Summary

This post summarizes noticeable features of BusinessObjects BI4, BI4.1 release from our perspective since XI 3.1. Many people ask “Why should I upgrade? Where is the value added for end user?”. If you are one of them then this article is especially for you. Primary target of this article is to focus on real features for customer end user groups. Secondary objective is to provide at least basic information about features influencing development and development time plus features.

We don’t use all BusinessObjects platform tools, we use only what our customers need. What tools are used and which not will be specified later. At first it is important to introduce end user groups view:

User groups

  • Administrators
  • Developers
  • End users

End user groups

  • Viewers (consumers)
  • Explorers (interactive viewers)
  • Analysts (data analysts)

There are different requirements for different end user groups:


Requirement

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Report response time

★★★

They need to see information in report as fast as possible

★★

Usually possible to have higher response time than viewers

★★

Usually possible to have higher response time than viewers and explorers

Report design and accessibility

★★★

Clear and effective design is desired as well as easy use of basic functions


★★★

Clear and effective design is desired as well as easy use of basic functions

★★

Mostly not as important as for the other groups.

Modification report features

★★★

None to minimal. Usually they don’t have rights for report customization. They need to use filters and some of them need basic filtering capabilities also

★★

Moderate – usually they need to create own filters/input controls, scope of analysis and select dimensions or attributes not presented in report to create own version


★★★

Very important. Filters/input  controls, own calculated metrics, own queries and scopes of analysis, own optional prompts and queries

Advanced searching features

★★

Minimal.They are mostly satisfied with basic prompts.

★★

Moderate – basic, hierarchical or nested prompts are on daily use

★★★

Optional prompts and filters are essential as well as drilling capability. Mostly over huge amount of data with multiple conditions.

Analytical features of application

★★★

None.

★★

Important – Creating graphs and pivot tables

★★★

Essential – Creating graphs and pivot tables, data tracking, creating own metrics with different mathematical and statistical functions, using contexts

Possibility of report sharing

★★★

None, they don’t create own content.

★★★

They need special folder where they can share their customization with colleagues

★★★

They need special folder where they can share their customization with colleagues

Technical skills demands and training difficulty

★★

Very little technical skills, easy to train


★★

Medium technical skills

★★★

High technical skills and long time for training

Report types

★★★

  • Preformatted WebIntelligence & Crystal reports
  • Dashboards
  • PDF
  • Mobile
  • Excel for export mostly forbidden

★★

  • WebIntelligence reports
  • Excel
  • Explorer & Lumira stories

★★

  • WebIntelligence reports
  • Excel
  • Analysis


What tools we dont use and why

Crystal reports

  • Since XI 4 many features have been added to WebIntelligence and we dont need to use Crystals at all.
  • This saved a lot of time, developing crystal reports is neither easy nor fast

Comparison between Crystal reports and Web Intelligence features:

Feature

Crystal reports

Web Intelligence

Data source connectivity

Universe access or DB direct access (ODBC,JDBC,BICS). Impossible to use contexts on universes.

Since XI 4 it is possible to connect directly to SAP BW via BICS . Possible to use universe contexts. Still impossible to use direct DB except for BICS.


Prompts

Possible of using optional prompts and List of Values can be defined in report.

In XI 3.1 it is possible to define optional prompt on report, but  you cannot define List of Values on report.

Since BI4.0 it is possible to define own values in LOV.


Layout customization

Best of BOBJ platform. Formulas can be used for determining fields position or suppression of rows.

Since XI 4 you can hide columns and most of formatting requirements can be done by Alerters function. It has forms objects also which is why are Crystals misused.


Development time

★★

High. Also it takes a lot of time to train developer for using this application, it has never been intuitive much.

It varies. Basically it is almost always faster than developing similar report in crystals.

SAP CrystalReports JavaScript API

The JavaScript API lets you customize the report viewer, and add interactivity to your Crystal reports content.


Since BI 4 (in BI 4.1 SP2 greatly improved) you may use SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence RESTful Web Service SDK. You may also use jQuery or similar library to do some necessary changes in html mode,it is very useful.


End user groups

★★

Viewers

Viewers, explorers, analysts.


Email notifications

Possible directly send notification about metrics change. Furthermore notifications may be viewed in notifications tab in LaunchPad.


★★

It is possible even since XI 3.1,with a little workaround. You may schedule or create publication based on document which contains one more report with custom sql which throws an error when certain condition is fulfilled (then email wont be sent) – i.e. for multiple conditions custom sql formula could look like this:

case

when [measure1]>x then 1/0

when [measure n]=z then  1/0

end

This kind of notification cannot be viewwed in notifications tab in LaunchPad,but it is still usable.

Export file type options

PDF,XLS,CSV,RTF,HTML,XML

PDF,CSV,XLS

Since BI4.0 XLSX


Linking to Document

You can open report or report part via OpenDocument link. Fully supported and documented.

In XI 3.1 it is possible to open document.

Since BI4.0 it is possible even open document part. This is not official feature but it unlikely will be ever removed because this functionality is essential for Workspaces.



Publishing

Suitable for large landscapes (thousands of reports) and customizable – you can partition reports according to specific parameter. It is a little better than WebI though, since BI4.1 SP3 you may easily deploy to other languages.


Very similar possibilities of publishing. Since BI4.0 it is possible to have custom user defined parameter for partitioning reports when publishing.

  • Considering these features we have decided not to use Crystal reports in the future. Still, it may not be your case and you have to use it. I recommend to look at news for CR BI4.0 FP3CR news for BI4.0 SP5 and news CR for BI4.1.
  • Keep in mind that most of news for CR are for developers and not end user groups (there are some thought like new graph types)

Dashboard designer (Xcelsius)

  • Since XI 4 it is possible to create query not only via QAAWS but via semantic layer (universe – unx) as well. Be prepared – it may take some time before you can use this connectivity option. It’s likely you will need additional server configuration.
    • Altough this is really great feature, you may spend another enormous amount of time when recreating individual QAAWS into universe queries. Since this queries cannot be duplicated, this may be the right activity delegated to summer workers. There are cases when QAAWS are still better option.
    • Furthermore, there is a tip for you – if you use dashboards in WebI, you may use relative URL in QAAWS and as a result you will not have to change it after migration to BI4 or even when deploying between DEV and PROD environment. You have to promote qaaws with the same id of course.
  • It is also possible to create dashboard without using Excel
  • New user interface
  • Sadly said the most important limitations are still present and development in this tool is still limited:
    • You cannot create bigger tables because in resulted flash file it is everything but smooth. Furthermore there is still excel limit, you cannot save more than a few thousands of rows in DD’s dashboard.
    • Dashboards still cannot be scheduled – which means database layer must be prepared for very quick response. This is achievable, but at what cost .
    • Some elements available in XI 3.1 have been removed
    • Mobile support is very limited, at least incompatible objects are specified which is good for development as well as HTML5 mobile preview
    • Flash is evil and HTML5 export has many limitations
  • As a result we have decided to use Dashboard designer as a deprecated tool which means we will not develop Dashboards with this tool anymore. Dashboards from xi 3.1 will be available, however. We also decided to get rid of QAAWS and replace it with new unx universe.

Dashboarding now and in the future?

  • Since XI 4 graphs have been significantly improved in Web Intelligence we use this feature in combination with Workspaces. It is possible to create very good looking dashboard. If you enhance Webi report with some jQuery functionality you may get some clickable buttons and animations as well. And because there is native possibility of scheduling Webi reports, you don’t have to spend too much time with another database super aggregation layer.

Design studio

  • At first this tool seemed in BI4.0 as a replacement for Dashboards for SAP BW. But since version 2 it is possible to use this tool with universe connection and it looks promising. HTML5 output and mobile features support is at least level above Dashboard designer. You don’t have to use Excel which is plus.
  • Sadly said, control elements and graph types are in HTML5 quite limited (more than in Dashboard designer). If we are ever about to go back to pure dashboard tool again, it would be probably this tool. I suppose we may expect merging Design studio and Dashboard designer in one tool in the future.
  • Its development cycle and adding new features seems to be faster in comparison to Dashboard Designer, you should check what’s new in Design studio from time to time, the amount of available elements is getting higher
  • If you for some reason want to develop dashboards in Dashboards or Design studio now, you should still do it in the older one since this is still very new tool unless you are primary focused on developing your own highly customized mobile dashboards (customized = JS programming etc).

Analysis (edition for OLAP)

Support for Oracle XMLa and Teradata OLAP (BIO) looked very promising (Available since BI4.1 SP2). But long development time, additional license and maintenance cost for Teradata OLAP and maintaining and developing OLAP cubes could not justify functionality of this application which usability is far from Office (Excel) version. If you don’t have SAP BW and looking for tool which enables users quick analyzing of bigger amount of data (2M+) this tool is not for you. Sadly said, it is not Web Intelligence either. I recommend to look here for information about application which may provide missing functionality in the future.

Development and administration

Although this post is not primary focused on development and administration features, it’s good to know at least the most important ones.

Development

Focused on semantic layer and deployment. For news in client applications you may consider following the analysts group which is closest to developers in the last table in this post.

  • There is a new tool for universe creation, Information Design Tool (IDT)
    • Old Universe designer has been renamed to Universe design tool and still exists.
      • Using Universe design tool for BI4.0 is more justifiable than for BI4.1 because in BI4.0 it has many bugs (limitations…”features”). Most of them have been removed in BI4.1.
      • Universe in IDT consists of three parts: Data foundation, business layer and connection.
        1. It is possible to create data foundation with more connections (multisource universe)
          • When multisource universe is used, BOBJ federation engine is in use. In this case you may use another new tool – Data federation administration tool which is excellent for monitoring queries (SQL) which are created for querying. You can see SQL even with OLAP data source. It is also possible to optimize federation for specific connections via many available parameters and this offers and it is more flexible than “simple” joining from different sources at report level like in xi 3.1. Since BI4.1 you may also create data federation dataflow.
          • Multisource engine may be used even for single sources, but it is recommended only when it is required (i.e. for SAP BW relational connection)
        2. Queries on business layer for or previewing data – it is very useful feature since universe changes can be fully seen on report only when you log off and log in again. In XI 3.1 reopening document was enough. Not in XI 4 platform.
        3. It is also possible quickly analyze previewed data – count of unique values, sorting, filtering and  even graph creating– much improved against XI 3.1
        4. Views on data foundation and families (slide 11)– if you have big universe which means tens or hundreds of tables, this is something what can lower the time for understanding relations and maintenance, it is also quicker for viewing and you may also consider simplifying contexts.
        5. Comments are now customizable. You can also use HTML Tags to color code the descriptions of objects (slide 12). Since BI4.1.
        6. You may consider creating more business layers on one data foundation. Unfortunately this feature is not as good as it could be – when you export more business layers to your CMS and then retrieve it, you may notice that these data foundations are separate and you will have to do the changes twice.
        7. Parameters and List of Values – you can reuse list of values for parameters with prompts, you can define hard coded (static) LOVs with multiple columns. Since BI4.1 it is possible to create index awareness prompts, but you should know that it may be difficult to set up it to working without issues and effective
        8. New functions like @Execute enables you to use advanced database functions with width clause – recursion, trends and it may be useful when time is important and you cannot easily do views or new tables on database layer
        9. You can share your universe with other developers – you can publish universe or its parts to the server (not CMS)
  • Since BI4.0 many JAVA SDK classes have been removed. It means your Java programs developed in XI 3.1 may not work.
  • Since BI4.1 SP2 most of essential JAVA API is usable again. Certain amount of functionality needs to be rewritten, however.

Limitations you should know about

    1. In BI4.0 you cannot change format for more objects at once in IDT. Solved since BI4.1
    2. In BI4.0 you cannot use database specific SQL in derived tables in multisource universe. Also solved in BI4.1
    3. You cannot create custom SQL in LOV based on @DerivedTable function
    4. Universe parameters (like END_SQL, ANSI92, JOIN_BY_SQL etc) may be reason for strange behavior or errors. Always check SAP OSS notes
    5. @Execute function has been introduced in BI4.0SP4, but it is usable since BI4.1SP2 FP3
    6. There is a new tool for promoting to next environment  -* Lifecycle management tool
      • Its performance is not great, for many objects (i.e. for 1000 reports you should consider using command line which is significantly faster or UMT tool in special mode, look at next paragraph )
      • You cannot use Import wizard tool because since XI 4 it does not exist. There is very similar tool named Upgrade management tool but it is focused only on getting content from XI 3.1 to XI 4. There are some parameters for administrator for being able to send biar from XI 4 system to another XI 4 system, but it is not for normal use. It is important to optimize change management process as much as possible.

Versioning system (VMS)

It is possible to version content with Version management which is accessible through CMS.

    1. For DEV environment it is great tool and developers should use it on daily basis. Not only for documents, but universes as well as for LCM jobs.
    2. Sadly said, it is not as feature rich as it should be. This means certain limitations:
      • cannot schedule automatic backup of your selected documents
      • it is also impossible to quickly add file to Version management in LaunchPad. You have to log in CMS, go to version management, navigate through folder structure and select the right object
      • versioning through Promotion management is somehow buggy (BI41SP2), you may need to do it directly in VMS

Comparing differences

I recommend to use visual difference application. It features of comparing LCM jobs or LCM biars. It may be capable of comparing WebI documents and universes in the future. But not now. Still, it is good addition to versioning and promotion management.

JAVA SDK

You should know about Restful raylight web services because it may significantly reduce time for doing common tasks when doing small change in many reports or working with publications. It also replaces some of missing functionality in JAVA SDK.

IS Development faster in XI 4 comparing to XI 3 platform?

  • For BI4.0 I cannot say that, I would say it’s even worse. This applies especially for Web Intelligence. The whole BI4.0 platform features many bugs (although many of them have been fixed) and no wonder there is already SP9.
  • For BI4.1 where many bugs and limitations have been removed, it is definitely much better. Comparable to stability of 3.1.
  • Keep in mind that you have more options and you can do certain things in a better way. This does not mean it is always faster.

Administration

Server side is 64bit platform – you cannot install on 32bit OS. And it is good thing because on 64bit OS you can use more RAM. This is something you will need more than before. Check out the sizing guide for getting more information.

Noticable applications

  • Monitoring – great tool for monitoring server health. But it may take a while to set the correct metrics and alerts – depends on your system. You should check this guide.
  • SAP BI Platform Support Tool  – This tool allows landscape, content and licence analysis without additional licence cost. It can be downloaded and runned very quickly by any user with administrator rights. It is easy to use and is suitable especially for large landscapes where comparing certain technical KPIs may be essential for predicting possible issues. Can be run since XI 4.
  • System configuration wizard – this tool makes sence since BI4.1 and can be used with positive impact on performance. I recommend to use it as a starting point and then do other customizations manually.
  • Since BI4.1 SP3 it is possible to kill user sessions via CMC. This feature is extremely useful for those who have concurrent session licence model.

Other platform thoughts

  • Session management upgrade – Since BI4.1 SP3 you can kill users sessions. Finally you don’t have to restart servers or develop custom script to do that – it is native functionality. It is not all featured – it cannot be scheduled nor parameterized by user sessions count yet. Still, good start. Something what BOBJ admins have been waiting for many years.
  • Security framework – it may take a long time before you set the appropriate access rights to access levels for you user groups. There are plenty of new application and system rights. And new features sometimes need special organization of application groups

Visualization and exploration

  • BI4 platform is a huge step in visual analysis. There are new tools such as Lumira and Predictive analysis and older Explorer was updated as well.
    • There are some thoughts you should know about:
      • Explorer is very limited in the matter of customization as it always has been, no significant improvement, advanced users may not be satisfied with predefined chart types or tabular exploration – pivot table is not available . In comparison to XI 3.1 you can connect it to universe (both types since BI4.1)
        • Since BI4.1 Explorer is not a part of default server installation. Apparently for some good reason, before installing make sure you make full backup of your server. In some cases it may ruin your installation so badly you will have to reinstall the whole server including FRS.
      • Lumira (formerly Visual Intelligence) offers some customization options including data preparation and it may be used as forecasting tool as well. Chart types and possibility of stories creation are impressive as well as dataset rows limit (15M on 32bit Os,32M on 64bit OS). The greatest issues lies somewhere else. You cannot export your story to CMS as a flash, HTML5 or something similar where casual users could benefit from your created visualizations.
        • Since BI41SP4 it is possible to share content in LaunchPad. All you need to have is a Lumira server (licence is covered by BI suite licence). Then you can publish your stories to web and end users do not have to even install lumira
        • There is a possibility of exporting to Explorer, but dataset only.
        • Simple said-sharing is very limited and for being able to provide your visualizations to others, they have to use Lumira as well. And since it is desktop application, it is limitation for easy content sharing. Even if your users have the Lumira, you need additional Lumira server for sharing possibility in your company. This does not fully apply for companies or individuals who may use SAP cloud for sharing.
        • If you are individual or your company does not have common security procedures and regulations you may be interested in publishing Lumira stories to public cloud and then it is  possible to include published page into workspaces

Features comparison since XI 3.1

Most important chapter of this post. In following table you can find new features since XI 3.1 for specified end user groups. At first look at rating table:


Rating Legend- comparing to XI 3.1

Worse

Better

Desc

▼▼

▼▼

★★

★★

★★★

A little

Quite

Far

No change /

hardly noticeable

Application/Feature

Comment

Feature rating

Launch Pad

  • Customizable home tab
  • Tabbed interface

Since BI4.0

Customizable HOME tab may contain recently opened documents, new inbox objects, available applications

It is possible to pin frequently used documents into tabs

It saves a lot of time for users and it is fairly faster navigation than in InfoView

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

★★★

Launch Pad

  • Enhanced publishing and scheduling features

Since BI4.0

It is possible to partition publications with specific user defined variable.

Also publishing engine has been greatly improved in matter of performance and publishing is now much faster than in XI 3.1.

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Launch Pad

  • Viewing document/instance of the document

Since BI4.0

If document has an instance, it is displayed. If it has not, document itself is opened. This is better than behavior in XI 3.1 where it cannot be achieved (you may have set for all documents to open last instance but if it had no instance on double click user was not able to open document)

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

★★

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Launch Pad

  • View/design HTML mode for WebI

Since BI4.0

Launch Pad Webi HTML design (edit) mode is more usable than interactive mode in xi 3.1, it is similar to java mode more than interactive mode to edit mode in xi 3.1. Look at link for comparison of individual edit modes.

For viewers there is no additional added value, they cannot edit document

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Workspaces

  • Content linking between modules
  • (sub)tabbed interface
  • multiple document viewers in one workspace
  • ability to select specific instance to be opened
  • 3 viewing types for displaying specific document

Since BI4.0

Workspaces are now fully customizable even by end users. You can add multiple report types (WebI, Crystals, Flash) and html pages. Great alternative for creating dashboards without Dashboards/Design studio restrictions. Content linking between modules may be useful when you need navigate from one report (i.e. with graph) to another report (with table). This can be done by GUI tool, follow this example.

Since BI4.1 you can specify default prompt value for a Workspace


Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

★★

DesktopIntelligence

  • Discontinued

For BI4.0 there is neither compatibility mode nor webi features which may replace DeskI functions.

Since BI4.1 WebI is more powerful and in many cases replaces missing functionality. Furthermore there is compatibility pack which enables running DeskI.

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • New user interface
  • Customizable web application interface

Since BI4.0. New ribbon interface is huge step. Question is forward or backward?

For viewers the change is not so big and is mostly accepted well. Explorers and analysts may edit document and at beginning they may not accept the UI change well. It is similar change as it was between Office 2003 and Office 2007. For those who are familiar with ribbon it is easier to get used to. Still, navigation in edit mode is considered to be a little clearer in XI 3.1.

Since BI4.1 it is possible not only to assign certain functionality via access levels with specific rights for specific application, but it is also possible to assign specific functionality (buttons) for specific user groups. This is especially useful for viewers who need to see input controls, but they should not be able to see save button nor design toolbar. Furthermore it is possible add single dimension to already created merged dimensions without recreating (similar behavior like in XI 3.1, in BI4.0 it was very inconvenient you had to unmerge all of them first)

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Notification before expiring session and ability to refresh it by simple click

Since BI4.0

This is one of the small things which make huge effect for all end users. “Your session has been expired” without notification was one of the most evil things in XI 3.1 especially on PROD environment where you could not have long time before timing out

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Data refresh
  • Data preview

For BI4.0 it is possible to refresh only the whole document. This may be problematic if you have many document queries and one report is linked to one query. Data refresh response may be significantly higher.

Since BI4.0 It is possible to preview data even for one query. The disadvantage of data refresh is partially reduced by this feature, but only for explorers and analysts.

Since BI4.1 it is the same as in XI 3.1 – you may refresh selected queries in document

Group

BI4.0

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Web Intelligence

  • Prompts
    • Hierarchical prompts may be used in filter at any level of hierarchy
    • Better dependent (nested) prompts

Since BI4.0
Firstly, if
hierarchy prompt in UNX universe is created user will be able to filter by any level of hierarchy on the report which means great simplification and interactivity. This is achievable only by using Information design tool and unx universe.

Secondly, nested prompts behavior is improved- if you selected prompt without filling the previous one (on which is specific prompt dependent), there is link to it. Furthermore prompts in List of values do not require additional prompt with the same name like in certain situations in XI 3.1. This works on prompts created both in Universe designer and Information Design tool.

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Charts features
    • new graph types
    • design improved
    • enhanced options

Since BI4.0 there are new graph types such as s Scatter Bubble, Polar Bubble, Dual Axes Charts, Heat Maps, Box Plots, Series Pie Charts and Tag Cloud.
Graph design has been completely recreated as well.
Now you can create professional looking graphs and this is one of the reasons you don’t have to use Dashboards anymore. You may assign shadows and lightning effects, gradient – it is similar change as it was between excel 2003 graphs and excel 2007 graphs.

For possibilities of customizing chart look it is good to know that you can finally assign different axis values (for specific chart types), choose from predefined color palettes preferred style or set color transparency.

Sadly said, in BI4.0 there are some things which reduce usability and x-times prolong development time:

  • when you assign/change/remove dimensions or attribute from graph, most of graph settings are reset and you need to do many clicks again and again
  • you may have only one custom color palette (furthermore you have to define its colors into xml file and save it to specific location on server- not exactly user friendly)

Since BI4.1 there is not only new Waterfall chart type, but mentioned limitations have been fixed – you don’t lose your chart settings and you can +create more custom color graph palettes +directly in WebI. Since BI4.1SP3 you may also defined line width. As a result, WebI charts are in BI4.1 fairly better and more importantly, report charts customization/recreation is faster.

Group

BI4.0

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Calculation engine enhancements

Since BI4.0

Mostly used only by analysts and some explorers. For explorers they don’t use most of functions so there is very little impact. For analysts (and developers) it’s a bit worse. They are mostly not pleased with the new behavior. Furthermore, they are disappointed with changing behavior which depends on specific Support Pack not only on major release and they are confused.

For BI4.1 check the changes since xi 3.1.

Since BI4.SP3 it is possible to use Formula Rewrite Tool  for facilitating converting formulas to new version

Group

BI4.0

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Additional export options

Since BI4.0

For someone unimportant for someone one of most important features is full support of excel exporting. It means the rows limit is increased from 65k to about 1M rows. Furthermore, images are exported to XLSX as well.

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Improved copying:
    • cell format copy
    • object copy between documents

Since BI4.0

This functionality is applicable to explorers and analysts.

Cell format copy facilitates setting the right format for selected objects in the first case. Explorers, who are often more interested in good looking style, benefit from it quite well.

In the second case it is great enhancement when working with multiple documents or reports. It has many limitations though – users are unable to copy sections, queries are copied as well in most cases and Java mode/rich client is required. You get an error quite often when copying. 

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

★★

Web Intelligence

  • Input controls improved

Since BI4.0 FP3

You may use hierarchy objects in input controls and it is shown as a tree. That is stunning. Sadly said, this is possible only on BICS SAP BW source. It simple means it cannot be achieved with any other source or relational connectivity)

Since BI4.0 it is possible to define custom list of values directly on report.

Since BI4.1 SP3 it is possible not to show “all values” option in any element. Furthermore when duplicating document tab (report) all input control elements are preserved. It saves a lot of time.

Group

BI4.0

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

Since BI4.1

Excel “drilling” alias folding/unfolding for tables is available even in HTML mode. This is particularly useful for viewers who don’t use java environment.

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

★★

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Web Intelligence

Since BI4.1 SP2

Freezing headers or columns is something what excel fanatics (and not only them) voted for years. Finally it is here. And it works great.

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Hiding abilities

Since BI4.0

Another good feature which mostly explorers and analysts benefit from:

1) It is possible to hide column very simply. Works only on dimensions.

2) It is possible to use hide when condition not only on section (XI3.1) but on a table as well. And because tables are copy-able elements to other documents, users may benefit from it even more.

Group

BI4.0,4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Web Intelligence

  • Object value selector

Since BI4.1

Usable for those who write many formulas which are mostly analysts – you dont have to write so much which is somehow useful.

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Web Intelligence

  • Default hierarchy level

Since BI4.1SP4

Usable for those who use drill functionality a lot. The hierarchy in a table was automatically collapsed to the root hierarchy member when you refreshed (or purged data) from a document. Not anymore, now you have an option – the right-click contextual menu for a report table and there you can select desired default drill level.

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

★★

Web Intelligence

Since BI4.1 SP2

This is something what use to be in Desktop Intelligence. Since it is discontinued in BI4.0 it is welcome feature for explorers and analysts who need to create their own lookup quickly without redesigning universe or data layer. This great feature is available since BI4.1 SP2.

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

★★

Analysts

LaunchPad

  • Linking (openDocument)

Since BI4.0

It is possible even open document part in WebIntelligence

Since BI4.1.SP3 It is possible to link to specific folder. You dont have to create additional “guide linking reports” anymore


Group

BI4.1

Viewers

Explorers

Analysts

Multiple applications

  • Mobile support enhancements

It wouldnt be fair not to mention some mobile enhancements especially because in many companies managers may use company smartphones or tablets and mobile devices are more and more important. Currently supported mobile OS: BlackBerry,IOS and Android.

Since BI4.0 there is a new Mobile Home page which display only mobile reports. When properly configured, you may add more mobile reports by assigning the right mobile category which is really quick way for releasing new reports.

Futhermore,Dashboards reports may be deployed to mobile devices. Support for current applications have been improved, i.e. it is possible to add some input controls elements.

Since BI4.1 it is possible to export analysis documents to VisualStudio and from there you can export this kind of reports to mobile devices as well so analysts may benefit from it.

It is also possible to open another document over hyperlink to another mobile document (OpenDoc).

Group

BI4.0

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

Analysts

★★

Group

BI4.1

Viewers

★★★

Explorers

★★

Analysts

Should you upgrade or not?

I believe it is simple. It is not question if you should or not. The question is when. If you are not sure which XI4 version is better, I can say from my experience that BI4.1 release is a big step forward comparing to BI4.0. Just like XI 3.1 against XI 3.0 was. It does not mean the BOBJ platform is errorless now. It does not mean it features all required functionality either. It means, that improvements mentioned are real and represent significant added value for end users. And not only for them.

To report this post you need to login first.

29 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. Gregory BOTTICCHIO

    Hi Jacob,

    Great article! 5 stars minimum for you!

    Two feedbacks in the “What tools we don’t use and why”: 

    1/ “SAP CrystalReports JavaScripts API”: in WebI 4.1 SP2, the ExtensionPoints are there which allows you to add any requested functionnality (custom functionnality) into WebI; 

    2/ Linking to Document”: WebI has the same level of capabilities than CR;

    Thanks a lot & regards,

    Gregory

    (0) 
    1. Jakub Holasek Post author

      Thank you for your support Gregory! It really makes me feel good:)

      • Are you sure about OpenDocument functionality? According to official documentation there are still parameters which can be used only in Crystal Reports. The fact is that the most important part (at least for us) – opening report part can be achieved with support of Workspaces where you can effortlessly create link to document part.
      • SAP CrystalReports JavaScripts API – that is indeed very interesting, in SAP Crystal Reports JavaScript API Developer Guide there is not WebI mentioned, do you have any real examples? It would be great just a little modify WebI functionality. I do it anyway with jquery but it is not exactly clean solution….I’ive just found mention in the last paragraph of “whats new” in XI4. Thank you, I changed information about JS api for WebI a little as well as rating agains Crystals
      (0) 
      1. Ted Ueda

        Awesome blog!

        Just a bit of technical background, hope it clarifies.

        I usually decribe OpenDocument functionality to customers by stating it hooks into the respective document viewer.  So OpenDocument to WebI invokes the WebI viewer, while to Crystal it invokes the Crystal viewer.  Actually, for Crystal it hooks into the old-school viewrpt URL, so any features available there is exposed to OpenDocument as well.

        When it comes to viewers, Crystal has traditionally had a bit more types – a Report Parts viewer and an Export viewer (for pure export to PDF, Word, Excel, etc).  So that allows OpenDocument to link to Crystal Report parts, and also allows more export types.

        With WebI viewer, you have either a HTML view or PDF view, so that’s what’s exposed in OpenDocument – any other export type is available within the viewer itself.

        When it comes to linking reports within the viewer, the OpenDocument functionality is essentially equivalent between WebI and Crystal, it’s only when you want to take it outside the report viewer where the distinction in functionality happens.

        One cool new feature in OpenDocument for WebI is the noDocument option – it opens WebI in Design mode.  Can’t do that with Crystal 🙂

        As for WebI Extension Points, that’s new with BI 4.1 – it allows you to customize/extend the WebI viewer and add functionality via JavaScript, that allows you to hook the document you’re viewing with the RESTful API.  Here’s the doc:

        http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/sbo41/en/sbo41sp3_webi_ui_extension_pts_en.pdf

        It’s pretty cool, and I’m hoping to blog about it sometime when I have the opportunity.

        Another feature of WebI that’s absolutely cool is the Calculation Extension Points:

        http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/sbo41/en/sbo41_webi_calc_ext_en.pdf

        It allows developers to define custom functions that WebI end users can use within their reports.

        Sincerely,

        Ted Ueda

        (0) 
        1. Jakub Holasek Post author

          Dear Ted,

          this is THE COMMENT. Thank you for

          • clarification about WebI and Crystal viewers
          • information about extension points

          I would love to see your post about both – ui extension points and calcualtion extension points because your blog posts about RESTful API are one of the best on SCN related to this topic.Hands down.

          Jackob

          (0) 
  2. Sharon Om

    Awesome and candid feedback.  Thank you so much for your time to share such structured and informative feedback!

    As yoy pointed out we will be enhancing our sharing and collaboration aspects over the course.

    Thank you!

    (0) 
  3. Arvind Pandalai

    This blog is a small bible to understand what consulting in BI means and how can SAP BI help users to analyze their data. How to manage a person / company analyze their personal and corporate needs. Understanding the requirement of end users to use BI is very important and this explains what are the uses and how SAP BI can help to understand and utilize these tools to the maximum.

    This blog is definitely going to be a rule book to refer time and again.

    Expecting many more such mind-blowing blogs from you.

    (0) 
  4. Ty Miller

    Really great blog Jakub. It’s feedback like this from people like you that really make an impact on what we product managers think about when we look to improve our solutions.

    Be on the lookout for some really exciting innovations when it comes to Lumira and sharing 😉

    (0) 
    1. Jakub Holasek Post author

      Thank you Ty, I suppose in next Lumira release sharing functionality is going to be enhanced,is that right? It would be great if it was possible to use Lumira without Lumira server but I think this wont be possible. What about licencing Lumira server, is it covered by BI Suite licence?

      (0) 
      1. Sharon Om

        Hi Jakub

        I missed the “Lumira” part in my last comment about Sharing so I will reply here 🙂

        1. Sharing Lumira without Lumira Server

        – Today you can share on Lumira cloud, Lumira server and on tablet via Mobile BI

        – Very soon, you can share it on BI 4 platform. However this still requires Lumira server

        – We are planning to support easier way to share Lumira stories (for example via exporting). This is not going to be in the immediate next release but we have a number of backlog items to enable better sharing experience.

        2. If you have the full BI suite license, Lumira Server is included.

        (0) 
  5. Sebastian Wiefett

    Hello,

    first of all this is a very nice blog. Good Work! I share your thoughts about the Question “Should i upgrade or not”. The only answer is “Yes”.

    With Regards to the Version i would encourage every reader to go to the latest Version, which is BI 4.1 SP03 (As of April 2014).

    SAP BI 4.0 has a current “End of Maintenance” of 12/31/2015. The End for “Prior One Support” is currently 12/31/2017.

    Therefore dont waste your expensive Project Resources on BI 4.0. Use directly BI 4.1 SPx.

    Regards

    -Seb.

    (0) 
    1. Sharon Om

      Hi Raphael

      Thanks for the blog. Great feedback and perspective. Would you consider updating “SAP Visual Intelligence” to “SAP Lumira” in your blog to reflect the latest branding?

      Thank you.

      Sharon

      (0) 
  6. Jeff Walters

    This was very useful. We upgraded to 4.0 a few months ago – should have waited a few more weeks and gone to 4.1 … 🙁

    Interesting comments on Crystal vs WEBI. We still have some Crystal reports – but intend to follow your lead in looking to switch requirements onto WEBI.

    Thanks

    Jeff

    (0) 
    1. Jakub Holasek Post author

      Yes, you should have. On the other hand you can upgrade to BI41 without significant problems..mostly. It is more meaningful to leave Crystals in BI41 because in BI40 some functionality is missing in WebI.

      (0) 
  7. Ivan Yin

    Hi Jakub,

    This is a great blog! Can I translate it into Chinese so that it can be shared to more Chinese customers? Hope for your response.

    Thanks

    Ivan

    (0) 

Leave a Reply