In the Analytics Part 1: Integration of SAP Business Objects to SAP Sourcing of this series I presented new dashboards in SAP Sourcing. Xcelsius dashboards provide a very easy and intuitive user interface to visualize data. It is not surprising that users (and sales teams) get almost hooked on them! SAP Sourcing has integrated to Xcelsius to create three new dashboards, in the areas of Contract Management, Supplier Management, and Sourcing, respectively. These dashboards are pre-packaged and do not require any additional licensed software, just the latest version of the Adobe Flash player (LINK) that can be downloaded for free to your computer. There are however other dashboards that would be useful and some customers would also like to customize the content. In this blog I cover the basic requirements and process for creating an Xcelsius Dashboard.
The first requirement for creating a new dashboard (or even editing an existing one) is access to the Xcelcius 2008 tool (version sp3 and above is recommended). And yes, the tool does require a separate license! The SAP Sourcing platform has a SQL-based query framework that is tightly integrated to the database. Real-time queries form the basis of the data transferred to Xcelsius in XML format. This leads to the second requirement – access to queries. At the current time on-premise customers or private edition OnDemand customers can access the query framework directly while others can use the Services Delivery team for the same. The diagram below gives a bird’s eye view of the process flow.
However, before you get to the tool, some degree of planning is required. The four distinct steps in the development process are:
1. Identify the detailed design of the charts and components needed in the dashboard.
2. Create the queries needed for each of the visual components in SAP Sourcing. This is no different from any query created for search, reports etc. The complexity comes from the fact that a single dashboard can have as many at 10-15 queries feeding data into it!
3. The next step involves developing the dashboard separately in Xcelsius. Start by loading the standard Excel template, especially created for SAP Sourcing, into the Xcelsius tool. You can find this Excel template file as an attachment in a sample dashboard, Setup-> Dashboard Definitions -> User Activity Overview. Now, you can start to map the queries, created in step 2, to the Excel worksheets and then to the UI components. For example, the first worksheet is the configuration sheet containing all the values for XML data connectivity and filters. The next worksheet is for the UI and controls the visibility of the various components on the dashboard. The rest of the worksheets are for the queries, one sheet per query is recommended. There is even a color code provided for the type of field being mapped as shown below!
Finally there are dedicated worksheets to capture errors or warning messages, all titles and labels for localization and system information. The final sheets are important because Xcelsius does not support localization and translation of strings into different languages – the SAP Sourcing query takes care of that. All of this information allows for the dashboard to be designed in the most generic way. And for the intrepid developer there are even ways to add query performance measures in the dashboard for testing!
After the mapping between the excel file and the dashboard is complete, set up all the connections between the application query and the dashboard. The resulting Xcelsius file (saved with a .xlf extension) can now be exported as a flash file with a .swf extension.
4. The final step takes you back into the SAP Sourcing application where we now create a Dashboard Definition. The flash (.swf) file created in step 3 is also uploaded and so is the source (.xlf) file as shown below. The Dashboard Elements tab lists all the queries and filters used by the dashboard. Only the flash version of file is used by the application but we bundle the source file to enable customizations.
Once defined as a separate object in SAP Sourcing, you can treat the dashboard just as you would any other report. You can link to the report page, any document like RFx etc. You can search, add to favorites, and place it on a workbench page. There is a current limitation that the dashboard cannot be exported to pdf or Excel but we hope to address that in future releases.
And there you have it – a brand new Xcelsius dashboard! This task is provided as an add-on service by the OnDemand Servce delivery team, which is important specially for Public Edition OnDemand customers who do not have access to the queries.