A new release of SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio was announced at the end of last year, and with its many new features and enhancements, it’s being hailed as the most mature tool yet. But what exactly are these new features, and what can they do for your business?
In this recent live Q&A with SAP BI experts Jeroen van der A and Xavier Hacking of Interdobs, readers asked questions related to the new capabilities and functions of SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio 1.6, including:
- What are the key features in of Design Studio 1.6?
- What is the preferred deployment option for Design Studio?
- How does Design Studio 1.6 compare to SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius)?
- Can we migrate BEx WAD or Xcelsius reports/dashboards to Design Studio?
- What are the mobile dashboard options available with this new release?
Live Blog What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio 1.6?
Natalie Miller, SAPinsider: Hello and welcome to today’s live Q&A on what’s new in SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio 1.6. I’m Natalie Miller, features editor of SAPinsider and insiderPROFILES, and I’m thrilled to introduce today’s panelists, Xavier Hacking and Jeroen van der A, BI consultants at Interdobs.
Natalie Miller: Xavier is an SAP BI specialist who has worked with a wide range of products from the current SAP BW and SAP BusinessObjects BI toolsets. His focus is on dashboard development within SAP environments. Jeroen has over 15 years of experience in BI.
Xavier and Jeroen are also co-authors of the just released SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio – The Comprehensive Guide.
Hi, Xavier and Jeroen, thank you so much for being here today!
Xavier Hacking: Hi guys, thanks for joining us today!
Jeroen van der A: Hello, everybody. I’m pleased to be here. My name is Jeroen. I have worked in BI for 15 years and with Design Studio since SAP put out the first beta version.
Comment from Anand Raghavan: I have used the Design Studio 1.5 version with Universes as the data source, and it seem sluggish with large data sets. Will version 1.6 address the slowness with Universes? Are there any performance improvements in 1.6 for Universes as the data source?
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Anand. Regarding Universes, there are a couple of new features: a larger dataset (20,000 rows with 200,000 cells), reloadData, and multi-source relational universes. There are no specific changes in 1.6 regarding performance.
Comment from Andy: We tried to integrate EPM cubes with Dashboard, but the integration was not that successful and there isn’t much information about this integration online. We want to know about scenario planning and what analysis can be driven from Dashboard when powered by EPM cubes. Has it been done, and if so, can you please shed some light on how and where the calculations can be done for Dashboards on top of EPM cubes? Please also touch on how the security integration works between EPM and Dashboards. FYI, we are using EPM on BW HANA.
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Andy. I’m not familiar with EPM, but in Design Studio you can use planning functions, planning sequences, and manual input for planning. Basically, you define these in the backend system and you can trigger them using Design Studio.
Comment from Pradeep Kumar: Can we use Webi reports and Dashboard reports in Design Studio?
Xavier Hacking: Not really. SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio is a separate tool to create BI applications and dashboards. There is no default out-of-the-box option to re-use existing Webi or SAP Dashboards documents. There is, however, a third-party solution by APOS called the Dashboard Migrator, which allows you to integrate dashboards created in SAP Dashboard inside Design Studio applications. See here.
Also, you can make use of the OpenDocument functionality of the BI4 platform to jump from and to the several BI tools (Webi, Crystal Reports, SAP Dashboards, Design Studio) and re-use parameter values.
Comment from Andy: Hi, Jeroen and Xavier. Thank you for joining and taking questions. We are currently using SAP EPM as our planning tool, and often, our customers are not pleased with the lack of UI features in EPM.
Jeroen van der A: Design Studio is well suited to add the UI features to planning. It interacts with planning applications using planning functions, sequences, and manual input. You can parametrize them using script and internal values. On the surface you have components rendered in HTML5 to create a compelling UI front.
Comment from Troy: Thanks for hosting.
Xavier Hacking: You’re welcome!
Comment from Jim: Were there any improvements to performance added in Design Studio 1.6?
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Jim. Version 1.5 was regarded as the performance update, and 1.6 saw more of a new set of features added. We found that with Design Studio, typically 90% or more of performance cost is due to backend queries. Starting applications with the url &PROFILING=X should give you insight into the bottlenecks.
If you want to learn more, look at this great post by Martin Kolb.
Comment from Pradeep Kumar: Can we have the option of OLAP Connections using BW datasources in Design Studio?
Xavier Hacking: Yes; if you are using the BI platform to deploy Design Studio (which is the recommended solution), then you have to use the OLAP Connections that are defined in the CMC. These OLAP connections allow you to connect to SAP BW BEx queries and to HANA views.
Comment from Troy: What would you say are the top three improvements made with this version?
Jeroen van der A: I can only say my personal favorites, which are: one, that the scorecard shows a lot of promise; two, the PDF export is now much more flexible and you can combine multiple panels into a printable PDF; and three, you can refer to individual values directly in arrays with variable_val instead of having to loop through them, which was previously an annoyance.
Comment from Kray: I have not seen an answer for this in other forums. Will you be able to create a dashboard that is outside of SAP services (i.e., XML datasource, not connected to any SAP services) like you can with Dashboard Design?
Xavier Hacking: In theory you could do this using the Design Studio SDK. This would require an additional custom component/datasource. There are some SCN blogs available on this topic: click here and here to read them.
Comment from Kray: Cool. Currently, I have a dashboard (Dashboard Design) that has an XML as a datasource and is independent of SAP services. But I have been told that the place where it is being posted will no longer support .swf files, so I was hoping that I could somehow re-create the dashboard in Design Studio.
Xavier Hacking: Yeah, the fact that SAP Dashboards relies on Flash will get more and more troublesome. Switching to Design Studio would be a smart way to go forward. But you’ll need to set up an SAP BusinessObjects BI platform environment to deploy Design Studio.
Comment from Surya: Hi. Regarding Design Studio, do you have any specific recommendations on server sizing, RAM, and the splitting of services to achieve the best output?
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Surya. I do not have specific recommendations. I would follow the administrator guides that are available. Splitting services is more a BO platform kind of decision. You can find the administrator guide on BI platform here.
Comment from Anand Raghavan: Is Design Studio able to use QaaWS web service as data sources?
Xavier Hacking: No, but Design Studio can connect directly to UNX Universes. Also, you could use the Design Studio SDK to create a custom data source that would be able to use web services (QaaWS).
Comment from Moritz: What is the best deployment option for mobile devices? The performance in the SAP BO Mobile App is quite bad. Sending a link that is opened works, but when the site is refreshed later on, a link redirection on the BO side causes a “this document doesn’t exist” error. Any best practices for this scenario? Thanks for this Q&A.
Jeroen van der A: Hi. The official best practice is the SAP BO Mobile Platform. I’ve seen other implementations, however, where the Safari browser is embedded in an app and the URL of the application is called from there. Then, it looks like you have your own company BI app.
Comment from Moritz: Are there any hints of really responsive layouts in the upcoming versions? The current responsiveness is quite limited.
Jeroen van der A: In the roadmap there are mentions of responsiveness upgrades. In its future direction SAP mentions improved self-service experience and a more responsive UI. In the meantime you can use @media to create classes that are defined based on, for example, screen size.
Comment from Pete: I am new to DS 1.6. I am using .UNX as a data source. I am running the query from a script.
Jeroen van der A: That's a good start. Any specific reason why in script and not at startup?
Comment from Pete: v_Question=SELECT_QUESTION.getSelectedText();DATA.loadDataSource();
APPLICATION.setVariableValueExt(“psQuestion”, v_Question); It will only run one time. When I change the prompt and run it again, it fails.
Jeroen van der A: Hi Pete. I can’t comment because I don’t know the error and the circumstances. However, if the DATA datasource has the psQuestion variable, you don’t need to reload the data first. The change of variable will trigger a reload automatically.
Comment from Niels: What is the best way to have some kind of responsive design from a Design Studio application? Just setting everything’s width/height to auto results in overlapping components.
Xavier Hacking: Make sure you use a framework to set up your application. You can use PANEL components and GRID LAYOUT components to do this. For example: Create a Header, Body, and Footer panel. Use the Header for navigation objects. In the Body, you can add a Grid Layout, and in the cells you can place the dashboard content (Crosstabs/Charts). That way you won’t have worry about overlapping components when resizing the app.
Comment from Kumar Chintala: Do we need scripting if we use databound components?
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Kumar. Databound components have a datasource attached to it. With data binding you can set up a lot of automatic properties. However, there are a lot of circumstances where you would use scripting. For example, a crosstab can return information about where the user clicked to apply a filter. These kinds of things (and many more) require scripting.
Comment from Tom: Can we migrate BEx WAD or Xcelsius reports/dashboards to Design Studio? What are some migration best practices?
Jeroen van der A: As I said before when asked about using Webi reports and Dashboard reports in Design Studio, BusinessObjects Design Studio is a separate tool to create BI applications and dashboards. There is no default out-of-the-box option to re-use existing Webi or SAP Dashboards documents. There is a third party solution by APOS called the Dashboard Migrator, which allows you to integrate dashboards created in SAP Dashboard inside Design Studio applications. Click here.
Also, you can make use of the OpenDocument functionality of the BI4 platform to jump from and to the several BI tools (Webi, Crystal Reports, SAP Dashboards, Design Studio) and re-using parameter values.
However, as the tools are very different, you are probably better off creating new applications.
Comment from Kumar Chintala: Thank you, Jeroen.
Jeroen van der A: You’re welcome.
Comment from Troy: It seems 1.5 had upgrades regarding performance versus 1.6 had more upgrades with features. Is that the case? The performance doesn’t seem to have changed by much.
Jeroen van der A: Hi Troy. What platform are you running it on? At least the parallel query should have an impact when you’re on BI Platform. Further, the number of network calls should be less, as they are grouped in a better way. I tested it with an empty application with just some random components, and even then I noticed differences.
Comment from Troy: Jeroen, thanks. We’re running on BI Platform. It could just be over expectation.
Jeroen van der A: Perhaps you can improve the performance by applying some best practices. I can recommend this post by Martin Kolb (I already posted the link earlier).
At the very least, look at where you use setVariable, and replace that with setFilter and setDataselection. The latter is the preferred option, as then your performance will be measured in microseconds.
Comment from Niels: (On the responsive design) How would you setup the components inside the Grid Layout? Because from my experience even that doesn’t always help with the overlap, and it can make things look very ugly.
Xavier Hacking: Yeah, if you want to show a lot of charts, it may get difficult. At least try the following:
- Use auto left/right/top/bottom margins
- Decrease the padding (l/r/t/b) of charts
- Try to hide as much “unnecessary” (non-data ink) parts of the chart component as possible (no repeated legendA’s, axis labels, backgrounds, horizontal lines, etc.).
Comment from Troy: I’m out of DS questions so, how are you two actually doing?
Jeroen van der A: Fine, thanks. Actually, we both still feel the after effect of last night’s book launch party.
Comment from Tom: Jeroen, you mentioned scorecard was among your favorite improvements. Can you elaborate on why?
Jeroen van der A: It gives you the option to create a trellis of numbers. I can group by country and, for each country, show several number graphs in one go. Previously, I had to set up a lot of graphs and text components to achieve the same thing. Although it’s not easy to configure, it saves a lot of scripting.
In a lot of dashboards, you have the need to get a lot of information in a small space. This component shows promise to better achieve that.
Comment from Beth: Has the capability to zoom in or center on a portion of the GeoMap at start up been improved? The centerMap() scripting didn’t always work in 1.5. Thanks!
Xavier Hacking: SAP Note 2257494 discusses this issue. It should be solved in SAP Design Studio 1.6 SP1.
Comment from Guest: We are trying to convince our BOD to invest in BI , tools, and BOJO, specifically. Can you give some advice or key points to help this conversation?
Jeroen van der A: Hi, Guest. That really depends on the kind of discussion. Is it on the merits of BI or choice of tool? If you want to know why Design Studio might be a good choice, I would say it is because it has become a powerful toolkit to support dashboards, analytic applications, and self-service scenarios. You can create applications that give many options, but also ways to guide them through those options by giving them clear choices, limit options, etc.
Natalie Miller: As we come to the end of today’s Q&A, I’d like to thank you all for joining us and for all these great questions! And a big thanks to Xavier and Jeroen for all these insightful answers.
Jeroen van der A: Hey all, thanks for all the questions. It was fun chatting with you. If you have any follow up questions or thoughts, you can find me on https://twitter.com/Hyronimous.
Xavier Hacking: Thanks, guys, for your questions. You can check out my blog at http://www.HackingSAP.com and follow me on Twitter @xjhacking.
Meet the panelist:
Xavier Hacking, BI consultant, Interdobs
Xavier is an SAP BI specialist from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He has a master's degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Science from the Eindhoven University of Technology. He has worked with a wide range of products from the current SAP BW and SAP BusinessObjects BI toolsets, with a focus on dashboard development within SAP environments.
Xavier is the co-author of the recently released SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio – The Comprehensive Guide, the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.1 Cookbook, Getting Started with SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio and the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook. Xavier is part of the Dutch BI podcast, and publishes his blog at HackingSAP.com.
Jeroen van der A, BI consultant, Inderdobs
Jeroen has over 15 years of experience in BI and lives in the Netherlands. Jeroen co-authored Getting Started with SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, is a writer for the Dutch SAP user magazine VNSG and is part of the Dutch BI Podcast.