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The Latest on BI Innovations from SAP: Q&A with Nic Smith and Venkatesh Vaidyanathan on SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1

by Nic Smith

October 08, 2014

Thanks to all who joined our live Q&A on the SAP BusinessObject BI 4.1 platform integration and features

SAP's Nic Smith and Venkatesh Vaidyanathan were joined by Satish Rajagopal,  Harjeet Judge, Ramu Timma Gowda and AshokKumar KN for this one-hour Q&A. They answered questions on topics from support for Hadoop to how Crystal Reports and Dashboards work with 4.1 tools.

Review all the questions in this live chat, including:

  • Would SAP Lumira replace any of the existing BO Tools such as Dashboards or WebI?
  • What is the best way to directly access ERP data in BI 4.1?
  • What is the effort involved to convert Dashboards into Design Studio? 
  • Which MS Office add-in integration can connect to BO 4.1 Universe?
  • Does Deski disappear with 4.1?
  • Does Crystal Enterprise work with Business View Manager in 4.1?

View the Q&A replay and edited transcript, below.

Live Blog SAP’s Nic Smith & Venkatesh Vaidyanathan on BI 4.1 October 8 12:30pmET

Bridget Kotelly, BI 2015 Conference Producer: Thank you for joining us today’s Q&A on SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1.  We’re pleased to have  SAP’s Nic Smith, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Analytics, and Venkatesh Vaidyanathan, VP of Product Management Business Intelligence and joining us from SAP Labs India.

Today’s topic is about BI 4.1 upgrades – but with a special focus on the 4.1 release’s embedded support and native integration   with data sources, mobile, and cloud technologies. There are even new levels of support for some of the BI tools you’re working with now.

Welcome, Nic and Venky!   

Venkatesh Vaidyanathan, SAP:  Thanks Bridget. It is a pleasure to be here today!

Nic Smith, SAP: Hello everyone!

Bridget Kotelly:  Also joining us today from SAP are Sathish Rajagopal, Director, BI Solutions GTM, amd Harjeet Judge, Senior Specialist - Customer Experience Group, along with Ramu Timma Gowda and AshokKumar KN from the BI Product Management at SAP Labs India. Thank you all for joining us today!

We’ve had a great response to today’s Q&A and many questions coming in from readers. Nic, Venky, we’ll let you get to those now!

[Editor's note: A few themes emerged in the discussion: BI 4.1 integration questions, upgrades, and features and tools selection questions.]

BI 4.1 Technology & Tools Integration

Comment From Georgina

Would like to understand the benefits and improved features/performance of WebI reports over BICS connections (BEx Queries) for reporting on SAP BW.

Comment From Lawrence Chan

What are the new features for integration with BW? For example, using BEx conditions through BICS connection on WebI? Is there any way of triggering a BI process such as scheduling of WebI from BW process chain?
There are a few improvements. I list them below.

  • Enhanced BW variable management in WEBI
  • Member selection based on depth for BW Hierarchy Node Variable
  • Member selection based on levels for BW Hierarchy Variable
  • Variable selection before query panel display
  • Capability to auto refresh to avoid #TOREFRESH and #UNAVAILABLE results with delegated measures
  • Ability to merge hierarchy objects


Comment From Sameer

Which Microsoft Office add-in integration can connect to a 4.1 universe? Does SAP have any product or is MS Office Power BI the only solution?

Venky:  SAP BusinessObjects Live Office 4.1 for universe (UNV) can connect to the 4.1 universe. UNX is expected to available in 4.1 SP05 - to be released soon.


Comment From Guest  

From a universe standpoint, is it possible to connect to Hadoop and build a dimensional model?

Sathish Rajagopal:   You can connect to Hadoop through supported HIVE versions from the semantic layer. Please consult the latest official platform supported document for the drivers and version info. You can access the PAM here.


Comment From Guest

From an ETL perspective, what level of integration is available for Hadoop?

Sathish Rajagopal:   I would recommend you to consult our EIM stack official guides for the details on how to ETL using Data Services to Hadoop. You will see the supported methods there in the Data Services section.


Comment From Guest  

Deski? Disappear?

Harjeet Judge:   Deski has been end of life for couple years now. In BI4.1 we offer the Deski Compatibility Pack that allows you to host your Deski documents in the BI 4.1 repository and use Deski 3.1 SP6.2 or higher client to refresh them on the desktop. We added this feature in 4.1 to make it easier for our customers to move away from Deski and convert the documents over to BI 4.1. Support for Deski Compatibility Pack will end when mainstream support for XI 3.1 ends.


Comment From Tammy

Will Dashboards be converted into Design Studio somehow or run as created? I am wondering if there is effort to this change.

Sathish Rajagopal:  Currently you can manually convert your Dashboards created using Dashboard Designer to Design Studio. FYI - our OEM partner APOS has a tool to perform mass conversion of Dashboards to Design Studio.


Comment From Keld Jørgensen

Can VBA be used with Analysis for Office to manipulate output? I'm looking for something similar to the BEx 3.5 onrefresh event.

Venky: There is a way to do this using callbacks. Please refer here  --  Section 3.6.17 -> Using Callbacks (“AfterRedisplay”) should help.


Comment From Marcial Donet

Is there a way connect WebI with a HANA view without a universe?

Harjeet Judge:  For the time being, WebI requires a universe to access HANA. Fortunately with automatic universe creation on HANA views, the effort to create the universe is minimal. We also plan on offering direct access (similar to what you get today with CR for Enterprise) to HANA from WebI in future releases. Direct access to HANA doesn't require the user to create universes to access HANA views.


Comment From Guest

Following the question about WebI accessing HANA: You mentioned that you have plans to give users access directly to HANA. How will you manage security in that situation so that users cannot access all ECC tables? I know you can create Analytic privileges in HANA Studio, but it doesn't allow you to secure at the database/tables/records level, correct? If this is the case, what is your plan for the future?  

Harjeet Judge:  Direct access works with SAP HANA views (Analytical, Calculation Views) and you will still have to build an OLAP connection, which can be set to use SSO. The security can be set at the BOE level in terms of what connections the user has access to, and on the HANA end, by controlling what views the user can see.


Comment From Guest

Does BI 4.1 have business content for SAP HANA?

Harjeet Judge:  If you are talking about pre-created content for HANA, we offer RDS packages that are built on top of HANA Live views which you can import into your BI4 system. The RDS packages contain pre-created reports, dashboards, etc.


Comment From Lawrence Chan

Are there any enhancements made on report scheduling (broadcasting) on BI 4.1?

Venky:  You can automate the scheduling with a workaround by using file-based events in the platform and the BW process chain, resulting in updating the file on completion.


Comment From Debasis

What objects can one leverage from BW while reporting from BI 4.1, and through which connections?

Venky: We recommend that you use the BICS connection. Please refer to the BEx query element support matrix for details.


Comment From Guest

Has mobile support improved for BOBJ Dashboards (touch support, custom themes, etc.)? Other options for extending Dashboards to mobile?

Sathish Rajagopal:  In fact we will be releasing our next version of Mobile BI version 6.1 by end of this month, which comes with enhancements/new features that will help improve the user and BOBJ admin experience in consuming/administering Dashboards on devices.

Otherwise if you have any other specific functionality you are looking for but that is missing today, you can let us know.


Comment From Guest

Which browsers are compatible?

Harjeet Judge:   Please have a look at the Supported Platforms Guide.


Comment From ALVARO CANO

Does BI 4.1 have apps for SAP Fiori?

Venky: Not really. But this is something that is in the roadmap for the coming releases.


Comment From Trey

Re: Fiori and BI 4.1, can you create UI5 content with Design Studio and host it on BI 4.x?

Venky: Yep. And the look and feel would be the same as what you see in Design Studio.


Comment From Matt Hubley

What are the appropriate BI tools to use with SAP BW 7.4 (not HANA)? Looking for managed standard reporting, ad-hoc, OLAP, dashboard/scorecarding, mobile, exploration, analytics, etc. We want to explore self-service also. So does this use universes or simply BW InfoCubes with BEx queries?   

Harjeet Judge:  For BW data sources, the tool of choice is Analysis OLAP or Analysis Office.

For dashboarding needs, you should use Design Studio.


Comment From Guest

Is NetWeaver or Tomcat recommended for the BI 4.1 platform?

Sathish Rajagopal:  We support both WAS in BI 4.1 release. We don’t normally make recommendation one way or other without knowing your use case, your landscape decisions / corporate policy etc.


Comment From Sutapa

Element-to-element linking is not possible in Lumira storyboards when connecting to BW queries. We need the functionality like we have in WebI - table-to-graph linking just by clicking.

Sathish Rajagopal:  We are working on improving the documentation on this subject. Meanwhile, I would suggest you to check out this article by one of our experts.

Nic Smith: For regular SAP Lumira product updates you can also follow @SAPLumira on Twitter.


Comment From Guest

SAP Lumira now connects to BEx queries, but we don't have compose and share options. Any idea when the full functionality of Lumira with BEx queries will be available?

Venky: This is in our roadmap.


Comment From Sutapa

We are in Lumira client version 1.18 and when we connect with BW queries, there is no option to refresh the dataset. Is there any fix for that?

Sathish Rajagopal:   Note that with Lumira 1.18 version, we are planning to support the direct connectivity to BW (Queries), hence not sure about your question about the need to refresh. Can you please clarify?


Comment From Bill Schneider

What is the best way to directly access ERP data in BI 4.1? We currently use Crystal Reports 2011 with the old Crystal Business Views and are in the process of setting the direction for rewriting these reports. We are looking at two choices SAP offers: SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and WebI via Universe integration via ECC Classic InfoSets, ABAP Functions and InfoSet queries.
Is this the best direction to go or are there better alternatives? What is SAP's direction for direct access to ERP data?

Venky: Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports connecting to ERP systems via the semantic layer (ABAP function and InfoSet query) would be your best bet for this.


Upgrades and Roadmap

Comment From Sutapa

We are now in 4.0 SP5 patch 6 in our platform. Can we upgrade directly to 4.1 on top of that?

Sathish Rajagopal:   Yes, you can UPDATE your BI 4.0 SP05 environment to BI 4.1 directly. Note that it’s not an upgrade but an UPDATE (similar to how you would apply SPs).
I just announced the launch of the SAP BI Pattern Book on how to UPDATE from BI 4.0 to BI 4.1. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to successfully perform an UPDATE on the Windows platform.


Comment From Guest

We are currently on 4.0 and are in the process of planning to upgrade to 4.1. We plan to have a sandbox and test 4.1 before upgrade. Is there a way we can just clone our current 4.0 production system and then upgrade to 4.1 for sandbox?

Sathish Rajagopal:  Unless you have specific reasons, you don’t need to set up a new BI 4.1 environment or clone, since you can directly UPDATE your BI 4.0 environment to BI 4.1 release.
If you want to be sure about it and perform thorough testing and validation, you can perform the UPDATE on a sandbox system and then go to DEV, QA and PROD.


Comment From Sutapa

Is there any special sizing document for 4.1 or its same sizing guide for 4.0?

Nic Smith: is a great start for BI sizing info.


Comment From samique

In terms of performance of the overall BusinessObjects environment, what differences are there between 4.0 and BI 4.1?

Sathish Rajagopal:   All of our internal testing/benchmarking we performed, there is at least 60% performance improvement between BI 4.0 and 4.1 releases.


Comment From Vivian

Should performance be improved with BI 4.1? As far as I have seen, performance is the same as in 4.0. Can you please let me know how to improve it?

Harjeet Judge:  We made point improvements to improve performance in BI4.1. For example, there are enhancements to BICS connectivity from WebI to BW. In most cases performance problems stem from an environment that is not sized correctly or deployment best practices have not been followed. While that may not be the case in your situation, that would be the first thing to check.


Comment From Guest

Will business views and LOVs in BI 4.0 still work in BI 4.1?

Harjeet Judge:  Yes, they will.


Comment From Veeraraghavan

Do we have a plan to merge Design Studio and Lumira? If it converges, it would be a single tool serving multiple purposes.

Venky: As part of our Agile Visualization strategy, interoperability between Lumira and Design Studio will be possible. As part of client convergence, you will see these two tools being part of the same suite of products.


Comment From Guest

I heard BOBJ4.2 coming soon. Do we have tentative timeline for that?

Venky: Not soon. Best I can say is expected 2015.

Comment From Trey

What is the current timeframe for BI 4.2, as mentioned at SABOC?

Venky: No timeframe was mentioned at SABOC, but this is expected for 2015.


Comment From Sutapa

Is there any plan that in higher BI versions, Xcelsius will retire and Design Studio will only be the dashboarding tool?

Sathish Rajagopal:   Hi Sutapa, our plan is to converge these two tools in the future into one tool, i.e., Design Studio. Until we have real parity between Dashboard Designer and Design Studio, we will still support Dashboard Designer.


Comment From Pratap G

I have questions as to how SAP decides to scrap tools and support others, as in case of Dashboards and Design Studio. Could you explain why the new features that are available in Design Studio can't be made in Dashboards instead of vice versa?

Venky:  Some of these changes are because we need to ensure that what you design on the desktop works on mobile too (with lot of adoption of mobile). Most commonly used controls in Dashboards are available in Design Studio, and we continue to enhance Design Studio to ensure that you don't miss critical functionality. 


Comment From Pratap G

Hello all, thanks for your time. Really appreciate it.

I know SAP is going to part away from Dashboards in the near future, and going to support only Design Studio. We are implementing Design Studio for some of the reporting. But the functionality-wise I would really think SAP is way off between the two tools. Could you expand more on this?  I am not totally in favor of Design Studio, as some of our reporting  is not supported and we are going back to WebI.

Sathish Rajagopal:  Hi Pratap, we are aware of the gaps that exist between these two tools in terms of features/functionalities. Note that, as I stated earlier, we are working on the bridge the gaps quickly in the upcoming releases of Design Studio. Until we have real parity between Dashboard Designer and Design Studio, we will still support Dashboard Designer.


Comment From Guest

I would like to understand if variants are a part of BI 4.1, especially Web Intelligence.

Venky: Not supported in WebI in 4.1. It is in our roadmap though.


Comment From Srini

Would SAP Lumira replace any of the existing BusinessObjects tools such as Dashboards or WebI?

Sathish Rajagopal, SAP: There is no plan to replace any of these tools with Lumira. We are working on how these tools complement each other, which means increasing the support of interoperability among these tools.

Comment From Bill Schneider

What is the best way to directly access ERP data in BI 4.1? We currently use Crystal Reports 2011 with the old Crystal Business Views and are in the process of setting the direction for rewriting these reports. We are looking at two choices SAP offers: SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and WebI via Universe integration via ECC Classic InfoSets, ABAP Functions and InfoSet queries.
Is this the best direction to go or are there better alternatives? What is SAP's direction for direct access to ERP data?

Venky: Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports connecting to ERP systems via the semantic layer (ABAP function and InfoSet query) would be your best bet for this.


Tools Selection and Functionality Updates & Tips

Comment From Ron

My users make heavy use of the 3.1 scheduler, however we wish it had additional features. Has it changed much in version 4.1?

Venky:  You will see performance improvement in new BI 4.1 Platform. Nothing very specific on scheduler. Do let us know if you are looking for any specific improvement, and we can look at it for future releases.


Comment From Sutapa

We'd like to use Design Studio for dashboarding in future. So far I know everything in Design Studio is by Java scripting and needs special skills. Is there any plan to make Design Studio simple like Xcelsius so that no special script writing skill is necessary?

Sathish Rajagopal:   I am not sure what you mean by "everything in Design Studio is by Java scripting". There are standard / built-in components available. On top of that, to support the extensibility of the tool, we also support Java script.

Yes, we are working on to fill the remaining gaps between Dashboard Designer and Design Studio. Our ultimate goal is to make these two tools converge smoothly.


Comment From Dennis

In Crystal 4.1, is there support for multiple tabs on a report like there is in Deski 3.1?

Venky: Nope…


Comment From Jayme

Crystal Reports Enterprise did not have all the features of Crystal Reports 2011 in 4.0. Does Enterprise now have all the same abilities as Crystal Reports 2013? Does Crystal Enterprise work with Business View Manager in 4.1?

Venky: There are many feature enhancements in Crystal Reports for Enterprise in 4.1. I suggest looking  here  for feature differences.
Crystal Reports 2013 is supported as long as BI 4.x is supported, so there is no forced conversion. Your Crystal Reports content will not expire! Having said that, for new projects you may want to evaluate and build new reports on Crystal Reports for Enterprise.
Crystal Enterprise does not work with Biz View in 4.1 - we recommend UNX as an option to achieve similar functionality. 


Comment From Guest

What is the self-service tool for analysis that SAP proposes in 4.1?

Harjeet Judge:   The choice of self-service tools depends upon what type of user persona will consume the content, and what data source you are connecting to. Many of the tools offer some self-service capabilities. The primary tools to meet self-service requirements in BI4 are SAP Lumira and Explorer.

A-OLAP/A-Office will meet the self-service use case if your primary data source is SAP BW or other OLAP types of data sources. Web Intelligence also has self-service capabilities.


Comment From Sudheer B

For the users who insist on having the ability to report on large volumes of data (> 1 million records), is there any reporting tool in BI suite that handle this request?

Sathish Rajagopal:   Most tools that we have today can handle that data volume. And each one of the query and process the data differently. To give you some examples: if it’s canned / standard reporting with less user interaction (such as prompts, etc.) then Crystal Reports can handle millions of records. And if you are talking about self-service BI users, then you can give them WebI or Lumira.


Comment From Brian

What is being done to address the front-end usability of Crystal? Currently there is an unsupported tool called Web Elements that provides a nice web-friendly user interface, but again, it's not SAP supported. What are the plans? The "out of the box" user interface with Crystal is not very web friendly. Thanks.

Venky: At this point, unfortunately not much is planned on the user interface for Crystal.


Comment From Guest

Analysis for Office is a replacement of BEx tools?

Venky: Yes - Analysis client tools are premium alternatives to BEx.


Bridget Kotelly: We're at the end of the hour, but Venky, Nic, Harjeet and Satish will continue to post some additional answers.


Comment From Debasis

Venky, I am confused with so many tools for Business Intelligence, such as Lumira, APD in BW, BusinessObjects, Predictive Analytics, etc. How do we distinguish them, and which one should be used for what purpose? Can you please elaborate?

Venky:  I agree, and we are working on simplification of clients, so you will deal with fewer clients. Until we complete execution of this, here is a document that would help.


Comment From Vivian

I have checked the email option in WebI but it is sending a .wid report that is not usable. How can I get a link via email? Should I set something specific?

Harjeet Judge:   .wid files can only be consumed by the user if they have WebI desktop client installed. If you don't have that, I would suggest setting the schedule format to either PDF or Excel. This way the user will get PDF/XLS files emailed out instead of .wid files.

Vivian: Thanks. Do you mean create an instance and send it?

Harjeet Judge:  Yes, when you schedule, you have the option to schedule to various formats. So choose PDF/XLS as the instance format when scheduling to email instance of the default WebI format.


Comment From samique

Does Adaptive Processing Server need to be configured in BI 4.1 as it was in 4.0?

Harjeet Judge:  Yes it does, but we offer the System Configuration Wizard that makes it easier for you to split up the Adaptive Processing Server. System Configuration Wizard is available in the Central Management Console for BI 4.1.


Comment From Vivian

Is there a way to schedule and broadcast Analysis for Excel reports as BEx?

Sathish Rajagopal:  Hello Vivian, we are planning to introduce the scheduling capabilities for AO in BI 4.1 SP05. For that you also need to be on Analysis Office SP10 version to leverage the scheduling capabilities.


Comment From Guest

Does SAP have any better documentation for getting load balancers to work with BI 4.1 web servers, other than the one page or so that's provided in the install docs?

Harjeet Judge:  Load balancers are a third-party product, so the best option would be to refer to load balancer vendor documentation. For BI 4.1 to work with load balancing, we require that sticky sessions are enabled on the load balancer so that your session doesn't bounce around to different webservers in between user workflows.


Comment From Bobbi

In BI 4.1, what are the security changes? Are there new rights or access levels?

Venky: From 4.0, nope. From 3.1, yes.  There are custom access levels in 4.1 and ability to selectively enforce rights for objects and subobjects, and simplified security for delegated admin.


Comment From Bob

Any way to pass BW events (i.e. "data loaded in XYZ cube") to BusinessObjects CMC [Central Management Console] other than as a CMC File event? This is a clumsy way involving file creation from BW and subsequent deletion on the CMC server.

Venky:  Unfortunately no…  This is a 'workaround' really. Agree it is a bit clumsy.


Comment From Vivian

Query stripping: I still get the #TOREFRESH message when adding a new field that was not refreshed. With 4.1 the fields should be automatically refreshed. How can I solve this?

Harjeet Judge:  The option is set in the CMC. Please have a look at the note: 1758513 - How to enable Auto-Refresh option for Web Intelligence Document for BI 4.0 SP04


Comment From Guest

Are there any enhancements on Business View manager in 4.1? Are there any plans for an easy conversion process from Business Views to a UNX universe?

Venky:  Unfortunately no - to both the questions.  The conversion process is manual.


Comment From Das

Any changes in the functionality of Promotion Management?

Venky:  Increased number of objects in UI from 100's to 1000's. Command line is introduced to handle large number of objects to be promoted.


Comment From Guest

In 4.1, can you set security to allow someone access to only one universe? Or is it all or nothing?

Venky: You can. You need to set the object level rights to do this.


Comment From Guest

Issue in WebI: No longer able to edit a query in a report directly without refreshing the query. Please let me know how to solve it.

Harjeet Judge:  There shouldn't be a need to refresh a query to edit it. I suspect you have refresh on open enabled for the report so when you open the report for the first time, the report will attempt to refresh the data. Once the refresh is done you can then go in and edit the query. You can simply disable the refresh on open option if that's indeed what you are running into. Otherwise you may want to log a support ticket.


Comment From Sutapa

3-D graphs are not supported in Xcelsius dashboards published for MOBI. What version of MOBI has a fix for that?

Venky: Not really planned for the Mobile BI (MOBI) app at this time.


Comment From Vivian

I have tried to save a workbook in a PPT but some of the graphs and tables were lost. Can you please let me know how to keep the formatting in PPT?

Sathish Rajagopal:   Vivian, I believe you are trying it from the latest version of Analysis Office to the same version of MS PowerPoint, correct?

If yes, the data/blocks snapshot should get exported to PPT properly. If it doesn’t then you may have experiencing technical/configuration related issues. I would suggest you to work with SAP support to figure out if it’s a configuration issue or a product issue.


Comment From Sutapa

Can we merge dimensions in OLAP Analysis like we can in WebI?

Venky: You can merge the variable prompts, but not the dimensions.

Venky: Thanks for all the great questions. It was great to be here today! If you have additional questions, you can reach me at

Nic Smith: Thanks to everyone who joined us today. We'll also be part of a webcast on moving to BI 4.1. It's a chance to get an overview of features in 4.1 you may not have considered or asked about today.

I also encourage you to join the 5000+ now enrolled in the courses for more on BI 4.1 at OPEN.SAP.  And you can always find me on Twitter at @nicfish. Thanks again!

Bridget Kotelly: Thanks again, Nic, Venky and all the panelists.

For more on the BI 4.1 upgrade and integration options, the SAPinsider Special Report on BI 4.1 with pieces by Nic, Jayne Landry, and others, is available here.

And don't miss the upcoming four-part BI 4.1 Webinar series -  register to view that webcast - and the entire four-part series - here.

We’ll have to wrap up today’s Q&A here, but I want to thank everyone who joined in today’s chat session!  And a big thanks to all our panelists today!


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