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Innovations in 4.0: Unified User Experience

In Innovations in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0, the second item was unified user experience and was defined as followed:

  • Modern styling and unified look and feel across the BI Suite
  • Refined interactivity and new charting capabilities
  • BI suite interoperability

Let’s explore these three topics and provide additional information and context.

Modern Styling and Unified Look and Feel across the BI Suite

One of the big themes across our entire BI suite is the “user experience harmonization“. What harmonization means is that a great amount of time and effort was spent on making sure the look and feel of the user interface (UI) is similar among our BI solutions (Crystal, Dashboards, Explorer, Web Intelligence, Analysis, etc). It’s no secret that many of our BI tools came from different companies (think Crystal Reports vs. Web Intelligence) and although complementary, they kept their own distinct look and feel. In a world where customers used one BI tool, having a unified look and feel is not a big deal, but imagine a veteran Web Intelligence user wanting to expand his horizon and use another SAP BusinessObjects BI solution (say Crystal Reports). We were making his transition from one tool to the other more difficult because buttons in both interfaces were slightly different; menus were using different terms for the same item, etc.

Does a unified user experience matter that much when you learn a new tool? The answer is yes it does matter a great deal. Recently, I took an Adobe Illustrator course. I was new at Illustrator, even I’ve been using (hacking!) Photoshop for years. Illustrator is not an easy tool to learn. It’s a tool for pro and it has hundreds of capabilities and it took me a while, but the one thing that I felt comfortable while I was sweating over its steep learning curve is that the capabilities (such as the painting tools) common to Photoshop, Illustrator, and the other Adobe Creative Suite 5 tools were implemented using the same icons and menus and were behaving the same way. The benefit for me is that I could focus on the features specific to Illustrator and feel like I was not starting from zero again. That’s what the unified user experience is all about in 4.0: Make the transition from one BI tool to another easier and see a greater number of business users using different solutions of our BI suite depending on their specific needs.

In 4.0, a great user experience means nicer icons, better menus, cool ribbons, etc, but it also means a more productive user experience as well. Typical workflows such as Data Access, Format, Page Setup, etc are now at the core of how features, icons, sub-features are presented to the user. This means a more productive experience with less clicking and time spent navigating menus and more time creating amazing reports, analyses, and dashboards.


Example of Ribbon/Tab “look and feel” across the BI Suite

The query design experience is also revamped in 4.0 and gone are the days where the query panel is presented differently from one tool to another. If you design a query in Crystal Reports or Dashboards (aka Xcelsius), you will see the same query panel as if you were designing it in Web Intelligence.

 Query Design Panel

 Query Design Panel in SAP Crystal Reports


Refined Interactivity and New Charting Capabilities

Across the BI suite, users will discover a new and very slick charting experience. We have taken the great charting experience provided in SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and extended it (with a lot more graphic choices) to Analysis and Web Intelligence. Crystal Reports should share the same charting experience sometime in 2011, but for the 4.0 release, it sports the charting experience people have been familiar for years. As for Dashboards, it will continue with its existing charting engine, one that is optimized for portability and compatibility with Adobe Flash.




 Examples of graphic types available in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: Scatter Bubble; Dual axes charts; Tree maps; Heat maps; Box plots; Series Pie charts; Tag clouds and more


BI Suite Interoperability

Finally, the 4.0 release introduces additional interoperability between our different BI solutions. The BI suite already offers a number of interoperable options. For example, it is possible to create a dashboard that links to Web Intelligence documents and using OpenDoc, provides the ability to open and execute the Web Intelligent doc. In 4.0, the strongest interoperability proof point is between our new OLAP client (Analysis), Web Intelligence, and Crystal Reports. This is achieved by saving an analysis view independently of its workspace in SAP BusinessObjects Analysis. The saved view can then be open and consumed in Crystal Reports or Web Intelligence. This certainly opens the door to new scenarios such as taking advantage of the platform capabilities by distributing reports and analyses based on OLAP data to a very large audience.

A lesser-known interoperability example (but still interesting) can be found in Live Office where users can directly explore their Excel sheet or selection using Explorer. In both cases (Analysis and Live OfFice), the goal is to allow a more natural, streamlined workflow for someone starting his experience in one of our BI solutions and wanting to continue in another where it makes sense.

Long post, but I hope it helps.

Other articles, posts, and links about SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Innovations:

Innovations in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0

Innovations in SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 Presentation

Innovations in 4.0: The New Semantic Layer

Innovations in 4.0: Personalized, Self-Service Access to Information

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