This week I’m attending the conference “Reporting & Business Intelligence with SAP and Business Objects” conference. It is hosted by SAP Insider and being held in Oak Brook, IL from July 21-July 23. This blog entry gives a review of the seminar and provides you with some tips that you should find useful for planning your reporting implementation.
The speakers for the week are as follows: David Dixon and Jenny Shah, both from Inforte. Bryan Katis and Bobby Coates are from SAP and BOBJ/SAP respectively. All speakers have a solid amount of SAP and Business Objects experience to draw from.
First off, I’m a little disappointed by the location. On the brochure is shows pictures of downtown Chicago and I’m having visions of hitting the town each night after the seminars are over. But that idea quickly faded as I Googled the hotel and found out that we are well outside of being even remotely close to downtown Chicago. Oh well, at least I won’t be distracted and I’ll have ample time to write my blog….
One thing I found unique about his conference when compared to others that I’ve attended is that the speakers have written an incredible amount of material for each presentation. In a typical seminar you might get 15 powerpoint slides with a few bullet points on them. In this seminar, each slide is packed with data and there are 50-60 slides for each presentation. This makes it impossible for the speaker to cover everything in the slide deck and some slides are skipped completely. There was just too much information to cover it all within the given time frame (1.5 hrs per presentation). As you’re reading this, you might be thinking that this is a bad thing. But it’s just the opposite. This gives us ample information to take back to the office (or in my case, the hotel room) and read up on each topic in more detail. Most seminars I go to have such sparse slides that when I go back to the hotel room to review them, I frequently have no idea what some of them are about b/c they all seem disconnected from each other. In additon to the detailed slides, we were given a CD that has even more content about each seminar (including walk-throughs about how to perform certain tasks and all the demos are availble to watch again). Clearly, each speaker has put in a lot of work to make their seminar informative for everyone. If your boss is expecting you to come back from the conference and share what you learned, you will have more than enough material to draw from.
In the following summaries, it may appear that I cover most of what each speaker talked about. But I only give a few highlights because there is just too much information that was covered.
Session 1: SAP and BOBJ Fundamentals for every customer.
David Dixon gave us an overview to all the tools we’ll be covering this week. This was a great overview b/c it put into perspective how the BOBJ acquisition changed the reporting and analysis landscape. There are many new tools and they have redundent feature sets with existing SAP products. This appears to be both bad and good (or at least confusing)
A common problem I heard was how to decide when to use which tool, and what to do with the existing resources you have already in place. According to the roadmap we were shown, many of SAP tools are replaced with the BOBJ equivalants. According to David, the SAP tools are limited to SAP data and are not suited for accessing non-SAP data. Of course, the majority of SAP customers use disparate data sources and need a way to bring them together. The BOBJ tools have been designed from the start to work with mulitple vendors and have the connectivity built into them to use a variety of data sources. By replacing the SAP tools with BOBJ products, you get to access all your data sources within the same user interface. He covers Crystal Reports 2008, Crystal Xcelsius, SAP BW and BOBJ XI integration paths, NetWeaver CE, Dashboard Builder, Web Intelligence, Voyager, Polestar, LIve Office, BOBJ Mobile, Data Integrator and Data Quality. Whew!
David stressed that SAP is not advocating a “rip and replace” policy for using the new tools. Instead, you should ‘adapt and adopt’. Use your existing tools as normal, but new development can focus on using the new products and integrating them into your landscape. For example, BEx Reporting will be replaced by Crystal Reports, but BEx Reporting will still be supported by SAP through 2016. There is no need to through away what you already created.
Session 2: Practical recommendations for mapping SAP and Business Objects capabilities to your requirements.
Bryan Katis went into more detail about how the new BOBJ products can be used within your company. There was a little cross-over between his talk and David’s talk in the previous session, but they each had a different focus. Bryan focused on how usage of BOBJ products impacts the technical aspect of your infrastructure as well as how the BOBJ products are more user friendly.
From a user standpoint, BOBJ tools give the user more freedom to get access to the data they need to do their job. The tools put more power into the user’s hands. That being said, the tools are not for everyone. They are for the ‘pro-sumer’; the business user who is more tech savy than his/her peers, but not enough to work in the IT area. These users are known for being the ones who aren’t happy just looking at Excel data and instead will choose to write some simple macros to help make their job easier. The BOBJ products make it possible for these users to create reports and perform ad-hoc analysis for their departments without having to contact the IT department for help.
This impacts the IT department in two ways. The first is that since the end-user has the power to do their own ad-hoc queries and reporting, the IT dept has time to focus on more important work. But that doesn’t mean that they can be hands-off. Instead, they still need to look at security and performance issues. Now that end-users can do ad-hoc queries, you have to make sure that you have the infrastructure in place so that this doesn’t drag down performance for other users. Bryan gave recommendations on how to keep your users happy and keep the system running at peak performance. The second impact on the IT department is that even though you don’t have strict governance over the tools, you don’t want an uncontrolled environment either. You need to prevent junk reports and reduce redundancy by promoting reuse.
Session 3: New guidelines for enterprise performance management.
Unfortnately, a client called me during this session and I missed almost all of it. Thus, I don’t have many comments about it. Nonetheless, I’ll highlight a few points I see in the slide deck:
What’s new in in EPM?
* Optimizing financial operations wth Financial Performance Managment.
* Tracking spending and supply chain activities with Operational Performance Management.
Over the long term, SAP will move to a unified application experience for the full set of applications, starting with planning and consolidations. Merge the applications on a common business intelligence platform consuming enterprise SOA services that abstract the user layer from the data layer and ensure a unified application environment for business users.
BPM enhancements will reduce reliance on IT. A focus on familiar and easy to use planning interfaces (Office 2007 and Web) facilitate broader use and more collaborative planning.
When choosing between BPC and BI-IP, BPC is the recommended choice. Your existing investments in BPS/BI-IP are protected and can co-exist with BPC.
Session 4: Designing, Formatting and Delivering Enterprise Ready Reports
Jenny Shah gave us an introduction to Crystal Reports and how to use it. The presentation started out covering an overview of the functionality of Crystal Reports and it later went into a detail about how each feature works. For example, a couple topics covered where how to create parameters, report alerts, filters, etc. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a direct comparison between BEx Reporting and Crystal Reports. Having a chart that compares feature sets would have been very interesting.
She went through a demo on how to create a basic report and the steps for adding more complex features. Afterwards, she had a high level discussion of Web Intelligence (WebI), Voyager, and Xcelsius. At first I was disappointed that the coverage of Crystal Reports was so high level and didn’t discuss anything about SAP integration. But she reminded us that the third presentation on Tuesday will be 100% about how CR and SAP work with each other. I’m looking forward to it!
That is it for the first day. It was a great day to say the least. As I said earlier, it was an enormous amount of information and this blog doesn’t do it justice for how much material each speaker covered. Also, if your company is looking seriously at using Crystal Reports, I pack just as much information into my book, Crystal Reports Encyclopedia. I cover basic and advanced reporting topics and each chapter has numerious tutorials to reinforce what you learned. You can find out more information and read reviews at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0974953601/bischofsystem-20
Check back tomorrow for my blog entry about the sessions on the second day of the confernece.