On Sunday, ASUG had several pre-conference sessions. I attended SAP Mentor Ingo Hilgefort's BI4 Feature Pack 3 Tools in a Day hands-on session. This session was sold-out, which is even more amazing given it was Mother's Day here in the U.S. By far this was the best pre-conference session I have ever attended as everything went smoothly. At the end of the day, attendees gave Ingo a huge applause; one attendee told me that the high quality of Ingo's materials was worth the price of attending.
I want to thank Ingo for doing all of this; his plane the day before was delayed and he did not get to the hotel until 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning (the day of the session). Next I want to thank SAP's Tamotsu Nagata for assisting Ingo; if there was a question, he was there. Tamotsu flew in from Japan. Mike Seblani, SAP, was on hand as well to answer detailed questions about Crystal Reports.
First up was Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports 2011 is an upgrade from Crystal Reports 2008. Crystal Reports for Enterprise, which comes with the BI4 platform, is a java based tool. Ingo said with Feature Pack 3, customers should consider Crystal Reports for Enterprise as it allows you to build a universe on top of ECC (InfoSets, ABAP functions, not transparent tables). A really nice feature of Crystal for Enterprise is the smart guidelines. Ingo's usual question came up - should you connect to the BEx query or the cube? One attendee responded with "BEx query, for security". Crystal Reports 2011 can "talk" to the ECC transparent tables but Crystal Reports for Enterprise Feature Pack 3 cannot. An attendee asked if Crystal for Enterprise supported zero suppression; it does not but Analysis Office does.
Who designs Crystal Reports? The answer was usually IT does this. Discussion ensued around the types of reports for Crystal - highly formatted, financial and balance sheet statements that are static.
Attendees working on their Crystal exercises.
Ingo asked "who tried to replace BEx with Web Intelligence?" A few hands were raised. Ingo advises attendees not to try this, as Web Intelligence is not a multi-dimensional product. He said you can use a hierarchy with Web Intelligence but there are limitations. An attendee wanted to understand the difference for when you would use Web Intelligence over Crystal. Someone responded that with Crystal, the report consumer is not changing the report. With Crystal you need to build into the report if you want a consumer to change it (e.g. sort controls). Web Intelligence is designed so the end user can build and change their own reports.
A discussion also took place surrounding the ability to use multi-source universes in BI4; the key is to link the data in the right way. Ingo also explained that the universe talks to BW in a relational way so you won't have the calculated key figures, etc. Ingo also talked about the new BI4 FP3 features such as waterfall charts and being able to assign your own colors.
With BI4 FP3, Web Intelligence can talk to ECC via the universe. BEx query conditions are supported in Web Intelligence which means it gets all the data from the BEx query. Ingo also talked about the query stripping option to help performance. Part of the hands-on Web Intelligence exercises was to track changes using a time-dependent hierarchy.
ASUG Volunteer Joyce Butler during a pre-con break.
In BI4, Dashboards can now be audited. BI4 removed the need for a spreadsheet by having a connection to the semantic layer.
Ingo recommended that everyone take a step back before building a dashboard and check out the Stephen Few books. Ingo said for those BW BEx Web Application Designer customers who have not moved to BI4 Dashboards should consider SAP Zen, which is an eclipse-based environment for building dashboards (planned beta is June). Go to http://service.sap.com/roadmap (SMP logon required) to see SAP Roadmaps.
Who builds dashboards? Mostly IT does this but in some places the business does this as well.
Picture of attendees busy doing their dashboard exercises.
Analysis Office is the counterpart to BEx Analyzer. Ingo explained it is a huge step forward in terms of usability. If you know how to do Excel pivot tables, you can use this tool. Analysis Office will work against BEx 3.5 or 7.0 queries. Discussion occurred of how long BEx will stay - BEx query is not going away, and BEx Analyzer was shipped with BW 730. In response to a question Ingo said you can have multiple queries against a BEx workbook. You can start a lean deployment of Analysis Office without the BI platform.
On one of Ingo's slides he had a translation of BEx elements to Analysis Office:
BEx Analysis Office
Key Figure Measure
Char. Value Member
BEx Analyzer and Analysis Office can "coexist" but both cannot be active in Excel at the same time. Since Analysis Office uses the Excel charting engine and Excel does not offer waterfall charts, Analysis Office cannot do waterfall charts either.
Picture of attendees doing their Analysis Office exercises. Since the tool is easy to use, attendees had very few questions.
Analysis OLAP (sometimes called Analysis Web) is the successor to Voyager. It has a conditional formatting preview feature and an auto update feature (works like pause refresh in Analysis Office). The focused analysis feature is new in Feature Pack 3. It also has a nice export to PDF feature which you can use to print the report.
Last exercise of the day was BusinessObjects Explorer. During this time, we got to create Exploration Views. An attendee had downloaded BusinessObjects Explorer to his iPad during class and then got to see his Exploration Views on the iPad which was very impressive.
I also recommend these BI4 Feature Pack 3 SAP Press books by Ingo Hilgefort: