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A conversation with Anurag Barua, BI Expert author, on uncovering 3 little programs with big impact on BW

by Kristine Erickson

November 2, 2010

Jacquelyn Howard, senior managing editor for BI Expert, sits down with Anurag Barua, author of the BI Expert article  'Three Hidden Gems that Boost Your Use of SAP NetWeaver BW' (as well as numerous other articles). Go behind the scenes to find out how Anurag discovered the "gems" he writes about in his article.

Jacquelyn Howard:  I am talking today with Anurag Barua, author of the BI Expert article 'Three Hidden Gems that Boost Your Use of SAP NetWeaver BW'.  Today, Anurag, I'd like to talk a little bit about the stuff behind the scenes.

What led you to choose the three programs that you highlight in this article?

Anurag Barua:  I am glad to share that with you. In SAP BW, not to mention every application of SAP, is a whole host of what we call utility programs. These often lurk behind the scenes, but they perform very important functions. And the user is not necessarily aware of them. There are quite a lot of these programs that are available today in NetWeaver BW 7.0 and older versions, also. And SAP keeps adding on all these new programs.

So, the reason I chose these three? Although there is a lot to choose from, I thought that these are three that really, really do specific things that make the user’s life a lot easier.

And we'll get into some more details on them later on. But for example, let's talk about the first one that I chose. It's very convenient to be able to look at the components of your query in one screen, as opposed to knowing how to go into the BEx Query Designer and look at everything and all things. And the same holds true for the other two, which I'll talk about in a moment.

Jacquelyn: Could you talk a little bit more about the second program?

Anurag:  Sure. But the other thing I'd actually like to add is the fact that the documentation for such a utility program is usually very minimal, if it exists at all. And there is a reason behind that, too; a lot of these programs perform very specific functions and the user interface is very basic. It is not something that SAP typically advertises. So we don't hear or see a lot of information on these programs, which is a reason I highlight some of the key ones.

So, to answer your question about the second one, which is called 'cube sample create': I think that is particularly useful for creating sample data. Now I should also put a big disclaimer here: we don't want to be using this program or running this program in any production system, because essentially what we are doing is filling cubes with sample data.

So we don't want to do that with actual data. But it comes in very handy for prototype or for demonstration or proof of concepts, where users want to see actual data. And that's the best way to get them to believe that your design works.

So what this helps you do is this: Now you just specify the name of the InfoCube, as you can see in one of the screenshots. And you need to put in the number of records that you want the program to populate.

And that's it. It will go ahead and just populate it with some dummy generated value. Now, the value of all that is that what you see will at least give you some sense of how your data looks. And if this is a prototype you have put in place, then users are going to be able to connect to your model in a much better fashion.

Jacquelyn:   These little programs are just great. I know we had the article up online, and people have really liked just how quickly they can implement the programs that you talked about, how quickly they can access them and see what they do.

Anurag:  In terms of accessing these programs, there is always a security aspect right? So different companies have different models and obviously no one is going to have access to everything in a system. For these utility programs, you'd have to first talk to your NetWeaver BW administrator in case you are not able to execute them. And often times, given the nature of these programs, you might have to provide a rationale for requesting access to these programs.

But if you are successful in doing that -- sometimes that's the tough one --   running these programs,  accessing them and running them, is extremely easy.  

So the user interface, as I said, is very simple. You just need to fill in the information, if that's relevant, and then just execute it. It is as simple as that.

Jacquelyn:   Now before we let you go, can you just tell us a little bit about the third program that you highlight?

Anurag:   The third program is more technical in nature. The first two, I would say, have a lot more user connection and user interest. The last one would be more in the architects’ or developers’ r ealm, if you will. And the reason I say that is that we are talking here about update rules. As most of us know here, these are transformations that we apply to extract data from SAP and non-SAP systems to BW before it is moved to the data target, such as the InfoCubes, then DSOs and whatnot.

But if you have a big team and you a have lot of complex transformations that you are putting in, often times you don't have a good handle, a good way of managing these updates or tracking ultimate changes. And this becomes particularly troublesome when you have resources that are dispersed geographically.

And sometimes, you are running into issues and can defuse those. It is good to be able for you as an administrator or as a developer, the technical person, to be able to see what all these update or transformations are, when this happened, who may need it. So this information in the aggregate will help you quickly zoom in to the one that could have caused the problem, if you are facing an issue with any of these update rules.

So, as you can see in the screenshot that I provided in the article (shown below), it has this very clear layout where you can say, OK, these are the InfoCubes, and these have these update rules. And these were the dates these were turned off.



And of course you will get into more detail. But the information that you get is going to be very helpful because if you look at the initial selection screen, you can also get it by the user itself. So you know that a particular user has made all these changes. So I think it is a very useful little utility program.

Jacquelyn:  Great. I appreciate your talking with us for a little behind the scenes view on this article. Will you be attending any of the fall conferences this year?

Anurag:  I'll try my best as I have tried in the past. I have spoken quite frequently at a lot of the WIS conferences and I hope if not this year, but definitely the BI conference for 2011.

Jacquelyn:  Excellent. And people can also be looking forward to your BusinessObjects article that should be coming up very soon.

Anurag:  Thank you. I am looking forward to providing my views on that one, too.

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Vitaliy Rudnytskiy

9/25/2013 8:49:24 PM

In my blog 4 years ago I wrote (point #4) that SAP should do better job collecting and providing these all little tools in one consistent matter. The problem is that these "tools" are not usually supported, and provided on as-is basis. They sometimes work, sometimes do not; and almost never documented. And as system is upgraded from one release to another some of them stop working.