Since SAP AG bought BusinessObjects in 2007 and German thoroughness got a touch of much needed French finesse, the SAP BI world has anything but suffered from lack of possible frontends. The multitude of options formed a verifiable jungle until September this year when SAP revealed the latest roadmap for BI frontend tools in a webcast.
The message to SAP BI managers is more than uplifting: the myriad of tools and technologies, each with their own set of features and functionality, are being merged into the following tools, which are then characterised by their intended purpose:
So far, so good! And so here we are now, 7 years after SAP threw in the towel in the BI frontend ring, with SAP buying up tools capable of smartening up your reporting. Confusion reigned supreme among existing SAP BW customers – which tool, you see, were they supposed to concentrate their efforts on in the future!? How about the thousands of existing BEx queries; would it be possible to use them in the new tools?
The reassuring message that came from SAP then was that BEx queries would also work in the purchased tools. However, with the addition: “Remember that Web Intelligence is not an OLAP tool“. It quickly got clear what they actually meant to say with this: you can certainly use Web Intelligence for your SAP BW, but BEx queries need to be formulated in a completely different way than if the frontend is BEx analyser (see, for example, note 1611185). And then comes the failure with hierarchies.
Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence were never properly integrated with SAP BW. The above tool palette gives an indication of this as these two tools are placed in the artificial category of “Reporting” as isn’t it always a matter of reporting when you pull data out of your data warehouse? In other words, the closest area there is by definition? The point I see is that these two tools exist in order to meet the need for reporting if you do not have a SAP BW. Or if you have a SAP BW and other data sources which you cannot bring into your SAP BW for one or another reason and you need to pull data from both places and to amalgamate them into a single report.
An alternative to collecting data from SAP BW and other sources is SAP Lumira. The newest sprout on the BI stem has been released in version 1.20 and is intended to be a direct competitor to tools such as Tableau and Qlickview. Lumira has been created to meet the company’s needs for ad hoc analysis and reporting, is fully functional for use on mobiles and tablets and has the potential to turn the Holy BI Grail into reality: “BI self-service”, where the management does the job on its own, without involving IT as well as draining procedures.
But hey – wait a minute, how will you then get hold of your BW data? Well, this is still done using BEx queries, so unless you let the Query Designer loose in your company, your self-service will be limited to the range of your existing queries. Unlike Web Intelligence, integration with SAP BW is far more functional – there are still limitations, but it looks as if SAP has thought of solving them (with monthly releases)! Here you can add the big plans to make it possible for the other tools to talk to Lumira, so can we even doubt that what we are looking at here is the birth of a future victor? A free version is available for download here.
If all data are in SAP BW, there are two tools to pay attention to: Design Studio and Analysis for Office. The latter of the two is actually a rebadged version of BEx analyser: it works impeccably in the exact way we know it from BEx. On the other hand, Design Studio is a new tool which, in my opinion, needs to mature a bit more before it is ready to follow in the footsteps of BEx web templates and SAP Dashboards.
Design Studio, which is now available in version 1.4, has too few functions and is too difficult to use with regard to, in particular, SAP Dashboards. And so the result looks like a classic SAP frontend: a bit angular and not particularly sexy. The good news is that SAP are still saying that they will carry over the nice graphs and other components from SAP Dashboards to Design Studio. I am really looking forward to this as this is what will actually make it look like something! Unfortunately, SAP cannot : functionality for implementing “what-if” scenarios in dashboards will not be made available as SAP are of the opinion that this type of thing has more to do with analysis, which is why the functionality will be provided in another tool. Excuse me, but why?
If you have a SAP BW, the conclusion is therefore:
- Upgrade your BEx analyser to the newest version – Analysis for Office. There is no hanky-panky here.
- Keep your web templates for a bit longer, while keeping an eye on Design Studio’s development. And if the company needs some nice Dashboards and web applications here and now, they can get them in SAP Dashboards/Xcelsius – a tool that has one foot in the grave and that is practically incapable of displaying content in iOS, so the whole thing will soon have to be moved to Design Studio or Lumira.
- Consider giving Lumira a go – it has the potential to attract your management users because they can create their BI solution themselves, and they are also bound to come to use it anyhow sooner or later!
If you do not have SAP BW, it is still available in Web Intelligence. Consider starting to use Lumira already now!