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Get the most out of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, Xcelsius

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) and Web Intelligence offer different ways to compile and share data to decision makers. Learn when to use each and why.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence enables data consumers at every level in an organization to solve business problems. The Report Panel allows Web Intelligence business users to quickly transform several thousand records into meaningful information by applying breaks, filters, sorts and alerts on charts and tables.

Known on the surface as an ad hoc query tool because of its simplicity in creating queries, Web Intelligence’s main strength is displaying and interacting with data. Users can display information in a crosstab (pivot), horizontal or vertical table, or in any of 33 different chart types.

Each report element can contain a unique set of constraints, or users can apply filtering to every element on a report page. For further customization, users can apply input controls for detailed filtering or use the Report Filters toolbar for simple filtering.

To securely share reports with other users in an organization, report writers can save the Web Intelligence documents to the SAP BusinessObjects repository with just a couple of clicks. By utilizing the InfoView portal (called the BI Launch Pad in version 4.0) users can publish, schedule and distribute print-ready reports to a qualified recipient list.

Writing queries in SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence

Users are shielded from the complexities of database naming conventions because field names ("objects") are based on the organization's business terms in the SAP BusinessObjects universe (known in version 4.0 as the Information Design Tool). Furthermore, users don’t need to know SQL to create queries. Using drag-and-drop functionality, users graphically set up SQL queries through the intuitive Query Panel interface.

Users can also create sophisticated queries by taking advantage of the features available in the Query Filters pane. This includes the capability to create sub-queries and to nest multiple filters into layered groups separated by AND or OR. Users also have the freedom of mixing predefined filters (set up in the universe) with user-defined filters configured from up to 16 different operators, such as Equal to, In List, Greater than and Between.

For on-demand information, reports can be set to refresh when they are open and prompt users for input to pass to filters. These filters can also be set to optional, removing the requirement of entering or selecting a value before the report is refreshed.

One of the most useful features in the Web Intelligence Query Panel is the ability to add queries from multiple data sources. By adding queries sourced from two or more universes, users can increase the value of information in reports by integrating data from separate systems. When accessed correctly, analysis on data from disparate systems often sheds new light on issues occurring within an organization. Benchmarking and comparative analysis can be used to present compound measurements where the numerator and denominator exist in separate systems.

Higher quality reports

For the most analytical reports, be sure to take full advantage of the built-in reporting functions and operators available in the Report Panel. Users can create variables and formulas with the aid of more than 140 functions and more than 40 operators. These functions allow users to develop reports that provide more in-depth analysis than just displaying data retrieved by queries. For example, users can create formulas that calculate a running average, return part of a string, calculate the number of days between two dates or perform if-then-else logic to generate artificial groups.

Users can create formulas and variables in the Formula Toolbar on the fly. Alternatively, they can use the Formula Editor for a complete interface with on-screen access to data fields, functions, operators and a single-click tool that validates the accuracy of the formula's syntax.

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius) offers a different set of capabilities for solving business problems. Whereas organizations primarily use Web Intelligence to perform analysis on several thousands of detailed records, companies typically use SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards to deliver interactive results on a single screen with summarized data and next-generation graphics. Skilled dashboard designers can deliver elegant and engaging solutions that transform business data into presentations that tell stories visually and through guided analysis.

Coupling dashboard design with a deep understanding of the underlying data is a combination for success to any business executive. By using a dashboard, executives can interact with components to easily spot organizational trends, geographic patterns and significant outliers. These findings commonly lead to a better understanding of the data and more informed decisions.

Using selectors and drill downs

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards provides a complete set of components that allow users to navigate through hierarchies and display chart objects relating to selected combinations. Developers can add these selector components without writing a single line of code. List boxes, label-based menus, checkboxes and combo boxes are just a few of the selector components that can be included in any custom design to meet business requirements.

Additionally, bar, line and pie charts provide an option to enable drilling and deliver the capability of communicating additional details on the selected object. Developers define the type of information passed when drilling is enabled. These options include the position of the selected item, the value of the selected item or the selected item's label.

Dynamic visibility

Every component includes a Dynamic Visibility property, which allows layers of visualizations to be displayed when certain conditions are met. Single dashboards can become full applications with this feature. When used with the Canvas Container and Tab Set components, designers can deliver many content layers in a single dashboard to maximize content and impact.

Jim Brogden is a senior consultant at Daugherty Business Solutions, an IT consulting company with a 25-year history of providing technology solutions to large and mid-sized corporations. Daugherty Business Solutions concentrates on four core lines of service: business intelligence, custom applications, mobile and ERP.

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