With the release of Web Intelligence 4.2, SAP enhanced the product’s integration with the BI platform, its data visualization capabilities, and its data access. In this article, I discuss these new features and capabilities and show how you can leverage them to empower your users to create even better reports and visualizations.
Web Intelligence 4.2 – Platform Integration
As part of the BusinessObjects BI 4.2 release of Web Intelligence (also referred to as WebI or WEBI), there are two very important new capabilities of interest for all BI administrators:
- Linked Universes
- Parallel queries
I discuss both of these new features in detail, and then explain how to use them.
The ability to link Universes has been a long-awaited functionality for Web Intelligence since the 4.0 release. Now, with release 4.2, it’s finally here. Linked Universes allow BI administrators to set up a master Universe and link it to already existing Universes. In this way, the newly created Universe inherits the data foundation and the business layer from the linked Universe. You can then add tables and other components to the new Universe and create a customized version of the core elements from the linked Universe.
Linked Universes help you to reduce the overall development and maintenance time as you can now create a set of core Universes and allow your power users to re-use those core definitions and create their own customized versions based on the linked Universe. If changes are performed on the core Universe, any Universe re-using elements via the Linked Universe approach automatically inherits the updates.
Starting with the 4.2 release, Web Intelligence is now capable of running queries for multiple data providers in parallel. Prior to release 4.2, if a Web Intelligence report had multiple queries as part of a single report, those queries were executed in sequence. With the 4.2 release, Web Intelligence executes those queries in parallel by default, which improves the overall performance of the report itself.
The following data sources are supported with parallel queries:
- Queries based on UNV and UNX Universes
- Queries based on a direct access to SAP HANA
- Queries based on Freehand SQL and text files
The following are the limitations for using parallel queries:
- Queries based on direct access to SAP BEx queries are not supported
- Queries based on Analysis Views are not supported.
- Queries based on Microsoft Excel files are not supported
In addition to enhancements for BI administrators, the 4.2 release also brings several new features that are focused on giving more capabilities directly to the end user. These include:
- Shared elements
- BI commentary
- Geographic maps
Web Intelligence now provides the ability to save specific elements from a report as a shared element and to provide access to these shared elements for other users as well. In this way, they are able to re-use these shared elements as part of their reports. Shared elements can be items such as tables, charts, or report headers or footers. Those report elements are then stored as part of the system database of your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
When a shared element is being re-used as part of a new report, the new report links to the shared element, so any change in the shared element is inherited. This gives the user the option to update any changes to the shared element to all reports that are making use of that shared element.
A good example for a shared element would be to define a common report header with a company logo as a shared element, and then re-use the report header in all your Web Intelligence reports. In this way, any revisions or updates that are later made to the company logo are reflected across all the affected reports, automatically.
Another great feature is the ability to add comments to Web Intelligence reports. This capability is a general BI platform feature as part of release 4.2, and Web Intelligence is the first BI client to use this new functionality. This new capability provides your users with the option to add comments directly to the report and share these comments with their colleagues. So instead of exporting the report, and then sharing the report and comments via email, your users can save a lot of time. The data stays safe and secure and people can still add their comments. One limitation of the new BI commenting feature is that comments are shown in the report using a new cell type, called Comment, and insertion of this cell is only possible during the report-design phase. This means that users who only have read-only access to the reports are not able to make use of this new feature as of this time (August 2016).
Report designers now have the ability to integrate geographic information into Web Intelligence reports and visualize this information in the form of a Choropleth map, a Bubble Chart, or a Geo(graphic) Pie chart. Before you are able to add maps to your Web Intelligence report you first need to define a geographic hierarchy in the report that defines the different levels, such as countries, regions, and cities, based on your own data source.
Web Intelligence 4.2 also offers improvements to the area of data connectivity, and strengthens the integration with SAP-based back-end systems by delivering new capabilities related to SAP HANA and SAP BW. These enhancements include:
- Direct access to SAP HANA
- Connectivity to SAP HANA online
- Authored Universes for SAP BEx Queries
Direct Access to SAP HANA
With Web Intelligence 4.2 it is now possible to connect directly to your SAP HANA system without having to first establish a Universe. This option is available with SAP HANA Support Packages (SPs) 9 and 10, and allows direct access to analytical and calculation views. You have the choice to use an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) connection, which provides access to the views using the MultiDimensional eXpressions (MDX) query language and also gives access to items such as hierarchies and levels. Or you can use a relational connection, which gives access to the views in SAP HANA using SQL. It provides access that is similar to the access used during creation of a relational-authored Universe.
Connectivity to SAP HANA Online
In addition to direct access to SAP HANA, Web Intelligence 4.2 also offers an SAP HANA online data-connectivity option. SAP HANA online mode does not require a Universe to be authored and also does not provide the typical query panel from Web Intelligence, but instead provides direct access to the elements from the SAP HANA view in the Web Intelligence report. The main benefit of this new option is that this connectivity makes use of SAP HANA in-memory technology. So, for example, any calculations created in a Web Intelligence report are delegated to the SAP HANA system, and the calculation is performed inside SAP HANA instead of inside the Web Intelligence report. SAP HANA online connectivity is based on a relational connectivity to SAP HANA, so one limitation is that it does not benefit from the hierarchies in the SAP HANA views.
Authored Universes for SAP BEx Queries
Web Intelligence already offers direct connectivity to SAP BEx Queries. It also has the ability to set up a Universe based on an SAP BW InfoProvider, but that connectivity only uses the relational view of the data (not the multidimensional view) and it requires additional services to be configured. With the release of Web Intelligence 4.2, it is now possible to use the same direct connectivity for SAP BEx Queries and to create a Universe based on this data connectivity.
Using this new option allows BI administrators to leverage SAP BEx Queries, create a Universe, and create a customized structure for all the elements of the BEx Query. However, this data connectivity does come with a few limitations:
- This option is limited to a single-source Universe
- This connectivity does not support the zero-suppression feature from a SAP BEx Query
- Changes in the SAP BEx Query are not automatically reflected in the Universe; instead, the Universe has to be updated and re-published each time there is a change in the SAP BEx Query.
How to Use These New Features
Now that you are familiar with some of the new features of Web Intelligence 4.2, let’s take a look at how you can use these new capabilities in Web Intelligence, starting with creating geographical maps. In this example, I use a simple data source with dimensions for country, a region inside the country, and a set of measures.
Setting Up Geographical Maps
To set up a Web Intelligence report with geographical maps, follow these steps.
1. Launch the SAP BusinessObjects BI launch pad and log on with your user credentials. In the BI launch pad select the menu Applications > Web Intelligence.
2. In Web Intelligence, select the New menu option to start a new report. In the screen that opens (not shown) select the data source for the report.
3. In the Query Panel of your report, from the left, add the dimensions Country and Region, and the desired measures to the Result Objects panel on the right (Figure 1).
Add new dimensions in the Query Panel
4. Run the report using the Run button in the top right corner (not shown). In the Web Intelligence screen that results, select the Country dimension from the list of available objects.
Select the Country dimension
5. Right-click and select the Edit as a Geography… option.
6. In the screen that opens (Figure 3), select Country as the Level and click the OK button.
Set up the countries
7. Repeat these steps for the Region dimension, choosing Region as the Level. After you have defined the geography for the Country and Region dimensions, the list of available objects should look similar to the ones shown in Figure 4.
The new list of available objects
8. In Web Intelligence, navigate to Report Element > Chart. In the screen that opens (not shown), select More > All Charts (Figure 5). As you can see on the screen, you now have the options to set up a Geo Choropleth Chart, a Geo Bubble Chart, or a Geo Pie Chart.
Insert a report element
9. Select the Geo Choropleth Chart option in Figure 5. Then, in the right, select the Country dimension as the value for the Map Item Key field. Then select a measure from the data set for the Map Item Value field. Click the OK button, and a screen like the one in Figure 6 opens.
A geographic map in Web Intelligence
The new Geo Choropleth in the figure shows the measure value distributed across the different countries by color coding the countries according to the value ranges.
Figure 7 shows an example of a Geo Bubble Map, showing circles increasing in size depending on their values. Figure 8 shows an example of a Geo Pie Chart showing Pie Charts broken down by an additional dimensions and increasing in size depending on the total value.
A geo-bubble map in Web Intelligence
A geo-pie-chart map in Web Intelligence
Adding and Sharing Comments
So far, the Web Intelligence report only contains a Geo Map. In the next steps I show how to use the option to add and share comments.
1. In Web Intelligence select the menu File > Save to save the report. In the screen that opens (not shown) select Report Element > Comment. Select the Insert Comment option… . This gives you the option to drag-and-drop a comment box onto the report. An Insert Comment pop-up opens (Figure 9), where you can enter your comment.
Drag-and-drop a comment box onto the Web Intelligence report
2. Enter your desired comment and click the OK button.
3. After you enter your first comment, you can also see the Comments and the option to reply to them in the left panel (Figure 10).
Comments appear in the left panel
Setting Up and Saving Report Headers
In this section, I show how to create a report header and save it as a shared element.
1. In Web Intelligence, select the menu Report Element > Cell. Click the Blank Cell option and place the blank cell into your report header.
2. Select the newly created blank cell and right-click.
3. From the context-menu options that open, select Format Cell. This opens the Format Cell pop-up window in Figure 11. Select Appearance on the left.
Format the blank cell
4. In the screen that expands on the right of the figure, select the Image from file radio-button option. Click the Browse… button and select an image file of your company’s logo. (In this example, the BI Expert logo. Then click the OK button and the screen in Figure 12 opens.
The Web Intelligence report with the company logo
5. After the image has been inserted as content for the cell, select the image in the report (in this case, again, the BI Expert logo in Figure 12).
6. In the ribbon at the top, select Report Element > Linking > Shared Element > Save as… (Figure 13).
Save the shared elements
7. You can now choose a folder on your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform in which to store the shared object. Select a folder and enter a name for the shared object. Then click the save icon.
8. The next step is to start a new Web Intelligence report without selecting a data source. Select Report Element > Linking > Shared Element > Insert.
9. You are presented with the folder that lists the shared elements from your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform. Select the newly created shared object and place it onto the new report.
Creating a Universe Based on a BEx Query
Now that you understand how to use some of the new end-user types features, let’s look at how to use the new capability to create a Universe based on an SAP BEx query.
1. Start the Information Design Tool. Then select File > New Project to create a new project.
2. In the Repository Resources window that opens (Figure 14) you see the list of available connections to connect to your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
The list of Repository Resources
4. From the list of connections, select the OLAP connection for your SAP BW system. Right-click your OLAP connection—in this example, SAP_BW_IH2—and select Create OLAP Connection Shortcut from the context-menu options that open. The OLAP Connection Shortcut (e.g., SAP_BW_IH2.cns) now becomes part of the project.
5. In the Local Projects window, select the shortcut and right-click. From the context-menu options that open (Figure 15), select New Business Layer. Notice that you do not have to create a Data Foundation for this Universe because you can directly create a business layer based on an SAP BEx Query (which you select in a later screen).
Open a new business layer
6. In the screen that opens (not shown) enter a name for the new business layer. Click the Next button, and the screen in Figure 16 opens.
Select a BEx Query
7. Here you can choose the SAP BEx Query for your business layer. Select the query and click the Next button. This opens the screen in Figure 17.
8. Here you can choose which elements from the query should become part of the business layer of the new Universe. In this example, include all the items by selecting the appropriate check boxes next to each one. Then click the Finish button.
9. You are presented with a default-generated business layer based on the information provided by the BEx Query, as shown in Figure 18.
The new business layer
10. To publish the new Universe to your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, follow menu path File > Publish. You can then create a new report using Web Intelligence.
Additional Details About How to Map BEx Queries to Universe Elements
Here are some details about how the elements from a BEx Query are mapped to elements in a Universe (Table 1).
BI 4.2 Universe
Each characteristic is generated
as part of the Universe and elements;
for example, key, short, medium, and
long-text elements are generated as
attributes for the main dimension object.
Hierarchies are available as objects
based on the definitions in SAP BW.
All available hierarchies are shown
as subordinates to the dimension object.
Each key figure is represented in the
Universe with a numeric value. There are
three possible additional pieces of information
that may be generated: currency, scaling factor,
and formatted value.
Each calculated or restricted key figure is treated
like a key figure. The user does not have access
to the underlying definitions in the Universe.
Filters are applied to the underlying query,
but are not visible in the Universe.
Navigational attributes are treated the
same as characteristics.
Display attributes become detail objects and
are subordinate to the linked characteristic.
Each variable with a Ready for Input property
results in a pre-defined prompt in the Universe.
Conditions are not transferred to the Universe.
As a consequence, a created condition—like a
top-10 condition—is not leveraged. As a result,
the Web Intelligence report receives all the data,
not just the data for the top-10 records.
A custom structure created in the BEx Query
results in a single dimension object in the
Universe. When using this object in the report,
each structure element results in a record shown
in the report.
Key figures configured with a local calculation
option, such as ranking, are not supported
by the Universe.
Mapping from BEx Queries to Universe elements
In addition to the definitions in Table 1, there are some limitations to this functionality.
- Zero suppression configured in the BEx query is not supported by the Universe.
- The Universe is limited to a single-source Universe type.
- Any changes in the BEx query require an update to the Universe by using the Refresh Structure menu option in the Information Design Tool.
Product Roadmap Disclaimer
The descriptions in this article of future functionality are the author’s interpretation of the publicly available product integration roadmap. These items are subject to change at any time without any notice, and the author is not providing any warranty on these statements.