What is the future for Dashboards created by the mythical “Business User?”
You may well have seen this analogy before for the topic of “Big Data”, could the same be said for SAP Design Studio and connecting to data through the universe?
I may be barking up the wrong tree but a year or so after its launch SAP Design Studio appears to be making little traction in the dashboard space for SAP in the UK market. (I base statement on my contact with companies through my day job and engaging with business users through the UK&I SAP User Group and Data Visualisation Special Interest Group.)
To be honest the majority of companies I have spoken to thus far are what you may call “Agnostic SAP BO Enterprise customers”. Is the real adoption rate different for companies who use SAP BW as their primary datasource instead of the classic BOBJ user community using the universe connectivity?
Is this observation the same worldwide?
Why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio?
We have seen in the Dashboard statement of direction from SAP that there will be convergence between SAP Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) and SAP Design Studio in the future and migration tools to bring Xcelsius Dashboards into Design Studio. So why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio now at the start the journey rather than holding off?
My musings are:
- People are holding off as the data visualisation and dashboard space is moving very fast, just look what SAP Lumira has achieved in a similar time frame to Design studio.
- People aren’t even evaluating Design Studio as unless you are hooked into a SAP User group (UKISUG, ASUG) there is little marketing or education as to the future for dashboards and they just don’t know about its importance.
- People are evaluating Design Studio and identify it requires a developer with specialist skills with they do not have internally and would need to engage with a central IT function or consultancy providers
- People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as too complicated to use with its reliance on Java code and Custom Style Sheets (css).
- People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as still too juvenile to adopt as core functionality needed is missing.
- Users would rather have something on their desk than can build and deliver themselves rather than endure a dashboard project delivered by the IT department
- You have to ask yourself why products like Decision Point from Antivia are coming to market? Is SAP Design Studio seen as too difficult for the existing developers in the SAP dashboard space by software companies and they want to offer a alternative solution?
When oh When will Design studio be as easy to use as SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius)?
Is that the right question? Is that the plan by SAP? I’m not so sure. I would draw a parallel with Dashboards and Design Studio with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence.
Crystal Reports didn’t get easier to develop content in when Web Intelligence was bought to market, it still today does what it does very well and is a core analytic tool for SAP. However, in my opinion moving from Dashboards (Xcelsius) to Design Studio could be seen as the reverse, the more complex tool is being released to replace the simpler tool. The diagram below shows my understanding of the content creators for the SAP Analytic tools in BI4.
There are still lots of technologies in the hands of the Business User but we see here that the future technology recommended to author “Dashboards” has moved from being one used by Business Users to now an IT function. ( “What is a dashboard really” http://thinkingbi.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/what-is-a-dashboard-really/)
Real life feedback
Reaching out to end users who have tried Design Studio gave some interesting feedback. Thanks Alex for the comments below as someone who has tried Design Studio against BW and the Universe.
“What left me very disappointed was the amount of code required to make things happen when stuff like this seems so simple in WEBI for example. Creating a Navigation URL took 6 lines of code! Then what annoyed me even more was the fact that the link only worked if you clicked on the last column of the crosstab?”
“My Boss loved the output I hated the input! Nevertheless I pursued and tried to create more applications with his requirements, I then hit an even bigger stumbling block, line chart, Data retrieval failed. Upon investigation of this by turning on the trace and watching the logs it was limiting the amount of data it could retrieve. I found the answer myself in the documentation saying it is (universe connectivity) limited to 5000 rows or 50000 cells. I am not trying to show this much data I was trying to show a count of Incidents by Year and Month”
What about business user created dashboard style visualisations?
At this time I see multiple technologies used by business users to deliver a “Dashboard” including:
- MS Excel
- Dashboards (Xcelsius)
- Exploration Views in Explorer
- Web Intelligence
- Web Intelligence delivered to the mobile device
What will business users use to create dashboard style visualisations in the mid-term?
Below is clear advice from SAP on what technology they encourage to be used.
My personal hunch is that business users will still use the core technologies they are used to in the short to medium term and only branch out Design Studio if it gets easier to use.
Is there another option?
Its again early days but I think some companies may well start investigating SAP Lumira storyboards published to the newly released native HANA platform application SAP Lumira Server. Yes you will need HANA and integration to the BOE Platform is planned but only as a side car.
SAP Lumira Server 1.15 is now Generally Available (GA)! http://scn.sap.com/community/lumira/blog/2014/03/10/sap-lumira-server-115-is-now-generally-available-ga
SAP Lumira Server Frequently Ask Questions http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-53181
Please remember before commenting below too harshly that I am coming from the perspective of the Agnostic SAP BO Enterprise customer shown in Exhibit A above.
The public roadmaps state that the goto tool for designing dashboards going forward will be Design Studio following a convergence with SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) Follow up questions to the Dashboarding Statement of Direction. As Design Studio currently, and I understand long term, will require the use of java coding for developing content this tool will surely sit most commonly within an IT development function, not with business users where SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) is commonly used today.
Where then is the business user’s dashboard development tool to allow them to create content themselves? There are of lots of options to create dashboard style visualisations with the Business Objects stack already including Web Intelligence, Exploration Views and Lumira but which one will fit this need in the future?
Time to peer into your crystal ball and choose a “horse to back”