2010 SBOUC Presentation Slides Now Available

I’ve uploaded my breakout sessions from the 2010 ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference held last week at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.  As great as social networking is, it’s better in person.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn and network with some outstanding business intelligence professionals.  Until next year!

Who Moved My BusinessObjects?

Change is both fun and frightening.

The 2010 ASUG BusinessObjects User Conference begins this week at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Hundreds of SAP BusinessObjects enthusiasts will gather to make the most of their current tools and to see a glimpse of the future. I’m presenting three breakout sessions at the conference. The focus of the conference will be the public unveiling of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the first major release of the BusinessObjects platform since SAP acquired BusinessObjects two years ago.

Of course, change is both fun and frightening. Just as Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw learned to cope in Who Moved My Cheese?, all SAP BusinessObjects professionals are learning to cope with “Who Moved My BusinessObjects”- SAP. SAP has already started barbecuing the sacred cow of product names (see related article SAP BusinessObjects Product Name Change by SAP Mentor Simon To on the SAP Community). But more is happening in the business intelligence world than mere software vendor acquisitions and branding strategies.  The world is indeed changing.  Five years ago, the iPhone and iPad did not exist. But the era of mobile computing is here, and we’re privileged to live in it. Five years ago, ASUG was not organizing BusinessObjects user groups. Five years ago, I was helping organizations implement BusinessObjects with their custom AS/400 and niche-vendor ERP solutions. Today, these organizations are performing global deployments of SAP ERP.

So while SAP BusinessObjects will remain open to all data, a significant number of organizations are running their businesses differently than just five years ago. And SAP is responding to the customer landscape, not just its internal marketing standards. Besides, “All Information, All People, One Platform” doesn’t magically happen once the software is installed. It happens because people make committed efforts to improve the operational efficiency of their entire organization, not just their organization’s IT department.

I’ll have to be honest. I’m not looking forward to doing Google searches on “Dashboards”. “Xcelsius” was a much more focused and relevant search term. But I have to decide if I’m going to Hem or Haw.

So let’s come together this week and admire the new shiny toys- Crystal Reports 2011, Analysis (Pioneer), Dashboards (Xcelsius), Explorer, and the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform. And admire the giant iPhone demos. Learn to make the most of the software we’ve already deployed. Catch up with Twitter friends that are seen only once a year. Find a table of strangers, share a meal, and build a network. Build new relationships with the folks in SAP shirts. Put on a pair of mouse ears. And have a great time.

You can follow the conference on Twitter with the hashtag #SBOUC.

I’ll see you there!

Come to 2010 ASUG Annual Conference

My first ASUG Annual Conference selection, Increasing User Adoption of Business Intelligence

During last week’s snow storm of the century, it was a welcome relief to receive the following e-mail:

Congratulations. We are delighted to invite you to present at the 2010 ASUG Annual Conference. Having received more than 1,800 submissions of quality content, our selection committee feels confident that sessions such as your submission will make this our strongest conference program to date.

I submitted six abstracts for the conference, which is being held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The chosen breakout session is entitled Increasing User Adoption of Business Intelligence and is Session 514, currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, 2010 from 4:00-5:00 PM.  Here’s the abstract:

Conventional wisdom states “if you build it, they will come.” But this philosophy often leads to performance management solutions that quickly becomes shelfware, achieving little return on investment (ROI). Because business intelligence systems are constantly evolving, user adoption looks different than it does for traditional enterprise software roll outs. More than just training, user adoption is a set of processes aimed at continuous improvement of how organizations make operational, tactical, and strategic business decisions. In this session, learn how to increase user adoption using a combination of features inside the BusinessObjects Enterprise platform and business process improvements outside of the platform.

I would like to augment my prepared material with two or three case studies of organizations that would like to share their strategies for increasing user adoption. If your organization is interested in being interviewed as part of a case study, please let me know.

See you at the 2010 SAP Sapphire/ASUG Annual Conference!

BusinessObjects XI R2 Limited Support Extension

I received a tweet today indicating that SAP has extended the support period for BusinessObjects XI R2 until June 30, 2011.  You can read the scoop on the  SAP Support Portal (S-ID required):

SAP will provide limited support for most BusinessObjects XI R2 products for a further year following the end of mainstream maintenance until 30th June 2011. This is in order to give customers a longer window of opportunity to migrate to a currently maintained and supported SAP BusinessObjects release family.

A list of affected products and FAQ are also available.

I think many customers feel that XI 3.0 was “too new”, that XI 3.1 was “alright” (with SP1 and its 8 fix packs installed), and XI 3.1 SP2 has some cool features but some key issues.  FP 2.1 has just shipped but many customers are already anxiously awaiting the FP 2.2 already in the pipeline to address more issues.  Let’s hope that a stable XI 3.1 SP3 isn’t far behind that customers will feel comfortable adopting.  Aurora (XI 4, or whatever it will be called) isn’t coming until Q4-2010.

I’m currently helping a customer upgrade from 5.1.8 to XI R2 SP2, which may not seem like much of an upgrade.  But it’s the patch level supported by the OEM despite the lack of Java 6 support (which requires XI R2 SP3 and higher).  I’m sure my customer will appreciate the news of the XI R2 support extension.

I’ll be honest.  I love new toys.  I want to use the shiny, new stuff.  But this week I’m training users to use Web Intelligence XI R2.  And I still get a thrill watching new users’ eyes light up.  A good definition of business information is “delivering the right information to the right person at the right time”.  XI R2 is getting this customer much closer to that definition than 5.1.8 did.  And I get much more personal job satisfaction from a happy user on an older version than a crabby customer on a new one.

So to SAP, thank you for a decision in the best interests of your customer base.  And thanks for burning the midnight oil on the shiny, new stuff, too.

SAP BusinessObjects Universe Designer Wish List

Will my wishes become reality in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Information Design Tool?

I’ve been using Designer since my BusinessObjects career began in 2003 with version 5. Designer hasn’t changed much in that time, although derived tables and index awareness were added in version 6.5, restriction sets were improved in XI R1, and smart measures added to XI 3.x.  At the recent 2009 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference, SAP indicated that the next major release of BusinessObjects Enterprise (code named Aurora and headed our way Q4-2010) will integrate Data Federator.  We’ve been promised that future versions of Designer will assume all of the capabilities of Crystal Reports Business Views so that semantic layer can be retired in favor of the universe, and Data Federator could certainly make that possible.  And as with all other BusinessObjects products, it’s a given that adding new SAP-centric features is at the top of the priority list. But how about some desperately needed usability improvements? I humbly offer the following list of recommended enhancements.

Disclaimer: Some of my friends were able to sign an NDA and check out Designer XI 4 at the recent SAP BusinessObjects user conference.  However, I was not one of them.  So I have no idea if any of the ideas below will actually appear in the next release.  But with another year before the product is shipped, there’s still time to code some of these up… 😉

Usability Enhancements

  • A read-only field on the object properties tab that displays the class hierarchy for the object (ex. class namesub-class namesub-class nameobject name). This field should make it easy to cut and paste from Designer to other applications.
  • Ditto for the class properties
  • The ability to use the standard Windows shortcut CTRL-A to “select all” of the contents of any field in the object properties
  • A spacer object that can be inserted into large classes to indicate related items. Many developers resort to kludgy objects with hyphens to accomplish this feature.  Sometimes subclasses just aren’t an option (or requirement). In Web Intelligence, the spacer object should have a small icon to collapse/expand the objects from the spacer to the next spacer (or end of class).
  • An enhancement to the integrity checker that warns when a measure object does not have a database aggregate function in the SELECT clause. Should be a warning, not an error, because some folks (sigh) actually like measures w/o database aggregates.
  • An object comment editor, with a filter button to show only classes and/or objects that do not have comments.
  • A faster way to grab an object’s SQL than navigating to the object Properties tab, clicking on the Edit button for the List of Values (LOV) and viewing its SQL.
  • Move the Refresh Structure menu option from View to Tools. I know it’s been there for years, but “View” implies that the menu choices don’t affect the universe but only it’s display in the application. Refresh Structure most certainly alters the universe and should be classified as Tool. Add a toolbar button while you’re at it.
  • Put some space on the toolbar between the helpful List Mode button and the evil Arrange Tables button. It’s too easy to hit the latter and I generally prefer to not use it at all. And per my friend Andrew Koller, why can’t we undo the effects of the Arrange Tables button, anyway?
  • Allow user to right click in schema window and zoom in to exactly that spot (or table, if selected)
  • Allow user to right click in schema window and center the display at that spot (or table, if selected)
  • Allow paste from clipboard to text blocks in the schema view
  • Allow designers to create “groups” of tables, similar to groups of objects in Microsoft Visio.
  • In addition to placing comments on the schema itself, allow comment blocks to be tagged to tables, joins, or table groups so that comment blocks always remain associated with the appropriate object(s), regardless of how they are arranged
  • Allow designer to assign a unique color (not just Windows grey) to individual tables or groups of tables (Should these colors also be applied, maybe as an option, to object names?)
  • Allow for multiple fonts, block colors, and block outlines for text blocks in the schema view. These enhancements will facilitate better documentation
  • Variable zoom, please? Maybe a nice slider instead of the current drop-down with limited settings?
  • When I right click on a table and choose View Associated Objects, please pop up a box to tell me the table is unused. Currently, the universe pane stays stuck on its previous object, which misleads me into thinking that it belongs to the table.
  • View Associated Tables should cause the universe window to scroll, not jump. Currently too easy to lose ones place when seeing where various objects in a class come from.  The current version simply “jumps” to the correct (mostly) location and it’s easy to get lost in a larger universe.
  • If I right click on an object and choose View Associated Table and that table is on the screen, do not center on the table if the table is already on the screen but just highlight the new table. Very confusing as it alters the user’s frame of reference. Or, the screen should re-center by gently scrolling to the new position, so the designer can maintain his or her sense of direction in the universe.
  • Right click on class name and choose View Associated Table(s), similar to what’s available for objects. This option would help a developer clearly identify all tables utilized by the class.  Like my other suggestions, screen should “gently” center/resize to help designer maintain their frame of reference.  Universe window should scroll out slowly to show all tables.
  • Similar to the properties tab in Web Intelligence, add toolbar buttons to the top of the universe pane that close all classes simultaneously and open all classes simultaneously. Also, could we filter by qualification (dimention, detail, measure), data type (char, integer, date, long)?
  • Add toolbar button to filter hidden objects, as many times these are candidates for deletion.
  • The ability to find joins without defined cardinality (suggested by James Halligan)
  • A wizard to construct @prompts (suggested by James Halligan)
  • Better date handling (suggested by Josh Fletcher)
  • How about adding a tabbed interface so that unconnected portions of schema could be stored on separate tabs for easier maintenance. Or, if that’s facilitating too much poor design, how about a right click option that allows me to right click on either a bunch of objects or tables and choose to build a new universe from them? Copy objects wizard would have options to control how many tables are brought over.
  • Back to the tabbed interface… How about a separate tab for “original” tables that are aliased but not used, per best practice. And a wizard on the tools button that identifies tables that have been aliased elsewhere, replaces those tables with an alias, and recodes any dependent objects?
  • And a recycle bin tab… With a wizard that identifies unreferenced tables (not part of a valid join path) and moves them there.
  • Just like a road atlas, and instead of rulers in applications like Microsoft Word, allow designers to turn on a grid of letters and numbers. Right clicking on an object’s properties should tell me that the table is on the “map” at B6, etc. This “map” would also be helpful for those of us who have to print large universes and tape multiple sheets of paper together.
  • Regular expression support for Find and Replace
  • When Find locates an object in a large classes, the item identified by the Find/Replace function is at the bottom of the screen and partially obscured by scrollbars. Could we see the whole object, please?

And while we’re at it, a few related improvements in the other tools…

  • Improved abilities in the Web Intelligence and other query panels to get the class hierarchy, object SQL (not just query SQL) and data lineage. Although it’s a bit tech-centric for a user-centric tool, some customers put this technical information where the non-technical help text is supposed to go. Having separate containers, and client tools that access them, makes everyone happy.
  • Allow version control history for each object, without totally cluttering the interface (might be challenging). This data should also be available through Metadata Manager
  • Add reporting capability to Metadata Manager that searches all universes on a given universe connection and identifies multiple universes that point to the same underlying SQL but have different names (consistency checker). Should have option to determine if aliases are included or not.

So what would you like to see in the next version of Designer? Feel free to post a comment.

  1. Allow table groups to be named. Still thinking about what an end-user might do with such a name…

Sizing SAP BusinessObjects Explorer

Where to find the Sizing SAP BusinessObjects Explorer guide.

On page 13 of the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Installation, Deployment and Administration Guide, it states

For information on sizing your system according to the usage patterns of the
users across your deployment, refer to the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
XI 3.1 Service Pack 1 Sizing Guide available at: http://service.sap.com/bosapsupport.

A document entitled Sizing SAP BusinessObjects Explorer was posted sometime last week. You’ll need your SAP S-ID to get into the SAP Service Marketplace.

Business Objects ESD, R.I.P.

More changes are in store for Business Objects customers and partners.

More changes are in store for Business Objects customers and partners. On the heels of last week’s dismantling of the BusinessObjects.com web site, SAP posts the following upbeat message on the Electronic Software Download (ESD) site, where customers and partners download software.

 

As part of our ongoing integration program of Business Objects processes and systems to the SAP Global Support Backbone, effective February 28th, 2009, the Business Objects Electronic Software Download (ESD) site will be decommissioned and SAP Service Marketplace (SMP) will be used to facilitate the delivery of software, support downloads, and customer license keys.

This systems integration began on July 1st with the migration of newer Business Objects product versions to the SMP. The completion of this migration will provide Business Objects customers with a single, central location for all of their download needs.

Below are a few items and dates to be aware of with respect to this transition:
1. All Business Objects products are available on the SMP as of January 1st, 2009. This includes installation / upgrade products and maintenance products (such as hot fixes, service packs and patches).
2. ESD Site will remain available for customers and partners to access until February 28th, 2009, but it is strongly recommended that you access the SMP at your earliest convenience.

If you have questions about SAP Service Marketplace, please contact our Customer Service at the public page http://service.sap.com/contact-bosap.

 

Despite the claim that “All Business Objects products are available on the SMP as of January 1st, 2009″, I haven’t had much luck finding many downloads there. As a consultant for a Business Objects solution provider, I’m used to being able to download the entire product line from the ESD site. Let’s hope SAP gets the kinks worked out prior to pulling the plug on ESD, to avoid a repeat of last summer’s breathtaking cut over from Business Objects to SAP technical support.

SAP’s Big Freeze

The global economic crisis is inducing panic in SAP (and Business Objects) customers and SAP is responding. According to a blog entry posted yesterday on the Wall Street Journal, a hiring freeze has been put into effect, third party expenses such as training have been slashed, and internal non-customer facing travel is out of the question. Recently, I asked a friend at Business Objects what the number one reason for losing deals was. Expecting to hear the name of a competitor, etc., I was instead told that their greatest competitor isn’t another vendor, it’s “no decision”. Companies are clearly tightening belts.

http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/10/14/saps-big-freeze/trackback/