How does SAP BusinessObjects Explorer fit into your BI tools decisionmaking? BI 2014 speaker David Dadoun of Keyrus recently took readers’ questions on Explorer evaluation, sizing and deployment. You’ll find all the discussion in the chat replay and in the edited transcript below.
David Dadoun is Director of SAP BI Practice at Keyrus and was previously SAP-BI Technical Lead at Keyrus Canada. David has presented numerous sessions on BI and dashboarding, and will be presenting a session on SAP BusinessObjects Explorer at SAPinsider’s BI 2014 conference.
Sponsored by BI 2014 Orlando, March 24-27
Bridget Kotelly, Moderator: Thanks to everyone for joining us! It’s great to have David Dadoun of Keyrus Canada joining us today. David is a BI expert and is presenting a session on SAP BusinessObjects Explorer at BI 2014 this year. David, thanks for joining us and taking some questions on BI tools selection.
David Dadoun, Keyrus: Good morning Bridget. Good morning/afternoon/evening to everyone. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here and take your questions today!
Bridget Kotelly: Could we start with a quick overview: Where do you see Explorer fitting into the discussion of SAP BI tools selection?
David Dadoun: That’s actually a great question and I think it’s often a confusing topic for many. Many tools, many options, but which one fits the need? It’s all a question of better understanding our user needs and requirements. Explorer fits in as a self-service BI tool meant to quickly and easily provide data to be explored by business users and provide them with meaningful insights for deeper analysis.
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: Can we change the source of an infospace from .unx to .unv?
David Dadoun: Bonjour Sarah! Thank you for your question. Currently, in BO Explorer 4.1, we can change a connection from a unv to a unx, but not from a unx to unv.
Comment From firstname.lastname@example.org: Is there a general sizing guidelines document that you would recommend that outlines the key considerations that feed into a sizing recommendation?
David Dadoun: Thank you for your question. Actually, I suggest you take the time to look at the SAP BusinessObjects Sizing Guide. It is rather well documented. Otherwise, for more detailed guidelines, I really suggest (if you can) attending my presentation. I will be providing many tips, tricks, and best practices. If you have a specific question, please feel free to post it here and I will be glad to help you. : )
Comment From Phil C: We currently have BI 4.0, but really only use Webi. We are about to implement a standalone SAP HANA application. Would you recommend using BusinessObjects Explorer or could we continue to use Webi?
David Dadoun: Hi Phil. I hope you’re doing well. This is a really big question, and this is in fact the type of question I really love. I do need a little more detail to really guide you. Can you let me know the size of your organization and how you use webi right now? The short answer would be, yes, deploy it, but a real answer would require more details on your part. Just for reference, I’ve played with information spaces on HANA that had over 100,000,000 records and navigating through them was subsecond! But don’t discard webi, they both cater to very different needs.
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: How can we improve information spaces indexation?
David Dadoun: Hi Sarah. Are you referring to the time it takes to index a space (and if so, how many records are you indexing?), or the number of spaces that can be indexed in a given window of time?
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: I am referring to the time it takes to index a space (around 8,000,000 records).
David Dadoun: Hi Sarah. 8,000,000 records, on a non-accelerated version of Explorer, is not really recommended. I suggest staying around the 2,000,000 mark. Even with the indexing done, you will end up with lower than optimal performance. Can you tell me how you’re set up?
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: It’s 8,000,000 records on a non-accelerated version of Explorer. BO 4.0 Explorer, source SQL Server (loaded from a BEx Query into SQL Server). I don’t know the memory setup.
David Dadoun: Hi Sarah. There is no easy answer to your question. Let me answer it with a question. Do you need to have 8,000,000 records in your infospace? What I’ve noticed is that oftentimes multiple smaller spaces do the trick and provide much better performance.
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: Yes, unfortunately I need 8,000,000 records. It’s running quite well when using the infospace, but the session that indexes it never expires after indexing it.
David Dadoun: Then your best bet would be to look at the size of your indexing servers, speed of your disks, the RAM you have available, and the JVM allocated to the indexing servers, and to run it overnight. Again, if you have more questions or need more details, feel free to join me in Orlando. I’ll be happy to sit with you and discuss this at length.
Comment From Bala: When it comes to considering mobility and reports deployment, how does BO explorer compare to webi or design studio as tools?
David Dadoun: Hi Bala. Great question. Mobility is pretty much on everyone’s mind right now. I have to say SAP BI has improved its mobility offering tremendously over the last couple of years. Have you had the chance to download and play with the latest SAP BI Mobile 5.1 tool from the app store? Design Studio, Dashboards, Explorer, Lumira, Webi and Crystal are all accessible from a single platform (woohoo!). Regarding what tool to use, it will depend on what your users require. Is it to just look at data? Explore it? Can you please detail this a little more for me?
Comment From Dave: When it comes to executive support on this kind of project, should that come from the VERY top, or the top of each business unit, knowing that each unit might use this type of solution differently?
David Dadoun: Hi Dave. Executive support is actually one of the key success factors in any IT deployment (There’s a reason why 70-80% of all BI projects fail, Gartner). It doesn’t need to be the CFO and CEO level that will decide to deploy Explorer, but it needs to come from management level executives in your LOBs (Lines Of Business). Of course every department will use the tool differently, but the essence will remain the same: quickly sift through large amounts of data and discover insights to make better business decisions.
Comment From Guest: Who are the right users/roles for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer reporting? What skills will they need and any advice on getting users who want these deeper analytics up to speed?
David Dadoun: This is actually a two-part answer.
In LOBs, the users will traditionally be Analysts, Managers and Executives. Regarding training needs, the tool is actually quite simple to use. SAP set out to deliver a tool that users could use with minimal training, and I must say they succeeded. Most users I’ve trained on the tool were up and running in less than an hour (try doing that with Webi : ).
From a tool perspective, you will have three main roles:
- Administrators: Maintain your platform and manage jobs
- Space Creators: Build your info spaces (need to understand data and data models)
- Space Explorers: Consume the information (our users in the first part of this answer)
Comment From Sunil: What should the considerations be for implementation of Explorer on BI environments without HANA?
David Dadoun: Hi Sunil. In short, keep the size of your information spaces to about 2,000,000 records and you will still have impressive subsecond performance while navigating. Now there’s more to it than just that, of course. You need to size and deploy your servers properly. Remember that Explorer is for conducting data exploration. Once you’ve identified what you want to dig deeper into, you can always click on the export to Webi and Explorer will create the query for you in Webi. Then you can dig and slice and dice to your heart’s content.
Comment From Guest: What tools require an expert user license?
David Dadoun: I’m actually not an SAP License expert myself. : ) I would suggest you contact your SAP sales rep to understand the licensing model for the tool.
Comment From Vasu: Can you explain the advantages of Part provider vs. Snapshot?
David Dadoun: Hi Vasu. I hope you’re doing well. I believe you’re referring to BW multi providers and infospaces within those. Unfortunately, this isn’t my field of expertise, but if you want you can email the details of your question to email@example.com and I will have one of my BW experts look into it for you.
Comment From Guest: When using dashboards, how many records max?
David Dadoun: Are you referring to using Xcelsius vs Explorer? If that is the case, they are very different tools. Dashboards are meant to give you a view of what you need to do. To quote Mico Yuk, “When you wake up in the morning and you open your dashboard, it needs to tell you what to do.” Explorer doesn’t do that. Explorer helps you analyze information that has been put in infospaces for you by the space creators. It’s a tool that allows you to ask simple questions and get fast answers. Can you explain what you mean when you ask about max records?
Comment From Guest: Yes, Xcelsius. I assume dashboards are to be used for high-level intelligence gathering, and not detailed filtering, thus they perhaps call for a smaller record set? Or is this not the case?
David Dadoun: So, to answer your question, dashboards are by definition a more static high-level overview of the organization. Then again, it depends on how you design your dashboards. Oftentimes, people get confused and they build a dashboard that’s really nothing more than a report. When you look at your dashboard, you want to see an answer to the “And then what?” question. Of course, from that perspective, your dashboard will contain much less data than your reports or explorer infospaces, as they are meant to provide you with a large set of data within which you can sift and track, trend and analyze your business.
Comment From Guest: Looking at design/configuration and avoiding performance issues when indexing information spaces, do you have any advice for requirements? Do we need multiple servers for indexing?
David Dadoun: You may very well need multiple servers in order to answer your needs for indexing. Can you give me some insight into the size of your information spaces, how many of them, do you want to run multiple indexes in parallel, etc.?
Comment From Sarah Dechaume: Can we start the schedule of an infospace on Events?
David Dadoun: Unfortunately, this isn’t an available feature at this time. However, I really feel like it would be a great feature to have, and if you could I would suggest you post it as an improvement you would like to see in the upcoming versions. I wish I could tell you it was on the way, but I don’t have any visibility as of yet regarding this development. If you want you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and when I hear more I will contact you. : )
Bridget Kotelly: Thanks again, everyone, for all your great questions. And thanks again David, for joining us today. For more on this topic, I invite you to join us at BI 2014 in Orlando this March, where David Dadoun will be presenting a session on this topic – part of our track on BI implementations, upgrades, and enhancement projects – along with other sessions on Explorer and BI tool selection. We hope to see you there, or in May at BI 2014 in Nice!
David Dadoun: Thank you so much for having me here, and I really look forward to seeing many of you in Orlando and then in Nice! Feel free to contact me at 1-514-295-4546 or by email at email@example.com. I have a team of very skilled consultants working with me worldwide, after all Keyrus is in 12 countries with over 1800 consultants. If I don’t have the answer, I will find it. : )