Posts Tagged ‘Crystal Solutions’


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.


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 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.


HTML5 + Xcelsius: Local Data Storage

Xcelsius does not have a built-in feature that allows the storage of local data, a commonly requested piece of functionality. Up until very recently there has been no really easy way to accomplish it with simple client tools, and one way or another it required jumping through several hoops. Fortunately, HTML 5 brings us a feature called localStorage, which allows HTML pages to store data locally across browser sessions and after the closing of the browser window. This is one of many capabilities that HTML5 brings to the table, transforming the browser into a tool with much more potential for serving up fast, more powerful and lightweight applications.



Webinar Alert: Fast-Tracking your BI Career One Dashboard at a Time!

With all the new BI trends and themes evolving today, how do you keep your career on track?

We are excited to announce a free webinar, hosted by Xcelsius Guru and SAP Mentor, Mico Yuk and a surprise guest, that will provide a first hand look at key trends and themes within the BI industry and insight on how to take your career to the next level.

During the webinar the following important topics will discussed:

1. The future of the BI Industry and how dashboards will play an integral part
2. How to navigate your career in 2011 and take it to the next level
3. How to monopolize the emerging mobile technologies

Your Next Steps:

  • Click here to Register!
  • Mark the date on your calenders: Wednesday, December 15, 2010, at 1pm EST, 10am PST
  • Attend the webinar with your questions

We encourage anyone looking to get their BI career on track and to the next level to register today, as seats are limited. We look forward to this very exciting webinar!

Soo Tang Yuk fosters and evangelizes the ‘Xcelsius Gurus Network” and its communities. To find out more about her, please visit the About Us page.


Tips for Emailing from Xcelsius

I often get questions about sending emails from Xcelsius. In fact, I get them so often, I thought I’d take a moment to document what I know. Here, I’ll show you how to :

  • Send a basic email
  • Send an email to multiple recipients
  • Add a Body to you email
  • Prevent that awful Browser window from popping up when sending an email from Xcelsius.

First, you’ll want to add a simple URL button onto your canvas and go to properties:


To start a basic email, enter this into the URL input box: To DataPig

This will start a basic email when URL button is pressed. The email will have the To line filled in and the Subject line filled in.

If you want to send the email to multiple recipients, you can include other addresses separating each with a comma. Like this:, To DataPig

Want to use the CC and BCC lines? That’s easy. Simply add the cc and bcc parameters: To DataPig

Notice that you will need to use the ampersand (&) to separate the parameters

OK, let’s get fancier and add a body.;subject=Email To DataPig&body=I ate too much salmon.

If you need to add a multi-lined body (meaning the text of your body is on multiple lines), you can use your own carriage return encoding %0D.

To be able to use this, you will need to uncheck the “Encode URL” option. This will tell Xcelsius that you will handle the encoding.


Once you’ve disabled Xclesius’s encoding, you can enter something like this: To DataPig&body= I ate too much salmon.%0DNow I have salmonella.

And as always, you can dynamically build your mailto url address in Excel with formulas and simply reference it in the URL button.

So what about that nasty browser window that pops up when you send an email from Xclesius?

You can get rid of it by changing the “Open In” option to ‘This Window’.

After doing this, the extra browser window doesn’t open when you export your final SWF and HTML. You’ll still see it when you are in Preview mode, but rest assured, it will be gone when you go to run-time.

There you have it! Happy emailing!

Mike Alexander is the author of several books on advanced business analysis, including Crystal Xcelsius For Dummies. You can find Mike at Datapig Technologies, where he serves as principle contributor and shares free video tutorials with the Microsoft Office and Xcelsius communities.


Documentation Available for Xcelsius 2008 Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3) with support for Windows 7

We are following up to our post earlier this week with documentation for Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius 2008 with support for Windows 7) Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3). There are two different documents available:

  1. SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius 2008 Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3) What’s Fixed
  2. SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius 2008 Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3) Release Notes

We look forward to receiving feedback on this new Fix Pack.  Have a great weekend!

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


NEWS ALERT! Xcelsius 2008 FP3.3 is out (with support for Windows 7)

Hi Everyone,

Last week we announced the release of Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius 2008) Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3) on twitter and wanted to follow up with an official post. (See the official post by Matt Lloyd here on the SCN Forums) The Fix Pack must be applied to Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius 2008) SP3 (version:, FP3.1 or FP3.2. If you don’t already have it installed, please click here.

To download FP3.3 now, click here. Please be aware…there are two different versions available to download:

  1. The Xcelsius Present 2008 Fix Pack 3.3 patch is for Xcelsius 2008 SP3 Present only
  2. The Xcelsius Enterprise 2008 Fix Pack 3.3 patch is both for Xcelsius 2008 SP3 Engage and Enterprise.

After FP3.3 is applied, the version number should change to version:

The documentation is delayed, but will be available shortly from the SAP help portal. All your Crystal Dashboard and Presentation Design (Xcelsius) guides can be found by visiting the SAP BusinessObjects Solution Portfolio Knowledge Center. As soon as the documentation is available, we will know, so YOU will know as well!  STAY TUNED!!

Want to keep up with all the latest Xcelsius news, follow us on:

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


Reportapalooza Challenge Check in!

And Reportapalooza continues! Two weeks ago I wrote my first blog post about this exciting SAP BusinessObjects virtual competition. Since then, THANKS to YOU, I won Challenge #1 with my Coffee Consumption Calculator. I can’t thank everyone enough for the overwhelming support and feedback that I received! I am cooking something up in the form of a free giveaway, to show my appreciation, once the competition ends for all of you.

The bad news? I did not fare as well in Challenge #3, “Lessons from a Reporting Maestro”, but a huge CONGRATS to the winner Brian Durning (ASUG Crystal Reports SIG Chair). He did an awesome job, including, providing some direction on my beginner video (along with my colleague and Crystal Reports Guru, Mike Garrett).

So what’s next? Below is a quick review of the past and upcoming Reportapalooza events:

So what’s Challenge #2? Many folks have asked me about getting involved with Reportapalooza not realizing that this is exactly what the “Report Hero” challenge is all about. It’s simple, submit your heroic experience with SAP Crystal Reports or Dashboards by October 8th, 2010, and you may become the next superstar! Not only can you register to win prizes, (I was shocked to see that 3 of my twitter friends won $25 ITunes gift cards for Challenge #1!) but if chosen, your story will be turned into a collectible music poster and highlighted in the competition and community.

My advice? Don’t walk, Run to submit your story NOW. If you are an SAP BusinessObjects report writer/developer or consumer this is a no brainer! It takes 5 minutes to submit your short story, so do it now! In addition, we will feature the winning story on our blog as well.

Thanks again for all the great support!!

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.


Break Boundaries with Custom Components

A commonly requested feature in SCDD custom components (formerly Xcelsius 2008) is the ability to share data between custom components, across separate SWF files. Usually, developers turn to Flash Vars or other methods of workaround, which present limitations and additional work. Fortunately, there is another more streamlined approach if you wish to share data between 2 SCDD swf’s. This method comes with a couple of caveats, the first being that the swf’s need to be loaded via the SCDD SWF Loader component, and second, that the 2 SWF’s share the same Application Domain (the “This” option on the SCDD SWF Loader). If you can live with these 2 requirements, this can be a powerful approach for passing large volumes of data from component-to-component while completely bypassing the Excel model, if desired.

How it’s done

To accomplish component-to-component communication across swf’s is fairly straight forward. All you need is a ModelLocator-type singleton that both component’s share data through. The components don’t even need to be the same, they just need to refer to the same ModelLocator class and corresponding ModelLocator variables in order to share data. You can see how this is done by downloading the sample source code.

Next week, we’ll explore the possibilities of sharing data globally between swf’s using this approach. Globally, meaning that any SCDD component can access the data exposed by our custom component that leverages the ModelLocator.

Evan DeLodder is a Senior Software Engineer focused on the development and application of cutting edge Rich Internet Application technologies in the Business Intelligence space. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page.


Reportapalooza Challenge One Results!

Hi Folks,

As winner of Challenge #1, and on behalf of not just myself but the other 4 experts, I just want to say THANKS to everyone for your ongoing support and participation in this Reportapalooza competition. It’s really YOU the community, (the partners, customers, fellow reporters)… who make this exciting for us!

I can’t even express in this message what fun it is working with such fine fellow experts. It’s incredible the amount of expertise we have in this competition and I am just humbled to be a part of such an elite cast. It’s quite a learning experience for me and the support from the fellow experts, Jamie Oswald, David Deitch, Brian Durning and, Jim Brogden has been unparalleled.

As you can see, we all put in a great deal of time and work so that you would be happy with our entries and based on the feedback, we succeeded. We look forward to putting out more exciting dashboards and videos in the next few weeks so continue to flood us with your input.

It’s only just begun so let’s get the Fall kicked off. We are ready for Challenge #2! :-)

I originally posted this on SAP Crystal Reports and Dashboard Design Facebook Fanpage, but wanted to extend my thanks here as well…

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