The Rule of Thumb for BOBJ Tool Selection

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:

BO-Tool-DecisionTree

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:

  1. Try it with Web Intelligence
  2. If Webi didn’t work, try it with Crystal Reports
  3. If Crystal Reports didn’t work, try it with one of the “niche” tools

Let me share some thoughts about this priority list:

Why should we start with Web Intelligence? There are various reasons for this:

  • From a features perspective Web Intelligence provides the most widest range in the BOBJ tool suite. You can use Webi for creating classical standard reports, you can use it for dashboard like applications (think about Input Controls and the ease of use regarding drilling – e.g. compared to Xcelsius…), you can use it for self-service reporting, you can use it as a data pump using XLSX export or interface to other applications using BI Web Services etc.
  • From a maturity perspective it is one of the most stable and mature applications in the BOBJ world. I tell you this as an native “Crystal guy”. But whereas Crystal Reports 2011 runs stable the same way as it did for the last decade, the new Crystal Reports for Enterprise is just crap compared to both, the legacy CR and Webi.
  • From a data source perspective: Webi is the only tool which fully supports all kind of Universe stuff. I’ve never heard of any limitation that Webi would not support something what you can do in a Universe (by design). But let me compare this to Crystal Reports: On one hand you can use only UNX universes in CR4Ent, on the other not all type of queries are supported. Crystal still has the limitation that if a universe query results in multiple SQL statements it fails to handle it as there is no local “micro cube” as with Webi. Of course this whole argument implies that we value a “common semantic layer” to be of high “added value” to an organization and therefore should be supported in its full scope. But there is even more to add: Webi handles not only multiple SQL result sets per query, it can also leverage multiple queries and easily join them. Although I’m not a friend of “merged dimensions”, there are many situations where this capability is the only work around to get the job done at the end of the day (and not three monthes later when the data finally arrived in the DWH…). No clever way to do this in Crystal Reports or Xcelsius directly.
  • From an SAP BW perspective: Two or three years ago we had to decide for Crystal Reports often because of its better connectivity to SAP BW and all around it with hierarchy handling etc. These days are “passé”. My most recent experience with Webi using the BICS interface are very promising. Totally in contrast with CR4Ent which crashes regularly, even with the latest patch level.
  • From a usability perspective: Although SAP currently tries to position Webi to be the tool where business users develop the reports, I think its usability is equivalently valubale for IT folks too. Report development is quick and straight forward – once you’ve got used to the ribbon style menues 😉
  • From an installation footprint perspective: Given the situation that SAP releases new patches nearly every third or four week, patching client installations is an nightmare. The more valuable are fully web based deployment scenarios. Therefore once again, Webi is the favorite.

Still, Web Intelligence has some short comings. That’s why you should evaluate Crystal Reports in a second instance:

  • One of the major differentiators between Crystal Reports and all the other frontend tools is Conditional Formatting. As you may know Crystal Reports has a powerful formula language integrated. This formula language can be used to control neary every property you can set in Crystal Reports. This way you can implement what I call “guided interactivity” at its best: Let the end user choose some parameter values and use these values to control both, the data in the report but especially the layout too. The typical use here is: A customer wants to build 10 similar reports. They are not exactly same regarding the layout, but similar. For example, in Webi there is no straight forward way to show conditionally show or hide some parts of the report. In Crystal Reports such a thing is a no-brainer.
  • Interactive / proactive Alerts: As of today, only Crystal Reports based alerts can be used to send an email notification if they are triggered.
  • Export formats: Crystal Reports has a multitude of available export formats, including Word or XML, which aren’t available in any of the other tools.
  • Hierarchical Grouping for relational data sources: Crystal Reports can dynamically resolve a Child-Id-to-Parent-Id relationship and apply calculations over such a hierarchy.

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:

  • SAP Visual Intelligence: This is a great tool for ad-hoc-analysis. But that’s it. No way (yet) to publish documents online (except over Explorer), schedule them or create more sophisticated standard reports.
  • Explorer: Not the most mature product, especilly in the context of SAP BW and BWA as a datasouce… In general, Explorer is nice for “standard” visualizations. But have you ever tried to customize even basic elements of these charts? Or have you tried to add a simple table into an Exploration View? Or export an Exploration View as a whole? As of today these basic things seem to be impossible…
  • Analysis, Edition for OLAP: Limited to OLAP data sources, no clever integration into scheduling, publishing etc.
  • Analysis, Edition for Microsoft Office: Only BW support…
  • Dashboards / Xcelsius: Limited capabilities in terms of data volume that can be processed, no straight forward way to realize drill downs, no common export formats, no full Universe support, no scheduling capabilities…
  • Design Studio: Not usable for productive environements in the current version 1.0, and even for subsequent versions I’m very sceptical… In addition the scope of the tool is focused on BI App development which as such is clearly a niche.

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!

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42 Responses to The Rule of Thumb for BOBJ Tool Selection

  1. Hey Raphael,

    Some great points. In the end, I’d have to agree with you that the best place to start is Webi. Something you missed was also mobile functionality – and pound for pound I believe Webi is the most functional tool to use for mobile reporting, given the functionality in input controls, mapping, prompts and sections. Not to forget the added capabilities provided by formula usage, such as sparklines, bullet charts and KPI indicators.

    Thanks for posting!

    Josh

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Josh

      Thank you for commenting. Indeed I forgot the mobile perspective – but as you say it, the given rule of thumb is even valid here. Even more with 4.1 when layouted Webi reports should be available on mobiles (such as Crystal is today) too.

      Cheers
      Raphael

  2. Hi Raphael,

    What about Performance? We are using Webi in a SAP BW environment and we are encountering some performance related issues with larger query results. For the more analytical reports in which the user should perform a lot of navigation steps we are now moving to Analysis for Office.

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Xavier

      Indeed, that might be an issue. But my “feeling” is that Webi performance on top of SAP BW became much better with BI4 SP4 and higher. In addition the tuning of the Adaptive Processing Server has a high impact on the experienced performance. Anyway, the rule of thumb doesn’t say “do not use” anything other than Webi. It just gives you a clear priority what you should check first. If in a case as yours it becomes evident that Webi doesn’t fullfil the job, simply move to the next item in the list. As Crystal Reports won’t be an ideal alternative either for analytical reports, I think in the context of BW Analysis for Office is a good choice to go for.

      Best regards
      Raphael

  3. Hi Raphael,

    Nice post! Web Intelligence is the most used application within the BI Suite today, at least to my observation.

    Have you looked at the latest information regarding Design Studio 1.1. Looks promising and it’s a hugh leap forward. I’m actually starting with a project to develop a Design Studio application on top of SAP HANA. Very curious to find out what I bump in to ;-).

    With kind regards,

    Martijn

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Martin

      I agree, version 1.1 seems much better. But still, I’d consider Design Studio as a niche solution for BI Apps and Dashboards and in addition it’s for developers only (to create content). Therefore – considering the total scope of possibilities – I’d still say, try first with Webi, then Crystal and finally with Design Studio. This just means: If you can do something in both, Webi and Design Studio, I’d recommend to do it with Webi. But of course, if something is possible only in Design Studio go for this approach straight away!

      Best regards
      Raphael

      • Hi Raphael,

        In general you are right. Web Intelligence would be the way to go. However there is a nuance when you are purely connecting to SAP HANA. Especially when your Design Studio Application can run directly against the HANA XS engine. But even running it on the BI platform will have performance benefits compared to Web Intelligence.

        With kind regards,

        Martijn

  4. Ingo Hilgefort says:

    Hi guys,

    sorry to disagree here but especially for SAP BW, Web Intelligence is the worst choice to use and the Analysis Suite is far better and richer tool set.

    In the same way is Design Studio in the first version already a far better choice for dashboards and apps compared to Dashboards as Design Studio is offering already multi-dimensional capabilities that Dashboards even after a few years still does not support, such as hierarchical workflows and currency translations – just to mentioned two.

    Design studio is not a niche solution, perhaps people should look at the strategic roadmap as Design Studio will succeed Dashboards.

    Web Intelligence is a reporting solution that has no real understanding of multi-dimensional sources or concepts, for example conditions, local calculations (BEx query), or zero suppression.

    regards
    Ingo Hilgefort

    • rbranger says:

      Dear Ingo

      Thank you for having taken the time to read my blog and comment on it. I need to clarify a few points regarding the background of my postulated rule of thumb and its application in practice:

      1) My rule of thumb is thought to be valid as of today and considers the current state and maturity of tools discussed.

      2) My personal background are customers which have heterogenous system landscapes, including BW but as well as other reporting databases. Therefore I agree that maybe the rule of thumb might look different if you’d assume a “SAP BW only” perspective.

      3) “Web Intelligence the worst choice to use for SAP BW” : This is not true in my own experience. Of course the analysis suite has some advantages but it is an application which SAP itselfs positions in the area of “Discovery and Analysis”. I agree with this, the analysis suite fits perfectly in this scenario. On the other hand, Web Intelligence is positioned by SAP in the area of “Reporting”. Of course this is true, BUT in my opinion Web Intelligence is also a great tool for discovery and analysis too. Of course with a different flavour compared to the analysis suite and not a native OLAP tool – but from a functional perspective the achievable results are not that bad even for SAP BW. So the big advantage of Webi is that it can server multiple use cases and is better integrated into the BO platform whereas the analysis suite is much more focused.

      3) My assumption: From a TCO perspective it makes sense to reduce the number of used tools to a reasonable minimum. Therefore if I can get an acceptable result with Web Intelligence compared to any other tool it makes sense to use it, especially if I have multipe applications e.g. creating standard reports AND ad-hoc analysis as Web Intelligence is most likely to serve multiple applications and therefore reduce TCO. The key word in my statement is “acceptable”. What “acceptable” means in the concrete project is different from case to case I guess. Therefore my rule of thumb is only a priority order. If you argue that Webi doesn’t fit your requirements in a concrete SAP BW case then move on to the next point until you’ll end up with the analysis suite or any other tool suitable.

      4) Design Studio as a niche solution: As of TODAY it is DEFINITELY a niche solution! You guys at SAP should finally understand that we can’t tell customers always “hey you need to wait another couples of monthes until we can use the “right” tool”. They need solutions today and we as consultants have to deliver tomorrow. Not in one month or in six month. I’m happy to revise this statement once Design Studio has been able to proof what it is capable of. Still, its focus will still be “Dashboards and Apps” I guess. Now, depending on how you define a dashboard I’m sure you can achieve great results with tools like Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports. Again, if the result is “acceptable” today I think it is a valid choice to go with these tools as their maturity and platform integration is much superior to solutions being of version 1.x. By the way: I don’t blame SAP that they create new tools and that it takes some time for them to mature. It’s just “by nature” that a new tool takes some time to achieve an acceptable level of functionality and maturity.

      Best regards
      Raphael

      • Ingo Hilgefort says:

        Hi Raphael,

        I am not only talking about BW here, I am talking about making the right tool choice.

        Web Intelligence is a reporting tool, not a tool for dashboarding, not a tool for multi-dimensional analysis, not a tool for discovery.

        To me it looks like you are taking a very typical approach where you are trying to fulfill all requirements in a single product approach and that the TCO part has a higher priority than being able to fulfill the business requirements.

        That is a choice you can make but in most cases that choice leads to a big failure in the project, simply because the business requirements are not fulfilled.

        Especially for SAP BW customers, clearly Web Intelligence is not the first choice because it will not fulfill the real requirements and it is lacking an understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of the data source. I mentioned already examples previously so I won’t repeat that.

        on your comments about DEsign Studio I will not add additional items here – it is your opinion, but clearly Design Studio has already a richer set of features and functions when it comes to support for SAP BW and SAP HANA than Dashboards and it already has delivered that proof already.

        Lets take some very simple examples with Design Studio and Dashboards:

        Design Studio comes with complete hierarchy support. Dashboards only has one component with hierarchies, no hierarchical charts, no hierarchical filters, no hierarchical prompts.

        Design Studio comes out of the box with HTML5 – in Dashboards that is a separate step.

        Design Studio allows exact control on when data is being fetched, which always is an issue with Dashboards.

        just to mention a few examples.

        Again – everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but to follow a single tool approach in 99% of the cases leads to a project failure at the end because the business requirements are not fulfilled.

        regards
        Ingo

      • rbranger says:

        Ingo,

        I don’t try to use the same tool for all requirements necessarily. Really. I just say:

        1. Follow the priority list of my rule of thumb. (I don’t say use Web Intelligence for all possible use cases!)
        2. If – especially from a business persepective – you can achieve an acceptable result with a higher rated tool like Web Intelligence, you should use this one. According to your statement obviously nobody would ever choose Web Intelligence in a SAP BW environment nor for creating a dashboard because results are not acceptable. This is a valid statement and doesn’t conflict with my rule of thumb. The only thing I mentioned above was that – in my own project experience, which might not be representative – people often missed some features in the tools I called “niche solutions”. This starts with missing table layouts in Explorer, missing export options in Design Studio, missing scheduling options for analyis etc. etc. But I feel that the term “niche” solution is maybe misleading. I’ll think about a better one.

        Regarding Design Studio versus Dashboards: I agree with you that Design Studio has already some superior features over Dashboards for BW and HANA use cases. That’s why I don’t consider Dashboards a top priority solution anymore.

        Regards
        Raphael

    • rbranger says:

      I’d like to add two things here:
      – There was another interesting discussion going on around reporting tool selection here including another debate between Ingo Hilgefort and myself (and others of course): http://bit.ly/Z9SOBU
      – I’ve just come along the most recent Web Intelligence Roadmap presentation (http://bit.ly/Z9T2sQ). With pleasure I see that “data access enhancements for SAP NetWeaver BW” are both part of “Planned Innovation” as well as “Future Direction” for Webi.

      After all, even if you Ingo were right about “Webi to be the worst choice” on top of SAP BW there seems to be hope that SAP recognized this and will further improve the BW data interface (I know, Webi will never be an OLAP frontend like the Analysis tool suite, but I guess there is something between “nothing at all” and “the best ever”).

      • Ingo Hilgefort says:

        Hi Raphael,

        sure there are enhancements listed as part of the roadmap, but look at the details. Those are items to close gaps. If you look at the roadmap details there is – just as an example – an items about prompting enhancements so that Web Intelligence is able to allow a relative depth for a hierarchy node variable.

        But the major limitations that exist today will not change because the nature of the product is relational and not multi-dimensional. Web Intelligence does not have an understanding of rows, columns, and cell – it only has an understanding for rows.

        i think I made my view here pretty clear that Web Intelligence for BW is clearly not the recommended choice and that Web Intelligence will always have major limitations when it comes to understanding the meta-data from a multi-dimensional source such as SAP BW.

        If customers realize those limitations and acknowledge them and act accordingly – as stated before – there can be a place for Web Intelligence but it will always be very limited.

        regards
        Ingo Hilgefort, SAP

      • rbranger says:

        Thanks for your valuable and as usual quickreply. Your response matches with what I meant with my last sentence. I think we are on the same page now.

  5. Raphael,

    XWIS fixes ALL the problems in your Xcelsius list

    “Limited capabilities in terms of data volume that can be processed, no straight forward way to realize drill downs, no common export formats, no full Universe support, no scheduling capabilities…”

    Where would you put the XWIS / Xcelsius combination on your list.

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Donald

      Good point! I agree that XWIS is one of the best additions to Xcelsius I’ve seen so far (besides graphomate for Hichert charts ;-). In terms of my rule of thumb I’d still argue that as long as you can deliver an *acceptable* result with Webi or Crystal Reports it is the more straight forward solution to use these tools without the need for any add-on compared to a solution where I need a Webi report anyway as a source but in addition to this need an additional infrastructure etc. But of course there are a lot of use cases out there where an nice interactive dashboard is needed which can’t be achieved by neither Webi nor Crystal. If one chooses Dashboards then you should seriously consider XWIS.

      Best regards
      Raphael

  6. Dallas Marks says:

    “Especially for SAP BW customers, clearly Web Intelligence is not the first choice”

    It’s disappointing that SAP invested all the effort into BEx connectivity for Web Intelligence 4.0 at the expense of closing the Desktop Intelligence feature gap or improving its multi-dimentional support, only to now say the tool isn’t the “first choice” and that it is a “reporting tool”. I remember fondly when Web Intelligence was classified as a “query and analysis” tool.

    At it’s heart, Web Intelligence is a software wrapper around a multi-dimentional micro cube generated by a semantic layer that its users affectionately call a universe. And now it can wrap around a BEx query. Fantastic. Software is malleable- there are lots of ways SAP can simultaneously extend and simplify the Web Intelligence user experience, if it has the courage to do so.

    A major goal of the BI 4.0 platform was to harmonize the user experience for both “classic SAP customers” and “classic BusinessObjects customers”. But it’s clear that within SAP there is still one camp wearing blue “Universe or Bust” t-shirts (probably with a classic “bridge logo” BusinessObjects shirt underneath) and the other camp is wearing red “BEx or Bust” t-shirts. And that internal divide continues to manifest itself in the toolset. SAP customers are asking for purple and they’re going to increasingly turn to other analytics vendors- who exploit tool choice decision trees in their marketing- if SAP won’t provide analytic solutions in that color.

  7. Raphael,

    I fear that if you applied the same logic a century ago you would get something like :-

    “My rule of thumb is to use horse-drawn carriages as they deliver acceptable results for all the things I have done in the past, these new automobile things are a nice niche if you need them but my carriage manufacturer has said they will put a steering wheel in their latest model so I think I will stick with the horses.”

    Our view of BI should be more strategic, we have spent the last 10 years static on about 20-25% adoption of BI (and I suspect that is biased towards analysts so end-user figures are lower) because we have flipped between two extremes :-

    1) delivering reports/dashboards to end users with little or no interactivity
    2) expecting the users to do everything themselves with ad-hoc/self-service BI

    These have both enjoyed limited success because 1) offers too little to the end-user while 2) expects too much of them.

    I see a new way opening up in front of us. It is a something I am calling Universal BI, and it is driven by the rise of interactive dashboards and the growth of iPads (and other tablets).

    There is more on this at http://www.antivia.com/UniversalBIVision but the long and the short of it is that I believe that iPad-app-like, interactive dashboards which require no training on the part of end-users are an almost perfect way to deliver efficient BI across the organization and BI delivered in this way could quickly propel us to 100% BI adoption.

    In the (not too distant) future, reporting technology will be the niche and interactive dashboards (or BI Apps as you called them above) will dominate the BI landscape.

    There was a time when it might have been possible (as I think Dallas is hinting at in his comment) for WebI to be extended to become a tool capable of this but I strongly suspect (looking at current SAP marketing and roadmap plans) that this time has passed.

    I would bet that in years to come usage of dashboards created by Xcelsius (SAP Dashboards), Design Studio and their merged successor will outstrip the other SAP BI tools by a considerable margin.

    We are certainly seeing this change start to happen in our customer base.

    Donald

  8. Dallas Marks says:

    Donald,

    It did not go unnoticed that only SAP Visual Intelligence and SAP HANA were mentioned as being able to handle the “next challenge in BI” (see Adam Binnie’s article on SCN – http://scn.sap.com/community/business-intelligence/blog/2013/04/12/the-next-challenge-in-bi). But Blackberry (formerly RIM) is learning that it’s possible to complete an epic marathon from the past (classic Blackberry OS) to the future (Blackberry OS 10), only to realize that there are fewer customers cheering at the finish line than were cheering at the starting line.

    Although I won’t be attending next month’s SAP SAPPHIRE event in Orlando, I do hope some clarity will emerge.

    Always a pleasure to hear your perspective,
    Dallas

  9. Corey Adams says:

    Oh man!

    Great post, thanks!

    Ever get the feeling that it is the same people, spouting the same arguments, re-litigating the same issues, time and time again?

    I do, but can’t resist throwing my 2 cents worth in, again, then will wait to be convinced that I am wrong……again!

    I am an SAP BW and BOBJ customer!

    I am licensed for all of these things you all speak of! (except Xwis)

    I have some Bex content and lots of other SAP BI stuff, aka BOBJ/CR content.

    I firmly believe there is more to life and BI than multidimensional and interactive analysis! I also believe there is such a thing as “1 size fits most”, especially when talking TCO of SAP BI tools.

    I don’t want to support and don’t want my users to have to pick from 50 different horses, buggies, Fords or SAP Tools. I’m sure my users appreciate the fantastic choice we have, but they would prefer for me to pick one tool, promote it and show them how to use it effectively. They simply do not have the time, in their pursuit of being productive, to have to build, maintain or even use outputs of all of these tools. I believe in my environment (and I’m sure I’m not alone), the choice is a distraction, a waste of time and is most certainly not productive (these people have a job to do and it isn’t BI).

    Raphael, I support your call on Webi and Universes, I don’t believe Dashboards (the concept not the tool) are a place to start, any more than Analysis Office or any of the other “Niche tools”. (In fact, SAP’s suggestion that an Excel Spreadsheet on steroids is considered a reporting tool is nuts, let alone a pick over Webi).

    Cool down! Man this stuff makes me hot under the collar!

    Raphael, I think your rule of thumb is spot on, the explanation of it well grounded, real world and its just excellent.

    Webi can do most things and is as good a place as any to start. In fact, in a world where most companies can’t even get the basics right, I think Webi is a good place to stay, at least for a while, concentrate on results not the sales pitches of SAP or whomever else.

    Just like a “Rule of Thumb”, “Best Practice” is subjective right? That’s what I believe anyway.

    Good job!

  10. Pingback: Why should we start with Web Intelligence?

  11. Cory,

    As you say that “I don’t believe Dashboards (the concept not the tool) are a place to start”
    I fear I have not explained well enough what I mean by dashboards.

    By “dashboard” I don’t mean the “grids and graphs on a page for at-a-glance information”, I agree these are not a place to start for general BI (although they do work very well for real-time monitoring, e.g. of a production line or other operational progress”.)

    What I do mean is the new generation of *interactive* dashboards which are more like mini-BI apps than traditional “dashboards” (in fact a bit like iPad and other mobile apps). These have a lot in common with WebI reports except that they are designed for the screen rather than the page, they have more UI flexibility (buttons, tabs, …) and greater visual appeal. I am certain this type of BI will win out sooner rather than later.

    As I said above i think WebI could have been shaped into a tool like this, but I believe that time has now passed, It is always an almost impossible task to keep a successful product’s customers happy and push it into new areas at the same time.

    Having said all of that, I can completely understand why an existing BOBJ shop, with a significant investment in the tool would (at least for the time being) maintain a WebI-unless-proven-otherwise strategy.

    I just think that the writing is on the wall and a plan to move to the world of interactive dashboards (aka mobile BI apps) is a sensible thing to do and I would say that if you have an investment in WebI and want to make that transition with minimum disruption, then XWIS is the ideal addition to SAP Dashboards/Xcelsius to help you do that.

    Donald

    P.S. Apologies for the last two lines of product pitch, but in my defense I am certain it is the right path to take !

    P.P.S. Ironically, our product XWIS was born in order to add “WebI-like-drill” into Xcelsius after Xcelsius had just lost a big deal to SharePoint because the BOBJ advice on drill was to “link out to WebI”

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Donald

      I agree with you that more interactive dashboards are key to many user requirements. Nevertheless I’m not sure whether your statement is valid: “As I said above i think WebI could have been shaped into a tool like this, but I believe that time has now passed, It is always an almost impossible task to keep a successful product’s customers happy and push it into new areas at the same time.” Jonathan Haun’s blog “There is still life for Web Intelligence in 2013” shows – at least in my opinion – quite well that Webi is not that far away from what you’re describing… Therefore I’d say it is *difficult* to keep existing users happy and push it into a new direction, but not impossible.

      Raphael

      • Jonathan’s blog makes a lot of sense, although I think he should have stopped after the first paragraph and said “so we added XWIS to Xcelsius and it fixed all our problems” 😉

        The rub is in what he says at the end about the improvements which would be needed for WebI to take up the dashboard mantle.:-

        “I don’t expect this to become a reality, but it is an interesting thought. What if we could go back in time just a few years and make this suggestion?”

        I think this is what I am saying, there was a point in the past where this could have happened but it looks highly unlikely now.

      • rbranger says:

        Besides the fantastic option with XWIS, I hope SAP Product Management is reading our conversation. I still have some hope as SAP is famous for constantly changing its product roadmap (in addition to product names) 😉

    • Corey Adams says:

      Hi Don,

      I get your meaning and agree to a certain extent, however do not think Dashboards will replace reporting. It is a smarter alternative for some (not all) use cases, allowing fast, easily identifiable and actionable insight. But, there will always be a need for reports and interactive analysis at some level in an organization, hence why dashboards, advanced analytics, reports, ad hoc / interactive analysis are all part of the wider BI or Analytics Stack.

      Raphael has it pegged in the sense that Webi, although not an expert tool for each of these functions, can and does meet a wider range of needs than most of the other “purpose” built tools. Therefore, is an excellent place to start.

      Corey

  12. Regarding Web Intelligence on BW, is it not good (see other comments)? Or is it good (see http://blogs.sap.com/analytics/2013/04/24/interactive-ad-hoc-reporting-just-got-easier/)?

    • Corey Adams says:

      Hey Jamie,

      “Best practice” aside and speaking totally from a useabilty perspective, Webi on Bex is a nice experience. There are limitations, both from your Webi expectations and Bex expectations, and as much as I’m not a fan of “yet another semantic layer” (off topic), the output is very nice, much better than vlookups and the like, and performs well, better on Hana of course (off topic again).

      Corey

  13. Aravind says:

    Hi Rapheal,
    Thanks for a well-articulated blog. Personally when I interacted with customers many a times i found lots of difficulties in making them understand which is the Right Tool to use. They themselves are confused with lots of tools from SAP. Look like SAP is busy coming up with new Tools for reporting, Discovery and Analysis, Dashboarding etc. Question arises, why can’t we analyze the data using Webi and OLAP Edition. Why cant we use Webi to do Data Discovery?. Personally I also gets confused at times and ask the same question myself. In that perspective, your blog makes lots of sense.

    Just a thought from my side, rather than deciding on which tool to use, why can’t SAP or another vendor design a BI Tool, which takes user’s input and the tool gets customized by itself and show required connectivity and features. A customizable BI tool based on the user’s need. Rather than different tools based on functionality and features, a BI Tool that get customized according to User’s need based on functionality and features what user want….

    Aravind

  14. Anil says:

    Thanks for the artical. As described thumb rule is for current customer usage, but to attain more results or BI requirments the new tools acepability should be worked on.

  15. My 2 cents:
    The problem is the constant tool explosion instead of pushing for some major consolidation and overhauling existing product lines. Also the devolpment teams need to be aligend, focusing on “A” BI solution. Not on: SAP BEx versus SAP BusObjects versus SAP HANA solution, etc.

    I envision a maximum of 3 (THREE) toolsets:
    – One for reporting & analysis including also OLAP reporting
    – One for Dashboard Applications
    – One for Quick Analysis such as SAP Visual Intelligence (now called SAP LUMIRA…)

    All of them brought together under some umbrella (or Semantical Layer..).
    And all of them able to be delivered on mobile devices. All three tools need to be able to exchange information which each other (see e.g. Analytic Views).

  16. Somehow I missed out on this conversation months ago. Rapheal just responded to one of my tweets and pointed me to this discussion. Great discussion all. I would just like to have peace of mind that SAP will not downplay WebI or give it a bad reputation just because the integration between WebI and SAP BW has been a slow (but steady) work in progress. Historically, many of the customers that I work with (on the BW side) have a very negative opinion of WebI because of the development workflow, because of the lack of integration or for a variety of valid or invalid reasons. Personally, I generally steer them away for WebI but that depends on their requirements. As Ingo mentioned, (I’m paraphrasing) there are other tools available that facilitate a better OLAP experience or ones that can better suite their requirements. 4.1 is adding even more BW integration features, but I wonder if the damage is already done? It’s true that WebI will likely never really integrate perfectly with an OLAP source but it does a great job with a relational Universe source. This is why I hope that SAP keeps it a priority for SAP HANA native and other native RDMS solutions. It’s also true that a simplification and consolidation of the tools is really needed. However, that could prove to be very difficult for SAP Development. More recently, I was also very disappointed that the SAP HANA Live documentation made no direct mention of Web Intelligence. Seems like it would be a great choice when creating reports on the SAP HANA Live analytic models. I’m not sure why it was not mentioned but it is very capable of facilitating some of the user’s requirements.

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  20. twarit says:

    Hi Raphael – Thanks for posting this wonderful blog and subsequent discussion. I was just wondering how your rule of thumb can be applied to a scenario where Business is interested in ad-hoc reporting on transaction data and data set could be in 1000’s of 1000 rows.( I know the immediate ques comes into mind – why somebody wanted a report with such huge data set but that’s how the req is 😦 ).

    in such scenario is it advisable to use Webi or should be go for the CR2013.

    • rbranger says:

      Hi Twarit

      In my experience the (legacy) Crystal Reports engine (Crystal Reports 2013) is more stable also for large data volumes. You can see this for example if you look at how the report scheduling is handled. Still, Webi can also consume large amounts of data, therefore my recommendation is to do the hands-on test for both tools if the data volume is the only criteria for selection between the two. As usual the final answer will also depend on questions like how complex your reports will be etc.

      Hope this helps
      Raphael

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