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Live from SAPinsider Studio: Michael Welter of Claraview on Web Intelligence

December 23, 2015

Michael Welter, BusinessObjects Practice Manager, Claraview, visits with SAPinsider Studio at the 2015 Reporting & Analytics conference to discuss SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2.

This is an edited  transcript of the discussion:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’m at the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics 2015 event. Joining me today is Michael Welter of Claraview, BusinessObjects Practice Manager. Mike, thanks for joining us today.

Michael Welter, Claraview: Thank you for inviting me.

Ken: You’re a speaker here at this event, speaking about Web Intelligence specifically. I was hoping you could discuss BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and its most under-utilized tools which is what your session is about. Break down for us what are some commonly overlooked design options and why they’re overlooked.

Michael: I’ll mention a couple. One of them is what’s referred to as calculation contexts. And what this refers to is in Web Intelligence, all calculations by default happen based on where they appear on our reports. So the same calculation in different places on a report can perform differently. And oftentimes people need to manipulate that and make it do something different. And so calculation context is how you do that, but a lot of people struggle with how to do that, and they really struggle with the syntax and making sure that it’s done right. So in my session I’ll talk about what are the options for using calculation contexts, and how do you make it work the way you want it to work?

Another feature people struggle with a lot is merging dimensions. And this has to do with if you have two queries in a Web Intelligence document from different data sources, and you need to blend that data together then you need to take the common dimensions and merge them together so you can display them together in one block on a report. I wrote a blog article about this, it must be four or five years ago, and to this day it’s still the No. 1 read article on my blog because people really struggle with that. They are some tricks and some tips to making it work right and to get the dimensions working the way you want, and also some kind of fun things you can do with it to make sure that it does give you the data that you want. But it amazes me how many people struggle with that, so I want to make sure I cover that well.

Ken: Will any of this be more clear or obvious to users in the 4.2 release?

Michael: Not that I can tell. Looking at the 4.2 release, there are some new features there, but the existing features don’t seem to have much enhancement in that area.

Ken: And maybe for the viewers can you share an example or two of a design option that adds a significant value to reporting?

Michael: The merge dimension could be one of those because it’s often common to require the blending of data from two different sources. An example of that might be you want to take your sales data which is coming out of your CRM system, and you want to blend that with forecast data that maybe you have in an Excel spreadsheet. So you can run separate queries against each and blend that together and then do a calculation of percent to goal and so on. That can be a huge win for many companies.

Ken: And what about the chief benefits of using this functionality you’re discussion? If I take these steps and utilize these design options can I streamline the reporting tools I have by enhancing or expanding my Web Intelligence use?

Michael: That’s an interesting question because I find that a lot of people will take data that they’ve brought into Web Intelligence and then export it out to Excel and then start doing their analysis in Excel. Whereas if they really understood how to use all the features in Web Intelligence, such as calculation contexts and some of the new charting features as well, they can do everything in Web Intelligence. I also find it possible – and this is probably a little-known feature as well –but you can actually use Web Intelligence to build some very powerful dashboards. And so in that way you can consolidate tools from dashboarding tools to Excel all into Web Intelligence which is really a very powerful tool to do a lot.

Ken: And what is some of the new functionality in 4.2 that’s generating excitement?

Michael: In my opinion, what’s generating a lot of excitement is something that most people wouldn’t even think about is called parallel processing. And the idea is that in Web Intelligence, and it’s always been like this, if you have more than one query in Web Intelligence those queries are run sequentially. So if one query takes 10 minutes to run, the next one takes 20 minutes to run then you have a 30-minute run-time. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could run them together? And so we reduce the amount of time that it’s actually running, and as long as the database can handle the parallel processing why not? So this is a feature that’s been long in coming – people have been asking for it for many, many years – and 4.2 now has that.

Ken: Why has it taken so long then?

Michael: I suspect it’s just never bubbled up to the top of the list.

Ken: So you save significant time.

Michael: Processing time, and also save waiting time waiting for your report to finish.

Ken: Michael, thanks for joining us today.

Michael: My pleasure, thank you for having me.

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