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Author's profile photo Rizwan Tahir

An Overview of SAP BW 7 and SAP BusinessObjects XI Integrated Roadmap

Synopsis

By now, the integrated roadmap established by SAP for BW 7 and BusinessObjects XI is well known to the SAP Business Intelligence and BusinessObjects Communities. The reporting and analytics tools in BEx suite are currently in maintenance mode and although the support for these tools will be provided to protect investments of existing customers, the new product offerings from SAP will eventually merge the capabilities of BEx tools with BusinessObjects suite of products. This blog provides an overview of the components in each suite and the combined roadmap, so that those who are new to the idea of integrating BI 7and BusinessObjects architectures (Figure 1) could benefit from it.

Note: Not all products from each suite are discussed here. In this article, the abbreviation BOBJ is used to denote SAP BusinessObjects. For the purposes of clarity, the term BW is used to refer to SAP Netweaver BW 7 Server while BI is reserved for the field of Business Intelligence and DW for Data Warehousing, as generally accepted in the Industry.

 

image

 

Figure 1. SAP BW and SAP BusinessObjects Architectural Overview

 

BW 7.0/BusinessObjects XI Integration Kit

To begin with, in order to Integrate SAP BW 7 and BOBJ XI 3.x, you would need an Integration Kit. This allows BusinessObjects XI to be integrated with BW Server such that reports could be built on top of a BEx Query, InfoCube or MultiProvider. It is important to note that you first need to create an OLAP Universe (Semantic Layer) on top of any of these InfoProviders and then build the reports using that Universe in BusinessObjects reporting tools.

In the following paragraphs, the components of BW 7 Server are discussed first and then we look at the offerings from BusinessObjects XI 3.x suite.

 

SAP Netweaver BW 7 Suite:

 

BW 7.0 ETL Layer

Generally, the ETL layer in BW 7 comprises the DataSource/PSA Tables, DSOs and InfoCubes, where the data is extracted from Source Systems into a DataSource Object/PSA Table using InfoPackages. Using Data Transfer Process, the data is loaded into a Target InfoProvider (DSO or InfoCube) which then serves as a source for BEx reporting tools (Figure 1). This ETL layer is also capable of scheduling, automating and monitoring processes for data flow between source and targets. BW Server also has the capability to source data to external systems using Open Hub Destination. Another major strength of the BW Server is the availability of pre-configured BI content that allows for accelerated implementation scenarios of a BI project.

 

BEx Query Designer

Using BEx Query Designer, the BEx queries can be constructed using InfoCube or DataStore Objects etc. These BEx queries could then be used in various BEx tools, such as BEx Analyzer and BEx Web Analyzer to generate powerful analytical reports. BEx query designer also allows writing an input ready query which could be used in a planning application (as discussed in Integrated Planning later).

 

image

 

Figure 2. Evolution of SAP BW 7/BOBJ XI 3.x Roadmap

 

BEx Analyzer

BEx Analyzer (see Figure 2) is an Excel Add-on which allows for analytical reporting within Excel environment. The Designer and Analytical modes in BEx Analyzer allow the user to switch between Analysis and Component Views, where the DataSource is based on the BEx Query. Using Input Ready Queries, BEx Analyzer could also be used to design a Planning Application. The drag and drop feature in BEx Analyzer is a very powerful method of slicing and dicing data as well as swapping characteristic InfoObjects in rows and columns of the spreadsheet. There is also an integrated chart wizard that allows users to select from a variety of chart and settings to fulfill the analytical reporting needs.

 

BEx Web Analyzer

As the name suggests, this BEx component is for users who prefer or otherwise have the capability to do Analysis in a web browser environment. Similar to BEx Analyzer, the drag and drop functionality allows the user to perform dimensional analysis with ease. The Web Analyzer could display the results in a tabular, graphical or both formats. Documents could be exported to Excel or printed using a print preview feature. The selection of filters is also possible through the tool bar options.

 

BEx Web Application Designer

BEx Web Application Designer is a standalone tool that allows the users to develop powerful web based applications using a Graphical User Interface. It provides Layout, HTML and Preview panels for the designer of application and makes use of web items. Events could be attached to the appropriate web items to enable interaction and perform analysis. BEx Web Application Designer could also be used to build an Integrated Planning application which could then be published to an SAP portal in a web environment.

 

BEx Report Designer

The BEx Report Designer provides for the pixel perfect finish of the Operational Reports. It is mostly used for formatted reports such as a Sales Order, Customer Invoice, and Billing Document etc. The printing functionality is also one of the major requirements fulfilled by Report Designer. Using the Graphical Design Interface, the report developer could define report elements, filters, selection lists, report sections, report header and footer etc. It is worth noting that a report built in BEx Report Designer could be linked back to an Analytical Application through Report-to-Report Interface where the user is able to navigate or drill down from an analytical report in BEx Analyzer (for example Customer Sales) to a particular Sales Order or Billing Document.

 

Integrated Planning

Recall that six step modelling wizard in Integrated Planning? That wizard could take you through the process of creating aggregation levels, filters, planning functions and sequences to build a planning model. You could then use either BEx web application designer or BEx analyzer to build a planning application. The Integrated Planning in SAP is a vast topic and a detailed discussion is out of the scope of this article. 

 

Business Objects XI Product Suite:

 

Business Objects Data Integrator (ETL layer)

Business Objects also has an ETL tool known as Data Integrator. This enables data to be “federated” from disparate sources and loaded into data store tables. The key components of Data Integrator are Graphical Designer, Repository and Data Integrator Service. Just as the ETL layer in BW is responsible for Data Cleansing and Transformation, the Data Integrator in Business Objects is also assigned the task of controlling Data Quality (Figure 1).

 

Universe Designer

Universe is a central component in Business Objects and a patented semantic layer representing a real world business model.  Universe Designer is the tool where a Universe could be designed based on OLTP orOLAP Data Source. For example, the queries built in BEx Query Designer could be used to create the Universe, which could then be used in reporting and analysis tools. A Universe basically consists of Dimension, Detail and Measure objects. These are similar in concept to Characteristic InfoObjects, Attributes and Key Figures in BW architecture.

 

Web Intelligence

Web Intelligence is a component of Business Objects to access, analyze and share business information. Through Web Intelligence, users can create from simple to very complex adhoc reports for Multidimensional Analysis. A Web Intelligence document is based on a Universe and may consist of Tabular information, Graphs or both. There are Report Manager and Query Design modes that enable quick design and development of the reports. To enhance presentation of reports, users can take advantage of a host of features such as breaks, sections, tracking data changes and alerts.

 

Xcelsius

Crystal Xcelsius is another design tool in Business Objects, which is basically used to build dashboards for Executive Management. The purposes of an Xcelsius document is to provide a very high level view of the performance of an organization in terms of its Key Performance Indicators (KPI) as well providing interactivity to the user through what-if analysis. Xcelsius could be connected to a Universe through Query as a Web Service or through Live office. Again, there are many chart types and other controls that could be used to enhance the look and feel of Xcelsius document. An important aspect of Xcelsius is the embedded Excel model that is used to define data range for the data controls on the dashboards.

 

Crystal Reports

Just as the BEx Report Designer provides for the pixel perfect finish of the Operational Reports, the purpose of Crystal Reports is also the same. However, the similarities end there. Crystal Reports has an established reputation in the Industry as the Reporting tool of choice, especially when it comes to standard operational reports. There are many more features and data connectivity options in Crystal than BEx Report Designer, not least of which is the highly advanced Graphical User Interface.

 

BOBJ Explorer (Evolved from Polestar)

BusinessObjects Explorer is a very important component and is used for data discovery and visualization of huge data sets. This product is an evolution of what used to be called Polestar. With BusinessObjects Explorer, the users are provided with an intuitive way to search and explore the input data set. Note the coincidence in terminology with BEx (SAP Business Explorer) which is an entire suite of products whereas BOBJ Explorer is one of the data exploration and analytical tools in BusinessObjects. BOBJ Explorer accelerated version is particularly suited for large volumes of data and when used together with BW Accelerator technology, provides huge performance benefits.

 

Pioneer (Evolved from Voyager and BEx Analyzer)

Pioneer is also an important component in the combined portfolio of BW/BOBJ and is primarily used for advanced OLAP analysis. As seen in figure 2 above, this product offering combines capabilities of Voyager and BEx Analyzer. In fact, Voyager used to compete with BEx Analyzer before SAP acquired BusinessObjects. Now that the two products are under the same flagship of SAP, the new product called Pioneer will combine the best of both products in Microsoft Office and Web Client flavours. In addition, Pioneer will also enable interaction with Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports as well as provide migration option from existing BEx Analyzer workbooks or Voyager workspaces.

 

BPC (BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation)

Compared to the Integrated Planning component in SAP Netweaver BI, BPC (BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation) is far more sophisticated tool in that it allows for both Planning models and Consolidation of financial statements. Once again, these are very vast topics that warrant discussion on their own, but in summary BPC allows for the Business Planning, Budgeting, Forecasting, Reporting and Analysis of a centralized view of data.

 

The Combined Portfolio/Integrated Roadmap of BW and BOBJ

Now that we have some understanding of the product features in each suite, we can summarize the combined portfolio or integrated roadmap of BW and BOBJ. As seen in Figure 3 below, there is a matrix providing possible mapping scenarios based on customer needs and functionality. It should be noted however, that not every BusinessObjects product has a corresponding equivalent on SAP BW side. For example, BusinessObjects Explorer and Web Intelligence and BPC do not have a direct mapping with any BEx or BW tool. Nevertheless, this integrated roadmap provides the richest feature set possible in BI space for existing and prospective customers of SAP.

 

Functionality

SAP BW Product

SAP BOBJ Product

Discovery & Exploration

 

Explorer

Enterprise Reporting

BEx Report Designer

Crystal Reports

Adhoc Reporting and Analysis

 

Web Intelligence

Dashboards, Visualization

BEx Web App Designer

Xcelsius

Advanced Analysis

BEx Analyzer

Pioneer

Planning

Integrated Planning

BPC

Consolidation

 

BPC

Enterprise DW and BI Platform

SAP Netweaver BW and BWA

BusinessObjects Enterprise

 

 Figure 3. SAP BW and SAP BOBJ product mapping

 

When to use which tool?

Let’s advance the discussion further by understanding how the above mentioned list of tools could be used in combination to fulfill reporting and analysis requirements for a customer. In order to make a decision about which tool to use to fulfill a particular requirement, it is very important to comprehend the functional requirements of the business reports, as well as different types of users who will be using those reports and analytic content.

In the following sections, we look at these two important aspects that could help us in streamlining the decision workflow for choosing a particular tool or combination of tools to satisfy reporting requirements. Please note that this discussion is not an absolute statement or final judgement on the selection of technology to be used, rather it should serve as a general guideline and you should always exercise your best judgement in making a decision that best fits your needs.

 

Understanding Functional Requirements (Business Needs)

The first step is to gather and understand the requirements for functional reports and analytical content. There could be varied list of requirements across different business segments or departments such as Finance, Sales and HR. An Income Statement or Balance Sheet requires strict format so does an Invoice or Billing Document. Likewise, there could be requirements in certain reports for the usage of hierarchies and navigation, such as Sales by Country, Region and City across time dimension. Similarly, sophisticated Dashboards, need for Interoperability and the ability to perform ad hoc analysis (self-service) could best be fulfilled by a different set of tools.

Figure 4 below shows a mapping matrix between different functional requirements and BusinessObjects XI 3.x suite primarily. As seen in the figure below, an (X) at the intersection of a row and column indicates that a tool is suitable for that kind of report or analytic content. This however does not mean that only that particular tool is the only way for developing the content. For example, for Highly Formatted Reports, Crystal Reports is the tool of choice but for World Wide Sales and Revenue Dashboard, Xcelsius or BOBJ Explorer is the preferred way of going about it. This does not mean that Crystal Reports does not have the capability to develop a simple dashboard.

The important thing to remember while making the decision of tool selection is to consider the ease of use of tool to perform a particular task, as well as its relative strength in providing advance features if requested. Using the same argument, we could therefore deduce from the following mapping table that Pioneer is perhaps most suited for Hierarchical (Drill Down) reports whereas Web Intelligence and BusinessObjects Explorer are appropriate for Self Service reporting.

Once again, it should be noted that no single tool can fulfill all functional requirements and vice versa. Therefore, the best strategy would be to use a combination of tools to meet the reporting and analytical requirements.

 

 

Crystal Reports

Web Intelligence

Xcelsius

BOBJ Explorer

Pioneer/BEx Analyzer

 Highly Formatted Reports

x

 

 

 

 

 Parameterized/Dynamic Layout 

x

x

x

 

 

 Self Service

 

x

 

x

x

 Hierarchical

 

 

 

 

x

 Dashboards and Visualization

 

 

 x

 x

 

Interoperability 

x

x

x

 

x

Navigation 

x

x

x

 

x

 

 Figure 4. Mapping Functional Business Requirements with BusinessObjects Tools

 

Understanding your Audience (User Types)

Another important step in reaching a decision for the selection of reporting and analytic tool is to understand who is going to be your audience. The success and failure of a BI report or analytic depends upon the acceptance from its users. This includes usability (ease of use), meeting the goals and performing the tasks that the user would need to perform on a regular basis and familiarity with other software tools that the user interacts with on daily basis. Using these factors in mind we have divided our “BI Audience” into three groups, as shown in Figure 5: Information Consumers, Executives and Managers; and Business Analysts.

Information Consumers are the end users such as Accounts and Payroll Staff, HR Generalist or a Sales Representative. For these types of users, Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence and BusinessObjects Explorer are most appropriate in fulfilling the needs.

The second type of users who are more technically sophisticated than information consumers and require aggregated information (high level) are Executives and Managers. This group of users could benefit from using most of the tools, except may be Pioneer as they seldom have to do the advance analysis and drill down to the most detailed level (Sales Order etc.).

Finally, Business Analysts are the most technically savvy of the three user types and could best be served with content developed using Web Intelligence, Xcelsius and Pioneer. Business Analysts most often discover trends and opportunities for growth and report them to higher management.

Again, it should be noted that the matrix presented in Figure 5 is not an exclusive judgement and in no way is a benchmark, rather an approximation of the complex process of determining the decision workflow for the selection of technologies in fulfilling requirements.

 

 

Crystal Reports

Web Intelligence

Xcelsius

BOBJ Explorer

Pioneer/BEx Analyzer

 Information Consumers 

x

x

 

x

 

 Executives/Managers

x

x

x

x

 

 Business Analysts 

 

x

x

 

x

 

Figure 5. Mapping User Types with BusinessObjects tools

 

Conclusion

By acquiring cutting edge tools from BusinessObjects, SAP has indeed placed itself in a leadership position. When deciding about a particular tool for developing BI content, do consider how the business requirements and user types map to the functionalities provided by the BI tool. Also remember that not every requirement can be met by one single tool, rather through the combination of different components. While the integrated BW/BOBJ roadmap has been streamlined, it could be a challenge for long time users of BEx tools to transition to new tools in combined portfolio. On the bright side, the BusinessObjects analytical and dashboard design tools offer much richer functionalities and improved usability for the end users.

 

References:

A Practical Guide to SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse BW 7.0

by Bharat Patel, Amol Palekar, Shreekant Shriralkar

Reporting and Analytics using SAP Business Objects

by Ingo Hilgefort 

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      4 Comments
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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi

      It is good that you have summarised a number of announcements and presentations from SAP.  I suggest you seek out more recent presnetations with the latest roadmaps as there are a number of developments and product name changes which have not been reflected in your blog.  I am concerned about statements in regard to Bex being replaced as this is not the case. 

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      FYI We have started late last year a Roadmap SIG as part of ASUG that is working directly with the SAP BusinessObjects Solution and Project managers to make sure that the most updated and accurate information is presented on SDN.  We have started a work group and are creating some presentations and webinars over the next few months.  You will start to see more communications about this and posts on SCN and other forums and can drive your questions so that roadmaps are at the right levels for your needs.

      http://www.asug.com/Default.aspx?tabid=124&vp_url=http://jive.asug.com/community/sig_communities/businessobjects_strategic

      thanks

      Kevin McManus

      Author's profile photo Rizwan Tahir
      Rizwan Tahir
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the update on upcoming developments regarding the Roadmap and I look forward to learning more about them on SCN in near future.

      regards,

      Rizwan

      Author's profile photo Rizwan Tahir
      Rizwan Tahir
      Blog Post Author
      Paul,

      I realize that I have presented the "matured" roadmap at the high level and not the one which is currently in "works", hence I used the weblog to publish it and not a white paper. I also mentioned in the beginning of blog that not all products from BusinessObjects are discussed (e.g. BusinessObjects Edge products suite, Query as a Web Service, OnDemand BI from BusinessObjects etc.). Nevertheless, I appreciate your comments and feedback on the blog.

      Rizwan