A (Webi) dashboard built by a business (power) user

This blog post is inspired by a recent customer request to challenge their decision to use Design Studio for some “dashboard requirements”. Showing how you can create a dashboard in Webi doesn’t mean I told the customer not to use Design Studio. Much more it is to show that finally a dashboard as well as every other type of BI front end solution is made up of requirements and not primarily by the tool you build the solution. Please refer to my Generic Tool Selection Process for more details as well as my post regarding BI specific requirements engineering.

Having said this, let’s have a look at how we can use latest Webi 4.1 features to quickly build an interactive dashboard without the need of (much) scripting. First of all here is what the final result looks like:

01_DashboardOverview1

You can select values from the left side bar (Product Lines), you can select States by directly clicking into the table and you can switch from the bar chart to a line chart. Here you see it in action:

The first step to achieve this, is to create the basic table and the two charts. Until the dynamic switch is implemented, I placed them side by side. Next add a simple input control in the left side bar:

02_SimpleInputControl 03_SimpleInputControlDepend

Next thing is to define the table as an additional input control – right click the table and choose “Linking” and “Add Element Link”,  choose the two chart objects as dependencies:

04_TableAsInputControl 05_TableAsInputControlDepend

Next we need to create the “switch” to toggle the two charts. As I would like to position this switch at the top right corner of the chart, I again use a table input control. To generate the two necessary table values (namely “Bar Chart” and “Line Chart”) I prepared a simple Excel spreadsheet:

08_ExcelContent

In 4.1 you can now finally upload this sheet directly into the BO repository:

07_UploadExcel

If you need to update the Excel sheet later on, this is now feasible as well:

09_UploadExcelReplace

Finally, in Webi add the Excel sheet as a second query:

10_ExcelQuery    10_ExcelQueryDetails

In the report we need now two tables: A visible one to represent the chart switch and a (hidden – see the “Hide always” option) dummy table to act as a dependency for the first:

13_HiddenDummyTable  12_HideDummyTable

The most tricky part is to create a variable to retrieve the selected value:

15_VarSelectedChartType

Here the formula for copy / paste:

=If( Pos(ReportFilterSummary(“Dashboard”);”Chart Type Equal “) > 0)
Then Substr(ReportFilterSummary(“Dashboard”);Pos(ReportFilterSummary(“Dashboard”);”Chart Type Equal “) + Length(“Chart Type Equal “);999)
Else “Bar Chart”

(The idea for this formula I grabed from David Lai’s Blog here)

Finally you need to configure the hide formula for both charts:

16_DynamicallyHideChart

That’s it.

Conclusion

Positive: I’m not too technical anymore (I do more paperwork than I wish sometimes…). Therefore I don’t consider me a “developer” and I like solutions for the so called “business (power) user” more and more. Therefore I like Webi. It took me about 60 minutes to figure out how to create this kind of interactive dashboard. I didn’t need to install anything – I could do everything web based. Except for one single formula (which I didn’t need to write myself)  I could click together the above sample. And I dare to say it looks like some kind of a dashboard 🙂 In addition I have all the basic features of Webi like a broad range of data source support, plenty of export possibilities, Office integration and so on. Even integrating an Excel spreadsheet as a data source is now finally a no-brainer.

Negative: Clearly, Webi is not a “design tool”. For example I wasn’t able to show icons for my chart switch instead of the text lables. Putting a background image to the table doesn’t work well if the table is used as input control. When I discussed this prototype with the customer they also mentioned that there are still too many options end users might get confused with (e.g. that there is a “filter” section showing whether the Bar Chart or the Line Chart value is chosen). In Webi you can’t change that. Toolbars, tabs etc. are just there where they are. Live with it or choose a different tool.

Bottom line: Have a look at my Generic Tool Selection Process and the mentioned hands-on test. The above example is exactly what I mean with this: Create a functional prototype in one or two tools and then do a fact based decision depending on your requirements and end user expectations.

Important remark: This post focused on the technical aspect of the dashboard. The visual representation doesn’t yet fit to best practices mentioned in my earlier articels (e.g. about SUCCESS) In a next blog post I will outline how to optimize the existing dashboard in this regard.

Join my teammate Kristof Gramm during sapInsider’s BI2015 conference at Nice (June 16-18): He will go into much more details about how you can use Web Intelligence as a dashboard tool for business users. Use this link to see more infos and save 300€ on your conference registration!

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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.