BI Suite: BusinessObjects 4.0

All in: SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 comes complete with numerous BI tools (graphic: SAP AG)
All in: SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 comes complete with numerous BI tools (graphic: SAP AG)

Although it received less attention than the subjects of mobility and in-memory computing at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011, the release of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 was quite a momentous event. It introduced plenty of new features, such as support for the SAP In-Memory Appliance (SAP HANA), software interfaces that accommodate more users and (mobile) devices, and a uniform user interface that makes the BI tools in the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio easier to understand.

Here, we’ve compiled all of the relevant information to demonstrate the innovations SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 has in store for you.

Semantic layers

Semantic layers – known as “universes” in the world of SAP BusinessObjects – structure business data in a way that enables users to generate reports and queries. Universes support any BI client and can be created across multiple sources of data – including SAP HANA – thanks to the standardized interface sported by all of the BI tools from SAP BusinessObjects. Plus, users don’t need to have any knowledge of the database language SQL.

In addition to serving as the link between SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP Business Explorer queries, BI Consumer Services (BICS) based on the OLAP analysis principle include support for SAP HANA. The German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG), meanwhile, considers the improved integration of the SAP BusinessObjects BI client and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse the most important update in the latest release. The ability to continue to use universes created with SAP BusinessObjects XI without any migration or conversion presents another highlight.

Since no complex ETL processes are required to merge data sources in a target database, SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 also promises more cost-effective integration of new projects.

BI tools make it possible to produce both structured and unstructured data (graphic: SAP AG)
BI tools make it possible to produce both structured and unstructured data (graphic: SAP AG)
Every SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solution now sports a new query panel (screenshot: SAP AG)
Every SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solution now sports a new query panel (screenshot: SAP AG)

Information Design Tool

Users can create and publish universes with the new Information Design Tool, which also includes a number of new features for developing semantic layers:

  • Universes that support OLAP
  • Universes that facilitate the use of multiple relational databases
  • A security editor for data and metadata
  • Enhanced connection management
  • Simplified repository management

Universes created with the Information Design Tool can be used in the 4.0 versions of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, and SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise. The tool can be used for OLAP cubes involving Microsoft Analysis Services, and the security editor establishes a security framework for users. The Information Design Tool also provides for a uniform user experience and enables multiple individuals to work simultaneously on the same BI project.

A consistent user experience

SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 aims to offer a modern, standardized user experience, which is why the user interfaces of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, and the suite’s other applications now conform to one another. Users who are familiar with a particular tool will thus have an easier time finding their way around the others. No matter whether it’s a dashboard or a report on a PC, smartphone, or iPad, the UI is the same, and Sybase Unwired Platform serves as the basis for integrating mobile devices.

In addition, the SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 solutions feature improved icons, menus, and function bars; typical workflows for data access, formats, and page setup; and more elements users will find it easier to recognize. Diagrams many will be familiar with from SAP BusinessObjects Explorer have also been enhanced with graphical functions and added to SAP BusinessObjects Analysis and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence.

A dashboard for monitoring performance (screenshot: SAP AG)
A dashboard for monitoring performance (screenshot: SAP AG)

BI launch pad & BI workspace

The SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions focus on the aspect of self-service by offering BI launch pad and BI workspace, which gives users simple ways to obtain the information they need on their own. Designed to serve as a self-service BI portal, BI launch pad now sports enhanced search functionality and makes it possible to work on several documents at once.

The new BI workspace, meanwhile – a technological successor of Dashboard Builder – is a browser-based application that aids in centralizing and standardizing personalized information that is needed on a regular basis. In addition to content from the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions, BI workspace supports the use of material from external Web sites, Microsoft Office programs, and PDFs. Workspaces can be viewed with OpenDocument or through a company portal, provided the portal integration kit is in use.

Alerts and monitoring

SAP has also added several updates to the alerts and monitoring functions in SAP BusinessObjects 4.0. Alerts enable companies to respond more quickly to changes in their area of business by providing users with context-specific information in real time. The tools relevant in this regard include SAP Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight, and the central management console, which send alarm messages by e-mail or through BI Launch Pad.

The monitoring aspect captures key performance indicators from SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 servers and applications for reports and notifications. These KPIs are then displayed on dashboards while test systems conduct checks by means of simulated workflows. The monitoring applications in the new release can also be integrated with solutions such as SAP Solution Manager and IBM Tivoli.

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis (screenshot: SAP AG)
SAP BusinessObjects Analysis (screenshot: SAP AG)

Business intelligence tools

Five BI tools branch off from the data pool-based SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions. They include SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, and SAP Crystal Reports. In addition to the conformity of their user interfaces and a standardized interface for various data sources, these tools now boast a number of further innovations.

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis carries out multidimensional analyses, offers a drag-and-drop system, and makes it easier to work with existing content – including cubes developed for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and queries created with SAP Business Explorer (SAP BEx). SAP BusinessObjects Analysis is available in versions for Microsoft Office and OLAP. The former delivers functions that support analysis within Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, integrates simply into SAP landscapes, and eases the transition from SAP BEx tools to SAP BusinessObjects solutions. The OLAP version, meanwhile, also includes self-service analysis workspaces for personal or shared use online.

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards

Formerly known as SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius Enterprise, this software is based on the SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions and requires no infrastructural investment. Its interface supports virtually any data source, and a single dashboard can be used in various regions and languages. Microsoft Excel is no longer required.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer

In addition to a wider selection of graphical options, a refined search function that makes data analyses accessible to larger user groups is worth particular mention. All of the innovations in SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 3.2 are available through BI Launch Pad.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence

SAP says it has made the primary improvements to this software in three areas: interoperability, interactivity, and data navigation. The latter aspect now enables users to immediately begin browsing through providers, objects, and other data. The software’s interfaces also offer increased usability in the form of toolbars and the ability to call up frequently used functions more quickly.

SAP Crystal Reports

Along with sporting a revamped design, SAP Crystal Reports uses the same metadata model as the other tools and includes full universe support.

Improved integration

SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 supports embedded analytics for SAP ERP Financials, SAP Customer Relationship Management, and SAP ERP Human Capital Management. The BI applications can now also be integrated into the SAP BusinessObjects solutions for enterprise performance management and governance, risk, and compliance. In addition to direct access to SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP Solution Manager and Change and Transport System+ ensure users’ ability to incorporate these solutions into SAP landscapes.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 and the SAP BusinessObjects solutions for enterprise information management (EIM) – two of the company’s heavyweight offerings – possess similar UIs and are integrated into the same infrastructure. To learn everything there is to know about the SAP BusinessObjects EIM solutions, turn to the article “BI Analysis on iPad.” Meanwhile, collaborating and making use of social media is another option made possible by SAP StreamWork. The article “BusinessObjects 4: Real-Time, Mobile, Social” takes an in-depth look at SAP StreamWork and the new software SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight and SAP BusinessObjects Information Steward.

Embedded analytics for SAP Business Suite (screenshot: SAP AG)
Embedded analytics for SAP Business Suite (screenshot: SAP AG)