Posts Tagged ‘SAP Crystal Dashboard Design’

Apr
28

What are Dashboards really for?

Dashboards are for Action, Not Information!

Given how much has been said about Business Intelligence over the years, it is hard to imagine that someone could, within the 140 character constraint, use a single post on Twitter (I still can’t quite bring myself to say “tweet”) to impart real wisdom about BI, but a few weeks ago I saw something from Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer which did exactly that. He wrote :

Ironically, the timestamp on the post was April 1st, but I very much hope that this was not meant as an April fool because it cuts right to the heart of what effective BI is all about.

Business is not about knowing, it is about doing.

A good business intelligence system should reflect this. Unfortunately, there is a large part of human nature which is reassured simply by knowing. This tends to spawn BI systems which help people feel that they are in control, rather than do anything useful to actually drive the organization forward.

So for EVERY report, spreadsheet, dashboard, query, visualization, or whatever other form your BI takes, I would encourage you to make sure that there is a clear line of sight from the information you are delivering, to an action someone is going to take to move your organization forward. If you can’t make this connection, I would question the business value being delivered.

This is particularly true in the world of dashboards.

Dashboards are too often limited to simply giving an overview of the current situation.

It helps people to know what is happening, but offers nothing to help them drive action. This misses a huge opportunity, as a well-designed dashboard should provide interactivity to allow its users to drill into the data to help them decide what to do next.

A sales dashboard that only indicates you are on track for the quarter is of very-limited value, one which simply tells you that you are behind plan is not much better, but one which allows you to find out, based on past evidence, which customers in which region are most likely to buy which products is a huge step forward. Now it is much easier to take immediate and effective action (regardless of whether you are behind plan or not).

So, if your dashboards are simply single-screen windows onto the current state of play, perhaps you should consider adding a little well thought out interactivity to better direct end-user activity.

Donald MacCormick is the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at 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.

Apr
26

Casting Call- Xcelsius Usability Testing at SAPPHIRE ASUG Annual Conference

Calling all Xcelsius fans! It’s that time again!!

The SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) product team will be conducting usability tests on-site again at SAP ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando (May 16-18, 2011). Don’t miss out on this great chance for you to test out and provide feedback on the latest enhancements and features under development for a future Dashboard Design (Xcelsius) release.  Below is the official blurb that will appear in conference materials, but you can sign up before you even get to Florida to ensure a time slot convenient for you. The instructions are at the bottom of this post.

Details

Description Great chance to test out and provide feedback on the lastest enhancements and new features under development for a future Dashboard Design release, including hierarchical data consumption and new data binding workflows.
Role/s BI users who have experience building/consuming dashboards in Dashboard Design (Xcelsius), preferably working in a BusinessObjects Enterprise environment.

Role A: Dashboard Creator: with IT background

Role B: Dashboard Consumer: with business background

Previous Experientce Some experience with Dashboard Design (Xcelsius) is a must. BusinessObjects Enterprise experience is optional, but preferred.

Role A: Dashboard Creator:

  • IT or power users working for enterprise wide, LoB wide or departments; build content for decision maker/stakeholders.
  • Professional IT experience >5y (programming languages, database )
  • BI Tool experience (data modeling tool/ analytic tool/excel )

Role B: Dashboard Consumer:

  • Casual users who view/present the created dash boards and make decision upon (can be Executives, team managers or operational staff)
  • E-commerce knowledge background.
Preview You will work with our researchers to test on the prototypes for a future release of Dashboard Design relating to hierarchical data consumption, direct data binding and other enhancements, which are amongst most important features for 4.1. During the session you will be guided to go through a series of tasks under several senarios where you may have a taste of what they would actually function. What you really experienced in the process and comments/advices will be critical to base the design desicion.
How to sign-up on-line 1. Go to http://usability.sap.com.
2. Click on “ASUG Annual Conference 2011″.
3. Click the “Register here” link on the left-hand side (in the Login section) and create an account.
4. Log in to your account.
5. Click on “Topic Catalog” on the left-hand side.
6. Under “Topics”, select “
SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design (Xcelsius)
7. Find a convenient time slot and click “Sign Up”.

Please feel free to contact Clare Xie (clare.xie@sap.com) if there is any questions or thoughts. We looking forward to seeing you in Orlando next month!

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

Want to keep up with all the latest Xcelsius News? Follow us on:

Apr
22

NEWS ALERT! Xcelsius 2008 Fix Pack 3.5 (FP3.5) his now available!

Hi Everyone,

We are happy to announce the release of Xcelsius 2008 Fix Pack 3.5 (FP3.5). The Fix Pack must be applied to Xcelsius 2008 SP3 (version: 5.3.0.0) or any of the previous fix packs. If you don’t already have it installed, please click here.

You can Download FP3.5 now by clicking here. Please be aware…there are two different versions available to download:

  1. The Xcelsius Present 2008 Fix Pack 3.5 patch is for Xcelsius 2008 SP3 Present only
  2. The Xcelsius Enterprise 2008 Fix Pack 3.5 patch is both for Xcelsius 2008 SP3 Engage and Enterprise.

The documentation is also available on the SAP help portal. There are two different documents available:

If any of you decide to download FP3.5 this weekend, please let us know! We look forward to your feedback!

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.

Apr
21

Xcelsius and Business Intelligence Web Services (BIWS)

With the limited availability of scalable data connectivity options for Xcelsius, are you constantly seeking  to improve your dashboard performance?  If your answer is ‘YES’, then this post is for you.

Easily connecting to an ‘Enterprise database’ is a well known problem when using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius). Let’s refer to it as ‘SCDD’ from here on. Traditionally you have two main data connectivity options, namely Live Office and Query as a Web Service, that is until the release of Business Objects 3.1 SP2 which included a 3rd option named BI Web Services.

With BI Web Services (referred to as BIWS going forward), you leverage the web service engine available in Web Intelligence and connect it directly to your dashboard utilizing the QaaWS connector in SCDD.

5 Reasons why you should consider using BIWS:

  1. You can gain simple access via the QaaWS data connection interface
  2. Your data can easily be filtered using the filter properties in the report
  3. You can connect to cached reports to facilitate faster response times and dashboard overall performance
  4. You can filter, drill and prompt from your dashboard without the need to go back to the universe
  5. It will also be available in BI 4.0 (which is what I used for these examples)

To provide insight into the process, I broke it down into a 2 part step-by-step process that includes screenshots.  Keep in mind this was done in a BI 4.0 environment but should work the same in BOE XI 3.1 which is where I originally tested it.

PART 1: SETTING UP YOUR WEBI REPORT AND WEB SERVICE

1.  Launch the Web Intelligence Rich Client. Create your query and basic report. NOTE: Don’t be too concerned with formatting the report at this stage, just make it viewable so that you can review the output.

2.  Save and export the report to the CMS.

3.  In the Webi Rich Client, Highlight a report block and right-click then choose Publish as Web Service. (Note: Report web services are mapped to a report block just like Live Office objects are.)

4.  The Publish Content wizard is then displayed.  Click Next.

5.  Enter the Name of your web service to and click Next.

6.  Define the name of the content block, Set your Filters then Click Next.

7.  Click Publish, and voila! Your web service is created.

8.  Copy the WSDL url and place in a Notepad.  You will need to paste this into the QaaWS data connection in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.

The next step is to access the web service from your dashboard.

The BI web service is exposed as the same SOAP interface used by QaaWS. To use the service in your dashboard, you will add a QaaWS connection, Import the wsdl, choose a method and then define the input and output parameters.

PART 2: HOW TO CONNECT TO THE WEB SERVICE FROM YOUR DASHBOARD

1.  Launch SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.

2.  Open the Data Connection Menu and add a QaaWS connection.  Paste URL into the wsdl URL box and then click Import.

3.  For this example, choose the GetReportBlock_State_Sales_Service from the Method dropdown list.

4.  In the Output Values, bind the table cell to the same number of columns as your web service report block. (Note: Choose as many rows as you think you may need)

5.  Bind the Header cell value to a single row of cells to hold your report block header.

6.  Change the usage to refresh when loaded.

7.  Preview your dashboard.

CONCLUSION: In reviewing the Connection options, you see that using the BIWS is more powerful than using the basic Qaaws connection. You have two methods to use, one for retrieving the full report block the other is for drilling. We will cover drilling in a future post.

TIP: If you want to search for a specific row value, you can set the value to be read from your spreadsheet and bind the operator to the word ‘equals’. There are other options for operator such as ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’.

With BI Web Services and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards you have a lot of flexibility to provide fast and robust data access to your dashboards, hence improving the performance which is your main goal.

Scott Strool is a Senior BI Consultant for Benchmarkers Business Intelligence, where he helps customers obtain their BI visions. He presented at the 2010 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando, FL, and has led many dashboard initiatives. You may follow him on twitter at @scott_strool.

Apr
12

Xcelsius News: Interview with Donald MacCormick (@donaldmac) about being back in BI with Antivia

Being the first to deliver all news, we heard recently that having left SAP BusinessObjects 2 years ago, Donald MacCormick, the former CTO of BusinessObjects who played an instrumental role in the acquisition of Xcelsius by BusienssObjects in 2003, is heading back to the world of BI to become the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Antivia. Known for his ‘tell it like it is approach’ we manage to catch up with him to ask a few questions about his new role and outlook on BI! This is a great read, enjoy.

Q: For those who don’t know you, why don’t you tell us about your history with Xcelsius and BusinessObjects?

Donald: Back in October 2003, Roger Sanborn, one of the key product managers at Crystal, sent me an email suggesting I go to the site, www.infommersion.com. Infommersion were the creators of Xcelsius and as soon as I saw it, I was captivated by the concept. This was a couple of months before the acquisition of Crystal by BusinessObjects closed, which was fortunate timing as BusinessObjects was a much more acquisitive company than Crystal. I spend the next few months demoing Xcelsius to anyone in the organization who would listen,to the point where I think that some people thought I was on some sort of commission from the folks at Infommersion, but finally, about 18 months later, after a lot of hard work (mainly by Tom Schroeder and Mike Brooks), Xcelsius and the Infommersion team became part of BusinessObjects, and the fun really started.

Q: What exactly brought you back to Business Intelligence?

Donald: I left SAP BusinessObjects and the BI world two years ago for a fantastic opportunity to work at a mobile banking startup in California, but personal commitments meant I had to return to the UK and, as a result, I had to find something new. Having spent the previous 20 years in the BI community it was always likely that I would return to it sooner or later. I find the BI world fascinating, the use of information is universally acknowledged as a key activity for organizations, but it is hard to find organizations who do it really well. As a result, there is huge potential for both business impact and technical innovation which is an exciting combination. Additionally, BI is a market where there is hype and substance in almost equal measure, which makes the whole process of marketing BI tools an interesting one. So, when the opportunity arose to get involved in both product and marketing with a BI startup, it was not that hard a decision.

Q: Why did you choose to join Antivia in particular?

Donald: The genesis of Antivia’s XWIS product was at a meeting I had with Mark, Paul and Jason (three of the Antivia founders), where I was talking about an issue which had just caused the loss of an Xcelsius sale. They immediately said, “Give us a week, we think we could do something about that!” and sure enough a week later they gave me a demo of the first prototype of XWIS. Since then I have been involved with them as an advisor and board member, it has been amazing watching them take that initial pre-alpha of the product, flesh it out, sell it to their first customer and take it all the way through to the point now where many mainstream SAP customers around the world use XWIS to underpin their enterprise Xcelsius dashboards.  Joining them full time felt like a natural next step. In addition, having worked for a California based start-up for the last two years, it feels like a nice balance to now be involved in the UK technology start-up world which is much more active than many people realize.

Q: What does Antivia’s XWIS add-on for Xcelsius actually do?

Donald: This is not really the forum for an advert, so if people want to find out I suggest they go to our website at www.antivia.com, but to give you a teaser Ryan Goodman from Centigon Solutions was kind enough to say recently, “I can vouch from personal experience that XWIS cuts [enterprise Xcelsius dashboard] development time by 10 to 20 times”!

Q: Does that not make it competitive with SAP?

Donald: Actually quite the contrary, XWIS is completely complimentary to the SAP product set, it helps SAP customers get more from their Xcelsius and BI Platform investments, it is a win for Antivia, SAP and our joint customers. As a platform, SAP BusinessObjects is always going to be at the heart of a strong ecosystem. Antivia is striving to be a key player in that ecosystem driving co-innovation with SAP products. We started with connectivity between Xcelsius and WebI, but have since expanded to off-line dashboard distribution and most recently, mobile dashboard delivery and have more co-innovations in the works for the rest of 2011 and beyond.

Q: So what do you think about the recent “Xclesius” name change?

Donald: Given the many strong opinions expressed on-line when they made the change it would have been hard not to notice, but knowing Xcelsius from before it was acquired by BusinessObjects I find it hard to call it anything else. I sympathize with the rationale for the change, but I am afraid that for me “Dashboard Designer” is a little too soulless for one of the more innovative software products of the last 10 years.

Q: Going back to BI, you talked earlier about “BI hype and substance in equal measure”, what did you mean by that?

Donald: The substance of BI is that it is universally accepted as a vital activity for organizations. After all, who doesn’t believe that there is value in better use of information? However, the art of BI is to tease this substance from the inevitable short term hype as new technologies emerge. A good example is the current buzz about “big-data”. Clearly there is an advantage to being able to analyze huge amounts of data and “big-data” sounds exciting, but we need to be careful, as with so many new BI technologies over the years, there is both hype and substance lurking. The hype of “big-data” is the idea that a few people in an organization can analyze large volumes of data and come up with magical, instantly transforming insights. The substance is that the results of deep analysis can be used to drive the right subsets of information into the hands of people right across the organization to help them be more efficient and effective in their everyday jobs.

Q: So, having just left the world of mobile banking, how do you see mobility affecting BI?

Donald: It is obvious that mobile will profoundly affect BI over the next few years, just as it will affect pretty much every other part of our lives. However, once again we need to be careful not to get carried away with the hype. To a large extent BI has been mobile for many years already, most of us travel with our laptops and so BI is already within easy reach. The question is what additional business value can BI offer if delivered on a tablet or a SmartPhone? Without answering this we risk spending a lot of time, money and energy mobilizing BI without getting a good return on that investment. Obviously the starting point will be to take existing BI content and mobilizing it, however, we need to find ways of making sure that this does not mean a redevelopment for every device, as that would be a lot of cost for little return (this is a key focus of the XWIS Anywhere product). Ultimately, there will be more to mobile BI than simply delivering content on the iPad, because it is easier to carry around than a laptop. Mobile offers a new real-time channel to end-users which can significantly amplify the benefits of BI, but only if we take the time to make sure that each user gets exactly the information they need to do their job, no more, no less.

Q: So now that you are back what is the best way for folks to follow or keep up with you?

Donald: The quickest way to connect to me is via twitter @donaldmac. Some folks have also been taking advantage of my free Xcelsius add-ons at http://xcomponents.blogspot.com/.  Expect lots more in the upcoming months…

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

Apr
4

Webinar Alert: Improving Xcelsius Dashboard Performance

Join Mike Alexander (Author, Crystal Xcelsius for Dummies & Microsoft Excel MVP) and Mico Yuk (SAP Mentor & Co-Founder, Benchmarkers Business Intelligence) on Friday, April 8, 2011, at 1pm EST, for a one hour webinar, titled: “Improving Xcelsius Dashboard Performance“.

In this session, Mike and Mico will share some techniques you can use to speed up your sluggish dashboard solutions.

Learn “How To”:

  • Use Performance Enhancing Excel Functions and Modeling Tips
  • Avoid Dashboard Habits That Slow Down Your Solutions
  • Lighten Dashboard Models with Server-Side Solutions
  • Leverage Performance Enhancing Tips for Qaaws And Live Office
  • Find out which Add-ons really help performance

We also have a surprise giveaway! So this is definitely a MUST Attend!

Webinar Details:

Also, don’t forget our Xcelsius Advanced Developer Workshop in Miami, FL is less than 3 weeks away. Seats are filling up fast and last year we had a waiting, so register before its too late!

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

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
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
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.