Is SAP Design Studio like teenage sex?

Big-data

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” https://thinkingbi.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/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.  

9fig

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)!

http://scn.sap.com/community/lumira/blog/2014/03/10/sap-lumira-server-115-is-now-generally-available-ga

SAP Lumira Server Frequently Ask Questions

http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-53181

Something to ponder ……

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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.

1.JPG

 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.

http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/sbo41/en/sbo41_bip_rest_ws_en.pdf

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:

 http://<localservername>:6405/biprws

 Select the Universe from the other data source droplist

2.JPG

 

Enter the URL discussed earlier with port 6405

3.JPG

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.

4.JPG

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

5.JPG

 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 ?