Posts Tagged ‘Xcelsius Gurus’

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.

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.

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.

Dec
23

Season Greetings!!

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


Dec
6

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:

mailto:mike@someaddress.com?subject=Email 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:

mailto:mike@someaddress.com, mico@someaddress.com?subject=Email To DataPig

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

mailto:mike@someaddress.com?cc=mico@someaddress.com&bcc=ryan@someaddress.com&subject=Email To DataPig

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

OK, let’s get fancier and add a body.

mailto:mike@someaddress.com?cc=mico@someaddress.com&bcc=ryan@someaddress.com&;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:

mailto:mike@someaddress.com?cc=mico@someaddress.com&bcc=ryan@someaddress.com&subject=Email 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.

Oct
4

ASUG SBOUC Must Attend Xcelsius Sessions

Hi Folks,

Quick blog post, live from Orlando, while we’re getting ready for the ASUG BusinessObjects conference, which starts tomorrow!

I finally got the chance to put my agenda together and below are a list of sessions (sorted by day) that are must attend for all fellow Xcelsius gazelles.  (NOTE: Items highlighted in BLUE are extra sessions that I think every Xcelsius fan should attend.)

Tuesday, Oct 5th, 2010

  1. 9:15 AM-10:15 AM: Getting Smart with Xcelsius (Mark Hudson from Antivia.com)
  2. 10:30 AM-11:30 AM: Xcelsius + Google Maps + 15 Minutes: A Coding Must-See (Ryan Goodman from Centigon Solutions)
  3. 10:30 AM-11:30 AM: Dashboarding: Modular vs. Composite vs. Custom (Matt Hawkins from Kingfisher)
  4. 1:30 PM-2:30 PM: Ten Key Xcelsius Dashboard Design Patterns (Loren Abdulezer author Xcelsius 2008)
  5. 2:45 PM-3:45 PM: Best Xcelsius Business Dashboards – Case Studies (Paul Grill from Infosol)
  6. 4:00 PM-5:00 PM: Influence Council – Dashboarding and Visualization (Scott Leaver from SAP|Bruce Novell chair of Influence Council)
  7. 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM: Xcelsius Reception (RSVP Required)

Wednesday, Oct 6th, 2010

  1. 10:30 AM-11:30 AM Taking BI Mobile (Emily Mui from SAP Xcelsius Team)
  2. 1:30 PM-2:30 PM Best Practices for BI Success (Cindi Howson, reknownd BI Author)
  3. 2:45 PM-3:45 PM Visualization for Experts (Donald MacCormick from Antivia)
  4. 2:45 PM-3:45 PM Introducing SAP Crystal Solutions (Blair Wheadon SAP Crystal Team)
  5. 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Jason Rose and George Mathew present “The Future of SAP BusinessObjects Analytics”
  6. 5:45 PM-6:00 PM Are Dashboards the right choice for your organization? – Dashboarding SIG Members

Thursday, Oct 7th, 2010

  1. 8:00 AM-9:00 AM True Confessions of an Xcelsius Guru (Scott Strool from Everything Xcelsius / Benchmarkers Business Intelligence)
  2. 9:15 AM-10:15 AM Tour of SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise XI 4.0 (Coy Yonce, Crystal Report Product Manager)
  3. 11:45 AM-12:45 PM Dashboard Design 2011 (Xcelsius) Release New Features (David Dalley |Donna Dong)

There are a ton of other exciting sessions not mentioned here, but at least this will give the Xcelsius folks a head start. See you there!

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.

Sep
28

Xcelsius Party RSVP Begins

Hi Everyone,

We are excited to formally announce the SAP Xcelsius Community Party, hosted by the Xcelsius Gurus, at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando, FL, on October 5th at 7pm in the Oceanic 3, Lobby Level.

This invitation-only event promises to be much bigger and better than last year, with a chance to network with Xcelsius users, experts, and other folks from the BusinessObjects community. To RSVP, please send an email with ‘RSVP’ in the  subject line, to aundrea.lacy@sap.com by October 1st.

This year we also want to encourage you to submit your best stories and examples of Xcelsius, to be judged by your colleagues and peers within the community. All submissions should be sent to emily.mui@sap, no later than October 3rd.

For more details about the party and to view the full invite, please click here: SBOUC 2010 Xcelsius Party Invite.

We are super excited about this event and hope to see everyone there.

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

Sep
16

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.