Crystal Reports 2012

Contrary to Microsoft Bing, there is no SAP Crystal Reports 2012.

Annoyed by Google’s recent privacy policies, I’ve decided to give Microsoft Bing a chance by making it the default search engine on my Apple iPhone 3GS and iPad 2.  Last week, I was putting Bing to the test looking for information about the ABAP transports that Crystal Reports 2011 needs to communicate with SAP ECC (thanks to Tammy Powlas, an SAP Mentor and one of the Crystal Reports experts at the “Ask the Experts” session at last week’s SAP Insider BI2012 conference).  Bing suggested some really curious advertisements for Crystal Reports 2012.

Crystal Reports 2012

In case you were wondering, there is no product named Crystal Reports 2012, current or planned. The 2012 version number glitch only appears in Bing ads- I couldn’t persuade Google to generate a similar ad. Next year, SAP will deliver SAP Crystal Reports 2013 alongside the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 suite. SAP Crystal Reports 2013 will be a modest update- mostly bug fixes and updated database connectivity- as SAP continues to improve its successor, the Eclipse-based Crystal Reports for Enterprise.

Oh, and about those ABAP transports? You’ll find them in a folder within the Crystal Reports 2011 download. So sit down with your SAP Basis team over a cup of coffee and plan your installation.

I feel better knowing SAP cannot master its own product naming strategies. What about you?

All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print

How to retire Desktop Intelligence reports that schedule to print.

Of all of the distribution methods available to SAP BusinessObjects customers, scheduled distribution to printers is easily the most controversial. Using paper is bad for the environment, even when it contains recycled materials. And paper costs money. And let’s not forget the additional costs of printer maintenance and ink supplies. I’ve often joked that most office laser printers should have a built-in document shredder next to the various sizes of paper trays. After all, it seems that lots of material is printed but never read. And what about data security? Aren’t we leaving defenseless customer, employee and medical patient data exposed to nefarious data thieves? SAP BusinessObjects directly supports distribution by e-mail, file system, FTP, and portals such as Microsoft SharePoint. Shouldn’t we use those? Using those destinations may make the SAP BusinessObjects administrator feel green while obscuring the fact that a lot of unnecessary printing is still going on. But it’s no longer “our” problem, right?

Printer cartridges for printing

These are all good conversations to have, particularly when planning a business intelligence system upgrade. I’ve worked with many organizations that use schedule-to-print capabilities. We always strive to reduce printing requirements as a positive side effect of the upgrade. Some organizations can reduce their printing requirements to zero, particularly if a document management system is downstream from their business intelligence system (Although document management systems are their own evil, which I hope to discuss in a future post).

But some organizations- although making reductions- can’t eliminate the need to print entirely. Generally, the distribution requirement is dictated by a business process that has some urgency.

Something is wrong. Now. So grab the report from the printer and do something about it. Right now.

I see this scenario frequently when working with health care organizations. E-mail or file systems aren’t an effective option because not every employee has access. Before you exclaim “how primitive,” keep in mind that health care has high employee turnover- it’s just not worth the effort to administer access to non-patient care systems. Besides, nursing is a team sport practiced round-the-clock in front of patients, not PCs. So sending a document to a single recipient and expecting them to distribute the information doesn’t work well either. I’m certain that there are other use cases in other industries (and I hope you’ll share your printing use cases with SAP on the SAP Idea Place). And instead of clinging religiously to the mantra “printing is evil”, it’s always preferable to ask “what is the best way to solve this report distribution requirement”. And sometimes “best” doesn’t mean “perfect”, just “good enough”.

Organizations that come from a “classic” BusinessObjects background are familiar with using scheduling tools like Broadcast Agent to distribute reports to printers. And this capability continued with Desktop Intelligence XI R2, XI 3.0, and XI 3.1 via the Desktop Intelligence Job Server. But schedule-to-print capability was never extended to Web Intelligence documents and the Web Intelligence Job Server. And as of this writing, the ramp-up build of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 does not support Web Intelligence schedule-to-print. So how should customers migrate these Desktop Intelligence documents to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0? There are two primary options. Either option can be implemented today using XI R2 or XI 3.0/3.1 – you don’t have to wait until BI 4.0 is released to begin planning for it.

Replace Printed Desktop Intelligence Documents with Crystal Reports

The first option is to redesign Desktop Intelligence documents using Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports has been built to create “pixel perfect” boardroom-quality reports and the Crystal Reports Job Server can schedule to printers. And Crystal Reports easily handles report requirements such as complex report layouts, images, and bar coding.  So you might actually be happier with the end result than with the original Desktop Intelligence document it replaces. Unfortunately, there is no automated tool to perform the conversion from Desktop Intelligence to Crystal Reports. In addition, customers with “professional” licenses of BusinessObjects Enterprise will need to upgrade to “premium” licenses to handle the additional document type, so there is some cost involved.

Schedule Web Intelligence Documents with Custom Scripting to Print

The second option is to convert the Desktop Intelligence documents to Web Intelligence using the Report Conversion Tool. Although there is no native schedule-to-print capability, it is possible to schedule Web Intelligence output to a file system (or potentially an e-mail address) then use scripting to print the final result. This option may be attractive for organizations not willing to invest in Crystal Reports. However, custom scripting requires somebody with scripting expertise and the time to maintain it.

Does your organization currently utilize the schedule-to-print capabilities of Desktop Intelligence? Will you be able to replace printed output with some form of electronic distribution? Will you use one of the printing methods described above? Or hope that SAP will choose to add schedule-to-print capabilities to Web Intelligence as a service pack to BI 4.0?

Have you reduced your printing requirements?  Take the time to calculate ROI based on the cost of paper and ink saved.  Use this number to publicize within your organization how the business intelligence team is making a cost-effective (and green) impact.

Reporting Tool Shootout on Diversified Semantic Layer

Reporting Tool Shootout with the Diversified Semantic Layer

Due to some random iTunes announcement, the big media splash planned for the Diversified Semantic Layer was bumped off of the Apple home page at the last minute.  But a new episode of the Diversified Semantic Layer podcast, the Reporting Tool Shootout, is now live. Join host Eric Vallo, SAP Mentor Jamie Oswald, and myself as we discuss the pros and cons of the current suite of business intelligence tools from SAP BusinessObjects: Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Xcelsius, and Explorer. Or you could download The Beatles instead…

And for a close-up look at Xcelsius and BI Services, check out Josh Fletcher‘s inaugural Geek2Live podcast, also available from iTunes.

For the record, I am NOT the walrus.  And Jamie is not dead; it’s just a flesh wound .

Follow the Diversified Semantic Layer on Twitter, @DSLayered, or visit their web site.

SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 7

Curious about SAP BusinessObjects support for Microsoft Windows 7?

Curious about SAP BusinessObjects support for Microsoft Windows 7?  The following SAP BusinessObjects client applications support Microsoft Windows 7:

  • SAP Crystal Reports 2008 Service Pack 2 (SP2) and higher (SP3 is currently available)
  • SAP Xcelsius 2008 Service Pack 3 (SP3) + Fix Pack 3.3 (FP3.3) and higher (FP 3.3 is currently available)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 3 (SP3) – desktop applications such as Web Intelligence Rich Client, Live Office, Import Wizard, Universe Designer, etc.

Supported Platform/PAR documents as well as software downloads are available from separate areas of the SAP Support Portal and require an S-ID to access.  I got tired of flipping through multiple PAR documents so I decided to write this short post.  As you can see from the above list, SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2 is not officially supported on Windows 7.  Since XI R2 is no longer on patch support, there won’t be any fix packs or service packs to address Windows 7 compatibility on that release.  I haven’t attempted to see if the combination works despite lack of support, but you can check out the experience of others on the BusinessObjects Board (BOB).

 

 

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is a web application and therefore does not list supported OS versions, only supported browser versions.  I’ll address SAP BusinessObjects browser support in an upcoming post.

I’ve currently installed supported versions of Crystal Reports 2008 and Xcelsius 2008 on my Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) laptop (see related post), but primarily use the laptop to run Windows 2003 Server virtual machines running the entire SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise stack.  Feel free to post a comment describing your experiences with SAP BusinessObjects and Microsoft Windows 7.

Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles

Today is the second day of the 2009 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Dallas, Texas.  This afternoon, I’ll be presenting my second of three breakouts, “Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles.”  This breakout was a bit of a challenge.  On one hand, it’s a remix of my very first user conference presentation that I gave at Insight 2006 in San Francisco, California.  On the other hand, publication capabilities on the XI 3.0/XI 3.1 platform is much more robust than what was possible on XI R2 in 2006.  Honestly, I think two hours would be required to get through everything thoroughly.  So certain topics didn’t make the final cut.  But I’m keeping to an hour and hope that everyone stays awake (I’m presenting at 4 PM – the last breakout slot).

Publications serve a noble role – the efficient bursting of personalized information to a large audience.  I’m currently helping a customer migrate from Business Objects 5.1.8.  From a distance, it looks like there are hundreds of scheduled jobs in Broadcast Agent that need rescheduling on XI.  But upon closer inspection, there are really just a handful of reports that have dozens of variations to support personalization.  Although it’s not within scope of the migration project, I hope that my client will look into publications and see how it can reduce the complexity of too many reports and too many scheduled jobs to maintain.

Do you have a “success story” with Business Objects publications?  Feel free to comment and share your success.

Save Me!

One of the primary topics in the SA210 Administration and Security course (formerly known in its XI R2 incarnation as Administering Users and Content) is the chapter on managing content. There are four basic methods for adding content to BusinessObjects Enterprise: InfoView, Central Management Console (CMC), Publishing Wizard, and the Save As command in various client tools. Many of the students that enroll in the SA210 class are full time system administrators, not universe or report developers. So it’s a worthy goal to familiarize them with tools that they may be unfamiliar with and how those tools add content to the BusinessObjects Enterprise system.

What’s not cool is the lack of consistency in the Business Objects client tools. In this post, I will describe the good, bad and – yes – the ugly of the Save As command across the product line. Let’s first begin with the good.

Crystal Reports 2008 – the good

The most elegant Save As implementation is in Crystal Reports 2008. Crystal Reports is a Windows application used to design – you guessed it – Crystal Reports. I never used Crystal Reports until Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions in 2004. But look at the simplicity and clarity of their Save As dialog. Specifically, notice the Enterprise icon on the left hand side of the dialog. To a Crystal Reports user, saving a report to BusinessObjects Enterprise is as simple as saving to a local or network drive.

Crystal Reports 2008 Save Me Xcelsius 2008 – almost as good

Crystal Xcelsius 4.5 used the same Save As UI as Crystal Reports. However, Xcelsius 2008 varies slightly to accommodate the feature set changes between the three flavors of Xcelsius 2008: Present, Engage, and Enterprise. This is immediately apparent from the File menu, as Save to Enterprise is clearly segregated from the usual Save As. Only Xcelsius Enterprise is capable of saving to Business Objects Enterprise. Likewise, there are two “open” options, the standard Open and Open From Enterprise.

Xcelsius 2008 Save MeCuriously, the Export option is not labeled Business Objects Enterprise but Business Objects Platform. Perhaps as not to offend Business Objects Edge Series customers? However, it is inconsistent with Open from Enterprise/Save To Enterprise.

 

 

Xcelsius 2008 Export Save MeDesktop Intelligence – the bad

Desktop Intelligence, formerly known as BusinessObjects Reporter or “the full client”, used to be the only client application used to publish content to a Business Objects system. Although it’s the first Business Objects tool I learned to use, it tends to be a bit confusing with it’s distinction between Save, which is local, and Import From Repository/Export To Repository. The mantra at Business Objects has been “We’re not making any additional changes to Desktop Intelligence”; however, the workflow to “export” documents into the “repository” changed radically enough between version 6.x and XI R2 that it became a significant end-user training issue.

Desktop Intelligence Save Me Menu

Desktop Intelligence Save Me Export

It would be far more elegant to abandon Import/Export in favor of Open/Save as is done in Crystal Reports. However, this is the current Save As dialog. No Enterprise in sight.

Desktop Intelligence Save Me

Web Intelligence Rich Client – the ugly

So that covers good and bad. Now for ugly. I’m bestowing that honor on the new Web Intelligence Rich Client (Webi RC). It’s the latest end user application in the Business Objects suite. Which is why it is such a profound disappointment that the Save As feature shares little consistency with any of the other tools, nor does it embrace the elegance of Crystal Reports 2008.

As you can see from the screen shot below, Webi RC is most similar to Desktop Intelligence with its distinction between saving and importing/exporting.

Web Intelligence Save Me

Personally, I find it a bit confusing to non-technical users on what a “repository” or “CMS” is. And why a separate workflow is required for something that is more analogous to choosing a local vs. a network drive to save a Microsoft Word file?

Conclusion

I am hopeful that the disparate development teams for these various products can come together, save our sanity, and add some consistency and simplicity to a basic workflow that users use everyday – saving their work. Assuming that Desktop Intelligence is going to remain in the suite for one more release, it would be great if it adopted a new Save As workflow as well as gained the support of the Publishing Wizard application. Let’s see where the Business Objects product road map leads us in 2009 and beyond…

Fun with 64-bit Windows and ODBC

Running 32-bit SAP BusinessObjects on 64-bit Windows OS

My current client is running Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 on Microsoft Windows 2003 R2 Standard 64-bit edition. This project is my first experience with a 64-bit Windows product.

Part of the project involves migrating Crystal Reports from Crystal Enterprise 10 to Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0. Many of these reports use DataDirect ODBC drivers to the client’s Baan system. Business Objects provides free but limited versions of the DataDirect 5.3 drivers for Crystal Reports 2008, which we have installed on the Business Objects Enterprise server.

Windows 2003 Server 64-bit edition has two different ODBC data source administrators. The standard administrator via the Windows control panel only displays 64-bit system DSNs. This is not immediately obvious. Thankfully, somebody smarter than me pointed out that 32-bit system DSNs are accessed via a different version of the ODBC data source administrator.

The 32-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%WindowsSysWoW64 folder.
The 64-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%WindowsSystem32 folder.

I’m not aware of a standard shortcut to the 32-bit panel from the Windows Start menu, but of course you can easily create your own. For more information about this topic, read the Microsoft support knowledge base, article 942976.