GRC
HR
SCM
CRM
BI
Expand +


Article

 

Quick Tip: An Introduction to SAP BusinessObjects Roambi Analytics

by Anurag Barua, Principal, TruQua Enterprises

December 21, 2016

Learn about the key features of SAP BusinessObjects Roambi to help you assess whether to incorporate it into your enterprise’s BI strategy. 

In early 2016, SAP acquired Roambi—the creative generator of impressive visualizations, primarily for mobile (iOS) devices. Roambi as an application has been in the market since 2008. It was seen as a reliable third-party enabler of visualization in the early days of SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects and in the pre-Lumira era. It is now marketed under the BusinessObjects Roambi umbrella, but it is not technically integrated into the BusinessObjects application and administration framework. User licenses are sold separately.

The purpose of this article is to help readers—technical analysts and developers or business and functional users—understand how SAP BusinessObjects Roambi (from here on, referred to simply as Roambi) compares with other similar BI self-service applications in the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite. I provide an overview of Roambi’s features with the overall goal of helping you determine if and how well it fits into your BI toolset and roadmap.

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi: A Technical Overview

Roambi comes in two subscription models: Roambi Enterprise and Roambi Lite. If you are a serious Roambi user, you should subscribe to the Enterprise version since the Enterprise version has more features and is targeted to your enterprise as opposed to the individual user. Roambi Lite works just fine for proofs-of-concept. With Roambi Enterprise you can connect to a variety of data sources such as Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Google, Microsoft Excel, and comma separated value (CMV) files, and so on. This version provides additional security features, such as a Snapchat-like file self-destruct feature and automatic file expiration dates that you can set.

Roambi content is ideally suited to be delivered to and consumed through mobile devices (running on iOS, Android, or Windows operating systems), but you can also visualize your data on your workstation or laptop browser.

Roambi is often thought of as a purely Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application. This is not the case. Like many enterprise applications and products (such as SAP HANA), Roambi is available in on-premise and cloud versions.

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi On Premise

The official product name for the on-premise version is Roambi Analytics Enterprise Server (commonly referred to as Roambi ES). Roambi Analytics Enterprise Server requires the installation of Roambi Enterprise Server version 4 (which is the current version) and has prerequisites such as the installation of an application server and MySql Server. The latter serves as your database layer. As can be expected with this version, the data resides on your on-premise database behind your corporate firewall. As a user of Roambi, you do not need to install any software on your device; you simply need to point your browser to the relevant URL and log in with your credentials (after your credentials have been set up by the administrator).

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi on the Cloud

This is the SaaS version of Roambi. It is hosted on Roambi Cloud, which is itself hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). As a result, there is no hardware investment or installation of any kind for an individual user in your organization. All you need to access your account is an Internet connection. When you connect Roambi Cloud with a data source, it extracts the data and pushes it to the cloud. This tends to generate the kind of concern any SaaS solution generates; that is, how secure is the data in the Roambi Cloud? The answer is that all the data that resides in Roambi is as secure as all the data that resides in AWS, which is to say very secure. The Roambi data is safeguarded by AWS’ robust security framework.

(Note: Although SAP has not come up with a roadmap for integrating Roambi into its strategic vision, it is expected that this will happen in the near future.)

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi: A Comparison with Its BusinessObjects Peers

Now let’s compare Roambi with two products in SAP’s BI suite across some key criteria: SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and Design Studio. I have not included BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius) in this comparison matrix; this product is being assimilated into Design Studio. This comparison map (in Table 1) is color-coded as follows: 

Red indicates low/minimum/little/none

Yellow indicates medium/emerging/some

Green indicates high

Criterion

Roambi

SAP BusinessObjects Lumira

SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio

Connectivity to SAP data sources

No direct connection to SAP applications and SAP HANA.

BusinessObjects Universes (all), SAP HANA, SAP BW, freehand SQL, Hadoop, and Microsoft Excel.

BusinessObjects Universe (UNX), SAP HANA, BEx Query, and SAP BW InfoProviders.

Built-in integrations to non-SAP sources

High integration (includes Microsoft BI and IBM Cognos); with API you can connect to any data source.

Limited to Hadoop and Excel.

Indirectly, using BusinessObjects Universes.

Dashboarding

Generate basic dashboards using a card template.

Not a dashboarding tool but it can generate dashboards.

Primarily a dashboarding tool.

Mobility

Biggest selling point, but it is just beginning to venture outside of the iOS space.

Starting with version 1.29, SAP BusinessObjects Lumira content is available on mobile devices.

Design Studio supports mobility using OpenDocs on the BI platform or via being pushed to a mobile device from the SAP Design Studio menu.

Charting options

Provides a limited set of charting options.

Large set that’s being expanded regularly.

SAP continues to expand new charting options for Design Studio.

Storyboarding

Flow Publications offers an impressive set of available storyboarding features.

Compose feature lets you create storyboards. These and other storyboarding features are enhanced regularly.

SAP Design Studio is not a storyboarding application.

Business user-friendliness

It caters well to the business user. Minimal training and IT support are needed.

It caters well to the business user. Minimal training and IT support are needed.

Dashboards are typically designed by developers, so this is not relevant.

Ad-hoc analysis

Meaningful analysis is possible even if you have very little contextual information.

Meaningful analysis is possible even if you have very little contextual information.

SAP Design Studio is, by intention, not an ad-hoc analysis tool.

What-if analysis

You can consume the information as it is and do minimal what-if analysis.

You may indirectly get what-if-type answers from the impressive visualizations, but what-if analysis is not truly possible; for true simulations and predictive capabilities, look into the integration between SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and SAP Predictive Analysis.

Dashboards are designed for direct consumption of information. What-if analysis is not possible.

Geo-spatial analysis

Maps are not offered as a chart type. There are no native geocoding capabilities. Third-party integration is possible.

There are four types of map charts available. Basic geographical analysis is possible. For geospatial analysis, third-party integration is needed.

Design Stuio’s geo-map component allows rendering of geographical data on map.

Integration with BusinessObjects framework

Currently, Roambi is not part of the BusinessObjects technical infrastructure.

Although SAP BusinessObjects Lumira is not integrated in the SAP BusinessObjects technical framework, there are multiple interaction points.

Design Studio is a core component of the BusinessObjects framework.

Customization/extensibility

Business users can build visualizations from delivered templates.

Business users can build a variety of custom calculations that help in advanced analysis.

Design dashboard applications with advanced features can be designed with programming.

Offline capabilities

A live connection is not needed to consume or analyze data.

When extracted data is saved in an SAP BusinessObjects Lumira document, you can work in offline mode.

In the latest release (1.6), some offline capabilities have been introduced.

Start-up/infrastructure costs

Simple to start up. Relatively inexpensive to sustain or maintain. Cloud option makes it relatively cheap.

Simple start-up model. Individual license is costlier than Roambi. Could be expensive if SAP BusinessObjects Lumira Server is considered.

Designs Studio is part of the BusinessObjects package; as a result, its individual costs cannot be considered in isolation.

Languages supported

English only (US).

All major global languages.

All major global languages.

Table 1
A comparison of SAP BusinessObjects Roambi’s capabilities to SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and Design Studio

The colors denote how well each product meets the baseline expectations of that particular criterion. The assigned colors represent the grading I have given to each, and were reached with a combination of the following inputs: my experience, research, and discussions with experts.

You can draw some key inferences from this table. Roambi has an overwhelmingly strong user experience component and is most closely associated with mobile BI. While it does not provide the depth of analytical capabilities and options that SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and BusinessObjects Dashboard provide, it gives business users enough visualization options to aid in decision-making without making things too complex. As far as connections to source systems go, it is important to note here that although Roambi connects to a variety of disparate data sources, including SAP, there isn’t a direct connection option (such as Business Intelligence Consumer Services [BICS]) to SAP BW. The connections have to be set up using required back-end configuration. However, Roambi makes available APIs that enable users to create custom connections to conceivably any data source. Comparing this capability with its peers, both SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and Design Studio are evolving their API capabilities, but, in the meantime, provide Software Development Kits (SDKs) to extend their native feature set.

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi User Components

Once you log in to Roambi using your credentials, you see the initial landing page as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1
The SAP BusinessObjects Roambi landing page

For new users, I highly recommend watching the videos in the Get Started section (Figure 1) to get a quick start. Experienced users of analytics applications can skip this step and figure things out yourself based on your experience with such tools.

Roambi consists of two major components: Roambi Analytics and Roambi Flow. Roambi Analytics consists of Roambi Publisher, which allows you to create and deliver visualizations, and Roambi Viewer, which allows users to view the published content in a browser window. Roambi Flow is Roambi’s storyboarding capability (for those of you familiar with SAP BusinessObjects Lumira) and allows users to incorporate text and graphics into a digital magazine format.

SAP BusinessObjects Roambi Dashboards

Import the data from your source, and then select a template from one of the nine templates that Roambi provides out of the box (cards, layers, pulses, catalysts, superlists, pie views, cardex, trends, and squares).

For the purpose of illustration, I imported an accounts receivable (AR) dataset from an SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) system via an Excel spreadsheet into Roambi and selected the card template. There are a considerable number of visualization possibilities to choose from, which offers many creative options. In this example, I chose a scatter-plot data display format, shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2
Preview of scatter plot look-and-feel

Since you would normally have more than one visualization on your dashboard, I’ve added a stacked column type chart to my display. Select the relevant measures and members that you want to display and analyze. Now you have a dashboard with a scatter plot and a stacked column chart, as shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3
Dashboard with scatter plot and a stacked column charts

You can incorporate filters by clicking the Filter Dimension option to limit your displayed data. Once you are satisfied with your dashboard, click the Done button. You are now ready to publish your Roambi dashboard.

Your browser screen should display your dashboard as shown in Figure 4. Click the Continue link (not shown) and you are presented with the options to publish directly or preview your data first. I recommend that you always preview the display before publishing. This allows you to do a quick double-check and make changes to your parameters or to the look-and-feel of the chart before sharing it with others. Roambi generates an email with a link to this preview to the mailbox associated with the account.


Figure 4
A dynamic Roambi dashboard

This is a highly interactive and dynamic dashboard. You can do a variety of analyses by moving your cursor around in each of these charts. On the scatter-plot chart, when you move the cursor over the city name you get information about each city with its applicable data; when you click on the year hyperlink, you get the sales data for that particular year. So, for example, in 2013, customers in Toronto had an outstanding A/R balance of about $82,000. On the stacked bar, you are able to visualize the totals per city for each year. You can also visualize what amount is unpaid in a particular year relative to other years and relative to the total of the four years.

Enterprise SAP BusinessObjects Roambi Strategy

Using the information in this article, combined with the comparison in Table 1, you can better assess Roambi, and determine if it would be a useful tool for your company. Roambi is a self-service BI tool with excellent mobile-enabled features and impressive visualization capabilities.

If your organization has never used Roambi before, the most pragmatic thing to do might be to try out a few appropriate scenarios with Roambi. With the 30-day free trial access to Roambi Cloud, there is no initial investment to try it out. This offers the ability to explore and evaluate Roambi’s capabilities primarily from a user standpoint. I recommend that you generate visualizations for some key strategic or operational need and compare it with the output from other applications, if they exist. Or if you have BusinessObjects running in your organization, you could consider connecting Roambi to a Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports report and generate visualizations. This proof-of-concept could lead to productive discussions and planning to see how Roambi fits into your enterprise BI strategy.

An email has been sent to:





 

Anurag Barua

Anurag Barua is a principal at TruQua Enterprises. He has 23 years of experience in conceiving, designing, managing, and implementing complex software solutions, including nearly 18 years of experience with SAP applications. He has been associated with several SAP implementations in various capacities. His core SAP competencies include FI and Controlling (FI/CO), logistics, SAP HANA, SAP BW, SAP BusinessObjects, Enterprise Performance Management, SAP Solution Manager, Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), and project management. He is a frequent speaker at SAPinsider conferences and contributes to several publications. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA in finance. He is a PMI-certified PMP, a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), and is ITIL V3F certified.



COMMENTS

Please log in to post a comment.

No comments have been submitted on this article. Be the first to comment!


SAPinsider
FAQ