Query Designer in Eclipse

How to successfully use the Query Designer in Eclipse

We are very happy to present to you our first guest author: Jürgen Noe. He is Managing Partner of Jürgen Noe Consulting UG (haftungsbeschränkt) in Mannheim (www.juergen-noe-consulting.de). His article is about – as is his new book – Query Designer in Eclipse. Many thanks again Jürgen – and now enjoy the read!

 

Along with support for HANA, the introduction to SAP BW 7.4 also brought a silent interface revolution. Up until this SAP BW release, support in terms of software development environments (SDE) had been limited to the SAP GUI. But with the development of the HANA database, the Hasso Plattner Institute relied on the Eclipse as a SDE from the get-go. This now gives developers of SAP applications two relevant development environments. When it comes to, for example, developing HANA database objects HANA Studio is the go-to environment, while traditional ABAP applications still required the SAP GUI.

But SAP had another surprise in store for us: What started out with support for the HANA platform only was eventually expanded with other tools for the development and customization of applications on HANA in Eclipse.

One of the tools here is BW-MT, short for BW Modelling Tools, which allows developers to completely move their typical BW customizing tasks to Eclipse. The creation of InfoProviders, really the entire ETL (extraction, transformation, load) process can now be carried out from start to finish in BW-MT.

The logical consequence was to recreate the central tool for creating BW queries in the Modelling Tools as well. This renders the good old-fashioned Query Designer as a standalone application within the context of the Business Explorer Suite (BEx) obsolete with all releases starting from SAP BW version 7.4.

A quick start to the Query Designer in Eclipse

Against this background, I wrote a book to describe the new functionalities offered by the Query Designer in Eclipse. The book titled “Schnelleinstieg in den Query Designer in Eclipse” and published by Espresso Tutorials in September of 2017 is available in German only.

Query Designer

Click here to purchase the book.

I would like to take this opportunity and use the following paragraphs to outline the book for you:

The book starts out with some basic information about SAP BW and Eclipse in general. In the Eclipse section of the book, I provide a short explanation of how Eclipse is structured and break down essential terms such as plug-in, view, and perspectives. Experienced Eclipse users can skip this chapter.

The third chapter summarizes the BW Modelling Tools. I explain how to call well-known transactions such as the Data Warehouse Workbench in Eclipse and how to create data flows, accompanied by an in-depth description of central views such as the Project Explorer view and the InfoProvider view.

 

Given the central role that the Project Explorer plays in Eclipse, the book includes a detailed walk-through of how to create a new project and work with it. After that, I will explain how to navigate to the InfoProvider view, which is shown in the following figure 1, in Project Explorer:

Infoprovider View

Figure 0.1 InfoProvider view

This view allows you to create global, reusable objects such as restricted or calculated key figures, structures, filters, but also variables. You can find them under the Reusable Components folder in figure 1.

Chapter four then features a detailed description and many screenshots of how to create the different reusable elements and an overview of the various setting options along with their impact. The ability to create reusable components from a central location is one of the reasons why I think switching from the old BEx version to the new Query Designer in Eclipse is worth your while. Gone are the times when you had to click your way through multiple windows in the BEx Query Designer in order to, for example, create a formula variable. What’s more, I also noticed major improvements in navigation and usability.

There is yet another area where BW-MT demonstrates its full strength: It has never been easier to jump from one object to another, change it, and view the changes in the initial object right away. Here’s an example: You realize that you need an additional key figure in the query. It used to be that you first had to create it in the DataWarehouse Workbench, add and assign it in the MultiProvider, and restart the Query Designer for it to register the change before you could insert it into the query. Now, you no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of having to jump back and forth between different tools and transactions. With BW-MT all that changes are the views in Eclipse! You simply switch from the Query Designer view to the master data view, where you create your key figure, and go on to the InfoProvider view to add it to your data model in the MultiProvider. Once you have saved it, you can switch right back to the Query Designer view.

And you can do all of this in parallel in a single tool, using multiple windows, however you see fit!

With Eclipse, you can view the changes to the MultiProvider right away. And even if not, simply hit refresh to have your new key figure available in your query. It has never been so easy!

A detailed look at the query properties

Surely, you are now asking yourself how the Query Designer view that allows you to create, change and delete queries looks like. You can find the answer to this in figure 2:

Query Filter

Figure 0.2 Query definition (filter)

As you can see, the query definition is spread across multiple tabs. The General tab allows you to configure general query properties such as how to display repeated key values and much more.

Figure 2 shows the definition of a query filter. As with the BEx Query Designer, the fundamental query structure with columns, rows, and free characteristics stays the same. You can define this structure in the Sheet Definition tab. All of these configurations are carried out using the context menu, which lets you access all relevant functions in the respective views.

The Conditions tab allows you to specify conditions such as show me all datasets with revenues of more than 1 million euros.

Use the Exceptions tab to define any exceptions. These exceptions allow you to color code rows, columns or individual cells to highlight outliers or special circumstances.

I’m very fond of the Dependency Structure tab, which provides you with an overview of any other queries in which the variables used in query at hand are also used.

The Runtime Properties tab lets you configure the performance properties of the query, for example whether to use the delta cache process and many other properties that you are already familiar with from the transaction RSRT.

Chapter five of the book includes many screenshots and examples that serve to explain the various options provided by the different tabs and their respective impact.

So, what does the query result look like?

Once you have created you query, you will want to test and execute it. With BW-MT, the query result is presented in a separate view, as shown in figure 3.

Result

Figure 0.3: Query result view

You can navigate the query results freely, apply filters, add drilldowns, delete, just like you did in the past. Once again, you will find everything you need in this view, there is no longer the need to have a JAVA server installed to produce web output or to switch to the BEx Analyzer to create Excel output.

For more complex queries, you may need two structures:
In the old BEx Query Designer, you had to work with the cell editor. The cell editor was completely overhauled with the new Query Designer and now includes useful options such as copy & paste. It also eliminates any annoying roundtrips to the server to check the entries, which makes working with the cell editor that much faster. Take a look at the cell editor in figure 4:

Cell editor

Figure 0.4 Cell editor

Last but not least: the variables

The last item on our list are the variables that add dynamic to your queries. The sixth chapter takes a closer look at variables and uses screenshots and simple examples to demonstrate how to create all typical variables.

The advantages of the new Query Designer in Eclipse:

  • A modern, user-friendly and future-proof interface
  • Any existing BEx Query Designer functions can also be found in the new Query Designer in Eclipse
  • Seamless integration of BW data modelling in a single tool

My conclusion is a wholehearted recommendation to switch to the Query Designer in Eclipse along with BW-MT. It has never been so easy to create and test entire BW data models and queries. To me, the Query Designer in Eclipse is a big step towards the future!

Author
Jürgen Noe Managing Partner Jürgen Noe Consulting UG (limited liability)
Phone: +49 (0) 621 72963337
Email: juergen.noe@juergen-noe-consulting.de
5 Essential Stages of a Successful Testing Strategy in SAP BI Implementations

5 Essential Stages of a Successful Testing Strategy in SAP BI Implementations

How important is testing in SAP BI anyway?

For those who are not yet aware, there are just 3 golden rules to ensuring the success of your SAP BI projects…

Testing, Testing, and more Testing!

Okay, seriously now, there are actually 5 essential stages of a successful test strategy in any SAP BI implementation. They can be summed up in these points:

  1. Unit Testing
  2. Functional Testing
  3. Data Migration and Integration Testing
  4. Performance Testing
  5. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) & Final Sign-Off

“If you think it´s too expensive to do thorough testing, see what it costs when you don’t do it!”

You can almost hear yourself asking, “So, what is all this testing going to cost?!”

Some customers tend to balk at the cost involved in the essential testing of a SAP BI implementation. They may reason that the “quality” should already be included – that is, if the BI Team has done a thorough job in developing all the reporting objects. They may reject allocating scarce budget to testing activities, in favor of realizing more developments before the Go-Live. They may be under pressure themselves to “get the most” out of the BI project team while they are still there – and all that should fit within the fixed project scope of time-budget-quality.

Despite these forces that seem to support reduced investment in testing, SAP BI project experience demonstrates exactly the opposite. Of course, there is significant additional effort that gets pushed forward in the project timeline when you decide to go for more thorough testing – however, in the end, the overall costs of the implementation are typically reduced.

Studies have shown that the ultimate cost of a software defect can rise exponentially, depending on what point in time it is discovered.

For example, there’s the 1:10:100 rule:
a defect that costs just €1 to fix in the design and initial programming phase, would potentially cost €10 to fix during the UAT, and a whopping €100 if found after the Go-Live!

Our extensive BI project experience has proven, time and again, that uncovering and fixing bugs during initial testing phases saves overall costs – the earlier you start testing and the more you invest in testing up front, the more you stand to save in the overall project costs, over the short and long run!

Some BI project managers estimate these potential savings at 2-3 times the cost! If that is not enough to convince your project stakeholders of the value of more testing, then there’s this: the pressure and effort directly before the Go-Live can be significantly reduced — not to mention many nerves being calmed among the Business users — as the focus on testing starts to bear fruit. It will then be recognized as the most worthwhile investment in quality.

To Test or Not to Test, That Is (Not) the Question

Now that we agree, testing is essential to any SAP BI project, the questions you still need to answer are what needs to be tested, when, how, and how much?

The basic rule of thumb is, the more you test, the lower your development costs overall.

Doing this testing in a highly structured manner provides additional benefits.
For example, effectively capturing and using the test results for immediate benefits improves the quality of the end product (your final BI reports) over each test cycle iteration and testing stage. This brings your BI project into a process of continuous improvement, which can then carry over to benefit your SAP BI system long after the initial implementation project has concluded.

What exactly does testing mean in SAP BI – what is involved?

Testing is a regular “Quality Check”, a chance to measure the quality of your implementation, at given points in the project timeline and across various aspects. All testing should be supported by tracking and documentation of both SAP BI test cases and defects in an appropriate testing tool. One commonly used testing tool is “HPQC” – HP ALM Quality Center, but of course many others are commercially available.

At Inspiricon, we recognize that each customer’s situation is unique. There is no “standard approach” that fits every scenario. However, there is an established framework that can be used to structure testing activities.
In our SAP BI projects, we focus our extensive experience and expertise from other projects to address your individual challenges, and we create a customized testing strategy and plan to ensure the highest quality for your SAP BI implementation and reduce costs overall.

The following testing activities are not intended to be an all-inclusive list, nor to represent a standard approach. They are simply examples of some of the most important Quality Checks that could be made within those 5 essential stages of testing in SAP BI:

1. Unit Testing:

Good unit testing is the basis for all that comes after it. This initial testing encompasses a solid check of the design work, followed by a step-by-step approach to documenting the data as it moves through the different layers of your BI architecture, in both persistent and non-persistent states. The more bugs that can be detected and (more easily) corrected at this point in testing, the more substantial the cost savings overall!

  • Tech Spec documentation and approval (this could include a description of report design and data flows in Word, a visual overview in PowerPoint, and an Excel with complete mappings for data model)
  • Business User meetings to approve report layouts and headers (in advance of test data availability)
  • IT Internal Testing by the BI developer, includes a thorough check of data at each stage in the data flow, and a direct comparison of source system data vs. SAP BW data vs. data in final BI report).

2. Functional Testing:

The key to effective functional testing is having resources on your team who understand not only the Business’ requirements and the processes in the ERP source system, but also the data model, data flows, and report design in SAP BI, and how these two worlds are “bridged” or united.

  • Quality Assurance (QA) testing, especially by internal BI project colleagues with expert knowledge of previous reporting system and underlying business processes.
  • Documentation of test cases in testing software, such as HPQC.
  • Pre-UAT (Pre-User Acceptance Testing) testing by Business, including defect fixes and retesting, all documented and tracked in testing tool, e.g. HPQC.
  • IT Internal Testing by BI Team, coordinated by lead developers, and documentation in a central status list or “catalog” of all BI reports.

3. Data Migration and Integration Testing:

Here is where the data migration and the smooth and seamless integration with the source system(s) are verified. Data flows, including InfoPackages, DTPs, transformations, and ultimately the process chains that automate the complete daily data load, must be coordinated and tested for completeness, accuracy, correct error-handling, and stability. And of course, all BI objects that are transported to the Productive system must be verified before the Go-Live!

  • Data migrations verified
  • Full versus Delta data loads verified
  • Daily and periodic process chains optimized and tested
  • Metachains configured and tested
  • Automated BW “housekeeping”/cleanup tasks activated and verified
  • Transported BI objects verified in Productive system before the Go-Live

4. Performance Testing:

Here is where the performance of the system architecture and system sizing gets a thorough check. Initial refresh times and acceptable levels of performance are determined by the Business’ expectations, usually based on the performance benchmarks of their previous reporting systems.

Automated performance testing, provided by 3rd party software such as LoadRunner, covering such aspects as:

  • Peak loads of concurrent users
  • Initial load times for report structure and prompts
  • Refresh times for reports with data
  • Maximum data volumes returned by report queries
  • Storage volumes for saved reports and schedules

5. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) & Final Sign-Off:

Here’s where it really gets interesting! The End Users, who are the intended “recipients” of our final product, finally have a chance to test their reports! They can verify the quality of the report results by performing test cases for data checks and plausibility checks. In addition, they can log any defects and enhancements in the testing tool, and retest any fixes. The End Users have the last say on when a report has received the final “sign off” by Business.

  • UAT Data Checks by Business, including another round of defect fixes and retesting.
  • UAT Plausibility Checks by Business, to compare original reports with migrated/replicated SAP BI reports in terms of purpose, available columns, approximate results. This can be useful, despite increasing differences between the two pools of data: “ongoing” live source system data versus the “snapshot” of originally migrated data plus accumulated UAT test data.
  • Post-UAT phase of continued testing and validation by broader groups of testers with a larger set of data, perhaps more migrated data and more accumulated test data.
  • Final Business “Sign-Off” via test case “Passes” in the testing tool, e.g. HPQC.

Again, these are just some examples of recommended steps in a comprehensive testing strategy for BI implementations, and are not intended to represent a standard approach. Every customer’s implementation project is unique, and should be addressed with a custom testing strategy and plan, tailored to meet the needs of that specific customer and their individual SAP BI scenario.

Quality First!

To sum it all up, a comprehensive testing strategy, supported with effective structuring, tracking, and documentation in the appropriate testing tool, is the best investment you can make to ensure a smooth Go-Live for your End Users, and a high-quality BI system going forward!

The more effort and investment made “up front” in testing, the fewer issues that will surface at your Go-Live – and the lower the overall cost of your SAP BI project!

If you would like help in setting up your testing strategy for SAP BI, give me a call or send me an e-Mail today!

Author
Andrea Taylor Senior Consultant SAP BI
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
Run Better Anywhere with SAP BusinessObjects Mobile

Run Better Anywhere with SAP BusinessObjects Mobile

Today’s business users expect their data, reports, and dashboards to be available everywhere, all the time. Not just when they are sitting at their desks, but also on mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile and the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform can support this request.

However, the way a user interacts with a mobile dashboard differs a lot from using a dashboard on a laptop or desktop computer — the smaller mobile screen means less space for visualizations, filters, buttons, and other components.

How to Deploy a WebI Report on SAP BusinessObjects Mobile App

In this article we will focus on deploying a WebI Report on SAP BusinessObjects Mobile App. This is the preferred option, as the app provides a secure and easy way to connect to the BI platform and run WebI reports, Design Studio applications, as well as other BI documents such as Crystal Reports, and SAP Lumira documents. The support for Lumira 2.0 is also important, that comes with the latest release of iOS SAP Business Objects Mobile 6.6.

iOS SAP Business Objects Mobile 6.6

Currently the iOS users have a bit more features and technical improvements compared to the Android version, but most aspects that would meet the business users’ needs are available for both.

Below you can see a WebI Report in desktop usage and at the end of this article we will have the same report on mobile as result (Fig 1.1):

BI Launchpad

Fig 1.1

Of course, developing a reliable and optimized mobile application requires a different approach than for example developing a dashboard for desktop usage. Still you can apply these steps for deploying on SAP BusinessObjects Mobile.

4 Steps to Your App

>> Note: To use this app, downloaders must be users of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform, with mobile services enabled by the IT department.

  1. Download SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app from Apple Store/Google Play
  2. Configure the connection within the app to your BO Server

Let’s assume that you have already installed the app on your phone. The next step is to configure the connection to your BO Server (Fig 1.2).

Create new connection

Fig 1.2

We will choose BOE Connection Type because our target is the BI Platform. For the CMS Name we log in into the Central Management Console – Servers – Server List and there we can find the Central Management Server with the Host Name (Fig 1.3).

Central Management Console

Fig 1.3

  1. Deploying the desired app/report from BO Launchpad

Next step is to log in into the BO Launchpad. Having admin authorization, we have access to a folder called “Categories” where we can see all applications and reports that are currently available on mobile (Fig 2.1).

BI Launchpad

Fig 2.1

We browse to our folders and we choose a report that we want to deploy, right click on it and select “Categories” (Fig 2.2).

BI Launchpad

Fig 2.2

A pop-up with “Corporate Categories” appears, which we can expand, select Mobile and save it (Fig 2.3).

BI Launchpad

Fig 2.3

  1. Accessing our mobile application, we can see the report that we have deployed (Fig 2.4).

Report deployed

Fig 2.4

What Is The Result Of These Steps?

A report that can be accessed everywhere and anytime from your mobile device, with the possibility to view it in a landscape mode, too (Fig 3).

Result

Fig 3

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile comes with a push notification feature that enables mobile users to receive notifications even when the user session is not active, or when the application is not running on the mobile. To enable this feature, you should make a few changes in settings, both at the server end and client end (Fig 4.1).

Push notification

Fig 4.1, Source: YouTube

Conclusion And Outlook

The ability to run smarter “anywhere” is about making informed decisions with instant access to targeted, personalized information wherever you are – in the board room, at a customer site, or on the shop floor, and analyze information without a need for additional training.

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile provides instant access to business intelligence (BI) reports, metrics, and right-time information. Surely, there are many aspects that need to be discussed regarding SAP BusinessObjects Mobile, as well as the right approach in developing Mobile Apps which we will talk about in an upcoming article.

Author
Cristian Moldovan Junior Consultant SAP BI
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: cluj@inspiricon.de
What is new in SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool 4.2

What Is New in the SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool 4.2?

This is the last article of our series about new features of SAP BusinessObjects 4.2! The following new features and enhancements are available in this release of the Information Design Tool:

Sets and Set Filters

The BI Sets support is the main enhancement in SAP BI 4.2 for the information design tool.

In the new version developers can create sets which are used as pre-defined complex query filters in Web Intelligence. A set is a structure that contains multiple lists of values for key enabled dimensions in the business layer and based on a universe (UNX). The sets can contain the definition of calendars, used for temporal sets, whose content evolves in time. Developers can publish themselves sets to the CMS repository and they are available as set filters when the associated universe is used as a data source in the query panel. Sets are stored in the data warehouse along with production data, enabling fast filtering.

BI sets are useful to query data using sets logic and operators rather than SQL.

Universes

Developers can now convert a single or a group of multiple .UNV universes to .UNX universes format in a single step. Linked .UNV universes can now also be converted to .UNX universes conserving links to all core universes. Developers can also choose to include all core universes in a single universe if preferred.

Now you can use the Big Numbers feature at the .UNX Universe level and avoid enablement per report. The Big Numbers are a new High Precision property to the existing Numeric Data Type, based on an IEEE decimal floating point format standard, which enables developers to define numeric objects that are expected to be consumed with a higher precision, from 15 digits to 40 digits.

Linked universes

The Information design tool can convert linked universes created with the Universe Design Tool. The conversion dialog box has been completely modified to convert several universes at once and propose new conversion options.

Now developers can link a universe to one or more core universes in the repository. When changes are made in the core universe, they are automatically propagated to the shared components in its linked universes. Using linked universes allow developers to take advantage of components in predefined and tested universes as a starting point to quickly build new universes.

The process for creating a linked universe has changed. A developer must start with a pre-existing universe and create a linked universe from it. Once created, the developer can add tables to the new universe which reads from the original universe. Changes to the original universe are automatically reflected in the new linked universe. Both the data foundation and business layer from the original universe are available in the linked one.

SQL Enhancement

The new SQL parameter NO_NULL_YIELDS_IN_SUBQUERY has been added to the SQL Generation Parameters list. When set to YES, SQL scripts are generated ensuring fields with non NULL values are included for filters based on a subquery. The default value is NO.

Setting Summary tab preferences for data foundation views

For data foundations with multiple views, you can now choose to open a specific view in the editor instead of the default master view. This can help to save time when developers want to work on a subset of the data foundation, and do not need to display the entire content of the Master View. A new Summary tab is available that lists views with a color code that gives an indication of the loading time onto the screen. Based on this information, developers can select a view that will display more quickly rather than the master view which displays all of the available views.

Creating a business layer directly on a BEx Query

Developers can create a business layer directly on a BEx Query using BICS access and publish the business layer as a universe available to Web Intelligence. Creating a universe based on a BEx query has a major advantage over using direct access to a BEx query as developers can organize and customize the query dimensions, measures, and hierarchies in the business layer. Although developers can edit certain components of the business layer, the data foundation is built automatically on the query and is read only.

If you want to know how to create a universe, go to our blog article about it! We explain it step by step.

This article provided an overview of the features and enhancements that have been added to the SAP BusinessObjects since the previous release. It directs you to the available product documentation to get you started using the new features!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de

 

New Features in WebI 4.2

New Features in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2

This week, we continue our mini-series about BI 4.2. Today’s topic is SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 and its new features. Let’s start!

I will now give you an overview on new functions.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 includes the following next main features: Sharing of Elements, Refresh queries in parallel, Commentary, Geo Mapping and Visual Extensions, Direct Access to HANA Views and SAP HANA Online.

Sharing of Elements

Shared elements are report parts that are stored in the CMS repository, and can be reused multiple times by other users or for other documents. Developers got the option to publish the report elements to a central located platform public folder. Shared element contains all required meta data: report part, corresponding data source, data providers, variables and formatting. Now user can quickly import frequently utilized logos, charts and visualizations into their reports.

Refresh Queries in parallel

The parallel data provider refresh feature now supports BEx queries, and new settings have been added in the Central Management Console and the information design tool to let you fine-tune parallel queries at a connection level. As a result, you can manage the maximum number of queries refreshed in parallel per document for OLAP, BEx or relational connections. You can also decide whether you want to enable parallel query processing during scheduling operations.

Commentary

BI Commentary is currently available for Web Intelligence application. Now, users working with Web Intelligence in reports can use BI Commentary for collaboration.

Geo Maps and Visual Extensions

Good looking and insightful dashboards can be created, using ESRI maps or google maps. Any map that has an URL can be now used to cross geospatial information and our own data. Maps in Web Intelligence are no longer reserved for the mobile application. Now developers can create or view them in Web Intelligence desktop, browser or mobile. The feature also includes a geo encoder engine. This engine allows developers to geocode any city, state, country dimension within their existing dataset.

Direct Access to SAP HANA Views

Now developers can directly access a SAP HANA information view without the need to first create a universe. In addition the can create queries on HANA views and benefit from the speed and power of HANA.

SAP HANA Online

With SAP HANA Online mode, create Web Intelligence documents with live data leveraging the power of HANA. In SAP HANA Online mode, all Web Intelligence calculations such as value aggregation and member filtering are delegated to HANA. This enables quicker interactions between Web Intelligence and HANA, providing better performance for data refresh. This feature mainly targets business analysts who need to analyze and explore huge quantities of data on HANA. They can now work with real-time data and enjoy better interactions with Web Intelligence. Report designers will also benefit from SAP HANA Online mode user experience that makes documents creation easier than before. Report designers can now bypass query panels and universes.

Please contact me for further questions, I will be happy to answer them!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
What is new in SAP BO BI 4.2

What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2?

Today, I would like to start a mini-series about what is new in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2. The first article of this series is about new features of the general platform.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 is the culmination of core stability and capability improvements spanning key new innovations, incremental product advances from BI 4.1 and improved features for upgrading all existing XI R2 and XI3 customers to this newest version of the SAP BI Suite.

With the release of SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 (SP2 – SP4), SAP has introduced a treasure trove of new enhancements. It contains a proverbial wish list of enhancements that have been desired for years.

Much to my delight, SAP Web Intelligence has received several significant enhancements. Particularly in terms of its integration with SAP HANA. However, there were also enhancements to the platform itself. Let’s take a more detailed look at the top-list of new features.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.2 includes:

Recycle Bin in CMC

When users delete an item from the BOE system, it’s now moved into the “Recycle Bin” and an administrator can recover the files. Items will be stored there only until the bin is emptied, which may have a time-limit or happen on set days – at which time the files are permanently deleted.

BI Commentary Service

A new CMC application that allows document users to collaborate, to comment on any of the data/statistics accessible in a given document.

Restful Web Services APIs for Publication

A whole raft of nifty new tools allow the management of:

  • Users and User groups;
  • Publications, files and scheduling;
  • Queries, Server and Jobs statistics;
  • Content and Application usage, and more.

BI Administrators’ Cockpit

Another new CMC application. Administrators can collect basic data about the BI environment. Developers can also obtain information about Servers, Scheduled Jobs, Applications and Content Usage.

Selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file

Now developers can selectively import objects contained in an LCMBIAR file within the promotion management web application. Selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file. This requires that the user has the introduction of ‘Edit LCMBIAR’ right. When developers selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file, a new job with the selected objects is created.

Split Installer

Using the installation command line, administrators can now prepare the system for installation without down-time. It does this by performing all of the binary caching and some of the SQL lite installation database operations before it invokes the section of the install that require down time.

Running setup.exe – cache will invoke the caching portions of the install. When ready to complete the install, running setup.exe – resume_after_cache will complete the insulation. In theory, the later portion of the installation step reduces the down-time by eliminating the dependency between the two major installation and upgrade tasks.

In a large clustered environment, this is a great addition. In all types of environments this is a great enhancement. Previously, the system down-time was subjected to the long and tedious process of caching deployment units.

New License Keys

After upgrade to 4.2 SP2, administrators will need to obtain a new license keys. The keys that once worked for 4.0 and 4.1 will not work after upgrading to 4.2 SP2. The graphical installer will also let administrator know this. Need be prepared to logon to service market place and request new keys.

In the next article, I will give you an overview on the changes of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 – stay tuned!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
Cognos Migration SAP BW on HANA

How to leverage a standardized SAP solution to harmonize processes across the enterprise and ensure comparability

Hey there:

Today we would like to share with you yet another successful project in our portfolio. For this project, we were tasked with migrating an existing Cognos reporting solution from SAP BW on HANA with SAP BusinessObjects as the frontend.

The customer that sought our support specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of electronic components. As part of an international group, it is one of several subsidiaries, all of which rely on different ERP and business intelligence solutions. Faced with the group’s continued growth and the ever-increasing complexity that goes along with it, the proprietary ERP solution was reaching its limits both in terms of functionality and reporting capabilities.

THE PROJECT

Working from a newly introduced and standardized SAP ERP solution with SAP BW, Inspiricon was able to replace the existing Cognos reporting solution.

There were a number of reasons that motivated this decision:

  • For one, it would have been too costly and time consuming to keep developing the reporting solutions that, for the most part, had been developed in house and customized to specific needs.
  • Also, maintenance and support had become almost unmanageable.
  • What’s more, the group was no longer able to maintain the consistency of KPI purpose and content across its different companies, resulting in the inability to compare their processes and results.
  • The sheer number of different interfaces with other systems drove costs and significantly increased the error rate. Reporting to the parent company, in particular, had become a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. Even more interfaces were needed to do so because reporting was tailored exclusively to customers based on a – custom – Cognos reporting solution that had been implemented on top of everything else.
  • Internal expertise regarding the existing solutions was limited to a small number of people inside the company. Loosing this technical knowledge due to employee turnover was an ever-present threat.

THE SOLUTION

Since another subsidiary was already using SAP products, the new ERP solution was already present on the system.

The project, however, was not just about bringing the ERP system up to speed, the group was also eager to take its BI system to the next level. And it wanted it to be a SAP solution, prompting the decision to replace the existing Cognos reporting solution with SAP Business Warehouse on HANA.

The project was launched with release SAP 7.4 on HANA. During the project, a migration to SAP 7.5 on HANA was carried out. In this case too, SAP BW was already being used by another subsidiary and was therefore readily available.

Products in the SAP BusinessObjects family were to be used for the frontend as well. These adjustments were intended to bring about following changes and benefits:

  • Standardized data models that can be leveraged by every company in the group, allowing its globally dispersed service centers to provide cost-optimized support.
  • Consistent KPIs that guarantee comparability.
  • A smooth transition for users of the Cognos solution by means of a like-to-like migration.
  • Elimination of unnecessary interfaces.
  • Improved and accelerated flow of information along the value chain.
  • Increased responsiveness for better corporate management, which also improves competitiveness.

Our solution consists of Web Intelligence reports based on SAP BW on HANA along with standardized data provisioning from the operational SAP ERP system. The following illustration outlines the project’s structure:

Illustration Project Structure

By replacing its existing ERP and BI systems, our customer was able to improve its business. Not only can users now access reports and data much faster, substantially reducing time to decision, but they can also, to a certain degree, customize their reports in the context of a self-service BI. Another big plus is a significantly improved security posture due to centrally managed access authorizations. Last but not least, we were able to reduce license costs and therefore improve cost-effectiveness for the customer.

The introduction and standardization of SAP ERP and BI solutions typically require significant investments. By having our employees from our nearshoring location in Cluj-Napoca in Romania contribute to the project, we were able to drastically cut these costs. At the peak of the project, up to 6 colleagues from Cluj-Napoca were involved in the project. We coordinated through daily briefings during which our team communicated remotely both through video and audio.

Author
Claudio Volk Member of the Management Board
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
ERCO Project SAP Fiori

How to analyze and visualize information with SAP Fiori in real time

Hello everybody:

Today, we would like to share with you a project which was about introducing data processing and visualization in real time. Let’s get right into it:

Our Customer

ERCO GmbH is a leading international specialist in architectural lighting, using 100% LED technology. The family business operates globally in 55 countries worldwide with around 1.000 employees.

The Initial Situation

ERCO asked us to develop an app that would not only visualize key figures, but also give users the opportunity to comment on the figures directly. This would for example apply for variance analysis. Taking into account all this information, sales will be supported immensely.

The Challenge

ERCO wanted to optimize the process of exchanging information between the sales staff and senior management by introducing an SAP Fiori application and integrating it with an SAP BW system.

This translated into the following project requirements for us:

  • Make reports and feedback options more easily accessible for sales representatives – also via mobile access.
  • Allow reports to be created in real time.
  • Capture comments and estimates by sales reps in real time and store them in a central location.
  • Make the consolidated data available to senior management as soon as it is put in by the sales staff.

The Objective

The objective of the project was to deliver a mobile iPad app that would allow the companies approximately 250 employees in the field to always stay on top of their key sales figures. Through this, the company wanted to provide its field staff with a means to pull information on their current sales performance at any time and from anywhere.

The following graph shows you – vastly simplified – the project steps, the changes as well as advantages of the SAP Fiori application:

Process ERCO Project

By the time the project was finished, we had created and established a mobile, streamlined, and most importantly highly intuitive process that enables ERCO to monitor and modify its forecasts. Executives and sales staff alike now always have the latest data at their fingertips. This adds significant value to the data; because, after all, when it comes to business intelligence, the worth of information is determined by its timeliness.

So we were of course very happy that our customer was very satisfied after the implementation of the new SAP Fiori application. As stated Celina Berg, Project Manager, ERCO GmbH:

“Inspiricon professionally implemented the project from start to finish. Our communication was open and straightforward. There was full visibility into the project’s status at all times and all of our project objectives were achieved in time and budget. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Inspiricon in the future.”

We are excited to do future projects together!

Read the Success Story about this project on our website.

You want to learn more about SAP Fiori? Visit our blog on http://en.inspiricon.de/category/fiori/

Author
Gerald Iakobinyi-Pich Software Architect
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: cluj@inspiricon.de

A field report on upgrading to SAP BW 7.5 or “you never quite know what to expect”

Hello everybody:

Today, I would like to share with you some of the experiences from one of our most recent customer projects. It’s always very exciting to be among the first to get to work with new releases, support packages, or tools. But it can also get a bit tricky. This report is about one of those surprises that we’ve all run into.

As part of a migration project, we were developing a large number of data models based on the “new” ADSOs (Advanced Datastore Objects) and Composite Provider objects to make them available as HANA views and leverage native HANA tools in the next step.

This article focuses on a particular problem we encountered during the upgrade from BW 7.4 to BW 7.5. The upgrade was carried out during our project.

Like I said before, our data models here were mainly based on ADSOs. These ADSOs can be modeled in a way that makes then behave like Cubes or traditional DSOs. This means they either have a dedicated key (in the case of DSOs) or all characteristics together form the key (Cubes).

Another difference between Cubes and DSOs is the way the key figure units are used:
With Cubes, the unit is part of the key figure: In transformations, they are usually processed in one rule.

cubes

cube rules

With DSOs, things are a little different. Here, the unit is treated like a separate field (and therefore in two rules in transformations).

DSO

DSO fields

In BW 7.4, all ADSOs were treated like DSOs (two rules).

Imagine our bewilderment when the transformations for all ADSOs that we had modeled like Cubes stopped working. No error messages were displayed, but rather the data was shifted between fields. After all, the target structure now had fewer fields. When we then tried to examine the transformations, we got the following error message:

transformation error

As mentioned before, the error did not occur right away and even the data transfer processes (DTPs) were running somewhat “smoothly”, that is, without any error messages. The transformations themselves were displayed as active. The error message was displayed only when a transformation was opened. If no particular logic was stored, the system even assigned the missing unit as an automatic proposal when we opened the transformation in change mode.

Unfortunately, SAP had not yet provided a correction at that point, leaving us with no other option than to manually correct the errors.

Has anyone out there encountered the same problem? Has SAP delivered a solution yet?

We had to make a choice: Either switch all ADSOs to the “standard DSO” mode and hope that the automatic activation would accurately assign the transformations or modify all transformations on the test system.

Changing the ADSO mode, however, turned out to be a non-option since it would have had too big an impact on our data model. So, we just had to grit our teeth and put all our resources together in a last-ditch effort to modify the transformations. Unfortunately, we ran into more complications as the invalid rules were being deleted (and the other systems were not available at the time). But we pulled through and solved all problems, allowing us to enter the next phase of the project with acceptable delay. It did, however, take the kind of full team effort that is crucial to these types of projects and comes natural to everyone here at Inspiricon.

What we learned from this project is that new tools are not only extremely exciting but also rather error prone. That is why we always try to test the latest developments on our internal systems ahead of time (currently, our testing is centered around Predictive Analytics, Lumira 2.0, and SAP Leonardo).

But there are just some things that you can’t test and certain things like upgrades or migrations are never the same twice. We factor that into our projects by allowing for buffers and clearly communicating the risks and opportunities to our customers. Together, we will decide which strategy is best for the project at hand.

Author
Jörg Waldenmayer Team Lead Technology
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
Inspiricon SAP-HANA planning application kit 1030x665

Fresh news from SAP Planning Tools

Author: Gabriela López de Haro, Senior BI Consultant

Today we would like to talk about planning. In particular we would like to focus on what what we can expect from the new HANA Planning Application Kit, what are the differences and advantages in comparison to the standard Integrated Planning.

But before we start, let´s first talk about the importance of planning:

Why planning?

Companies can benefit from improvements in the decision making process by planning. With the help of current, past data and some predictive analysis, companies can set goals for the future and predict what might happen. The comparison between actual and plan data helps to improve the process of planning.

Overview on SAP BI Planning Tools

In order to plan, it is necessary to have the ability to manually enter data in the system (input-ready query). This data entry functionality can be achieved in several different ways and with different tools, both in BI as well as in the transactional system.

What differentiates planning tools from the simple data entry functionality, is that it also offers the possibility to analyze data and generate complex planning scenarios. This can be achieved with the help of planning functions that range from the simple ones (copy, delete, repost, currency conversion) to more complex customer defined functions. Among the SAP BI Planning tools are:

Inspiricon_Evolution-of-BI-Planning

Evolution of BI Planning

Business Planning and Simulation (BPS)

Unlike Integrated Planning, it is not fully integrated into the BI system. Even though it was replaced by Integrated Planning, there are some planning functions that still run partially on BPS (i.e: Cost Center Retraction).

  • Planning levels, planning functions and sequences are created in transaction BPS0
  • Manual entries layouts, filters and variables are also created in transaction BPS0 and are not aligned with BEx queries, filters or variables.
  • The frontend is also not integrated with the BI tools. Instead, it is necessary to create a web interface in transaction BPS_WB.

BI Integrated Planning

This solution is fully integrated into the BI system. Data providers are created into the Data Warehouse Workbench, input-ready queries are created with the BEx Query Designer and all other planning specific functionalities (planning functions, planning sequences, data slices, and characteristic relationship) are defined in the Planning Modeler. It can be migrated completely to a SAP HANA Database, with the benefit of an improved read access (In-Memory).

  • Manual inputs are created directly in BEx Query Designer. Variables and filters correspond to BEx Variables and Filters.
  • Planning Functions, Sequences, Characteristic Relationships, Data Slices, etc. are created in transaction RSPLAN.
  • Migration to a SAP HANA Database can be achieved without adjustments, leading to a better response time and hence benefits on the user side. This is because data is now saved in the In-Memory Database. Nevertheless, aggregations and calculations continue to take place in the Application Layer.

SAP Planning Application Kit on HANA

It is the newest on planning. The difference with the above solution, is that the planning engine is In-Memory optimized. The application of the business logic is moved from the application layer to the In-Memory Database, reducing the data circulation between layers and leading to a significant improvement on the performance.

  • BW-IP needs no changes work in HANA, however, in order to benefit from the improved performance in the calculation engine, planning functions must be migrated.
  • The execution of the calculations in-memory can be enabled with the activation of the Planning Application Kit. SAP notes1637199 explains the procedure for the activation.
  • Most planning function types are already available in the Planning Application Kit (Copy, Delete, Revaluate, etc.).
  • Still, not all planning functions can be executed In-Memory, in particular planning functions based on ABAP exit. In order to be able to execute those functions In-Memory, it is necessary to write an SQL-Script.
  • In order to generate a planning function type based in SQL-Script you will need to create a function type based on an ABAP Class. The SQL-Script will be called from the Execute Method.
Comparison old/new

Comparison old/new

In summary, with the new HANA Planning KIT we can expect to maintain the same planning functionalities that were available in the Standard IP, but with improved performance due to an In-Memory Database.

Read more about planning and SAP HANA in our blog.

To finalize, we would like to mention that in today’s post we have not mentioned BPC. We will keep this subject for a future post.