Oct 26 2010

Updates on SAP TechEd Posts

Categories: 2010 SAP TechEd, 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 9:13 am

I received comments in private related to posts (one in particular) I published last week regarding SAP TechEd. Since the comments were made in private I will not reveal the sources, but I do feel like I should address them in public since the posts are, of course, public. Others may have the same questions and will benefit from seeing my responses.

First, I need to make a correction. I provided incorrect information in a post last week where I said that SAP was hosting the SAP Insider “Reporting 2010″ conference. That is not true. While I did reach out via Twitter and a few emails, I did not get any clarification on what the conference was until after the post was already published. I now understand that SAP Insider is not a part of SAP; they are an independent organization that publishes newsletters and provides specific and targeted conferences throughout the year. They may do other things as well, but I now understand that while SAP does participate by providing speakers, they are not the host of those events. I do apologize for my error and any confusion that may have provided.

Second, I had some folks take what I wrote as a criticism of ASUG. I was not criticizing either ASUG or SAP or their respective processes. What I was trying to point out was that despite some claims to the contrary we cannot simply drop the SBOUC conference and send folks to TechEd without changing what is delivered at TechEd. It was pointed out to me that the content for SBOUC was designed to not overlap with TechEd. I understand that, and perhaps I should have pointed that out in my earlier post. I am sure that the folks that went to those sessions appreciated them. But there is not enough content at TechEd as it stands today to simply drop SBOUC. With my post last week I was not trying to imply that the content at TechEd was bad or poorly planned by either ASUG or SAP. But several folks have been quite adamant in their opinions that there is plenty of content already at TechEd. My post was an attempt to point out that in my opinion there is not, currently, enough BI content at TechEd to simply drop SBOUC.

To recap: I believe there is a market and a need for a BI-specific event. However, if discussions are held regarding merging SBOUC and TechEd, then in my opinion it must be a merge. Dropping SBOUC without migrating the content to TechEd would not be a good idea.

Let me now talk about some positive outcomes of such a decision, were it to be made. If the content from SBOUC were added to TechEd, how would the community benefit?

First and foremost, there would not be any confusion on the part of the potential conference attendee or speaker. Which conference should I submit to? Do I have to alter my topic abstract to make it more appealing to TechEd than to SBOUC? How can I convince my manager to budget for two separate SAP conferences? Which one is most appropriate for my role in my company? All of these questions go away if the two conferences were combined.

Next, the TechEd conference is huge. It’s not as big as SAPPHIRE but it’s about three times the size even of the largest BusinessObjects conference that we had. For some folks that would be attractive; more people equals more networking opportunities, and higher probabilities that I might run into someone experiencing the same issues that I have. The old “Insight” conferences we used to go to had between 2,000 and 2,500 attendees at most. TechEd last week had well over 5,000 and SBOUC had over 1,000. Add those two together and we would have a single conference with about triple the number of attendees.

Finally, does anybody remember what one of the top complaints was about the SBOUC conference when it was first reborn as a GBN conference? No party. :) I suspect because it has been larger (and therefore has a bigger budget) TechEd throws great parties. I did not write about Demo Jam this year, but I have previously. In fact, I had hoped to bring something like that to SBOUC. Score one for TechEd. GBN/SBOUC has dropped their conference parties for various reasons, but mostly related to budget. Since I have been attending, TechEd has had concerts by the Black Crowes (2008, Las Vegas), Train (2009, Phoenix), and this year Lifehouse performed live.

To those who were confused (as I was) about the hosting process for the SAP Insider conferences, I apologize. I hope this post helps clarify the points I was trying to make. As always, feel free to use the comment form to provide feedback or ask questions.

Oct 22 2010

SAP TechEd Wrapping It Up

Categories: General Dave Rathbun @ 1:07 pm

I’m in the airport making use of the free wifi. Service quality is much better than at the conference. We heard from some of the SAP folks that they spent “a fortune” on extending the conference center networking facilities. Then he shrugged and said, “We’ve got 5,000 geeks in one place, and they all have at least three devices. What are we going to do?” I can understand, I guess. He went on to mention that they found some folks were running torrents which sucked up a ton of bandwidth.

I spent yesterday for the most part hanging out with the Mentor “wolf pack” talking about a variety of things. There are some interesting things coming from the SCN community that will be worth watching.

I had a chance to talk to Bridgette Chambers, CEO of ASUG, about the collaboration agreement we set up with BOB. We talked about some ways to leverage our resources but agreed that we won’t really have time for anything of much significance until early next year. Stand by for more details on that front.

One thing that TechEd clearly has as an advantage over SBOUC is size. We would not be able to bring in Lifehouse for a live concert. They were great to hear live.

We found out last night that President Obama is flying in this afternoon so we went to the airport early to avoid complications. So far, so good.

I plan to write up a more detailed post comparing the two recent conferences after I get home. See you then.

Oct 20 2010

SAP TechEd Day 2

Categories: 2010 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 12:52 pm

Here is a list of session from the BI track at SAP TechEd for today:

  • Drive Insight to Action with Superior Extension Capability
  • Building a Statistics Cockpit Using SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer to Proactively Monitor SAP NetWeaver BW Usage and Performance
  • ASUG Influence: Introducing SAP BusinessObjects Advanced Analysis
  • Best Practices and Tips for Best Performance of SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 on SAP NetWeaver BW
  • Integrating SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius and Web Intelligence reporting with SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP NetWeaver Portal
  • Kraft’s SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator Usage Decision Tree and Capacity Planning
  • How to Design and Deploy High Performing SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design (Xcelsius)
  • Embed and Integrate SAP BusinessObjects into Your Applications – Discover How To Save Time and Cost by Partnering with SAP
  • How to Deploy SAP BusinessObjects Mobile
  • SAP Business Objects BI Solutions Overview and Roadmap
  • Low-Power Memory: Enhancing TCO for Today’s Server Environments
  • Leveraging Live Office, Where Your Users Live
  • What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects XI 4.0 for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise
  • Measuring Daily Health of Your Business Using SAP BusinessObjects Mobile
  • SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Performance Management Roadmap
  • Newell Rubbermaid SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Implementation Success and Lesson Learned

Sessions start at 8:00AM and run until 6:45PM, and there are generally at most two BI sessions in any given time slot. There are dozens of sessions going on at any given time, but from a pure BI perspective there are some hours where the choices are a bit weak. For example, two of today’s sessions are roadmaps, four are related to NetWeaver, and one sounds suspiciously like a sales pitch for SAP consulting. :) Seven of today’s BI sessions are offered by ASUG, one is from a partner, and the remainder are from SAP.

TechEd also offers two-hour sessions that offer a hands-on look at the products. Here are the BI sessions scheduled for today:

  • Learn and Practice the New Multi-source Semantic Layer Modeling
  • Learn and Practice the New Multidimensional Semantic Layer for SAP NetWeaver BW and OLAP Sources
  • Technical Deep-Dive into SAP BusinessObjects Advanced Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office
  • Two Hour, Hands-On Tour of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Solutions
  • Extending the Value of SAP BusinessObjects Spend Performance Management
  • Building Dashboards that Rock with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design (Xcelsius)
  • Best Practices for Using SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence with SAP NetWeaver BW, Today and Tomorrow

And finally there is one extended (four-hour) session as well.

  • An Introduction to SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver

There continue to be discussions about whether there is a market or need for the SBOUC conference. I have often said that I favor the continuation of the separate conference, but basically what I am most concerned about is a continuation of the type and style of content delivered there. If the SBOUC conference were simply to disappear and nothing were done to enhance the offerings at TechEd I think that would be very disappointing. ASUG currently manages the SBOUC conference, and of course then already have a relationship with TechEd. As I mentioned above, they are providing a number of different sessions across different tracks including BI. If the content from SBOUC were moved to TechEd, would that be a benefit? Would it make it easier for folks to budget and decide which conference to go to if there was only one?

And given that, what is the point of the “Reporting 2010″ conference later this month, which I just found out about this morning? If SAP is so much in favor of combining SBOUC with TechEd, why are they hosting their own “reporting” conference as well? Apparently there are several different conferences that SAP hosts throughout the year that focus on a particular topic. Is it so hard to understand why BI deserves a separate conference?

A clarification: This is not an SAP-hosted event. It is hosted by a third party conference group. So while there are SAP speakers presenting at this conference, this is not an SAP event. My apologies for any confusion caused by my original post.

Related Links

Oct 20 2010

SAP TechEd Day 1

Categories: 2010 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 12:05 am

It’s a bit weird. I can fly all the way across the globe to attend a BusinessObjects conference in Australia and not feel as bad as a two hour time difference in Las Vegas. Not sure how to explain that, but there it is.

SAP TechEd Opening Keynote

The keynote this morning was from one of the top technical folks at SAP: Vishal Sikka. There were three main points he talked about: HANA, the in-memory engine that will soon drive application code and not just analytics, mobility, driven by the Sybase acquisition, and cloud computing. All of these are interesting, but there were not a lot of big take-aways from a BusinessObjects perspective. It’s not that the tools were not present. The talk included a number of interesting demonstrations that included dashboards and Explorer content. The talk was (at least to me) aimed at a broader SAP-style of audience. Vishal also talked quite a bit about the NetWeaver platform. Again, interesting stuff but not as important to BusinessObjects customers. If you want more in-depth coverage of Vishal’s keynote I have included a link at the end of this post.

Day In Review

Unfortunately for anyone looking for additional “scoops” from TechEd, I then spent the next few hours talking to various contacts, both inside and outside of SAP. After lunch I went back up to my room to rework my demonstrations for my talk this evening. And take a nap. (See above note about time zones.)

Semantic Layer Design For Non-ERP Data

My session was from 5:45 to 6:45 and I really was not sure how many folks would show up, given the late time slot. The room held 170 people and it was more than half full (by my estimate) so I considered that a good crowd. I introduced myself and told folks what I would cover (relational universe design) and would not cover (cubes) to make sure everyone was in the right place. Nobody left, so I considered that a positive step. I also asked how many folks knew about BOB, and less than 10% of the room raised their hands. It was like the old days again! :lol:

My talk was designed to share some of the power and flexibility offered by the current semantic layer. I suggested to folks in the room that since they were all running SAP, I could almost guarantee that they also had other databases within their enterprise, and BusinessObjects provided all the tools the needed to access that information. From there I jumped into my presentation, which was about one and a half days of the standard Designer training course condensed down to a single hour. :shock: I covered aliases, contexts, fan traps, chasm traps, and aggregate awareness. Yes, all in one hour.

At the end, I still had time for a few questions, and the first question I got was related to building a universe on top of cubes! :lol: I guess it goes with the territory.

I felt like the session went well. I even got the audience to sing the “super hero theme song” every time I saved the universe, so that was fun. :)

As a footnote, I had complained about the wireless earlier. This came out in the daily email summary:

We know it’s tempting, but please do not use devices like MIFI’s, personal access points, hubs, switches, etc. while at SAP TechEd. On Tuesday, the network team found multiple personal devices that were jamming the airwaves for SAP TechEd attendees, demos, and sessions. We are supporting over 2,000 concurrent devices on the network and can only provide the best possible service if everyone refrains from adding other devices to the airwaves. Thanks for your cooperation.

Liked the subject line for the paragraph. :)

Evening Activities

Tonight is the Demo Jam, and I am sure other folks will write about it in some detail. Folks get six minutes to go through a demonstration of a product or idea that they have, and the top demos (measured by applause) get the prize. Beer is served, so I assume there is an advantage to going on stage later in the evening…

I had a brief visit with some of the folks from the Mastering BusinessObjects conference while at Demo Jam. Early rumor is that the conference will be back in Sydney again this year (it was there two years ago) but I’m not sure that’s absolutely confirmed. I just wanted to report the rumor. :)

I did not stay long as (again, see first note in this post) I decided I needed some rest. And since the wireless was so bad this morning (I could not stay connected at all) I wanted to write up this first day post before it faded. Since I am done with my talk, I hope to spend more time visiting folks and seeing some sessions. By the end of the week I hope to be able to share some opinions and facts about how well BusinessObjects content is covered here, and what I think about the often repeated rumors that SBOUC and TechEd may be merging at some point.

If you’re planning for next year, TechEd is going to be in September.

Related Links

Oct 15 2010

And Now For Something Fun: Country Flags

Categories: General Dave Rathbun @ 7:56 pm

I use a web statistics package from Urchin. They were originally a separate vendor but got assimilated by the big “G” a few years back. I have not tried to completely evaluate their data collection process, but I have played quite a bit with their reports. One of my favorite bits of information is the list of countries that have visited BOB. Periodically I post this sort of information on the board, but I’m not sure how many other people are interested other than myself. :)

A few days ago I was visiting another site and they had an interesting list with tiny little flags and numbers. I clicked the flags and was taken to a site called Flag Counter. There was a very simple process for setting up my own counter (I did not even have to register) and so I did. You can see the results here on my blog (over on the right sidebar, you might need to scroll down some to see it) and also on BOB.

Within ten minutes of implementing the flag counter code on BOB there were over 15 countries listed. That was fast. :lol: Now we have recorded visits from 119 countries (how they classify countries is interesting) and it has been just less than 24 hours since I started the counter. One interesting fact: Folks living in the United States provide approximately 40% (less than half!) of the total visitors to BOB. Costa Rica is the newest country to visit (as I type this). Within the United States, California has provided the most unique visitors, with New York and Texas in second and third. Considering these are three of the most populated states that makes sense. I have collected 50 of the 51 states (District of Columbia counts as a state), so if you know anybody from South Dakota that uses BusinessObjects make sure they know about BOB. :D

As I have been typing this, someone from French Polynesia showed up, taking Costa Rica’s spot as the newest country to visit.

There is a “pro” version of the flag counter that provides more advanced statistics, but they suggest that I should contact them first if I am going to send more than a million page views monthly through their servers. Considering we see an average of 3.5 million page views a month on BOB, I sent them an email. :) I hope we can leave the flags up as I think they make for a interesting (and fun) piece of data for the site.

And we’re all about data, aren’t we?

Related Links

Oct 14 2010

SAP Name Changes… Or Will They?

Categories: Rants Dave Rathbun @ 8:45 am

There is a wonderful summarized post by fellow SAP Mentor Jon Reed that outlines all of the new product name changes coming with the 4.0 release. There are a couple of interesting points that I wanted to emphasize; you can read the full post using the link below.

First, Web Intelligence was supposed to get a new name. We heard that over and over. Ultimately SAP went to a number of different groups and asked about the name changes. I was fortunate to be in one of those groups, and we told SAP in no uncertain terms that Web Intelligence was a name with market value, with history, and it deserved to stay. Especially given the new name of “Interactive Analysis” that was proposed. First of all, Web Intelligence does not have to be interactive. Second, it is not limited to analysis. And with the combination of Pioneer being re-branded as Advanced Analysis, we wanted to know what made Pioneer (a completely different tool designed for OLAP cubes) any more advanced than Web Intelligence? So the good news is that Web Intelligence will stay Web Intelligence, so score a point for us. :)

Ultimately they dropped the “advanced” from Advanced Analysis and went with SAP BusinessObjects Analysis for the combined BEx + Voyager aka Pioneer project.

Second, Xcelsius is going to be re-branded as SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards. I get it… I really do. SAP is a multi-national company and having product names that say what the product does is a clear advantage for naming. But with the rapid growth and acceptance of Xcelsius in the marketplace, why lose that name recognition? One excuse given is that the name is “too close” to the Excel base that Xcelsius was originally based on. I get that too.

Then again, maybe the Roambi folks will blow Xcelsius out of the water and we’ll all be arguing over what that product should be named once SAP buys it instead. :P And no, I’m not trying to start any rumors, nor do I have any inside information. And while I am on the subject, it’s pronounced “roam-bee” as in the insect, not “roam-B-Eye” as most folks seem to want to do.

Jon has provided a far more robust list of products and name changes, so be sure to check out his post linked below for the full story.

Related Links

Oct 12 2010

2010 SBOUC Presentation Files Posted For Downloading

Categories: 2010 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 7:33 am

I have uploaded the PDF files for my two presentations from the 2010 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference. These are just the PDF files, the supporting materials (video clips and sample reports for the client tools session, and the VBA code for the designer session) are not yet available. I am working on reformatting the supporting materials for Internet presentation and will post them shortly.

As with previous conferences, I have posted these files for downloading on my conference download page.

Oct 11 2010

Information Design Tool (Designer 4.0) Won’t Have an SDK

Categories: 2010 SBOUC, VBA Tools Dave Rathbun @ 12:14 pm

One of the more interesting (and disappointing) tidbits I got from the folks talking about the new semantic layer (the Information Design Tool) coming in 4.0 is that there won’t be an SDK in the initial release. There may be one coming later, but it will potentially be java based rather than VBA. That means that my VBA experience is going to be less useful, and tools like my Schema Change utility and the soon to be posted Universe Change Log script that I showed at the 2010 BusinessObjects User Conference will soon not only be obsolete but we won’t have a mechanism to replace them. :shock:

While on the subject of the SDK… I was asked multiple times when I would be posting my script from the conference. I discovered a few days before the presentation was due that there is a problem with joins when switching from one database to another. For example, we are in the process of switching one of our larger datamarts from DB2 to Teradata. I am going to write a more detailed blog post on that shortly, but let me say that my universe compare script was very useful during the process. But during the compare process I found that this join:

table1.table_1_id = table2.table_2_id

Got changed to this:

table2.table_2_id = table1.table_1_id

Of course both joins are functionally the same. But to my script they showed up as three different changes. Table 1 was changed from “table1″ to “table2″ while Table 2 was changed in reverse. And of course the join logic was reversed as shown above. So while this was not really a change, my script was recognizing three unique differences between the two universes, all related to that one join. I had not encountered this when running against two different versions of the same universe pointing to the same database, which is the expected use of the tool. I created it primarily to compare the DEV and PROD versions of the same universe. But I am trying to think about a way to update the code so that inverted or reversed joins are not detected as changes. If I can’t come up with something in the next few weeks, I will go ahead and post the code as I demonstrated it at the conference last week.

Oct 08 2010

SBOUC 2010 – Day 2 + 3

Categories: 2010 SBOUC, General Dave Rathbun @ 9:43 pm

I generally have several goals when attending a BusinessObjects conference. In no particular order, they are:

  • Make sure that my sessions are delivered effectively and provide value to those that attend
  • See what is coming new from SAP BusinessObjects
  • Reconnect with old friends and see what they’re up to
  • Attend a few sessions and try to learn something

Maybe those are in the right order. :) Both of my sessions were delivered on Tuesday which left me (in theory) free for the rest of the conference. I did manage to reconnect with some old friends as well as make some new ones. I did attend some sessions to see what’s coming new in the semantic layer in 4.0. I participated in the first-ever ASUG Influencer Summit, and will post more on that in a bit. I also worked with Bridgette Chambers (and many others) to finalize the agreement related to the new collaboration agreement between BOB and ASUG, which you can read more about in the announcement post on BOB.

I went to Epcot on Wednesday night and stayed until midnight. I got a bruise from somewhere, probably on my second or third mission to Mars. :lol:

Ultimately due to the lack of wireless (something that many folks have provided feedback about) I did not blog much while there. That’s why the last two days are going to be wrapped up here, and will seem a bit short. It seems easier to write while I am in the middle of everything instead of back at home. But here goes. Continue reading “SBOUC 2010 – Day 2 + 3″

Oct 05 2010

SBOUC 2010 – Day 1

Categories: 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 10:46 pm

I have done conference presentations before. I have done more than one presentation for the same conference. I have even done a double presentation (a longer two-part session stretched over two hours) before. But never have I done two unrelated sessions, in different rooms, in back-to-back time slots on the same day. :shock: I did my first session as a co-presenter with Brian Durning, where we talked about picking out the proper client tool to use. As soon as I got finished there, I had to shut down my laptop and get to my next session, which was all about managing changes in a universe design. I was quite pleased with the turnout for both sessions, and also pleased with my delivery. Some might think that after so many years of doing this it becomes second nature… and some parts do. But every year is a new subject and a new challenge, and I always want to do my best to share what I have found to be useful.

Brian and I had a lot of fun with our first session. The fact that we work together (and occasionally play together) really helped with the presentation style, which was very easy and laid-back. We created three specific (and exaggerated) scenarios that showed that Web Intelligence was the best tool for casual or interactive reports, Crystal is the best for reports with prompts, and Xcelsius provides the only tool with “what if” capability. I will be posting the presentation file here shortly.

The second session from me today was related to the concepts of change management for universe designers. I am often asked questions like:

  • What is different between these two universes?
  • What changes were made in “break fix” that now have to be applied to development?
  • What are you getting ready to move into production?

I concluded the presentation by doing a live demonstration of a universe change detection script that I have written in VBA. I took several suggestions for changes in a universe from the audience (change an object name, remove some joins from a context, and change a join from a shortcut to a regular join) and my script found them all. Whew! I will be posting that presentation here shortly, and the script should follow soon after.

There is also a lot to talk about regarding BOB and ASUG and other developments, but that’s worthy of a separate blog post to come later.

That means that the good news is that I’m done with presentations for this conference! The bad news is that I have not done much of anything else (other than saying “hi” to some old friends and meeting some new ones) so I don’t have anything to report. Tomorrow I hope to get to some other sessions and be able to share some tidbits from the conference.

Until then, it’s time for a good night’s sleep. 8-)