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It is such a pleasure to be the first SAP Mentor to kick off this new "Dear aBI"  gives advice on Business Intelligence on the SCN Network.  As a BusinessObjects reporting community evangelist, I was first humbled, but then excited about being asked to do this.  I'm always amazed at how many questions we get from the community.  The goal of this new column is to address the most common ‘important' ones.  While the answers are subjective, the opinions represented here are not only from experience, but also from a number of reliable sources both within and outside of SAP BusinessObjects.  Kudos to Jason Cao and everyone involved in getting this kicked off!  It goes to show, once again the commitment that SAP BusinessObjects has to getting the correct information to their users.  I encourage everyone to submit their questions, small or big and we will do our best to address them. Enjoy!


 

Dear BI Expert,

I'm trying to connect my Xcelsius dashboard to SAP BusinessObjects, which connection should I use QaaWS or Live Office?

 

From,

Chris in Miami

 

Dear Chris in Miami,

This has been an ongoing debate and while opinions may vary, based on experience we would recommend Query as a Web Service (aka QaaWS) over Live Office in terms of overall stability and limited scalability.  If you need to use Crystal Reports or Web Intelligence documents as your data source then using Live Office is the best option. However, if you have the ability to get the data directly from the Universe we highly recommend using QaaWS.  From a performance perspective when a query is called in QaaWS it hits the database directly, while Live Office puts the load on the BusinessObjects Enterprise reporting engine.  In addition when using QaaWS the logic and calculations required for the dashboard is pushed to the DB either via SQL or DM/DW & ETL, while in Live Office this ‘heavy lifting' is done in the reporting documents.  We have also seen more incidences of unstable behavior using the Live Office connectivity during the actual development process, but did not encounter the same issues with QaaWS.  However, keep in mind that with both connections the key to good performance and scalability is keeping your data set to a minimum.  To gain more details on this topic click here to see a webinar that I presented with Ryan Goodman of Centigon Solutions that compares each connection and explain when to use them.

If using WebI, one third party option worth mentioning is the Antivia XWIS.

 

Dear BI Expert,

Can you explain how the Xcelsius licensing works?

 

From,

Phil in Los Angeles

 

Dear Phil in Los Angeles,

With the release of Xcelsius Service Pack 3, SAP BusinessObjects made a few changes to the licensing structure of Xcelsius products:

  • Xcelsius Present (now known as SAP Crystal Presentation Design) - Designed for the individual business user, this license can be purchased directly online and allows the user to export their dashboard to any Microsoft Office application such as Power Point, Word or Excel and also Adobe PDF. It is the entry level of all the Xcelsius versions. NOTE: this version does not allow the user to connect to any live data sources or export to Adobe flash (.swf) format which is needed to embed the dashboard in an HTML page).
  • Xcelsius Engage (now known as SAP Crystal Dashboard Design) - Designed for individuals, departments or small businesses. SAP Crystal Dashboard Design is available in two (2) editions. NOTE: Both editions only allow a maximum of two (2) data connections per dashboard:
  1. SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, personal edition - An easy introduction to dashboarding functionality, this edition lets you create business dashboards and data presentations from spreadsheets and corporate databases - and share them live through Crystal Reports, Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, and the Web.
  2. SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, departmental edition - A powerful dashboarding solution for small and midsize companies, this version has all the benefits of SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, personal edition - plus additional data connectivity and platform integration options. Flexible data access is available through Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Adobe LiveCycle Data Services, Web services, XML data connections, and SAP BusinessObjects Live Office which allows you to connect to multiple data sources. SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, departmental edition, can be used with SAP Crystal Reports Server or in a standalone fashion.
  • Xcelsius Enterprise (naming to be announced sometime this year) - This version of Xcelsius is designed for enterprise organizations and can only be purchased through a sales rep or your SAP client partner contact. Xcelsius Enterprise is usually purchased with Xcelsius Enterprise Interactive Viewing. Whereas Xcelsius Enterprise is the designer, Interactive Viewing is for the user who will be interacting with the dashboards. These licenses can be purchased as part of the BusinessObjects Edge or Enterprise licensing bundles. Xcelsius Enterprise includes all the features in the first two (2) versions plus the ability to have an unlimited number of connections as well as the Query as a Web Service and Live Office data connectivity options.

 

Dear BI Expert, 

I want to learn Xcelsius, where can I find more information on training?

 

From,

Paul in Boston

 

Dear Paul in Boston,

Depending on your budget there is a number of places to gain Xcelsius training.  Below are my suggested resources in order of preference and developer level:

a.      FREE Training    

  1. Blogs - Xcelsius Gurus, My Xcelsius, Ryan Goodman, David Taylor
  2. Beginner Videos - Datapig Technologies, Xcelsius Gurus Youtube Channel, SAP Xcelsius YouTube Channel, MyXcelsius YouTube Channel
  3. Other Resources - SAP Xcelsius Webinars, Xcelsius Gurus Slideshare, SAP Business Analytics Webinar Series

b.      PAID TRAINING

  1. Webucator - Virtual Online Training (mostly for beginners, very affordable)
  2. Infosol - Register online. On site ongoing classes (Beginner and Advanced)
  3. BIT Advisors - Register online. On site ongoing classes (Beginner and Advanced)
  4. RZ Solutions - Register online. On site ongoing classes (Beginner and Advanced)
  5. Xcelsius Gurus - Offers private group training to organizations (Beginner and Advanced)
  6. SAP Xcelsius Online Learning - Virtual. Learn at your own pace (Beginner ONLY)

 

Dear BI Expert, 

How can I obtain Xcelsius on my iPhone or iPad?

 

From, 

Michael in Chicago 

 

Dear Michael in Chicago,

Due to the lack of support for Adobe flash on the iPhone, Xcelsius is not available for either the iPhone or the iPad (FleXcelsius Guru, Evan Delodder wrote a great article on this topic).  However, a good alternative that many users enjoy, is using the iPhone app, RoamBI that allows for the visual display of charts on both the Iphone and Ipad. It also connects to BusinessObjects Webi Reports as well Excel spreadsheets and other data sources. To find out more, visit their website at http://RoamBI.com/.

 

To learn how to submit question(s) to one of our BI Experts, please visit the BI Advice Wiki

Winter Olympics Dashboard (Xcelsius) Challenge Winners

Even though I work with Crystal Dashboard Design (Xcelsius) on a daily basis in the "real world", judging the Xcelsius Challenge for Community Poll Results proved to be very interesting.  While the challenge and the data seemed pretty simple and straightforward, I was very impressed with the quality and creativity of the submissions.

To be fair* in judging the dashboards, I decided to use a very ‘real world' criteria.  Overall, the dashboards demonstrated creativity, great data, and competitiveness.  Each dashboard was graded on the following 3 criteria below and given a score between 0 - 5 (5 being the highest, 0 the lowest) for each criteria.  The scores were then summed together to determine the winner.

* The results and ratings reflected here are based on my own personal perspectives and experiences and are therefore subjective.  As fair as I try to be based on best practices, I am sure that another individual would judge the dashboards using a different criteria and get different results.

JUDGING CRITERIA*:

  1. Usefulness - Can the user make a ‘valued' real analysis based on the data displayed?
  2. Desirableness - Does the design and functionality of the dashboard foster ongoing use?
  3. Creativity - Did the developer go the extra mile to incorporate any add-on components or creative elements?

* Details of each criterion can be found by downloading the presentation that I collaborated on with Natasha Lloyd of the SAP Business Objects Xcelsius User Interface team at SAPPHIRE 2010 in May 2010 by clicking here.

See the chart below for the final rankings by Contestant.

THE WINNER:

  1. Jim Brogden - It was obvious that a lot of time was spent not only on the UI of the dashboard, which is well branded to the event, but also a lot of thought was put into how a Winter Olympic fan would want to navigate through the data by sport and then drill down further to see the result details in one screen. Great job!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  1. Mike Allison- Great job on the design. Lots of good info.
  2. Yunus Kaldirim- Great job on the design. Easy to use navigation

HONORABLE MENTIONS - LATE SUBMISSIONS:

  1. Marton Harvoth - The best thing about this dashboard was its great use of the white space on the screen as well the Stephen Few approach to micro charting on the bottom right hand which was very creative. While it's not obvious where to click at all times, the dashboard displays all the data a user would need to do a complete drill down analysis in a very cool way.  Great job!
  2. Kalyan Verma - Very nice branding of the event with a consistent look and feel utilizing a variety of different charts.  Simple and to the point, just like a true Xcelsius Guru.  Great job Kalyan!

NOTE TO NEWBIES:

A message to newbies who are picking up Dashboard Design (Xcelsius) for the first time - don't get discouraged by the rankings. Kudos to you for courage and willingness to pick up a new tool, develop new skills and joining the challenge. Keep it up! Don't stop!

LESSONS LEARNED:

Most of the entries were very creative, but in general there are a few things that I saw across a number of the dashboards that we can all learn from.

  1. Text Size - When viewing a number of the dashboard in different browsers the text on most of them were hard to read. It was clear that some of the developers never really exported and launched the dashboard in an actual browser to ensure the UI would be appropriate for the user. In the real world this would be detected during the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase!'
  2. Useless Data - In an effort to provide useful analysis it appears that some users included a bunch of data that seem irrelevant to the actual numbers and may take away from the final analysis. In the real world we consider this scope creep!
  3. Design vs. Usefulness - On some dashboards it was clear that the user prioritized the coolness and look and feel over the overall effectiveness and real analysis of the dashboard. Remember there has to be a balance in both. My general rule is nice to look at and easy to use! KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid!

I'd love to gain your feedback so feel free to comment to this blog or chat with me on twitter.

MORE INFO:

  1. View all entries!
  2. New Poll: What is your favourite Winter Olympics Sport?
  3. Xcelsius Challenge for Community Poll Results
  4. Xcelsius Challenge - Get ready to be amazed!

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