a tree could work indeed. But given the situation that even today – nearly ten year after the aquisition of Crystal by BO – support for universes is still not exactly the same in Webi, Crystal Reports and Xcelsius (aka Dashboards) and especilly the maturity of a tool or a sub component of it is vastly different, there is no clever way to tell you which tool to use for which purpose.
Although you can’t give a distinct answer to the question “which tool to use for what”, I’m convinced that the following rule of thumb will be valid in most situations and for a majority of organisations – the only assumption is that there is no limitation out of licensing. That means I assume you have a license for all or at least the most important frontend tools. The idea behind this rule is that a priority rating is more helpful than a feature or use case driven decision tree.
Here is my rule of thumb:
Let me share some thoughts about this priority list:
Why should we start with Web Intelligence? There are various reasons for this:
Still, Web Intelligence has some short comings. That’s why you should evaluate Crystal Reports in a second instance:
But before you choose Crystal Reports remember there are two versions of Crystal Reports: The legacy Crystal Reports 2011 and Crystal Reports for Enterprise. The first one is mature and stable, but does not contain new features introduced only to CR4Ent. On the other hand, CR4Ent is a de facto “1.x” product regarding its code maturity. For now I simply cannot recommend to use it as your major reporting tool without intensive testing of your own use cases in your environment. On the other hand – depending on your situation – the legacy Crystal Reports does not support UNX universes at all nor does it support UNV universes as you’d expect it coming from Webi.
What about all the other tools? I call them “niche tools”. This is due to the fact that all of them have quite a narrow scope of application compared to the “generalists” Webi and Crystal, let me name a few:
This doesn’t mean that these tools are not valuable in the context of specific requirements. But assuming that there is a value in reducing the number of used and supported tools to a minimum, these tools should be chosen only after having evaluated Webi and Crystal beforehand. According to my experience chances are quite high that your requirements can be covered by one of these two tools.
What is your experience with tool selection? Would you agree with my rule of thumb? Anything I missed? Looking forward to reading your comments!
November 5, 2012 2 Comments
This is just a quick note about my findings how to get BO Explorer 4.0 to connect to SAP’s Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA). Besides the possibility of a relational UNX universe based connectivity, this is the only way in BO 4.0 to connect Explorer to an SAP BW.
As it seems many others have the same question – while reading this blog please keep in mind it is not a well researched articel, it is just a write-down of some current findings. They might be incomplete and I’m happy to see comments from your side about what your experience is.
If you look into the official admin guide of BO Explorer you’ll find only the BO side configurations. No word about what’s necessary to configure on the BW side. That’s why so many of you (including myself until a few days ago) never saw this “BWA node” in BO Explorer. For me the key was to find the following documentation:
Basically I had to configure two main things on the BW side to get the BWA connecting to BO Explorer:
After having applied these and some other properties described in the documentation above, some restarts of Tomcat and the BO Explorer services we finally could access the BWA indexes from within Explorer.
A helpful page is the following wiki (although I couldn’t find the info above on it): http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/BOBJ/BWA+and+Explorer+homepage
And a last remark: I got several times a Tomcat stack error including the following statement:
I first thought this might be due to some misconfiguration I did by chance when trying to setup the BWA thing. It was not. It’s some kind of login / SSO problem. Simply close all browser instances (e.g. Internet Explorer) and login to BI Launchpad again and then open Explorer. It should work again.
October 24, 2012 8 Comments
This (and most probably some future) blog post will detail on my experience using Promotion Management (LCM) in BusinessObjects release 4.0. The following explanations are mostly based on the description I’ve just handed in to SAP support. I will do my best to keep this post current regarding answers from SAP support…
Infrastructure: I did all my testes on Cloudshare (see my blog here). Currently using BI 4.0 SP4 Patch 4.
Promotion Management is primarily used on the Source System.
SAP support was quite quick and told me that the issue described in this post will be fixed in patch 4.7 (including the problem of promoting BusinessViews residing in subfolders)
Dynamic Cascading Prompt (DCP): A parameter object in Crystal Reports 2011 which contains a dynamic list of value (LOV).
List of Value (LOV): List of Value object based on a Business View (BV). Can be created manually in the BV-Manager.
Business View (BV): Business View’s are created in the BV-Manager (which is part of the Client Tools setup of the BI Platform). BusinessViews are based on Business Elements. Business Elements are based on Data Foundation objects. And Data Foundation Objects are based on Data Connection objects. These items are generally considerd as “Repository Objects” (at least in XI 3.1 Import Wizard this was the case).
Create a LOV with its underlying BVs based on the Xtreme database (using ODBC-Connection to local Access file). Save them in a subfolder (in my example “rbra_Test”):
Create a simple Crystal Report (in CR 2011) containing a parameter with a DCP:
Save this report in the source system. In the BI Launchpad the parameter looks like this:
Goal: Simply promote the above created report from source to target system using promotion management.
Create new promotion job in Source System including all dependencies:
Result: Partial Success:
My guess: The problem is that the BV-objects are in a subfolder. Therefore, I move the BV-objects in source system to root folder:
Report still works in source system:
Take the same Promotion Job as before and refresh dependencies – no Sub Folder in Business View Branch is shown anymore:
Now it shows Success:
It looks like a success in BV Manager too:
and also in Crystal Reports:
BUT: If you open report in BI Launchpad, you don’t see any List of Values:
Promote BusinessViews separately (not working)
I tried to promote BusinessViews and LOV objects separately from the report. I have the same issue regarding storing repository objects in subfolders. Besides this I found the following:
Remove DCP, export / import LOV using BV-Manager (not working)
In order to escape the circumstance that Promotion Management automatically promotes DCP objects etc. (see point above) I tried the following:
Remove DCP, export / import BV, recreate LOV (working)
Although this is NOT what I expect from SAP in terms of a properly working software – at least these final steps lead to a working solution without too much of manual recreation of repository and report objects!
For all SAP internal guys if you want to track (and support me ;-): The message number with the same case description as above is 971741 / 2012. I will open up some more cases as the things shown above is just the top of the iceberg of what doesn’t work properly in Promotion Management.
September 20, 2012 3 Comments
Let me share an interesting finding with you, especially those who were not attending the recent SAP BO User Conference in Orlando. When I first saw the following pic I thought this must be another joke about Deski:
During the recent BO user conference (the BusinessObjects Arbeitskreis / BOAK) hosted by IT-Logix in Zurich / Switzerland I mentioned this and got numerous requests to look for more details. Obviously many of Swiss BOBJ customers still use Deski and it is quite a show stopper to them regarding any upcoming migration to BO 4. Yet this morning Blair Wheadon from SAP confirmed the slide above was no joke but serious:
As you can see the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack (DCP) should be available in BO 4.1, the next minor release (don’t confuse this with patch 4.1 which equals to BO 18.104.22.168). So far I couldn’t find any rumours when BO 4.1 will be available. Feel free to write your estimation by adding a comment!
Update: I’ve just found more information here:
Great thoughts by Eric Vallo here: bit.ly/NEi3b9
September 10, 2012 7 Comments
This post is dedicated to the available means of backup & recovery in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0. There are several changes compared to the previous version XI 3.1 including some literally missing functionality.
The recovery scenario: Partial restore of report and universe objects
In my eyes the typical recovery scneario is a partial restore. It happens quite quickly that you either delete a folder with a whole bunch of reports or that you want to revert a change in a report or universe development. Especially if we consider the ad-hoc reporting capabilities of Web Intelligence you probably don’t have a local copy of the corresponding report. In addition people which do any mistake leading to a recovery procedure tend to notice that they did such a mistake only with a certain gap in time, this means they request the recovery e.g. of a given folder not immediately after its deletion but perhaps two weeks later when they realize they deleted some reports too much. In the meanwhile the system might have been used heavily, that’s why a full recovery of the system itself is not really an option. What you need in such a situation is the possibility to recover only selected objects from a backup set to the original system. In this blog I will concentrate on this scenario. I use “original” system as a term to identify the system on which I take the backup and to which I want to recover something back.
The available possibilities in BO 4.0
There are three major approaches in taking a backup of BO 4.0 and recover partial content:
Let me evaluate the above approaches in the next few sections.
The BIAR approach
The BO Admin Guide states in section 22.214.171.124 (page 466):
It is recommended that you use the Lifecycle management console for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform to regularly back up your Business Intelligence content, such as reports, users and groups, and universes. Having current backups of your content makes it possible to restore your Business Intelligence without having to restore your entire system or your server settings.
Whoever wrote this sentence at SAP doesn’t seem to have either any concrete experience with LCM or not a clear idea what a backup & recovery tool should fullfifl in practice. Respectively let’s have a look at just any given freeware to backup your Windows files. Therefore to point this out right at the beginning: Keep your hands off in trusting LCM as your one and only backup solution for BO. LCM is a tool to promote (or in the SAP jargon ‘transport’) objects from one environment to another. LCM was never made to be a backup solution. Let me explain in some more details:
The preferred way to take a backup using LCM is exporting a LCM job into a LCMBIAR file. Finally with FP3 / SP04 you can now schedule the export to such a file. But there are some critical short comings with this (as of SP04 Patch 1; anyone having differing experience with a higher patch level please comment below!):
A next approach in using BIAR files is to use the new Upgrade Management Tool or the “legacy” biarengine.jar. The good news here are that LCM finally is capable to import regular BIAR files which were created by these two means. The following things should be considered:
For those interested in the biarengine.jar – I couldn’t find any hints on it in the BI4 documentation, so I took the admin guide from XI 3.1 and it seems that everything still works as before (for more detailed infos see this blog):
First of all you need a properties file to specify what you want to be backed up:
exportQuery=select * from ci_infoobjects where si_parent_folder = <your own id or query> OR SI_ID = <your own id or query>
Save these lines of text in a file, e.g. mybackup.properties. After all you can execute the following commands on the command line or in a batch file (replace C:\BOE4 etc. with your own BO install path):
cd “C:\BOE40\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\win32_x86\jre\bin”
java -jar “C:\BOE40\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\java\lib\biarengine.jar” C:\Temp\mybackup.properties
You can use either the biarengine or LCM to restore content to the original system. As you can only restore the full BIAR file, I recommend to have a dedicated recovery or sandbox system in place where you can import the BIAR file as such and then use LCM to restore only what you need back to the orginal system. Such a dedicated system you need anyway for the second major approach, restoring objects from a full backup.
The full backup / restore approach
As long as you have a dedicated system available to “mount” the full backup into a running BO system this appraoch is quite straight forward and nothing to be afraid of (as long as you know what you do ;-)). The following high-level steps will guide you through the recovery process:
Once you excerised this process a few times it will serve you as a reliable way to recover (partial) elements in a reasonable amount of time. But still it is not the “elegant” way to go. And therefore I would like to introduce you to my third and favored major approach. What SAP fails to deliver is usually deliverd by one of the add-on providers.
The professional approach
As a professional BO administrator I like professional tools. 360View is one of my favorite tools, not only regarding backup & recovery. But this is one of the major reasons why I recommend this solution. 360View doesn’t keep any separate information outside the regular BO system database, it’s just an alternative view to its content in addition to the CMC.
Let the pictures speak for themselves:
First of all you need to create a backup job in the web based interface of 360View, you can choose from various object types. In addition you can choose whether to include subfolders, report instances or Favorites folders in case you choose groups and users:
You can schedule this job to run “now” or at a later point in time. By the way: All the jobs scheduled with 360View can be triggered by an external scheduler like $Universe etc.
Once having executed the backup job you’ll find a new entry in the context menu of any given folder or document:
And for folders which do not exist anymore completely you’ll find the Trash Bin icon:
After all you can choose from available recovery options as you are used to from any other professional backup & recovery solution:
That’s it. The only thing you need to do in addition is to save the 360View file folder on your BO server by a regular file backup tool.
Are you dissatisfied with the existing backup & recovery capabilities in BO 4.0 too? Or do you see different ways of improving this process? Let me and other knows and write a comment! Thanks for your participation!
If you need some kind of playground for either approach, have a look at Cloudshare.com and / or use my preconfigured BO4 environment. Of course this includes a 360View installation. For those currently visiting the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference go a and visit GB and Smith at their booth 221!
For European / German speaking people have a look at www.boak.ch – I’ll have five presentations myself next week. Backup & Recovery will be included during my “What’s New in BO 4.0″ session.