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Ingo and I are both SAP mentors, and we both are from the BI side of the world. Although Ingo knows about my existence only for a short time now, I have been a big fan of the guy from the time I started trying to use Crystal Reports with the old BW versions.  From, Crystal to Business Objects to SAP – Ingo has become one of the most trusted knowledge sources for SAP BW practitioners. At Teched 2009, I had a chance to interact very closely with Ingo and in those couple of days, I learned more about BO tools than I had in the previous year. He has a real gift for explaining the most complex topics in a simple fashion.

 

Just before last Christmas, Ingo emailed me that he was going to send me his new book “Reporting and Analytics with SAP BusinessObjects” to review. I was pretty excited to hear that, and very honored. Some time in early January – I found the book delivered to my doorstep. Ever since, I have been reading it  – and I just finished it. I read it cover to cover, and then went and read a few chapters a second time. So, despite my reservations that I might not do full justice to the book, I am going to try to summarize my thoughts here for my fellow BI practitioners.

 

A lot of information in this book has been made avalable in Ingo’s own blogs/wiki. Also, a lot of it has been given as presentations at SAP events like Teched. Even then, this book gave me a lot of useful information. You might already know that Ingo is the author of the popular “Integrating SAP Business Objects XI 3.1 BI Tools with SAP NetWeaver” book. This new book is not a replacement to that.

 

Ingo starts with a terrific introduction. In fact,  I specifically think that his introduction is a great education for all client facing consultants walking into blueprinting sessions at a client site. Ingo does not use SFLIGHT type examples in the book – instead, he sticks to the most common business requirements that we face at a customer site for finance, sales and HR reporitng. In addition, he classifies users into three categories – consumers, analysts and executives and explains the typical requirements for each group. With this framework – he explains where each of the tools like Crystal Reports, WebI, Pionner etc fit. Even more useful is his clear explanation of where the tools WIILL NOT fit. I don’t recall any other book that did both.  Way to go !

 

I am sure a lot of BI folks can relate to this – a primary concern for BI customers and consultants, after the BO acquisition by SAP, has been tool selection. Well, not any more – read this book, and you will get a clear idea of what is possible right now, and where you should wait for a future version of the product, or use another product. And these are not just arbitrary rules – ingo explains the rationale clearly.  There are some great diagrams that clearly explain how each of the BO tools stack up across several parameters like interoperability, visualization, OLAP analysis etc. A key lesson for me is that if OLAP analysis using hierarchies is integral to your reporting requirements, then hang on to your BEx investments for another year at least.

 

The next several chapters deal with individual tools, and Ingo starts strongly with Crystal Reports, and then moves on to other tools. I must admit that I went straight to Pioneer and then had to come back to get caught up with the rest. Each tool is explained in great detail – right from installation, to how to write your “hello world” report to how to optimize it. And he uses the same reporting requirements from Finance, Sales and HR as examples in each chapter so that reader can get an “apples to apples” comparison. If I ever write a technical book, I am sure I will use this technique. I especially liked the chapters on Explorer and Pioneer.  A lot of consultants who are new to BO, will find the information on pre-requisites for each tool quite useful. With trial versions and licenses not being an issue now – it is very easy for BI developers now to instal everything on a PC and folow along this book in a system.

 

There is a wealth of best practice information in the penultimate chapter. Please read this a few times – and if you do, I bet a lot of “help me” questions in our forums will just go away. This is especially relevant for scenarios where there is a BO implementation on top of a BW system that has a lot of queries. He clearly explains why a 1:1 relationship is not needed between queries and reports. He also explains ways to optimize this – so that you can sunset a lot of queries and make it easier to maintain. I know a lot of clients who point their reports to infoproviders directly instead of using the query interface that uses the OLAP BAPI. There is a good discussion in the book on pros and cons of each approach. Ingo warns us to be careful in taking a one-size-fits-all approach here, and it is good advice – it pays to listen.

 

The book concludes with the outlook for the products – on what might change, what would come next and so on. For example, if you are waiting to migrate your BEx workbooks to Pioneer – sure it will be possible, but you have to wait till 2011. In 2010, Pioneer only supports Voyager migration. Interoperability is not great between all these products at the moment, but I got the impression that SAP is working on reducing the gaps there. Future of BWA also seems pretty bright – since BW, SAP and non SAP data can get indexed there. There is also some good information at the end on how to use data federator.

 

My only criticism about the book is the poor quality of the screenshot graphics. The diagrams all come out nicely for the most part, but the screenshots are not sharp for the most part. I know it is too much to ask – but it would also have been nice to compare these tools to other products like Cognos and Microstrategy.

 

As Ingo himself mentions, this book won’t replace the need for BI experienced people  to make a succesful project. However, having this book with you will stack the odds in your favor to a great extent.  I wholeheartedly give it a double thumbs-up !!

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18 Comments

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    i also have a book or two that i feel the need to read and reread and i wish Ingo’s book to be the same for as many people as possible.

    i’m probably oversimplifying, but sounds like BO is a presentation layer alternative for BeX while the crunching, performance, and optimization is still kept at the application or SAP_BW Component layer.

    a comparison to IBM Cognos, SAS, and Oracle Essbase would be handy as well. i’m unsure about Microstrategy. is their engine all that powerful and what is unique about it? i used to take a peek at http://www.olapreport.com, but now Mr Pandse has retired that domain and it is currently a part of http://www.bi-verdict.com, and i haven’t formed an opinion about them yet.

    former Gartner’s long-time BI analyst Howard Dresner is now independent, but i haven’t seen his name associated with any big vendor recently. i share his passion for reading The Economist, though.

    so, we are all opinionated one way or the other.

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  2. Ingo Hilgefort
    Hello Vijay,

    wow – much appreciate the nice words from you and wanna thank you for your honest feedback on my second book. Hope people enjoy reading it and I am looking forward to our next face-to-face meeting.

    warm regards
    Ingo

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      You are very welcome – and I am sure many BI practitioners will find the book very useful. I am looking forward to our next face-to-face as well. Maybe Sapphire?
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    1. Marilyn Pratt
      I’ll second the motion and the observation that you have a gift for writing, Vijay, as well as a gift of a sharp critical eye.  That’s a powerful combination.  Now would you be so kind as to take a look at the blog queue contents in BI needing moderating 🙂
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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
        Thanks Marilyn and Vitaliy – I appreciate the kind words. I am very keen to write a book some time – may be even fiction – but schedule, lack of confidence – something or the other, always holds me back 🙂

        I will be a terrible moderator, Marilyn – I will just become an added bottleneck to the process flow. Too many irons in the fire. If schedule lets us at some point – I will raise my hand and take this on.

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  3. Witalij Rudnicki
    Vijay, I am glad you started the activity of book reviews. I’ve been thinking about that for a while: we (SAP community) missed good and unbiased source of reviews of books available on the market. Most of the books are published by Galileo Press (more knows as SAP Press), but since very recently they hadn’t had rating/review options there. There are as well some very good (and bad) books published outside of SAP Press, that are missed by many because of lack of marketing power (even SCN has links only to SAP Press web site).
    That’s why I had an idea of leveraging SCN as a platform for independent books review, where as a community we can post information about available books and then rate/review and let the best win. I just never had time to think this proposal through and recommend it to SCN team. Again, as usual, my action is just reaction to yours. 🙂
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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      I do agree that SCN is a great place to review such books, and I am glad to have posted one to get things rolling. I thought a bit about where I should post such a review – whether I should do it on Amazon or on SCN. And I decided on SCN – since more SAP BI people are bound to find it here. I am looking forward to reading others’ reviews and hopefully post a few myself.
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  4. Mohammad Ali
    It’s nice to see the comments above.
    Unfortunately, this comment comes from Ingo’s first book “Integrating SAP Business Objects XI3.1 tools with SAP NW”.
    I find it confusing when I read on P34 that “Please ensure that you download 32-bit version based on the platform you choose to install for SAP BO Enterprise because SAP BO XI3.1 does not support a native 64-bit version of SAP Java Connector.”
    Then I came across the SAP note 1292144 with the statement “Download SAP Java Connector (JCO) from http://service.sap.com/connectors and use .JCO version 2.1.8 (for both 32bit & 64bit O/S)”.

    So the confusion arise if SAP JCO is supported or otherwise on SAP BO XI3.1.

    Apologies if this is more of a forum question, But I guess it’s rather better place to clarify it with this blog.Hope someone can clarify.

    Regards.
    Mohammad

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    1. Mohammad Ali
      Just to clarify, “SAP JCO compatibility is in question here on 64bit SAP BO XI3.1 (Edge/Enterprise). From the comments above, I have a feeling that the 64bit SAP BO XI3.1 (Edge/Enterprise) does not support 64bit SAP JCO.
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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
        I think you will have better success in the forums. In addition, if it is about Ingo’s first book – I am sure he wouldn’t mind you emailing him for clarification either.
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    2. Ingo Hilgefort
      Hi Mohammed,

      in general I would suggest to put those kind of questions into the SDN Forums.

      BusinessObjects is not native 64bit software and therefore you will have to use the 32bit version of JCo.

      regards
      Ingo

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  5. Uday Gandhy
    Hello Vijay / Ingo

    This is a very nice review of very nice work from an expert in the field and I comliment both of you for the same.

    A wealth of references are available on “Use of Crystal Report from SAP BI/BW”. But not much is mentioned or available for “Using Crystal Reports in traditional SAP R/3”; i.e., use of Crystal Reports to generate ABAP reports (ALV and Standard List).

    I have found 1-2 references for this using “Open SQL driver” and “Infoset driver” but nothing worthwhile.

    I also “saw” one article by Ingo himself on this. I will very much appreciate if you provide some leads on this topic.

    Thank you and best regards.

    Uday P. Gandhy
    SAP ABAP Consultant

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      You should probably ask this in the forums, Uday.

      Crystal works well with R/3 – you can use infosets, tables, functions etc to feed data. That has been around for a very long time now.

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  6. Rajeev Kapur
    Ingo,

    What a great book,
    Book has been structured in such a manner that a none technical person can learn BOBJ if s/he has some background knowledge of BI.  Book starts at the basic level approach of what is BOBJ is all about and how it fits with BI solution.
    There are excellent use cases for multiple reporting areas such as Finance, Sales, HR, Management /Executives Information System, which gave a clear understanding how BOBJ tool can be applied to in each area.

    Lots of graphs, charts, and images which are really helpful in understanding the concepts.

    Each topic flows in a very organized manner:

    Introduction of the tool (example WEBI Reporting)
    o    Installation
    o    How to make the connection
    o    How to create your first report using that tool
    o    Advance topics
    o    Customer Case study to see a practical application
    •         Chapter on Best Practices was quite insightful and really helped the developers in designing their reports and in making sure that query performance in the front end (WEBI, Dashboard etc…) is optimal.
    •         Best part that I liked about the book is step by step direction to provide end to end solution in less than two pages for example starting from Universe design to creating a WEBI report for Finance in two pages.
    •         The book covers both potential as well as limitations of current BOBJ version and what is coming in the near future according to the roadmap provided by SAP and BusinessObjects

    Looking forward to your next book.

    – Rajeev

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