Business Intelligence Timeline

What’s on your Business Intelligence timeline?

Updated August 1, 2012

I recently stumbled across this nifty Business Intelligence timeline on the Business Objects web site. It dates back to 3500 BC and the Sumerians. Somebody put a lot of thought into the timeline, even including extensive footnotes. The timeline marks some interesting developments in human history, not to mention Business Objects history – developments like Business Objects 4.0, which shipped in 1996. Business Objects 4.0 was the first version of Business Objects to incorporate the Supervisor administrator application.

I have my own Business Intelligence timeline, although it is much shorter – beginning in February 2003 when I started using Business Objects 5i. Supervisor was replaced in November 2004 by the Business Objects XI Release 1 Central Management Console, or CMC. Like many of you, I learned Supervisor only to have to relearn the CMC. The CMC was simply a rebranded Crystal Management Console from Crystal Enterprise 10. And although Business Objects XI was the 3rd iteration of the CMC, it lacked certain capabilities and refinement.

Supervisor had its own issues, but we were comfortable. Many of us were bitter when XI shipped, clinging to our guns and Supervisor. And just when many administrators are finally getting comfortable with the XI R2 CMC, we must change once again to adopt Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0.

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 shipped in March 2008 with a completely redesigned CMC. There were many reasons to undertake a redesign. On the architecture side, previous versions of the CMC relied on Crystal Web Requests (CWR), which have been depreciated. The Web Component Adapter (WCA) that supported CWR’s is no longer present in the XI 3.0 architecture. On the user side, the CMC worked well with single objects (users, folders, etc.), but didn’t make administrators very efficient working with multiple objects. Advanced rights were a pain to setup and manage. Some security situations were tricky to resolve without breaking inheritance rules. And the tools for diagnosing security issues still required a lot of Sherlock Holmes-style detective work by an administrator.

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 contains many architectural and user-centric improvements. As I continue to use the product, I see that many of the changes are actually in response to feature enhancements requested by users. So we are partially to blame. Fortunately, many of the underlying security rules in XI R2 are still valid – they just come in a bright shiny new package.

I’ll be discussing the new CMC this October at the GBN Business Objects User Conference 2008 in Dallas, Texas (visit my Presentations page).

What’s on your Business Intelligence timeline?

 

UPDATE (August 1, 2012): GBN is now part of ASUG, the America’s SAP User Group. Thanks to Sandor de Heij for finding the original timeline in the Web Archive’s Wayback Machine.  Upon closer inspection, it looks like Business Objects cited most of their timeline from A Brief History of Decision Support Systems by D. J. Power.

BusinessObjects XI 3.0 Hits and Misses – Part 2

Change is not only a theme for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, it is the theme for BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0. One of the dramatic new features of the new release is the new icon for measure objects. Gone is the emasculating hot pink sphere in favor of a more masculine yellow rectangle. Perhaps the product managers felt a new shape and color were needed to reinforce the introduction of new “smart” measures with database delegated computation? Or is this just change for the sake of change?

[UPDATE: it’s a ruler, stupid.  Measure.  Ruler.  Get it?]

In everyday usage, I’ve noticed that the color yellow is confusing because it is the color shared by condition objects (the standard yellow filter icon). Yes, I realize that there are two different shades of yellow, but I’m still confused. In Web Intelligence, condition objects (or predefined filters) appear at the end of the class list, which is frequently where measure objects are placed. I’m noticing that my brain is going for color instead of shape or object name. So I’m grabbing a measure object when I want a predefined condition or vice versa. I would much prefer if all four object types (dimension, detail, measure, and predefined condition) would have unique colors, which was the case prior to XI 3.0.

Who wants to join me in the campaign to restore the pink sphere to its former glory?

Lessons Learned on My Recent Xcelsius 2008 Project

I’ve been working on an executive dashboard using SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 and Xcelsius 2008 SP1. I wanted to share some of my lessons learned so far…

1. Leaving the QaaWS user name and password blank in the Xcelsius 2008 Data Manager forces Xcelsius to pop up the Business Objects Enterprise authentication dialog at run time. When the SWF is running inside of InfoView, either directly or via Dashboard Builder (fka Dashboard Manager), it receives these credentials automatically through the session.

2. To use the QaaWS application and create web services, you must either be the administrator, or a user who belongs to the QaaWS Group Designer security group in the CMC. Users who do not belong to this group will receive a message stating “You are not authorized to design or edit a query. Please contact your administrator (QWS 02718)”.

3. To consume (execute) QaaWS web services, users must belong to the QaaWS Group Designer group. This fact was a bit non-intuitive in the documentation and didn’t seem to work the first time I tried it. If your InfoView user does not belong to the QaaWS Group Designer group, the message output parameter of your QaaWS (if you’re displaying it in your dashboard) will return “A document with this name does not exist”. I’m grateful to Charles Liao, who posted this information on the “new and improved” SAP Support Forums and just got off the phone with Business Objects Customer Assurance, who confirmed this approach. Taking advantage of the multiple inheritance in the Business Objects security model, I put all of my Xcelsius executive dashboard users into a group and then made that group a subgroup of the QaaWS Group Designer group.

4. To avoid the dreaded “Error 2032”, you will need a crossdomain.xml file (not to be confused with the crossdresser.xml file) in the web application server (Tomcat) root directory to address some security features in the Adobe Flash 9 player. However, the procedure is well documented and nearly painless.

5. The default QaaWS user in XI 3.0 is no longer the Administrator (as in XI R2), but a new user named QaaWSServletPrincipal. This user can be modified or changed by editing the dsws.properties file, although since the user is no longer Administrator, you’ll probably have no reason to bother. The dsws.properties file is located at C:Business ObjectsTomcat55webappsdswsbobjeWEB-INFclasses. Look for the following:


qaaws.principal.username=QaaWSServletPrincipal
qaaws.principal.password=
qaaws.principal.authentication=

6. If you refresh the WSDL in Xcelsius 2008 (even if the WSDL is unchanged), all of the fields on the Definition tab of the Data Manager are cleared and need to be remapped to the Excel spreadsheet. This is just a bit frustrating. Curiously, the fields on the Usage tab appear to remain mapped.

7. Queries cannot be renamed in Query as a Web Service, although they can easily be copied to a different name. Therefore, it’s best to think about naming conventions before starting. There are no folders to organize QaaWS in XI 3.0, which will eventually lead to suburban sprawl if you’re building many different dashboards and queries.

8. Hitting the Import button in the Data Manager doesn’t always refresh the WSDL. If you’ve republished a QaaWS recently, you may need to close Xcelsius 2008 and reopen so the WSDL can be refreshed properly.

9. There are no 5-minute changes in Xcelsius 2008. Especially when QaaWS is involved. This is not directly a fault of the tools. Yes, I know you’re boss (and mine) probably saw the slick demos. I’ve just been burned often when something appears to be a quick change, but then there’s a wrinkle that involves a lot of testing…

10. Xcelsius 2008 and Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 are new software products. There will be bugs. There will be support calls. There will be tasks that take longer than expected as you learn to master the new capabilities and interfaces. All of these things must be built into project timelines as well as expectations. Otherwise, you’re better off using the previous releases of the product line.

I’ll continue to update this post as the project continues… I’m also compiling my desired features for Xcelsius 2009, or whatever the next major release will be. Thanks for reading!

BusinessObjects XI 3.0 Hits and Misses

BusinessObjects recently released BusinessObjects Edge Series 3.0 to complement its earlier launch of BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0. It’s nice to see how BusinessObjects has responded to the user community with improvements. However, some of the improvements are a bit dubious and border on annoyances.

The Hits:

1. An alignment toolbar for Web Intelligence. Woo-hoo! The developers who added this feature deserve a big bonus!

2. The end user report panels and viewers have easier to understand names than their XI R2 counterparts. For Web Intelligence XI 3.0, the “Java Report Panel”, “Query-HTML Panel”, and “HTML Panel” are now known as “Advanced”, “Interactive”, and “Web Accessibility”. Similarly, the HTML viewer is now known simply as “Web”. On the Crystal Reports side, the Advanced DHTML viewer has been retired and the DHTML viewer is known simply as “Web”.

3. In Web Intelligence XI 3.0, you can now type in formulas into free-standing cells without the use of the formula toolbar. Very nice.

4. The “browse” button in the Web Intelligence properties tab (in the Report Manager) is always visible. In previous releases, you had to move the mouse over the property cell to see the button.

5. The tabbed interface for InfoView user preferences has been replaced by a single screen of grouped options. Users may interactively fold (open/close) the groups to avoid clutter.

6. The Web Intelligence Rich Client. It’s essentially the Java Report Panel with a Windows menu attached. After the rush for all BI vendors to embrace the web, somebody figured out that the web was just a bit out of reach on airplanes, etc. The Webi Rich Client is also how personal data providers are now supported in Webi, giving us all one less reason to use Desktop Intelligence.

The Misses:
1. The InfoView default home page is even more useless than it was before. A second click is now required to see the “Document List”, as the navigation panel is not part of the default screen.

3. The New Document button is only available from the Document List, meaning it always takes an extra click to find it. In XI R2, the New Document button was on the InfoView toolbar, which is a more logical location. As a developer, I’m usually logging in to build something new, not access something old. Also, when creating documents using the Web Intelligence Advanced Report Panel, you must return to the Document List. Again, an extra click.

2. The search feature is only available from the Document List, not the standard InfoView toolbar. This is unfortunate, as the search feature is really an alternative to using the document list, not a complement. On a related note, users still cannot save their default search type (title, all fields, advanced, or content) as an InfoView preference. Now that content search is built into XI 3.0 (not an add-on as in the XI R2 Productivity Pack), I would love to be able to set it as the default search type.

4. The Navigation Panel is no longer present when you are viewing or editing a report. To find another document, you have to return to “Document List”, which takes you away from the current document. The XI R2 Navigation Panel, with it’s ability to co-exist with the user’s workspace, was better in my opinion.

5. Column resizing. Columns in both InfoView and the Central Management Console (CMC) can be resized, but getting the cursor in the proper position is a real challenge. Unfortunately, a feature intended to be useful and flexible is actually quite tedious and frustrating. And the CMC icons down the left side are quite minuscule. Any chance of a “hover” operation that enlarges the button? (Does it mean that I’m getting old if I’m whining about too-small icons?)

6. The new training manuals. The new XI 3.0 manuals have a different format than their XI R2 counterparts. Content aside (and don’t get me started), the format alone will make course delivery more challenging for both instructors and students. Please share your candid opinions about the manuals on the course evaluation forms when you begin taking training.

Conclusion:

I’m just now diving into the security model changes, which I’ll chat about in a future post. The next release, BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1, is already in beta. Although .NET support and the new Lifecycle Manager (LCM) are the major features, let’s hope that some of these other UI issues can be addressed.

Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

Learn how to customize the InfoView login screen, replace the default logo, and adjust the default paper size.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a client that is currently using Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise 10 but wants executive dashboards. Because of the desired feature set, the client has adopted SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0, Xcelsius 2008, and Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). This will also be my first experience with Business Objects on 64-bit Windows (see related article on 64-bit Windows and ODBC), so I’m excited.

IMPORTANT: This article covers customizations for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2 and SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1.  If you’re working with later releases, please read Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 or Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1. Be aware that not every customization you can dream of is supported (see SAP KB 1218598 – Support policy on customizing SAP BusinessObjects InfoView, BI Launch Pad, and other applications).

I’m doing a bit of minor customization. I’m pleased to report that although the file locations have changed, many of the tricks used with BusinessObjects Enterprise XI Release 2 still apply.

I prefer to make a backup copy of all affected files prior to making modifications. I also encourage you to copy the modified files to a safe location unaffected by patching, as service packs and fix packs will redeploy WAR files and wipe out your customizations. If SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is part of your deployment, make sure it is installed and patched before making modifications, since the Explorer installer will also redeploy WAR files and wipe out your changes.

Changing the Default Logo
I discovered the secret location by clearing the “Display Business Objects logo” box in the CMC’s InfoView Properties, then checking the radio button for “Display custom logo”. By leaving the default value of logo.jpg, I was able to log into InfoView and display the properties of the broken image link. The default image still goes in the schema.blue folder like XI R2, but the path is now C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewAppres\schema.blue.

Customizing the InfoView Login Page
The procedure for customizing the InfoView Login page is also very similar to XI Release 2, other than the web.xml file now lives at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INFweb.xml. As before, you’ll want to restart Apache Tomcat to see your changes in effect. Curiously, Business Objects XI 3.0 hides the CMS/cluster name and authentication type out-of-the box (frequent customization requests).

For XI Release 2, the app.name parameter controls some text on the login screen as well as the HTML <TITLE> tag throughout the user’s session. The <TITLE> tag trick is pretty cool, as the text that you choose will always be what users see when their browser window is minimized. So you may want to change the value from InfoView to CompanyName BI Portal. And the app.name.greeting, which by default is BusinessObjects, can be modified so users are greeted by Welcome to Our BI Portal instead of Welcome to BusinessObjects.

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 handles InfoView Login page customization in a slightly different way.  The app.name.short attribute is used for the “greeting” and the <TITLE> tag of the InfoView home page while app.name is used for the <TITLE> tag of all other InfoView pages.  The app.name.greeting does not appear to be used.

Changing the Default Web Intelligence Paper Size
Although the rest of the world has standardized on A4 paper, the United States uses a slightly different Letter size. When Business Objects Enterprise is initially installed, the default page size is A4. In XI R2, this situation is easily corrected by modifying the defaultconfig.xml file. The Java and .NET versions of Web Intelligence each have their own defaultconfig.xml file.

NOTE: Existing Web Intelligence documents will still have the page size set when the document was saved; however, this modification will change the default setting for all new documents.

If you are using the included Tomcat web application server, the defaultconfig.xml file for XI R2 is located at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcatwebappsbusinessobjectsenterprise115desktoplaunchwebiAppletAppletConfig. The defaultconfig.xml file for SAP Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0/XI 3.1 is located in a slightly different location at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsAnalyticalReportingwebiAppletAppletConfig.

Changing the InfoView and CMC Favicons

The InfoView favicon, InfoView.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewApp\res\general folder and the CMC favicon, CMC.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\CmcApp\images folder.  Make backup copies of the originals, just in case, then replace with your organization’s favicon.ico.  Explorer uses the default Tomcat favicon, located in the Tomcat55\webapps\ROOT folder, so you’ll want to replace it as well. You’ll need to restart Tomcat and possibly even delete your browser’s cache before you’ll notice the new icons in your browser.

Conclusion
That’s all I have for now. There’s no customer requirement to customize the style sheet, and the client hasn’t used their new environment long enough to want any features disabled (discussions, information on demand) by tweaking additional XML files. But stay tuned…

It’s nice to know that it’s still possible to tailor the InfoView user experience. However, the drawback to the current approach is that you’re always in danger of a service pack or fix pack overwriting these files. Perhaps a future release will add common customizations as parameters that can be controlled via the application configuration in the CMC.

UPDATE (03/15/2013): Minor updates based on an experience applying SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP6 (Service Pack 6).

UPDATE (08/23/2012): I renamed this article as “Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1” instead of “XI 3.0” and added details for changing favicons.

Do you have a favorite customization for XI 3.1? Please share with the world as a comment to this post.

BusinessObjects XI 3.0

Business Objects, an SAP company, officially launched BusinessObjects XI 3.0

Today Business Objects, an SAP company, officially launched BusinessObjects XI 3.0, which will ship in late March 2008. Formerly known by its code name of Titan, BusinessObjects XI 3.0 represents a major revamp from one end of the product portfolio (Enterprise Information Management, or EIM) to the other (Information Discovery and Delivery, or IDD).

In addition, the Business Objects unveiled a slightly tweaked mission statement, as part of the alignment with its new owner, SAP.

Transforming the way the world works by connecting people, information, and business

Business Objects XI 3.0 promises improvements in the migration process, in addition to product enhancements. According to Business Objects, one third of their customers have migrated, one third are in the process of migrating, and a third are still waiting to migrate to the XI platform. Some of the features in XI 3.0 were added specifically to address concerns of its largest customers, who have delayed migration until XI 3.0 was ready.

As a consultant, trainer, migration specialist, and conference speaker, 2008 is shaping up to be a challenging, yet fun, year digesting all of the new product features. If your organization has not yet migrated, it’s certainly worth evaluating XI 3.0 after it ships in March 2008.