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Lot’s of product names and buzz words in the world of SAP Business Objects (Part 1)

Lots of product names and buzz words in the world of SAP Business Objects (Part 1) 

I frequently present to customers around ways of maximising the Business Users experience of SAP and BusinessObjects technologies. If we step back in time to pre 2008 BusinessObjects and SAP had a number of perceived competing technologies and certainly a number of common paradigms. As the future technology roadmap is clearly showing a convergence between the two suites of technologies there still appears to be a lot of confusion around what tools is available for Business Users both today and going forward. In this first part I will focus on the Business user experience area to try and ease some of the confusion I have listed my top “Buzz Words” that my customers struggle with today with a short explanation of each.

SAP Business Objects Portfolio

It has been said that SAP acquired BusinessObjects to provide customers a full suite of business intelligence (BI) and information management (IM) solutions available on one Business Intelligence platform with deep integration to SAP Business Suite and SAP NetWeaver.  Therefore in summary SAP BusinessObjects is a group of tools that cover a wide breadth of technologies to allow companies to move, store and access analyse and share data within their organisation.

Business Objects Enterprise Platform (BOE XI)

As with many technologies there is a server element to the technology. The BOE XI platform is the server component that is the foundation or building blocks that users interact with interactively or provides users with reports distributed to them specifically.    The backend server element is configured by an administrator through a web interface to maintain user’s logons, maintains what reports are available report content and ensure the right security is applied in accordance with the business needs. SAP BusinessObjects have gone through a number of iterations of the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Platform from “classic” versions 5, 6, 6.5 then following the acquisition of Crystal it jumped to XIr1, XIr2 and with  the current version being XI3 with Service pack 3  (XI3 Sp3).  SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise is built on a service-oriented architecture; the software offers an extensive set of solutions on a single platform and allows companies to take advantage of capabilities like near-linear scalability and technological innovations such as built-in load balancing, caching services, and data sharing There are a number of technologies associated with the BOE XI platform including:


InfoView is the web interface a user interacts with interactively to locate, open and use both corporately defined and personally created reports from a varying number of reporting tools including Web intelligence, Crystal Reports, and Xcelsius dashboards.


By definition the Universe is a semantic layer that is a representation of corporate data that helps user’s access data autonomously using common business terms.  In is commonly agreed that Database designers and Business User speak different languages!  To assist business users locating the database fields they are interested in and to hide the complexities and business rules that are held within a database the Universe or “Semantic layer” is used to translate common business terms uses by business users and map them onto database fields with the associated business rules.  For example a retail business user may be interested in SKU or Product Line and when these are selected in the universe they will translate to Table ABC Column 3 or Table DEF Column 6.   

Live office

Live Office allows the deployment and access of BI reports & dashboards within Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Word & Excel. 

Where can Live Office add value?

  •  Live Office integrates BI data with Microsoft Office documents, spread sheets, and presentations.
  • Office documents you can share with up to the minute data.
  • End User formatting of data using Office tools.
  • Board presentations in PowerPoint.
  • Up to date charts in MS Word documents

Crystal Reports 

Crystal reports is reputed to be the world’s largest reporting tool outside of MS Excel.  It allows pixel perfect reports to be created for example it is commonly used for utility bills, pick lists and financial reporting where layout and structure are as important as the resulting data itself.  

Where can Crystal Reports add value?

  • Highly formatted reporting
  • Management, legal or customer facing reports
  • Data source agnostic.
  • Highly formatted management reports.
  • Operational and tactical applications with low interaction rate (view static reports).
  • Professional report layout.
  • Form-based, print-optimized reports. 

Web Intelligence

WebI caters for both self-service access to data and intuitive data analysis. Within a few mouse clicks, users create a query from scratch, format the retrieved information, and easily analyze it to understand underlying trends and potential root causes. And if they don’t require the full power of query capabilities, users can simply explore information in existing reports – formatting and interacting with data to meet specific needs. 

Where can Web Intelligence (WEBI) add value?

  • Ad-hoc reporting
  • Easy-to-use interface for end user reporting
  • Powerful query features
  • Complexity hidden from end
  • Self-service reporting and analysis, autonomy from IT
  • Simple user interface, designed for the masse
  • Combine data from SAP NetWeaver BI and non-SAP data in a single report  

Data Visualisation 

SAP Crystal solutions dashboard and visualization software – formerly known as Xcelsius software enables users to design and consume highly interactive, Flash based BI dashboards.  These interactive dashboards can consume data from Microsoft Excel or a live data source, and then you can export your dashboard to a familiar format – Microsoft Office, Flash (SWF) files, Adobe PDF, and Adobe AIR. 

Where can SAP Crystal solutions dashboard and visualization software add value?  

  • Data visualization
  • Professional-looking models, maps, charts, gauges
  • Add visualization to Crystal Reports
  • End user personalization and Interaction

Data Exploration

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer offers business users a way to quickly search and explore data for instant insight. They can get quick, easy answers ad-hoc questions without training or IT involvement, by simply entering a few keywords to search for relevant information and then intuitively exploring large volumes of data – without prior knowledge about what data exists or where to find it.  With a fixed screen structure of drop lists to filter data and charts it is easy for a user to quickly identify trends and drill into data analysis.  In Part 2 I will move into other areas of the SAP BusinessObjects technologies from the Enterprise information management and planning areas 

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