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It’s been 5 months since we’ve launched SAP Visual Intelligence at SAPPHIRE and the question I have heard the most from our customers is:  What are the main differences between SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP Visual Intelligence? So. I”ve decided to expand my thoughts on the topic and bring the differences between these 2 solutions to the attention of this community!

With the web and mobile experiences of Explorer, business people can quickly explore data (in the form of information spaces) and create/build exploration views (user-driven dashboards). SAP Visual Intelligence complements these two experiences (web and mobile) while offering a more powerful data discovery experience in 3 areas: Data acquisition; data transformation; advanced visualizations

1. Data Acquisition

Today, Visual Intelligence connects to different data sources: SAP HANA, relational databases, Excel spreadsheets, or universes AND acquire the data. By acquiring data, it means the data selected would sit on your laptop. This isn’t something you can do with Explorer. Explorer is a great solution to discover data within an existing information space (or HANA), but someone needs to prepare and create this information space first and the information space sits on the BI platform repository. The task of creating and maintaining is task is usually accomplished by an IT person or a BI system administrator, not the business users themselves. That’s the first differentiator: data acquisition is performed by the user.

2. Data Transformation

Once you have acquired the data, it’s likely that you will find that it is not totally suited for your analysis needs. You may want to eliminate a column you don’t really need, add a new one that includes a formula, or aggregate the sales of two stores categories, say convenient stores and independent grocery stores and rename the new group: small stores for example. It’s pretty typical for a data analyst to ‘prepare’ his data before he even starts his analysis or discovery. In SAP Visual Intelligence, we have introduced the concept of *transformation tools* – think of them as a collection of mini workflows helping you prepare the data. Data transformation is not something available to you in Explorer and is the second


3. Advanced Visualizations

So you’ve acquired the data, transformed it a little so it’s more suited for your needs, the next step is to use a fluid experience and visualizations to convey something about your business, customers, operations, etc that quantitative information (rows of numbers) alone was not able to do. Both Explorer and Visual Intelligence can display data in a visual form (using beautiful visualizations), but the user experience is different. In Explorer, you click or tap the data and visualizations are ‘built’ and rendered automatically. You can pick you graphic type, but for the most part, it’s all done for you. You don’t need to know about x-axis, y-axis, or treillis. The Explorer experiences (web and mobile) are more suited to business people perhaps with a limited analytical skillset, but still interested in quickly and easily finding the answer to a question they had or discovering something interesting from their data without requesting a report of dashboard from IT. In Visual Intelligence, you build your own visualizations. It’s still easy with a drag and drop interface with more advanced visualizations choices and you get greater granular control over the final product (ie the visualization). Advanced visualizations is the third differentiator between Explorer and Visual Intelligence.


If you are not familiar with SAP Visual Intelligence and dont’ know where to start:

Downloand our free SAP Visual Intelligence trial and try it with your data:

Try one of our product tutorials. They are short, interactive and best of all, free!

The page SAP Visual Intelligence Information Sources is also a great resource to bookmark since it includes the most popular resources available online.

Pierre Leroux

SAP Analytics

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    1. Pierre Leroux Post author

      Hi Naveen,

      You are entirely correct. Today SAP Visual Intelligence connects to relational databases (JDBC data sources with access to Microsoft SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2012; Oracle 10 and 11; Sybase IQ 15; Teradata 12 and 13, DB2 9 and 10), xls, csv files, HANA and universes (unv and unx on BI4). I wrote the post a little while ago. My mistake. I’ve updated the post. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.


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