Archive for the ‘Guru Tips’ Category

Mar
29

Extending the Xcelsius SDK

The Xcelsius SDK as it stands today is a set of core functionality that provides developers with the ability to inject virtually any type of Flex application or component into the Xcelsius designer. The SDK offers a great deal of flexibility and essentially gives developers a blank canvas to start from.

With all of this flexibility available, which is what most developers ultimately want, the SDK can often times be a stumbling block for people trying to get started on custom component development. It never was for me personally, I took a look at some of the examples that came bundled with the SDK and was quickly off and running. However, I think that I picked it up faster because I had a lot of experience in Flex and Xcelsius, so there wasn’t a fundamental gap in my mind as to how all of the pieces fit together.

I think that the gap that causes a lot of developers who are new to the SDK to spend a lot of time up front, is trying to figure out how the entire platform fits together and how their component fits into that picture.  This makes sense, because most developers want to know what’s going on in the grand scheme of things so they can make the right development decisions at the component level.

With the way the current SDK is set up, there’s no really, really clear path for even fairly talented Flex developers (that are unfamiliar with Xcelsius) to jump in and get started without first getting mired down in the technical minutia. Like I said, the SDK offers a great deal of flexibility. It’s the brick, mortar, wood and nails you need to build a house. My thought is; is there a way to repackage the SDK to where all of this flexibility still exists, but at an easier to use level? Instead of wood and nails, could we give people highly configurable frames and still achieve the same ultimate objective?

I think this is definitely possible and have started to spec out a framework that would enable a Flex developer to come into the SDK, drag and drop a few components onto a property sheet, and with absolute minimum customization, facilitate even the most complex of Xcelsius integrations. The goal is to bypass the finer details of boiler plate property sheet operations and integrations and instead focus attention on what matters most – the guts of the actual component and making a great UI for the property sheet.

My parting questions to developers invested in the SDK are:

  1. Do you like how it’s currently structured?
  2. What if anything did you find challenging?
  3. What would make it easier to work with?
  4. What are the top 3 features you’d like to see included?

I’m gathering this feedback for a labs project that I’m working on for the upcoming ASUG event and will be able to share the result with other SDK developers. All input is welcome.

Evan DeLodder is CTO at Centigon Solutions, an SAP Partner focused on the development of cutting edge mapping technologies in the Business Intelligence space. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page.

Mar
22

Webinar Alert: Introducing SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 2011 (Xcelsius)

This week I am extremely excited to help introduce through SCN, the latest version of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 2011, on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, at 10:00 am PST, 1:00 pm EST.

For our Xcelsius Gurus network members who have stayed on top of the BI4.0 launch, you may have already seen some of the features in previous webinars. With this webinar, I am going to take a slightly different approach to introduce Xcelsius based on my previous experiences using the tool and highlight its newest strengths. Following the webinar, I would love to congregate to gain your feedback.

SIGN UP NOW!

See below for the for the official SCN Announcement:

Ryan Goodman is the Founder of Centigon Solutions, an SAP® software solution partner, that is strategically focused on developing add-on products for use with Xcelsius®. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page

Mar
15

Free Webinar Alert: How to Effectively Price a Dashboard (Xcelsius) Project

Join Mike Alexander (Author, Crystal Xcelsius for Dummies & Microsoft Excel MVP) and Mico Yuk (SAP Mentor & Co-Founder, Benchmarkers Business Intelligence) on Thursday, March 17, 2011, at 1pm EST, for a one hour webinar, titled: “How to Effectively Price a Dashboard Project“.

Anyone in the business of dashboard consulting knows the complexities of pricing out a dashboard project. Between growing scope, increasing complexity, and interactive development, a dashboard project can quickly become a black hole that sucks up your time and resources.

Mike and Mico will show you how to put your arms around the actual scope of the project, breaking up the project into separate fundamental sub-tasks. Then the duo will dive into the most effective ways to layer in pricing. At the end of this webinar, you’ll move away from that generic hourly rate, moving toward a more surgical strike method for building a quote for your potential dashboard clients.

Webinar details:

Also, don’t forget to register for the upcoming Xcelsius Advanced Developer Workshop in Miami, FL on April 19-20, 2011. Register before 04/01 and save $100 during the early bird special. Seats are filling up fast and last year we had a waiting list, so please don’t delay!

Soo Tang Yuk is the ‘Xcelsius Gurus Network” community manager and evangelist. To find out more about her, please visit the About Us page.

Feb
15

Will you be at our Xcelsius Training? (April 19-20, 2011)

Hey Folks,

We’re doing it again in April!  I’d like to formally announce open registration for our highly successful Xcelsius Advanced Developer Workshop (aka Training) that will take place in Miami, FL on April 19-20, 2011. Conducted by Mike Alexander (author, Crystal Xcelsius for Dummies) and myself, this 2-day event is jammed packed with content and always sold out within a few weeks of announcing.

Last year (see pics below) the training sold out (we even had a waiting list, see how packed it was by viewing our album here!), so we encourage everyone to Register before March 31st , to secure your seat and receive the early bird special SAVINGS OF $200.

On the 1st day, the training will cover Basic Data Connectivity Techniques, including, Advanced Dashboarding Techniques. On the 2nd day, we will cover Advanced Data Connectivity Techniques and much more! We will be also be covering SAP Crystal Dashboard Design. To view the entire agenda go to http://xcelsiustraining.com.

Follow us on Twitter or FaceBook for special announcements, as we will be giving away a free seat again this year. Don’t forget the early bird special ends on March 31st, so register today and save $200.

We look forward to seeing everyone there!!  Email us at gurus at everythingxcelsius.com with any questions.

Mico Yuk is a 2010 SAP Mentor and the founder of the Xcelsius Guru Network, the Everything Xcelsius blog, and co-founder of Benchmarkers Business Intelligence. To learn more about her, please visit our About Us page.

Feb
11

Webinar Alert: Facts and Myths about Xcelsius: Creating Enterprise Dashboards

Ever wondered what’s  really a fact or myth when creating enterprise dashboards? If the answer is yes, then attending this webinar by Xcelsius Guru and Author, Ryan Goodman, on February 16th (10 am PST, 1 pm EST) is a must attend.

Ryan will help you separate Xcelsius facts and myths by discussing implementing enterprise dashboards with drill-down, interactive analysis, offline data access, and large data volumes.

Not only will you get to hear Ryan speak, but sign up also gets you EXCLUSIVE access to templates when you attend the webinar. So don’t walk, but run to sign up today as spaces are limited and filling up fast!! See below for registration details.

Webinar Details:

Soo Tang Yuk is the ‘Xcelsius Gurus Network” community manager and evangelist. To find out more about her, please visit the About Us page.

Feb
1

Basic Custom Data Grid Component for Xcelsius

Basic Data Grid

Recently, a person new to the SDK asked how to create a custom read-only data grid component for Xcelsius.  Luckily, this is fairly easy to achieve with one read-only property integration with the SDK. This basic example could be extended to include style and selector functionality and can hopefully serve as a base for anyone interested in developing a custom grid. This isn’t performance optimized and is meant to be very simplistic, so if you do decide to run with it, you’ll need to do some basic housekeeping to get your component up to snuff.

Why would someone want this?

Most likely due to performance enhancement opportunities, word-wrapping and dynamic formatting and/or dynamic selection capabilities, which are all common features desired by many who use the list view and grid-type components. If you’d like to see some of these features implemented in a subsequent blog post, leave a comment on which one(s) you’d like.

You can download the source files for the data grid here.

Evan DeLodder is CTO at Centigon Solutions, an SAP Partner focused on the development of cutting edge mapping technologies in the Business Intelligence space. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page.

Jan
13

No more QaaWS?

Xcelsius is one of the most innovative business products of the last decade and in combination with the BusinessObjects platform (both XI 3 and BI 4), it provides a world-class, market-leading, enterprise dashboarding solution which is delivering enormous value to thousands of organizations around the world. Given this, it is not surprising that on Twitter and in the blogs, there is a excitement building in Xcelsius circles about SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 and Xcelsius 2011.

The focus is mainly on three new capabilities:

  1. The new embedded query creation capability (replacing QaaWS)
  2. The ability to bind these queries directly to components (rather than going through the spreadsheet)
  3. Built in “Query prompt Selector” controls.

As stated in the “What’s New” documentation for BI 4.0 these new features are “focused on improving productivity and direct enterprise data connectivity”. The $64,000 question is “are the productivity improvements they bring marginal or breakthrough?”

As anyone who has been involved in developing Xcelsius dashboards connected to server side data will know, the two key things which hamper productivity are:

  1. The need to manage multiple connections to the server
  2. The need to use many formulas to manage the data from these queries into the components based on end-user selection

These are also key drivers of total cost of ownership because the complexities they introduce to the initial development also, even more dramatically, affect the cost of ongoing support and maintenance.

Multiple Data Connections

The main reason for having multiple data connections is to get data from different hierarchical levels with each level (indeed each combination of levels from different dimensions) requiring a different query. So a dataset with just two hierarchal dimensions, each with three levels of hierarchy, would require 9 (3×3) different connections to get all possible levels of data. However, it goes beyond that, the need to also have “select distinct” queries to populate lists of values and a number of other auxiliary requirements, mean that most non-trivial connected dashboards typically require between 10 and 20 queries to serve the end user needs, even on a single dataset.

Spreadsheet formulas

With multiple datasets comes the need to manage which dataset drives which component in response to the end user selection. The formula engine of the embedded spreadsheet is an incredibly powerful and flexible method for doing this, however, as has been commented on so many times in the past, spreadsheet formulas are incredibly difficult to debug, document, and maintain. This is even more true when the use of complex formulas (e.g. ones using data manipulation functions such as VLOOKUP) is required.

If we combine these two together into an index of Xcelsius complexity it would look something like:

Xcelsius model data complexity = (100 * number of queries) + (10 * number of unique “complex” formulas) + (3 * number of unique simple formulas) + number or repeated formulas

(I have just pulled the factors here out of the air to illustrate the point, but would love to engage with others in the Xcelsius community on a standardization of a measure like the one above)

So the question is: “do the new query and binding capabilities of BI 4.0 reduce this (or any similar) complexity index ?”

Unfortunately, based on what I have seen so far, the answer is “no”. Although the new query capability “replaces” QaaWS, it looks to have pretty much the same level of query sophistication, i.e. fairly static, parameterized queries (although the new capability does add the ability to add static sorting), with no dynamic, hierarchy awareness. This means that it is unlikely that Xcelsius models ported to BI 4.0 would  be able to rescue the key complexity drivers of “number of connections” and “number of data manipulation formulas”.

This in turn minimizes the value of the other new features, because directly binding data from a query to a component and managing that query directly with a prompt selector is only really useful if the query returns all the data you need. Otherwise, you are still left with needing to manage the data through the spreadsheet which disqualifies the use of these new features.

That is not to say that there are no benefits to the new capabilities. They do make the whole process of initial query creation simpler, because you can do it all from within the Xcelsius environment and for simpler dashboards that have static  (albeit parameterized) data requirements the new direct binding and prompt selectors will prove to be a productivity boost. Additionally, they also make demos of data connectivity in Xcelsius much simpler!

If anyone feels differently, or even better, has an example of a real-world Xcelsius dashboard which is much simpler using the new features, I would love to hear about them. I would also love to hear any thoughts people have on the creation of a complexity measurement for Xcelsius dashboards.

Donald MacCormick is a board member and strategic advisor to Antivia, an SAP® software solution partner, and creator of XWIS the Xcelsius-to-SAP BusinessObjects connectivity solution. In past years, he was a long term member of BusinessObjects and Crystal, and part of the team that brought Xcelsius into the BusinessObjects portfolio.

Jan
4

Xcelsius Gurus Top 10 of 2010

To say that 2010 was a very memorable year for the Xcelsius Gurus community is an understatement.  To see what I mean, take a minute to read my 2010 Top 10 list below.

#10 SAP TechEd Conference

Coming in at #10 is the SAP Teched conference in Las Vegas.  There I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Xcelsius hands-on sessions with 2 of my favorite technical guys from the SAP Xcelsius and RIG team, Matt Lloyd and Patrice Lebhan. The event drew in such a crowd that we had to turn away attendees.  I also had the pleasure of doing a live interview with fellow mentor Jamie Oswald (a must watch for those considering attending TechEd in 2011) and former SAP Executive Marge Breya. There aren’t enough lines to explain how great this event was so click on the links below to see firsthand.

  • Click here to see pics of the event!
  • Click here to view interview #1 with Jamie Oswald and Jason Cao (SAP BusinessObjects Community Leader)
  • Click here to view the interview #2 with former SAP Exec Marge Breya and fellow SAP Mentor Karin Tillotson

#9 Xcelsius Advance Training in Dallas

Hosted by Mike Alexander and myself in Dallas, TX this was a jam packed fun event.  This event is traditionally sold out with a waiting list, so if you are interested do write us an email early to get on the list. We are considering doing one on the West and East coast this year due to popular demand.

#8 EverythingXcelsius Blog Design Update

If you visit our site often enough, and our Google statistics show that many of you do, you have probably noticed that a few months ago we made some small updates to the blog’s design. Two major updates include our sleeker image enriched front page now with enhanced social media buttons and our new ‘Resources’ tab which is a one stop shop for Xcelsius related links on the web. You will also notice that our ‘Showcase’ tab now takes you directly to our commercial website to see examples of some of our guru dashboards which takes us to #7!

#7 Launch of our Commercial Website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence

If you’re wondering why this is so far down the list, it’s because we have yet to do an official launch, as we are still making some small adjustments. Expect to hear more about our official commercial website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence, where we work with some of the world’s biggest companies to deliver state of the art BusinessObjects deployments, migrations and implementation being sure to include our well known and best designed dashboards. We will do an official company launch in Feb 2011, but those who wish to find out more can visit our site http://benchmarkers.com to see how other companies are benefiting from our services.

#6 My SAP Mentor Nomination

It is no secret that the acquisition of BOE by SAP took the BOE community by storm in 2008, me included. I was again taking by a storm when I was informed that I had been nominated by the SAP BOE community to become an SAP mentor.   There isn’t enough space in this blog post to document my adventure in the first year as an SAP Mentor, but I will do a better job to document the journey in 2011.

#5 SAPPHIRE / ASUG Conference

Making our Top 5 is SAPPHIRE, the biggest SAP sales event of the year. Unfortunately, it was not an option for many BOBJ folks who shied away from the heavy SAP ERP presence. Teaming up with ASUG, SAP managed to pull together one of the best events that we ever attended. There was no shortage of BusinessObjects information, just BOE attendees!

#4 Reportapalooza

Coming in at #4 has to be the first official BusinessObjects virtual competition (at least that we know of). With a name like Reportapalooza how could we forget? We emailed asking for your votes and entries, you won prizes, saw some really cool dashboards and then forgot it existed. While the event may have lasted for a bit too long, we do give SAP an A+ for wanting to engage the community with their software. Recruiting big BOE community names like SAP Mentor Jamie Oswald, known author and blogger, Jim Brogden, and myself, it was the first of its kind. Big KUDOS to the winner, Brian Durning at PepsiCo (also ASUG Crystal Reports Chair). Will SAP do another one next year? Guess we’ll have to wait to see.

#3 EverythingXcelsius Social Links reach 1000+

Making the top 3 has to be the fact that our Twitter and Linkedin Group both exceeded 1,000+ followers this year. We are delighted by the tremendous growth and look forward to having you be a part of our community’s evolution in 2011. Lots of exciting changes in 2011. We truly feel that we host the most passionate community members in the SAP BusinessObjects realm and we appreciate all of you!

#2 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (aka SBOUC) / 2nd Annual Xcelsius Gurus Reception

As the only BusinessObjects conference that currently exists (though more are popping up in 2011) this event took off in Orlando with over 1600+ attendees, a far cry from its despicable attendance in Dallas the year before. On-site was the “Who is Who” in the BOE world, along with tons of informational sessions, and keynote demos of the upcoming BOE XI 4.0 release. Most shocking however was the formal announcement by Steve Lucas, SVP for SAP Business Objects North America that BOE had accounted for 52% of SAP sales up to Q3. We also co-hosted the wildly successful 2nd Annual Xcelsius Gurus Reception with the help and support of the SAP Xcelsius Marketing Team. Pics can be seen here.

#1 SAP Renames Xcelsius

Topping the charts at #1 is of course the Xcelsius name change to SAP Crystal Dashboard Design or #SCDD depending on what day you look on twitter. While some who are in emotional distraught blogged and tweeted that the “Xcelsius name will never die” it is clear that SAP is moving forward with it in an effort to consolidate their Crystal product portfolio. If it is any consolation, SAP took it one step further to leave no rock unturned by also changing the names of long beloved products such as ‘Infoview’ to ‘BI Launchpad’ (1/10/11 Update. Correction – Web Intelligence will not be remained and hence the statement has been removed. Refer to the comments below). They even managed to gain accolade from Gartner who openly criticized SAP for their frequent name changes.

** Just for fun we had to add this video done by fellow SAPMentors Jon ERP & Dennis Howlett on this phenomenon!

What to expect in 2011?

  1. More Conferences, more coverage…
  2. More Gurus covering more topics and products …
  3. More Webinars and Collaberations …
  4. New Community aka “The Evolution” …
  5. Official launch of commercial website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence!

Mico Yuk is a 2010 SAP Mentor and the founder of the Xcelsius Guru Network and the Everything Xcelsius blog. To learn more about her, please visit our About Us page.

Jan
2

Happy New Year!

We would like to wish everyone a very Healthy, Prosperous, and Fulfilling New Year!

Dec
23

Season Greetings!!

We wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy Holiday Season!