SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Day 2, Tuesday

Back in September I posted a corporate blog explaining that Itelligence had been asked to present at this year’s SAP TechEd event in Las Vegas.

I delivered the session titled SAP Lumira – Tips, Tricks, and Community Experiences from the Real World on Tues 21/10.  The room was packed with approximately 150 attendees and I have been told that it was the best attended session in the whole community stream of sessions.

EA119 2

In the presentation I shared a number of real life use cases from itelligence and from the wider SAP community plus feedback, challenges and opportunities for the SAP Lumira technology.   If you have never heard of SAP Lumira before it is a fast-moving data visualization tool that connects to SAP and non-SAP data and allows data manipulation, visualization, and sharing.

As a presenter feedback, good or bad, it is always great to receive so I was really encouraged when two separate people approached me directly.

The first was at a SCN community evening event where for fun attendees were given data sets by Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) and they used SAP Lumira to try and answer some real world questions proposed by MSF (For more information on MSF and SAP community commitment to then have a look here).During the session a gentlemen strode right over whilst I was “geeking out” and thanked me for the session earlier in the day and said “It was the best session he’d attended all day”. If that wasn’t a great way to finish off a day at SAP TechEd  it got better as the combined itelligence, EVTechnologies and SAP Hana Cloud team came 2nd overall in the light hearted competition.

The second one, was on the early morning (06:00) Sap Community Network 5K Fun Run, where someone ran up to me and said “Hey, I was in your session yesterday, it was great” before I could reply he sped off and left me for dust!

5K fun photo

If the session on SAP Lumira is of interest to you I will be replaying it at the UK&I SAP Usergroup Conference  in November.

SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Day 1, Monday


Day one of SAP Teched 2014 finally arrived.  Feelings of anticipation and expectation to name but a few……2014-10-20 06.58.43-1

Registration was seamless, at 07:00 there were lots of people around but the lines were short.

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The whole days agenda culminated with the keynote address by Steve Lucas.  I have heard Steve speak many times on webinars and live video streamed events but his enthusiasm and passion really comes over in person when speaking to the 7000+ attendees.

The keynote was good to listen to and certainly entertaining. But, it’s only upon reflection that the change in style came apparent, 90% (loosely) of the content were real life stories and cutting edge demos facilitated by Steve. A refreshing change and appreciated by the delegates.  Each sound-bite was different but with the common theme of the HANA Cloud Platform, the only divergence from this messaging  was a core SAP Lumira demo from Jayne Landry Global VP & GM, Business Intelligence.

Birst BI had a notable mention quietly promoting that they are the first third-party cloud analytics provider to run on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

I could not wrap up without mentioning Vijay Vijayasankar from Mongo Db. I follow Vijay and have chatted with him on social media a few times. It was great to see him present in person and a great example of SAP for working technology partners to drive collaboration and innovation.

Tomorrow (Tues) is a jam packed day of great content plus I am presenting in the Community Stream on SAP Lumira – Tips, Tricks, and Community Experiences from the Real World.  Finally, late into the night, there is a SAP Lumira Viz-a-thon  in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) where participants will learn to use SAP data discovery technology (SAP Lumira) using MSF data to visualize and gather compelling insights to help Doctors Without Borders improve their organization and lives around the world.  Sounds fun, I’ll be there.




SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas – Pre Conference Jet Lag Day

Well I made it to Las Vegas…    My travel from the UK was pretty uneventful, taxi, plane, taxi.  My travel day was a long one actually if felt like 3 days all rolled up into one.  In the morning I was out in the Ashdown Forest with the family all morning, then the flight, and then supper in Vegas.  I went from wearing tweeds to a t-shirt in 1 day…..  phewwww

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Sunday was an acclimatisation day, not for altitude but for the sensory explosion that is Las Vegas (and to try and beat the jetlag).  Sunday started early with a run along the “strip”, it’s  amazing what you see at 06:30 in Vegas.  Anything from young couples embracing, some doing the walk of shame, people staggering the worse for drink and I was even “High Fived” by a “lady of the night” (must have been a slow night). This run was the culmination of 8 weeks effort as I haven’t really exercised to any regularity for probably 20 years.

At SAP TechEd for the last few years there has been a 5k fun run / walk organised for mid week starting at 06:30.  When I registered for the conference it appears as a extra thing you can do so I signed up as an incentive to start exercising.  Using the Couch to 5K programme I started from not being able to run for more than 30 seconds to running 5k and I even entered a 10K and finished (way down the field, but finishing was the aim).

The actual SAP TechEd fun run is on Wednesday so wait for the update to see how I get on, but I’m chuffed with acheiving my goal of a 5K run along the strip in Vegas


Throughout the day familiar faces from SAP SCN and Twitter have started arriving at the venue so I’m really hoping to bump into some this evening. Maybe some selfies to follow….

My tech bag is all packed and hoodie ready as I’m told the conference centre can be cool. Is you see me please stop me and say Hi !!

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Integrating SAP Lumira and ESRI mapping to deliver Location Intelligence.

I recently recreated what is considered one of the 5 most influential visualisations of all time using SAP Lumira, The Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East by Florence Nightingale

To continue this theme I was inspired to try out another one of the top 5 that requires visualising data at a street level based on Longitude and Latitude coordinates. SAP Lumira has allowed plotting data on basic map outlines using Longitude and Latitude coordinates for some time but not on at street level like we are used to using in say Google Maps.

However, in the most recent version of SAP Lumira 1.17 this has changed as SAP has announced a partnership with ESIR the enables integration of their AecGIS online service within SAP Lumira.

Press Release: SAP and Esri Team Up for Geo-Spatial Analytic Innovations at #EsriUC with SAP Lumira and ArcGIS – See more at:


Another one of the Top 5 most influential visualisations of all time:

John Snows Map of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak.


Just to get things straight from the outset, I am talking about John Snow the Physician not John Snow from House Stark in the Game of Thrones

J Snow Jon-Snow-Kit-Harington_510



John Snow’s original Cholera Map


On the 8th September 1854, on the instruction of Dr John Snow, the handle to the water pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street) in Soho London was removed. Snow identified that the water from this pump was the source of an outbreak of cholera that ravaged Soho, killing over 500 over the previous weeks.

Snow’s work was ground breaking for its use of data visualisation where he plotted the locations of all the deaths in the cholera epidemic on a map and identified that they clustered around water pumps and particularly around the pump in Broad Street.  More Information:

Recreation using SAP Lumira and ESRI ArGIS

snow - lumira


How To

After a bit of searching I found a dataset that gave the Longitude/Latitude reference of each house surveyed by Snow along with the count of deceased by Cholera. Additionally, there was a similar data file giving the points of each water pump in the locality.

I thought the challenge in this endeavour would be integrating SAP Lumira with ESRI, this was in fact the easiest part.  All that is needed was to sign up for trial access of ESRI ArcGIS and enter the resulting credentials in the SAP Lumira Preferences pane. (Links below)

However, I must admit to doing a fair amount of manipulation in Microsoft Excel to get the combined Longitude/Latitude field into two separate data columns that Lumira will acquire formatted as a Number. SAP Lumira could have split out the combined field into two easily but when creating a geographical hierarchy based on Longitude/Latitude these fields need to be a number data type and sadly the inbuilt convert function had issues.

Step 1

Acquire the dataset into Lumira and create a geographic hierarchy on the location name using the Longitude/Latitude.

Step 2

Sign up for a free 30 day trail of ESRI ArGIS using the link in the Lumira preferences panel and enter the resulting user credentials

lumira - geo preferences

Step 3

Build a visualisation in the using the new  Geographic map.

geo map 2

Step 4

Configure the Layer. Note “Count” is used twice, in SIZE sect the measure, in COLOR use the dimension

geo config



The finished article:

snow - lumira

In closing

Be aware there is no Lumira cloud integration for ESRI mapping at this time.  Also, I’m not an ESRI customer so I am unaware of ESRI licensing costs to use ArcGIS.

And one more thing..

If you visit London why not be a data visualisation tourist and visit the John Snow Pub on Broadwick Street and see the water pump

the pump





  • Raw Data File attached.



Reworking Florence Nightingales “Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East” with SAP Lumira

Recently I visited an exhibition at the British Library titled “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight”.  This exhibition “explored how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time”. One exhibit stood out for me: The causes of mortality in the army in the east by Florence Nightingale. 2

Florence Nightingale, (1820 – 1910) was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was known as “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds at night. (Source Wikipedia)


I have looked at this visualisation numerous times in the past but it struck me that Nightingale’s diagram represents the opposite risk to that you see normally. An image may be so visually interesting, so iconic, that we assume its conclusions without examining its data. I have definitely been guilty of looking at this visualisation as a piece of art but not listening to the story the data was trying to tell.

How should we read this data visualisation?

The Economist suggests how to interpret the diagram: As with today’s pie charts, the area of each wedge is proportional to the figure it stands for, but it is the radius of each slice (the distance from the common centre to the outer edge) rather than the angle that is altered to achieve this. The areas of the blue, red, & black wedges are each measured from the centre as the common vertex. The blue wedges measured from the centre of the circle represent area for area the deaths from Preventable or Mitigable Zymotic diseases, the red wedges measured from the centre the deaths from wounds, & the black wedges measured from the centre the deaths from all other causes. Put simply we have three data series plotting deaths by a custom grouping of cause over time.

What is the story being told?

If you study this visualisation long enough you will hopefully see that over a 2 year period that the number of deaths from preventable deaths grew to a peak in January 1855, but then reduced dramatically over the following 15 months. I found deciphering the visualisation to understand the story honestly quite difficult.  In today’s world there is a desire for the story a data visualisation is telling to jump out of the page and hit the reader right between the eyes.  Additionally I feel that creating statistical diagrams in that period of time was only possible by a small number of academics and trained individuals. But, again in today’s world we want to empower many people to Access, Analyse and Share data of all kinds.

The History

On 21 October 1854, Florence Nightingale and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained were sent to the Ottoman Empire. They were deployed in the Crimea, where the main British camp was based. Nightingale arrived early in November and her team found that poor care for wounded soldiers was being delivered by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was being neglected, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. There was no equipment to process food for the patients.  After Nightingale sent a plea to The Times for a government solution to the poor condition of the facilities, the British Government commissioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital that could be built in England and shipped to the Dardanelles. The result was Renkioi Hospital, a civilian facility which had a death rate less than 1/10th that of Scutari. (Source Wikipedia) I have often said any data visualisation must have a “mission statement”, a reason to live and a story to give. In the case of this visualisation I understand that it was developed with the specific aim of driving the important military hospital reforms through government to change lives The first edition of the Dictionary of National Biography (1911) asserted that Nightingale reduced the death rate from 42% to 2% either by making improvements in hygiene herself or by calling for the Sanitary Commission (Source Wikipedia)

Is there another way?

The dataset for this diagram is publically available and is less that 100 data points. So using SAP Lumira I have given below a few different ways of visualising the data that should make it easier for to gain the intended insight 4   5

I was hoping to show a new feature in SAP Lumira version 1-16 to animate the data over time which dramatically displays the swing in the number of deaths between 1854 – 55.  Unfortunately, SAP Lumira version 1-16 is not GA at the point of sharing this blog but I intend to update this blog appropriately in the future.


Is SAP Design Studio like teenage sex?


You may well have seen this analogy before for the topic of “Big Data”, could the same be said for SAP Design Studio?

I may be barking up the wrong tree but a year or so after its launch SAP Design Studio appears to be making little traction in the dashboard space for SAP in the UK market.  (I base statement on my contact with companies through my day job and engaging with business users through the UK&I SAP User Group and Data Visualisation Special Interest Group.)

To be honest the majority of companies I have spoken to thus far come from the classic BOBJ perspective. Is the real adoption rate different for companies who use SAP BW as their primary datasource instead of the classic BOBJ user community using the universe connectivity?  

Is this observation the same worldwide?

Why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio?

We have seen in the Dashboard statement of direction from SAP that there will be unification between SAP Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) and SAP Design Studio in the future and migration tools to bring Dashboards into Design Studio.  So why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio now at the start the journey rather than holding off?

My musings are:

  • People are holding off as the data visualisation and dashboard space is moving very fast, just look what SAP Lumira has achieved in a similar time frame to Design studio.
  • People aren’t even evaluating Design Studio as unless you are hooked into a SAP User group (UKISUG, ASUG) there is little marketing or education as to the future for dashboards and they just don’t know about its importance.
  • People are evaluating Design Studio and identify it requires a developer with specialist skills with they do not have internally and would need to  engage with a central IT function or consultancy providers
  • People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as too complicated to use with its reliance on Java code and Custom Style Sheets (css).
  • People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as still too juvenile to adopt as core functionality needed is missing.
  • Users would rather have something on their desk than can build and deliver themselves rather than endure a dashboard project delivered by the IT department
  • You have to ask yourself why  products like Decision Point from Antivia are coming to market? Is SAP Design Studio seen as too difficult for the existing developers in the SAP dashboard space by software companies and they want to offer a alternative solution?

When oh When will Design studio be as easy to use as SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius)?  Is that the right question?  Is that the plan by SAP ? I’m not so sure. 

I would draw a parallel with Dashboards and Design Studio with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence.

ds Crystal Reports didn’t get easier to develop content in when Web Intelligence was bought to market, it still today does what it does very well and is a core analytic tool for SAP.

However, in my opinion moving from Dashboards (Xcelsius) to Design Studio could be seen as the reverse, the more complex tool is being released to replace the simpler tool.

The diagram below shows my understanding of the content creators for the SAP Analytic tools in BI4.

Screenshot 2014-03-19 10.29.55

There are still lot’s of technologies in the hands of the Business User but we see here that the future technology recommended  to author “Dashboards”  ( “What is a dashboard really” has moved from being one used by Business Users to now an IT function.

Real life feedback

Reaching out to end users who have tried Design Studio gave some interesting feedback. Thanks Alex for the comments below as someone who has tried Design Studio against BW and the Universe.

“What left me very disappointed was the amount of code required to make things happen when stuff like this seems so simple in WEBI for example. Creating a Navigation URL took 6 lines of code! Then what annoyed me even more was the fact that the link only worked if you clicked on the last column of the crosstab?”

“My Boss loved the output I hated the input! Nevertheless I pursued and tried to create more applications with his requirements, I then hit an even bigger stumbling block, line chart, Data retrieval failed. Upon investigation of this by turning on the trace and watching the logs it was limiting the amount of data it could retrieve. I found the answer myself in the documentation saying it is  (universe connectivity) limited to 5000 rows or 50000 cells. I am not trying to show this much data I was trying to show a count of Incidents by Year and Month”

What about business user created dashboard style visualisations?

At this time I see multiple technologies used by business users to deliver a “Dashboard” including:

  • MS Excel
  • Dashboards (Xcelsius)
  • Exploration Views in Explorer
  • Web Intelligence
  • Web Intelligence delivered to the mobile device

What will business users use to create dashboard style visualisations in the mid term?

Below is clear advice from SAP on what technology they encourage to be used.  


My personal hunch is that business users will still use the core technologies they are used to in the short to medium term and only branch out Design Studio if it gets easier to use.

Is there another option?

Its again early days but I think some companies may well start investigating SAP Lumira storyboards published to the newly released native HANA platform application SAP Lumira Server.   Yes you will need HANA and integration to the BOE Platform is planned but only as a side car.

SAP Lumira Server 1.15 is now Generally Available (GA)!

SAP Lumira Server Frequently Ask Questions

Something to ponder ……

Microsoft Power Query Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes – How to get started

It has recently been announced that ” Microsoft and SAP are jointly delivering business intelligence (BI) interoperability in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Power BI for Office 365, and SAP BusinessObjects BI.”    Microsoft Power Query for Excel will seamlessly connect to SAP BusinessObjects BI Universes, ee Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI for more details

I had a spare hour this morning so wanted to give this connectivity a try out and gain a quick understanding of what this really means to users.

The System Requirements are:

  • Microsoft Power Query preview add-in installed in MSOffice Excel 2010 or Excel 2013, alternatively
  • SAP Business Objects Platform version 4.1 with SP2
  • SAP BI 4.1.2 REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2

I went through the steps that the videos suggested on Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI, and yep it does take a while as the video suggests.  But...   I believe it’s not necessary to register for the trial and provision Power BI for Office 365 as we will be working in a local addin install in Excel on your laptop.

 Install Microsoft Power Query

1.  Download exe from Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI

2.  Run the appropriate 32bit or 64bit installer

3.  After installing Power Query, there will be a Power Query ribbon in Excel.


 Connecting to a universe

To connect to an SAP BusinessObjects BI Universe, select From Other Sources in the Power Query ribbon. Navigate to the bottom and select the From SAP BusinessObjects BI Universe data source.

When prompted, enter the URL for the SAP BI 4.1 system you’d like to connect to (e.g.: http://<host>:<port>/biprws).

CARE:  This URL took me a while to get right, you would assume it’s the Host and Port Number you use to access BI Launchpad, alas not.  After a number of failed attempts and a large mug of tea for inspiration I had a moment of inspiration.  The system requirements stated SAP BI 4.1.2 REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2 are needed, this lead to a bit of research, and these are done automatically, which is great.

You can use the Windows installer to add RESTful web services to your custom BI platform deployment. RESTful web services requires an instance of the Web Application Container Server (WACS), which is installed with RESTful web services if it does not already exist. RESTful web services was introduced in BI platform 4.0 to Feature Pack 3. • If your BI platform 4.0 FP3 is a new installation, RESTful Web Services is automatically included in the installation. If you choose custom install, RESTful Web Services is selected in the feature tree by default.  If you are upgrading from 4.0 SP2 to 4.0 FP3, after completing the upgrade, use the Programs and Features Windows Control Panel, Uninstall/Change feature to add the RESTful web service.

But, the REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2 are installed by default using port 6405, so the URL needed to log in is:


 Select the Universe from the other data source droplist



Enter the URL discussed earlier with port 6405


Next Enter your credentials for the service. Use the options in the dialog to view all possible credential types. Choose the credential type supported by your service and enter the necessary credentials. Once connected, you may see some progress information in the dialog.

 After successfully connecting to the service, you will see a list of the available SAP BusinessObjects BI Universes in the Navigator pane. You can drill into the items in the Navigator and select SAP objects to transform.  In my demo system I have a UNX universe accessing data on UK Road Traffic accidents since 2005, this UNX is now visible in the Navigator panel and I can select objects to display in Excel.


Click on LOAD DATA and you now have Data from your trusted universe inside Excel very simply


 My conclusion

This was a quick technical how to get started with Microsoft Power Query and connecting to SAP BusinessObjects Universes.

But, just stop and think …… Live Office from SAP has been around for more years than I care to mention, I believe it came out of SAP Labs originally and is the current primary way to access universe data within the MSOffice suite of products.  Live Office offers integration of both new queries and report parts from Crystal and Web Intelligence into Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, this new integration with Power Query is understandably limited to Excel but is also limited to new queries only. Some way to go to have parity of functionality if that is the vision from SAP and Microsoft.

I am left with this question in my mind ..  Could this be a replacement to Live Office going forward?   I personally think not, but I see this as a great complementary use of technologies.

What do you think ?