SBOP Design Studio Release 1.0


With the upcoming General Availability (GA) of SBOP Design Studio somewhere in November 2012 (14/11/2012), I was given the chance to get some hands on training and to provide some honest feedback to SAP.

SBOP Design Studio is a ‘premium alternative’ to the BEx WAD (Web Application Designer), reading between the lines it eventually means it would be its successor. Anyone with experience with the WAD will take to Design Studio like a duck to water.

Before I begin I would like to make a special shout out to Jie and Christina from SAP who did a sterling job in evangelizing and training us on the SBOP Design Studio application.

Client Application

SBOP Design Studio is a standalone client application which uses Eclipse just like the HANA studio and the soon to be released ‘ABAP in Eclipse’, it appears that new applications built by SAP will use the Eclipse platform.

The application itself loads in a few seconds and you are given the option to connect to the BOE server or work locally on your own desktop (‘Skip’). I hear you shout, “What, you need BOE to run Design Studio”; well at the moment yes you do or at least make your dashboards productive.

Please be aware, if you are using BOE you will also need to install the server ‘Add-on’ in order to make your application productive via BOE. Note the Design studio ‘Add-on’ is available to use from BOBJ 4.0 SP04 patch 4, however in order to integrate with the iPAD application ‘SAP BI’ you will require SP05. The Design Studio ‘Add-on’ will remain a separate install in order to allow development of Design Studio to be independent of BOBJ SP and patch releases.

Design Studio Overview

With any new application first impressions are often confusing however with knowledge of the BEx WAD it was surprising easy to navigate around the developer interfaces. There are five ‘View’ windows plus the canvas window, these are:

  1. Components
  2. Outline
  3. Properties
  4. Error Log
  5. Problems

The first three views plus the design canvas are the views that are used the most. Usually an application starts with adding a ‘datasource’, the first release of Design Studio supports two source systems namely SAP BW and SAP HANA.

If working in ‘local’ mode then the design studio reads your saplogon.ini file for SAP BW connections and any HANA ODBC connections you may have. If working from the BOE server then all connection information read from the BOE. This is important to note as if developing from Local PC you will need to change your connections later on when publishing to the BOE server.

My advice, if possible, is to work in server mode this is especially true if you are working with multiple images as the image paths will need changing when publishing from local to the BOE server.

Component Window

The components window is split in three sections:

  • Analytical (Chart, Cross Tab, Dimension Filter & Filter Panel)
  • Basic (Button, Check box, Date Field, Dropdown box, Image, Input Filed, list box, Radio Button Group & Text.
  • Container (Grid Layout, Pagebook, Pop-up & Tab Strip)

Taking into account this is a first release the components available cover the most common dashboard scenarios. One of the biggest areas for improvements however is the charting components (which SAP is aware), for example certain chart types are not available such as the combination and waterfall charts. In addition the current charting components are basic and do not support interactions like with SAP Dashboards (Xcelcius). Moreover formatting options (properties) to change font sizes, axis scales, colours, marker sizes etc.. are currently not available.

The development of the charting components including Crosstabs should be one of SAP’ first priorities to enhance in order to gain wider adoption as an enterprise design toolset.

Outline Window

The outline window displays the available data sources (BW Queries, Query Views, Info Providers and HANA analytical /calculation views) in addition to displaying all the components that are used within your Design Studio application. From within the outline window you can easily move components between containers or add additional components to the canvas. The outline window allows for multi-select of components thus allowing changing of their properties in one go.

Flipping over to the ‘Data Binding’ view within the outline window will highlight which datasources are assigned to which canvas components, this is a useful feature.

One feature that currently seems lacking is the ability to lock or hide components within the outline window; this would be exceptionally useful when dealing with a large number of canvas components. I am sure this feature will be introduced in future releases.

Properties Window

The properties window allows the developer to set the properties of each component, the properties will vary depending on component type however there are some common properties that exist across all components. The ‘layout’ section of the properties window is common accross all components, this allows the relative positioning (docking) of the component in pixels from the applications border.

Based on comparisons for example with the WAD, Web Dynpro or SAP Dashboard components / user interface (UI) elements, the number of properties that can be set are  limited. I believe SAP will enhance the component properties with more options with the next release cycles.


Design Studio is a WYSIWYG application which provides pixel perfect placement of components. To cater for resizing of  browsers and screens there is a ‘docking’ mechanism, docking is relative to the edge of the screen and the developer has the option to choose either the top or bottom border and the left or right border to position against.

A nifty feature allows the developer to quickly change the relative positioning by selecting the small clear circles (highlighted below) to change which border the component is relatively positioned against:


Without a doubt this is the number one selling feature (besides mobile capability), no other dashboard tool in the SAP suite supports scripting in the same way as design studio. Scripting can be used to handle user interactions, to set variables/filters and to handle the display and bindings of object properties.

Scripting is performed using a cut down set of java script functions; these functions are relatively simple and can be picked up easily. If this is still worries do not fear, there is an intuitive prompting mechanism. By pressing CTRL+SPACE in the script editor will reveal either the application objects or functions that are available. Between each statement just add a ‘.’, also remember to add a ‘;’ at the end of each statement. An example is shown below:

Still worried? Well for certain statements a ‘wizard’ exists, whilst in the first release the wizard statements are limited, certainly more will be added over time. An example of the set filter wizard is shown below:

Currently, the scripting functions available are acceptable however there are many more functions that could be added to cater for more complex scenario and use cases.


Events which are generally user interactions such as ‘on-click’ or ‘on-select’ are available for several of the components, one other event type ‘on-startup’ exists that controls actions when the application is first launched. The ‘on-startup’ event is used for example to populate listbox selections or to determine BEx exception levels in order to display an appropriate icon image.

To make use of these events, scripting has to be employed and given that nearly every application built will need to make use of events means design studio is not an end user tool but an IT / developer tool.


The SBOP Design Studio is very stable, after a whole week of testing the application never crashed, yes there were error messages but these were related more to me doing something stupid like forgetting to add a ‘;’ at the end of my java script statements or trying to connect to a BW system release that was not supported.

Once familiar with the Design Studio features and functionalities it became very intuitive, the exercises set for us where completed in a short timeframe typically 30 minutes or less. This is good news given that we can leverage existing BW queries or HANA Analytics a simple to moderate application can be developed and deployed in a very short time frame, certainly far faster than it would take using the SAP Dashboard toolset.

The integration to the BOE server is seamless and the application has an auto-save feature ensuring the application is saved at regular intervals.

I believe SAP has made a focused effort to ensure stability and usability over advanced functionalities; this is a good approach to adopt with a first release of any software product. I hope the stability of this application continues with later releases as I find it frustrating when an application crashes or freezes in the middle of development efforts.

Business User Experience

From a user perspective, applications are easy to use. No special  training is required as the application will provide an intuitive guided analytical experience, if you can use an iPAD or browser then you can make effective use of Design Studio Applications to analyze your business data.

Applications can be launched in the web browser or on the iPAD using a pre-defined / published Business objects Open document URL. Alternatively if the user has the ‘SAP BI’ iPAD application then then the Design Studio document will automatically appear in the applications library.


One of the nicest features is the ability to edit the ‘initial view’ of the query without the need to go back into the BEx query designer. The initial view editing allows filtering, addition/removal of row/column members and the selection of key figures. In addition you are able to activate / deactivate display hierarchies and format the key figures with scaling factors or decimal places. To speed up the editing of the initial view you may choose to ‘Pause’ the automatic refresh.

Another rather nice feature is the QR code which allows developers to quickly test the application on an iPAD device without worry about finding the physical application URL:

Overall the functionally of the first release is acceptable to build simple to moderate guided analytical applications however for anything advanced then you should consider sticking with the current SAP dashboard toolset. The SAP Dashboard toolset (aka Xcelcius) from BOBJ 4.0 SP05 will support HTML5 for a limited set of components, my advice would be for the time being consider using this for advanced dashboard or guided analytical applications.

Future Development

Whilst I am not at liberty to discuss detailed roadmap developments for the Design Studio toolset I can share what is publically available from SAP. The development backlog for Design Studio is understandably quite considerable, the main planned innovations and future directions (refer to roadmap link) includes:

  • Enhanced Visualizations
  • Ability to Create Custom Themes (Corporate branding)
  • Native SAP HANA deployment
  • A SDK (Software Development Kit)
  • Support for additional Data Sources
  • Planning / Write back abilities
  • Offline Scenarios

I would ask you to use your imagination for other backlog requests, a little like I have done for my Design Studio development wish list.

Wish List

I have so many items for my wish list, I have listed some of the more prominent features that would help me to design advanced applications or make my life easier:

  • Duel axis, combination and Waterfall Charts also scorecard table components
  • Ability to select series member in order to pass parameters for sections (Graphical component interaction)
  • Ability to group and overlay graphical components (like SAP dashboards)
  • Ability to ‘Merge’ cells of grid layout component
  • Timer component or scripting option to pause for x seconds, useful for dashboards that are display on boardroom screens
  • Multi Select values from list component
  • Allow enhanced formatting of components i.e. colour, column size, font etc..
  • Introduce standard JavaScript operators such as =<,>=, <,>, *, / etc..
  • Component properties, library needs to exist to bind scripting against ALL component properties
  • Script function to get variable value (one already exists for set)
  • More events such as ‘on-swipe’ or ‘on-zoom’ for mobile applications
  • Ability to create offsets / string manipulation i.e. get the month from the date i.e. data+4(2)
  • Get hold of Report title, filter values and other useful query information
  • Add the possibility to create a formula within ‘Edit Initial view’.
  • Function Module / BAPI as a datasource (like in Visual Composer) or ABAP web services.
  • BO Universe integration
  • Ability to swap themes or CSS on the fly
  • Ability to HIDE / LOCK components in the outline / canvas

A compelling case to use Design Studio

Recently it was announced by Ian Mayor (Product Manager), Design Studio will be free to all customers who are licensed to use SAP Dashboards (with BOE). This means that from GA towards the end of November 2012, customers that are licensed for SAP Dashboards should automatically see SBOP Design Studio 1.0 on the Service Market Place (check under Software Downloads –> Installations & Upgrades –> A-Z Index –> D –> SBOP Design Studio)

Given that this tool is easy to learn and that applications can be built rapidly based on SAP BW or SAP HANA datasources, I would advise customers to start familiarizing themselves and to start understanding where Design Studio will fit in with their analytics roadmap.


Design Studio Road Map: (SMP logon required)

Pricing for Design Studio:

Design Studio on SCN:

Official Product Tutorials:

Posted in SAP BW, SAP Design Studio, SAP HANA, SAP ZEN | 1 Comment

SAP HANA Certification (C_HANAIMP_10)

I was lucky enough to have SAP HANA training provided for free by the SAP APJ Partner University.  Whilst not the most comprehensive training in the world, I would like to thank SAP APJ for their efforts and gesture of good will.

Armed with a few free days training in SAP HANA I thought I would chance my luck at the SAP HANA certification, this was however not free. It had been over 8 years since I last took any kind of SAP certification, the last time being SAP BW back in the year 2004.

When I took my SAP BW exam I already had 3 years experience working in industry and a few project lifecycles under my belt. Moreover my employer at the time paid for the certification as they required a certain number of certified consultants to gain SAP partnership, I believe if this was not the case I would not have not have taken the certification.

Thus after 8 years i felt a little apprehensive about sitting an SAP exam especially given that I only had a few days training and no ‘real-life’ project experience. Did I study for the exam, hell no, finding the time to study whilst carrying out business as usual activities was near impossible. I did however glance through the test questions on SAP’ website and managed to get 8/10 correct so i thought it was worth a punt to pay for the exam itself.

Whilst I live in Indonesia I choose to sit my exam at SAP Malaysia mainly because I have more faith in their exam facilities and ethics, I have had bad experiences with SAP Indonesia in the past, something I will share in a future blog. When I arrived at the SAP examination facility in Malaysia I was a little shocked to find that SAP had outsourced to HCL Axon, this can’t be right an SI running SAP certifications on behalf of SAP?

Whilst waiting to enter the exam room I got chatting to a few of the exam participants, they were all very young (or maybe it is just me, old at 34). I asked the usual questions, where are you working, what is your background, how long have you being working with SAP etc… The answers to some these questions frightened me, for example over half of them had less than 1 year working with SAP, there was 1 person who had prior experience working with analytics (BW/BOBJ) and 80% of them worked for HCL Axon (noting it was an HCL Axon training facility). I would not have expected such candidates sitting an exam like HANA, in my head alarm bells started to ring.

Why you may ask was I thinking like this, well i am thinking like an SAP HANA customer would think. Any client who invests in SAP HANA wants and demands experience not only technical but also industry experience. Why do you think SAP themselves are currently reluctant to let their SI partners loose on a HANA project without involvement themselves, SAP cannot afford any bad press regarding failed HANA implementations.

The exam itself is the standard SAP exam format, 80 online multi-choice or single-choice questions, no ‘help’ material allowed, you vs a computer. You are given 3 hours to complete 80 questions, there is no negative scoring. For multi-choice question you must select all answers correctly to receive the point, you have an option to tentatively select the correct answers and go back at a later time and change them. A point to note is that question given later on in the exam will actually help give you the answer to previous questions, a bit silly but this is what happens, do not be afraid to return and change your answers.

As mentioned there is no negative marking, so if you really don’t know just take an educated guess! SAP likes to be the biggest and loudest, so with regard to marketing type questions if it puts SAP in a good light there is a high degree a certainty that it is a correct answer, there are several questions like this.

Another pertinent point, this is a 3 hour exam to answer 80 questions which is 135 seconds a question, when taking my BW exam I remember I used about 90 minutes which included re-reading the exam paper twice and revisiting several questions. I also remember being nervous about pressing the ‘final submit’ button as your result will be instantly displayed, pass or fail.

This time around I felt no nerves what so ever, i blasted through the 80 questions in about 35 minutes (26 seconds per questions). Before i pushed the ‘final submit’ button I looked around the exam room at the other candidates, they all still had their heads buried deep into the computer screens. I thought to myself I am no spring chicken but it is experience that counts, even when doing exams.

So as not to leave the room too early, i took the opportunity to write down what i thought to be the most difficult HANA exam questions in the hope to share them later. After 10 minutes of scribbling i decided that was enough and pressed the ‘final submit’ button, great I had passed.

What I found a little bit disturbing was that the pass mark for this exam is 59%, now when I did BW exam it was a respectable 70%.  I thought how can the pass mark be 59%, who came up with this idea? 59% surely is not a conceivable pass mark; it means you are allowed to get 32 questions incorrect, this is nonsense.

After receiving my result, i decided it was time to leave the exam room but not before the examiner relieved me of all my scribbles, yes that’s right you are not allowed to take your scribbles with you. On the flip side, I was allowed to keep the SAP pencil, it was with this pencil after I left the examination room that I re-wrote out my scribbles, and luckily for me I have a memory span slightly longer than a goldfish.

I read a great deal of blogs and bulletin boards, I always see the same headline ‘Passed my HANA certification’ and I think ok great, some dude passed, I am sure they would like to share some of the exam questions that were given. How wrong you would be, you explore only to find out they have developed a serious case of amnesia or perhaps they are just bullshitting about passing the exam…..

There are a few decent people out there who do share presentation materials but as yet I have not found anyone sharing specific HANA exam questions, could it be they paid for the exam and thus feel cheated if they share, possibly.

On the other hand I put my 500 USD pencil to good use and wrote out some of the questions, I have compiled 50 questions in the attached PDF document; however I make no warranty that the answers are all correct – this is for you to decide!

Click link to open: REMOVED ON REQUEST

Worth the Money
Personally I do not think so; the exam was far too easy in my opinion. The only benefit I can perceive by undertaking the HANA certification is that is shows that you are genuinely interested in the SAP HANA toolsets, interested enough to blow $500+ and a day off work sitting for it.

I do feel a little cheated that someone with no prior SAP or industry experience could pass this exam; in fact there is a high degree of probability being able to pass this exam blindfolded. I would strongly suggest SAP to move up the pass mark and tighten up the questions; does SAP really want to have 1000’s of certified HANA consultants with no experience giving their flagship DB a bad name?

This is kind of like letting children drive cars on the motorway at high speed; you know it will end in tears.

If someone else is footing the bill for the exam then by all means jump right in and take it, nice excuse for a day off work at the very least. However if you are personally footing the bill then I would think more carefully, will becoming a certified HANA consultant really get you work on a project?

If you are a seasoned analytics consultant who has learnt SAP HANA through using a HANA sandbox system and by reading the copious amounts of materials available on the web then this will inevitably come across at interview. My advice would be to put the exam fee towards decent laptop, invest it in some niche skill SAP training such as BPC, PCM or SSM or even use it to have a few enjoyable evenings out.

For those that are serious about SAP HANA you can now enjoy free HANA sandbox access courteous of SAP. Moreover, if you are really die-hard HANA fanatic who wants to get project experience, I am sure if you offered your services at cost there would be several takers including SAP.

I have heard that there are more than 5000 SAP HANA certified consultants globally, this equates to over 2,500,000 USD in SAP HANA certification fees alone, a nice money spinner for SAP but I am not convinced any benefit to the HANA customer.

Finally if you believe an SAP pencil to be worth $500 then you need to get you head examined and leave the HANA certification alone.


Posted in SAP HANA, Unhappy Chap | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

SAP BPC Bootcamp (Singapore) May 22nd – 24th 2012

It was an interesting week; I had the opportunity to attend the SAP BPC Bootcamp in Singapore (Marina Sands Bay Convention and Expo Center) run by SAPInsider. This event was packed with content covering all aspects of BPC; speakers including SAP, IBM and Deloitte to name but a few. In addition there were several interesting case studies presented by real-life client teams which showcased their use of BPC including challenges faced and the solutions implemented to overcome.

For the unfortunates that could not attend this event I will highlight some of the most interesting topics touched upon including BPC 10.0 Member Recognition, BPC design best practices and a useful planning solution that was showcased.

Member Recognition in EPM 10.0
There was a running theme throughout the bootcamp, SAP HANA in conjunction with BPC was mentioned a great deal, however there was only one live demonstration given using BPC 10.0 on HANA and I must say it was entertaining, the boys with the ‘green dot’ doing an excellent job.

Besides the new look and feel of EPM 10.0 (BPC 10.0) there are some remarkable features that will make the users life much easier in addition to reducing implementation efforts.

The feature that sticks in my mind the most was the ability to create a BPC report or input schedule just by typing in the required member names or values directly into Excel (Member Recognition), no formulas or even drag and drop required, just type what you want – amazing.

Once activated, any value entered into the Excel spreadsheet is checked against the member values stored in BPC, if a value is found a quick flash of green in the cell will be seen and the value automatically converted to an EPMOLAP formula:

The member values are automatically converted into an EPMOLAP formula:

If only a partial recognition is found, for example we type just ‘2011’ then a prompt will appear allowing the user to select the required member:

This feature can be done for both for rows and columns including nested expansion possibilities, in addition if a parent node is selected and ‘double clicked’ it will automatically expend to display its children:

Once the rows and columns have been entered BPC will bring back the intersected values:

Excel formulas can be added to determine for example variances, these local formulas are automatically copied down for every row, another nice feature.

How easy is that for a user or a developer to create a BPC report or input schedule, no knowledge of EVDRE or even EPMOLAP formulas required, this will certainly lesson BPC implementation times. There are many more new features in EPM 10.0; I will save these for a future blog.

Top Down and Bottom Up Planning
Another presentation session that stuck in my mind was conducted by some chaps from a end client company in the USA (Solae); they demonstrated to us a solution they had implemented that allows for ‘Top down’ and ‘Bottom up’ planning from within the same input schedule, the solution was quite genius.

Basically, the solution makes use of the BPC ‘Write Back Pre-Process’ BAdi to determine whether information was entered at top or bottom and then allocate based on 12 month history if needed. This whole solution was transparent to the end user and really simplified the budget process – I am defiantly going to use this solution next time – Thanks guys!

Best Practice for BPC
Several sessions focused on best practice for BPC implementations with regard to performance optimisation (not everyone can afford SAP HANA), some useful tips included limiting the number of Dimension and Hierarchies used. The permutations of master data used in the BPC report along with the Hierarchy Node selected contribute to a negative performance impact as the aggregation is done on the fly in the OLAP, an example of this shown below:

In addition tips and tricks on creating workbooks using the EVDRE formulas where given, in certain situations performance can be improved just by changing the EVDRE function used to call data (changing of the MDX statement).  Use of BAdi over Script Logic was also an area where high performance gains can be achieved, if the BPC version is NW then leverage on BAdi where possible.

 It was demonstrated that using BPC 10.0 with the removal of the .NET application (server) also give a performance boost, BPC 10.0 is now true 64-bit and it was stated that BPC server sizing requires less SAPS (SAP sizing measurement) and is far more scalable than BPC versions 7.0 and 7.5.

Another interesting point to note is that nearly all speakers at this bootcamp leant towards the Netweaver (NW) version of BPC over the Microsoft (MS) version, even stating so much as non-SAP customers should consider using the Netweaver version due to the added advantages of BAdi, the ability to handle larger data volumes and a higher number of concurrent users.

The only real argument given for MS version is if the client is a Microsoft shop (IT skill set), to which I feel is a poor argument given the arguments for using NW version are far stronger. I predict over the coming years that the MS version will be phased out; it really does not make sense for SAP to continuing to develop BPC MS version unless they are thinking about a SAP HANA only version of BPC….

Plain Daft
Unfortunately at these types of events there is always some misinformation, filtering the good from the ‘plain daft’ takeaways is something you should be aware.  There was one senior speaker who made a bit of a faux pas by stating that that BPC reporting performance will be acceptable with 200+ dimensions, fortunately this is the only presenter who did not share their presentation with the audience. All I can say is ‘High Performance. Delivered’ – my ass!

All in all, this BPC Bootcamp was informative, a good mix of case studies and real-life practical applications. Any organisation who has implemented or thinking about implementing SAP BPC should attend this type of event, the knowledge gained would certainly save time and money in addition to highlighting new ways to leverage the power of the BPC application itself.


Posted in EPM 10.0, SAP BPC, SAP HANA | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

SAP Visual Intelligence (on HANA)

Last week SAP launched Visual Intelligence (aka Visi), this is basically a desktop version of BO Explorer, it can currently only connect to SAP HANA .

The installation can now be downloaded from the market place, it is about 150MB in size and will install in about a minute or so.

The main features of Visi are not too dissimilar to BO Explorer FP3, however Visi does provide advanced analysis features by allowing multiple measures, attributes in addition to treillis (Multiple charts spilt by given attribute values).

The steps for creating a Visi document are as follows:
• Create ‘New Document’
• Create  ‘New Data Source’ –> Enter SAP HANA Details
• Select Analytic or Calculation view, optionally preview and select data
• Drag and Drop Measures and Attributes (Dimensions) into the Visi into the chart Feeder
• Select Chart type
• Save or share your Visualisation (s)

After launching Visi, you are displayed with a rather nice splash screen, after few seconds and you are ready to begin. As this is a desktop tool load time is much faster than BO explorer or Webi:


Begin by selecting the ‘New Document’ button:


You are then prompted to connect to a HANA system; currently Visi only supports HANA DB connections. It is a shame it cannot read the connected systems from HANA studio, however once the connections are setup Visi does remember them:


Once you have successfully connected to the HANA DB, you will be prompted to select an analytic or calculation view, unfortunately it is not possible to select a HANA DB table. This would have been quite useful if for example you were also using Predictive Analytics which can write back to a HANA DB table:


If you select ‘Preview and Select Data’ then you will have the option to select specific measure and attributes to use in your analysis, if not all Measures and Attributes will be available:


The next steps are to drag and drop the required measures and attributes either on to the chart or into the configuration pane as shown below:Image

You may drop may add in multiple measures and multiple attributes, this is something not possible in BO explorer as it allows only  three key figures and two attribute values. Visi allows unlimited, well up to combinations that produce less than 10,000 data points.

You may configure the measure by sorting ascending, descending, add a ranking (Top/Bottom N) or add calculation. For the attributes you may add a filter to include/exclude certain values, this can be done also in the ‘split’ screen mode where by both the facets and the chart is displayed simultaneously:Image

The chart Type can be changed accordingly to your wishes, note that certain chart elements will require more / less attributes or measures, for example the bubble chat requires two measures in addition to an attribute. In addition to pure tabular data the current charts available include:
• Column
• Line (including Combined Line and Column)
• Pie
• Bubble and Scatter
• Heat and Tree
• Radar
• Box Plot
• Waterfall
• Tag Cloud
• Geographic (Bubble, Geo Pie or Choropleth)

Graphic selector toolbar:


In order to display a geographic chart you must first select a geographic attribute and create a geographic hierarchy, this can be Country, Region, Sub-region or city. Currently there is no support for longitude and latitude like with Business Object Mobile (FP3), something for later release perhaps.


It may be necessary to match up the attribute values, in the example below we needed to match up ‘AN’ with Netherlands Antilles:Image

Once you drag and drop a geographical hierarchy component into you analytic the geographic chart options will become active:


Once you have your perfected your visualisation you can save it as a PNG file, just press the ‘Save’ button in the bottom right of the visualisation and the visualisation will be saved:Image

You may then send these saved PNG files via email or ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ directly into an office document:Image

Charts copied directly from Visi:Image

Besides saving or distributing via PNG graphic files it is also possible to save the entries Visi scenario to local file as document type ‘.svid’, this file can then be shared with colleagues:


There are a few features in Visi that we could not figure out, we came to conclusion these must be placeholders for future releases. For example the toolbar on the top right is always inactive, we believe this will be for joining two or more HANA analytics together a little like SAP HANA Information Composer :


If you manage to get this toolbar to become active, I would like to hear from you!

As far as a first release goes Visi is an awesome end user tool, it is much faster than the Web or IPad versions of BO Explorer and provides enhanced functionalities that make the whole user experience more enjoyable, looking forward to the future of SAP Visual Intelligence.


Posted in SAP HANA, SAP Visual Intelligence | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

SAP Predictive Analytics (with SAP HANA)

SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis is a statistical analysis and data mining solution that enables you to build predictive models and visually interact with the data to discover hidden insights and relationships in your data, and thereby provide the basis for making predictions about future events.

Recently i had my first exposure to SAP Predictive Analytics 1.0, I feel that predictive analytics whilst not new is certainly an area of Enterprise performance management applications that has not been exploited to its fullest potential. I was intrigued to understand more about this SAP product offering especially in conjunction with SAP HANA.

First impression of SAP Predictive analysis 1.0 is that it is an easy to use application; the tool itself is installed on a client machine (user laptop/PC), and like the SAP HANA studio is built on the Eclipse framework and has a similar feel. My prediction is that eventually this tool will be embedded into the SAP HANA Studio; we are at our limits to installing SAP client tools every time a new product is released.

 The predictive analytics process is simple consisting of 4 key steps:
• Data acquisition (Data Readers)
• Data Preparation
• Algorithms (SAP, R or PAL)
• Data Writers

Data Acquisition
This first release of SAP Predictive analysis allows for the user to connect to SAP BOBJ universes (.unv only), several databases via JDBC, Excel, CSV and of course SAP HANA. I feel that BOBJ .unx universes should have been supported from the first version, unsure sure why this would be left out. Moreover i was very surprised not to see connections to SAP BW via OLAP BAPI , MDX or even BICS, this is surly something that will come with future releases.

Available ‘Data Readers’ in version 1.0 including the supported databases for JDC connections:


I noted that when the ‘HANA Reader’ is selected no other reader type can be inserted into the analysis flow, using the other readers it is possible to have multiple readers in one dataflow i.e. CSV, Universe and JDBC.

Data Preparation
Depending on the ‘data reader’ selected, different preparation options will be made available, selecting the HANA reader will only present options for ‘filter’ and ‘sample’, whereas the other reader types give additions of ‘Data Type Definition’ and ‘Formula’:


The filter is particularly useful as many of the algorithms fail if zero values are present, I would recommend using the ‘filter’ to remove zero value records this certainly is useful when using the Regression based algorithms.

Algorithms (SAP, R or PAL)
As mentioned, I am interested in the HANA algorithms, so after selecting the HANA Reader I expected to see all the PAL algorithms displayed, i was bitterly disappointed.  Only two of the possible seven PAL function are available, i was really hoping to see C4.5 Decision Tree algorithm, no such luck!

Only two of the SAP HANA PAL algorithms available to Predictive Analytics 1.0:Image

With this said I am positive SAP will incorporate more PAL functions in later releases, I hear rumours that SAP HANA SP4 will deliver many more in-built PAL functions and i do expect to see these incorporated.

I had a quick play with the HANA K-Means algorithm on a dataset with over 100 million records; I was pleasantly surprised as my result was returned in less than 2 seconds, which is fantastic:


However with only two PAL functions to play with I quickly became, let’s say, less than enthused. Also note that when using the HANA Reader to read the data it is currently not allowed to use SAP and R specific algorithms, bummer.

So I thought about using the JDBC reader to connect directly to a SAP HANA table and to see what standard SAP algorithms where available to play with. Great seven standard SAP algorithms to choose from:


I choose the ‘Nearest Neighbour Outlier’ on a data set of about 50K records from within SAP HANA, I expected the result set to be returned a little slower as the algorithm would be executed on my laptop and not on the SAP HANA database. I thought a couple of minutes would be sufficient for executing the predictive analytics process, so off I went to have a coffee. When I came back around 30 minutes later it was still running, i thought something had gone wrong but it said ‘running’. Finally after exactly 4170192 milliseconds (almost 70 minutes) the result came back, i was disappointed (again) as only a table of data and a summary page telling me it had found 10 outliers was returned, not impressed:Image

Not deterred by this I experimented with the other SAP algorithms and to be fair these all executed in under 15 seconds on the same dataset of 50K records, they also produced some nice graphical outputs for analysis.

I have not had a chance as yet to install the ‘R’ libraries; however reading the documentation the number of supported ‘R’ algorithms is limited. In totality SAP Predictive analytics provides approximately 20 predictive algorithms (R, SAP and PAL).

Data Writers
There is functionality to export your models as PMML or XML for use in other statistical applications there is however no functionality to export your predictive analysis as a PDF document or alike.

By using the ‘Data Writers’ you are able to push the calculated results set back into SAP HANA, other supported database or CSV  file for further analysis and reporting. For example by pushing the calculated result set back into SAP HANA reporting and PDF printing can be achieved via Web Intelligence, Crystal reports or Advance Analysis.

Whilst this is a good feature, if for example we want to do a daily update of predictions based on most current data, we would have to manually execute the process every day. There is no automation i.e. scheduling or triggering to automate the process. I hope very much we will see this in the future (think BW data mining / analysis process design and process chains).

Predicative Summary
Whilst SAP state for hardware specifications that a 2.0 GHz Pentium 4-class processor and 2GB RAM will suffice for running SAP Predictive analysis, from my simple experiments would recommend at least 4GB RAM if not more, as you can see (noting we also have some other application running):


My future Predications (without the need for using SAP Predictive Analysis) are:
• Integrated as part of the SAP HANA studio and/or web based client (zero footprint)
• Provide access to all SAP HANA PAL and BFL algorithms
• Support a connection to SAP BW (OLAP BAPI or MDX)
• Will support BOBJ  .UNX Universes
• Increased number PAL / BFL libraries (50+)
• Tighter integration with ‘R’ algorithms (more choice)
• Enhanced graphical outputs directly within the studio
• Ability to export analysis as PDF (not just PMML or XML)
• Automation / scheduling of Predictive Analysis Processes.

For the die hard data scientists i would say stick with SPSS; however in 12 months time I am sure I will be changing my recommendation especially in light of SAP HANA + Predictive analytics. This will allow for the predictive algorithms to be fully executed in the database in a matter of seconds (or less).


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SAP BW Transient Providers based on SAP HANA

There is much debate about the future of SAP BW especially with the advent of SAP HANA; I am here to tell you BW will be around for a long time to come. SAP has made significant investment to integrate BW with SAP HANA and also with BusinessObjects, not to mention that Netweaver is the foundation for many SAP solutions; here I discuss one of the latest ways in which SAP is combining the power of HANA with BW, which is the transient provider.

The transient provider is a new object in BW 7.3 running on a SAP HANA Database; the objective is to allow BW to consume native HANA analytic and calculation views and enhance these views by including metadata (InfoObjects) from BW.

The use of transient providers provides a flexible way to model whilst giving the ability to provide information to users in ‘real-time’. Here is how it works; using transaction RSDD_HM_PUBLISH in BW will allow the selection of the analytical or calculation view directly from the SAP HANA database:


Noting the InfoProvider naming convention for a ‘Transient Provider’ being <@3><technical name on HANA model>, if the technical name of the HANA model is too long it will be truncated so consider using technical names for HANA models of less than 19 characters:


Even though we assign our Transient provider to an InfoArea it will not display on the BW Administrators workbench (RSA1), therefore it is not possible to combine with any further InfoProviders for example within Multi or Hybrid providers (something for a future release maybe?).

A best practice learnt by configuring the ‘Transient provider’ is that all technical names in SAP HANA analytics should always be in uppercase (even though to HANA lower case letters are acceptable), watch out for this as it will save re-developments efforts:


One of the really nice features about using the transient provider is the ability to reference existing InfoObjects thereby picking up on possible attributes, texts and hierarchies thus further extending the reporting capabilities. Do also note that if the InfoObject assigned is authorisation relevant then this is taken into account thereby avoiding the need to implement rather cumbersome analytic privileges within the HANA database itself (liking this feature very much):


Whilst the transient provider is not available on the workbench it does show up within the BW query designer under the specified InfoArea:


As you can see though assigning the InfoObject to the HANA Analytic attribute all of the BW InfoObjects attributes, texts, hierarchies and associated variables are automatically assigned:


The last reason I like the BW transient provider from HANA is the fact that Business Objects Web Intelligence currently has no direct connection to the HANA Analytic; a Universe is still required to be created. However, Web Intelligence does support direct connection to the BW query; this reduces my development efforts considerably.

So if you are one of the lucky few customers to have SAP BW on HANA then I can recommend the use of Transient Providers to give you a real-time, flexible and simplified reporting solution:


For additional information please refer to Klaus Nagel’ paper on ‘Reporting on HANA models in BW-on-HANA’:

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Geo visualisation with SAP Business Objects Mobile (FP3)

I finally got the chance to play with the fabled Business Objects 4.0 Feature Pack 3 mobile solutions.  One of the recent additions to Business Objects Mobile on the IPad in conjunction with BusinessObjects 4.0 FP3 is the ability to present information as a Geographical Visualisation (GeoViz).

The GeoViz is a mash-up up of Google Maps and a Web Intelligence (WebI) document, the mobile solution for GeoViz is not yet an offline solution, you still have to be connected to the BOBJ server to view the document.

There are some nice features about this application, firstly it is easy to setup and deploy, and secondly it allows navigations by the dimension objects available in your Webi report in addition to being able to select differing metrics for analysis. Finally, and the feature that I like the most it allows you to annotate your analytic with text or by drawing free form on the screen of the IPad.

The GeoViz analytic can then be mailed as a screen shot (with link to corresponding WebI report) or uploaded to SAP StreamWork for review or collaboration purposes.

A slightly different way to deliver the message clearly:

However with all new releases, SAP still has some way to go to perfect this application, most notably with integration to WebI. A few items discovered that I would like enhanced or implemented include:

• The ability to use Alerts (conditional formats) for colouring the circles (hotspots) on the map, currently only one colour is supported (boring). Thus when the Metric is changed the hotspots on the map also change colour.

• Following on from the last point, currently there is no workaround (albeit to create a new GeoViz) as the hotspots only support one Icon image. In the example shown, I used a WebI formula to display the image URL which is calculated only for one metric.

• The hotspots on the GeoViz actually support popup graphic and tables, as many as you want! Unfortunately the application functionality does not allow us to capture these in an e-mail or StreamWork document. The chart is displayed, you push the button to ‘send via email’; the chart disappears (naff).

• I also tried to embed the new navigation functionality into the popup charts (allowing a certain degree of drilldown) however implementing this functionality caused the application to crash every time (annoying).

• The final and most understandably frustrating part to developing this GeoViz, is the fact that for every hotspot on the map needing the same chart/table with a different filter (Store, building, plant etc..) a new Webi Document needs to be created. There is no option to pass parameters to the popup chart/table or to create a drill across in the WebI document to provide different data sets (blocks) for the individual hotspots (this is different from the WebI section function). The reference for the table/chart is  Document:Page:Block, whilst we can reference different Pages or Blocks it still means that we would have to create a report per hotspot rather than one single report. Meaning if we had 500 stores we would need to currently create and link 500 individual report blocks, pages or documents to get individualised chats per hotspot (waste of time).

To sum up, apart from being boring, naff, annoying and a waste of time the BOBJ Mobile GeoViz application is a step forward for SAP Mobile Analytics, I look forward to seeing the improvements in the next releases.

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