Aug 06 2008

What We Do Without Business Objects Knowing About It…

Categories: General, Rants Dave Rathbun @ 2:46 am

I got a comment from someone new recently who said:

Sigh. There is so much about Business Objects that makes me scream “WHY??? Who designed this thing? Nobody who has ever used it in the real world, that’s for sure!”

First it made me laugh. But then it made me think. At various points Business Objects has done things that made their users extremely frustrated, and it seems that sometimes it’s because they don’t know what people are doing with their products. The best example that I can think of happened a very long time ago, but it was a “biggie” as they say. It happened during the update from 3.1 to 4.0. Anyone else remember those exciting times? :lol:

In version 3.1 a query and its associated reports were all stored as separate files. One file contained the data, one file contained the query definition, and there were various files that contained the report layouts. It was fairly complicated, but it worked. The file was stored in a folder that was based on the report name, and that folder was inside a folder for the universe that the query was based on. That last bit is the important part.

You see, what some enterprising folks figured out was that if you moved (or copied) the report folder and all of the contents into a new parent folder (owned by a different universe) then you could effectively move the report to a new universe. Everything was matched based on object names so as long as your new universe had the expected classes and objects you were fine.

When 4.0 came out, the report file structure was gone, and in its place was the combined .REP file that we still use today. Nothing wrong with that, except Business Objects didn’t put anything into their application to allow folks to move reports to a new universe! :shock: That was a problem. Ultimately the issue got addressed with the 4.1 release but that took well over a year to come out.

But they learned their lesson and made sure that we could switch the source universe(s) for our Web Intelligence documents from the very first release, right? Nope. But they fixed it in release 2, of course. Nope, wrong again. If my memory is correct, it wasn’t until the XI release that we could actually repoint a Web Intelligence document from one data source to another. Why did it take so long?

Even with this feature in the product life is still not perfect. If I have two (or more) data providers in a Webi document that are sharing the same data source, I cannot move one of them and leave the other alone. No, when I move one data provider I am required to move all of the data providers that share the same universe. <sigh>

I can close on a positive note by saying that the process to swap data providers in Webi XI is much more powerful (despite the limitation in the prior paragraph) and I think they did a very good job with it. I can opt to remap objects if there is no exact match, which is something that you could not do with the full client applications. If the target universe did not have an exact match then I was prevented from repointing the data provider in the full client application. With the new process in Webi I can either remap the object by browsing the target universe or I can opt to let that object drop from the data provider. That part is quite nice.

How about you? Can you think of a time when an “upgrade” broke a feature of the product that you had been using? If so, has that feature come back in a later version? Feel free to share your stories. 8-)

7 Responses to “What We Do Without Business Objects Knowing About It…”

  1. Comment by Dwayne Hoffpauir

    Amen to the topic title! I am convinced that BusObj had little idea how far their customers had “evolved” with the full client reporting tool. So many tips and tricks and workarounds and VBA enhancements developed by real users meeting real reporting needs, but that BusObj themselves (at the least the product marketing folks) seemed to have little insight into. When BusObj bought Crystal, the marketing spin was “now we offer an enterprise reporting tool.” WRONG! The classic full client tool has been doing pixel perfect, complex calculation type of reporting for a LONG time.

  2. Comment by Carol

    I agree. We were running just fine on 6.5 with our desktop intelligence corporate reports using linked universes with no issues. It was a little slow. XI came out and broke the linked universes and said they were not supports. That scrapped XI until XIR2 came out and I think it was SP2 or so that the linked universes were actual “fixed” again. Now with XI 3.0 & 3.1 the linked universes are “broken” again. Sometime I want to scream, what code base are you starting at when you start on a new course?

  3. Comment by Anita Craig

    Amen, Dwayne! I was so disappointed in how Crystal worked when I took a class — I think full-client BusinessObjects is actually more powerful as well as user-friendly.

    And BusinessObjects didn’t seem to know that full-client was so good. I can’t begin to say how stunned I was when “Bernard” introduced Crystal 2008 as their “flagship product” at the conference last year!

  4. Comment by Paulo Felipe

    If my memory is correct, it wasn’t until the XI release that we could actually repoint a Web Intelligence document from one data source to another.

    You’re correct. I’m struggling with that in 6.5, by the way. :(

    Can’t wait for the XI migration…

  5. Comment by Mick Arundell

    In BO 5.1 I could change the universe that a query used without changing the other queries. Lovely, I have a number of similar universes, make one correct query, copy it and change the underlying universe and bob’s your uncle.
    with BOXI when I change the universe in 1 query it insists on changing the universes in all queries.

    5.1 I could 1) choose which reports in a set to print AND get the page numbers to run consecutively

    in XI both are missing.

    What I would really like is a way to include comments in reports, queries and variables so that other developers can understand my efforts.

    Another thing is a way to export all variables to a formatted text file to use as report validation.


  6. Comment by KFonMurphi

    This is an old post but still current.

    My users are still heavily frustrated by functions still lacking in Webi (grouping of values!), bugs, this huge and messy Properties tab, poor charts, bugs, the so-short timeout (that the administrator cannot increase in an easy way), a Rich Client which needs its own data access and cannot automatically synchronize its documents with the repository (I know, this is a feature), bugs, the Report converter still unable to save hidden breaks in a Deski report, bugs, and I could continue for ages.

    Why is the Interactive viewer so restricted? It is much more appealing to many users, and works well. But totally different from Webi, I can’t show the two editors at once to my users without causing a brain overflow.

    This is worse for non-English speakers, at least for French ones: some translations are misleading, different in Webi and Interactive editors (breaks = Rupture or Saut), the format date documentation is misleading (indicates French formats, but Webi still uses American ones), and on an one…

    I’m worried that Webi is improving so slowly while other editors improve their products.

  7. Comment by KFonMurphi

    Another one: in 5.0 I could dig into the SQL repository and link reports and universes, make my own control queries, and search what was used where.

    Come XI. The repository is a closed encrypted black box. I know some tools exist – my boss won’t pay for them.

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