Feb 01 2011

Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence Influence Council

Categories: ASUG Dave Rathbun @ 1:04 pm

Today I attended a Desktop to Web Intelligence Migration influence council hosted by ASUG. Clearly based on posts on BOB there is a lot of frustration and trauma being experienced by folks that are deeply invested in Desktop Intelligence. I do not anticipate being an active participant in this council myself, but I wanted to hear what SAP had to say. The first thing they mentioned was the final support dates for Desktop Intelligence, and they depend on your customer support agreement. If you are on standard (mainstream) maintenance then you can continue to get support through 2015. For those customers that pay for priority one support, you get an extra two years, all the way out to 2017.

The next item on the agenda was yet another listing of reasons from SAP as to why Desktop Intelligence will be discontinued. They claim :) that there is a decreasing interest in the product, which I expect to be true but you would not know based on the very vocal responses on BOB to the contrary. Web Intelligence does currently cover the majority of the features, but there are some significant holes at this time. From a coding perspective, I am definitely going to miss the VBA capabilities, at least until I can get more comfortable with writing / implementing Java code.

As a part of the influence council, SAP is looking for help in understanding what customers need in order to make the conversion. Do we need more service offerings (consulting or products) to aid in that conversion? Are there specific features that are “must haves” in order to make the leap? What about the report conversion tool, are there additional options required there? One item that I have heard requested (and turned down) many times is the ability to open a .REP file directly in the rich client. From a user convenience perspective, it makes sense. From a coding / architecture perspective, it’s a terrible idea. The report conversion tool is a complex bit of code. It makes sense that it’s a standalone product. If they decide to include all of that logic within the rich client, then that’s an awful lot of extra baggage to carry around for a temporary use. And that extra code would also be present for any new customers that perhaps never even had any .REP reports to deal with. So despite the requests, I would be surprised if the rich client ever got the ability to directly open a .REP file.

But perhaps if the influence council decides it’s important enough, then the technical issues will be overruled and that feature will become part of the tool. The SAP representatives did confirm that the top two missing features are custom groups and free hand SQL. I’m not sure which is number one versus number two, but those requests do match my experience as far as conversations I have had with other users.

Bud Stewart from AT&T is the customer chair for this influence council. He had one slide where he talked briefly about the agenda in place, including the process of identifying key issues that current customers are finding as they go through the conversion.

I believe that further participation in the council is covered under a non-disclosure agreement, but I wanted to share the initial high-level topics that were mentioned on the kickoff call. It will be interesting to see the final resolution. And no, I don’t expect SAP to bring back Desktop Intelligence. :)

27 Responses to “Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence Influence Council”

  1. Comment by Nikhil

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for sharing your information on Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence Influence Council.

    By the way, it seems that there is some problem with the website (or might be issue of timezone :shock: )

    This post is not visible when I directly enters the URL – http://www.dagira.com/
    It took some time like changing months Feb-Jan-Feb to get this post. Or best way (which I always use)to go to http://www.dallasmarks.org/blog/ and check the BI Blogs section.:lol:

  2. Comment by Dallas Marks

    Dave, wouldn’t it be better for developers to put the free-hand SQL into a derived table universe for Web Intelligence or manually port the report to Crystal Reports? Desktop Intelligence tried (pretty successfully) to be all things to all people, but wouldn’t it be better to keep it focused as an easy-to-use “business user” tool and keep the “technical users” sated with functionality in the semantic layer or Crystal Reports?

  3. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Dallas, I don’t like free-hand SQL to begin with. :) It would not even be in my top ten list, much less a top two. But there is a very vocal group that insists that this is a major obstacle in the move towards Web Intelligence, and to their credit SAP is working to make it happen.

  4. Comment by Ton

    Dave, my believe is that the use of free hand sql points to a fundamental wrong/lazy use of Business Objects. I agree with Dallas that this should be ported to Crystal or outside the scope of a Universe based reporting solution.
    As far as Deski is concerned : I am a Deski veteran but since XI 3.1 I’m beginning to hate Deski.
    My experience is that conversion rom Deski to Webi is quite easy, even for complex reports, the main advantage of the Report conversion tool is that the query is made available in Webi and you don’t have to reconstruct that from scratch. The support for folded breaks in XI 3.1 was essential for moving to Webi. Furthermore the input controls feature is an extra reason for moving to Webi.

  5. Comment by Brad

    I have used Desktop Intelligence and Crystal Reports for over 10 years. I find Web Intelligence clunky and lacking many of the features I need. We are migrating to SP3 soon so I will take another look at it. But I can’t state this clear enough. “Fit to Page” is essential. A great many reports using Crosstabs or Rotated Tables do not know the paper size until run time. I have yet to see a nice looking Web Intelligence report. For me to migrate I need to be able to replicate the complexity and appearance properly.

  6. Comment by Jkanaks

    Dave,

    I think that they are moving towards the information consumer and they fall behind at the power users/Analysts domain. Probably new tools are going to be used on that league.

    Just did a presentation to a customer that is still using full client on 6.5. When they saw Webi XI they where obviously disappointed, “Where is the Slice and dice panel” the chorus said. Needless to say they were further disappointed by the charting options and the loss of group variables functionality.

    Please SAP don’t scrap Business Objects functionality, not all of your clients are using BEX.

  7. Comment by Brad

    One more point. Fit to page allows you to dynamically adjust the paper size. If I decide I want it on legal or ledger then it can handle that.

  8. Comment by Ashley Burton

    Thanks for the summary, from my perspective I’d have to say the biggest issue preventing migration is Free Hand SQL. I don’t wish to ignite a heavy debate but whilst I understand that FHS is not the basis on which your BI platform should be built it can be invaluable in a a pinch when you’ve got a minimal amount of time and need a slick looking report based on an operational data source.

    Working in a small business means you have to be agile and the fact that BO allows you to do that has always been ome of it’s strengths in my book, good BI is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time and unfortunately real life doesn’t always grant us the time to build a dimensionally modelled DWH and Universe based solution on the spot!

  9. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    There are a number of issues folks generally raise when talking about the demise of Desktop Intelligence, and how it will affect their implementation. Free Hand SQL and the custom grouping feature are – as mentioned – high on the list. Others that I frequently hear mentioned (including a post or two on BOB) are fit to page (mentioned here), user defined objects, slice and dice panel, the ability to freeze headings, and various others. It’s probably worth a full blog post rather than a comment, but I’m already here, so…

    Fit to Page
    Web Intelligence is primarily designed (intended) as an online experience. It can be functional as an enterprise scheduling / bursting / printing solution, but from my experience that has never been the intended use. Crystal, on the other hand, grew up in that space and does a wonderful job. And it, of course, has fit to page. I don’t think we even had fit to page in “Business Objects” (aka Desktop Intelligence) until version 5 or 5.1, I don’t remember exactly which one it was. Can a Web Intelligence report be made to fit to a page? Sure, but you have to know the page size, set up your margins, and then manually play with column widths and font sizes until everything is just right. My point is this: if you’re using the tool online only, then page size doesn’t matter. If you’re downloading to Excel, then fit to page doesn’t matter. I understand that this is going to be a bigger issue for some than others, and for some it may even be considered a show-stopping product gap. I also suspect that for the majority it won’t be in this category.

    Free Hand SQL
    This is another Crystal area. You’ve been able to use (and in fact required to use) the equivalent of free hand SQL in the Crystal tools for many years, it was only recently that Crystal got to start using the universe framework. Maybe if SAP were able to create a Desktop Intelligence -> Crystal converter we would not be having these conversations.

    Slice and Dice
    I’ve heard this mentioned quite a bit as well over the years. This panel can be both a blessing and a curse. :) Yes, it’s a very quick and easy way to generate a lot of basic analysis. It provides a very visual way to interact with the report. But to be honest, I don’t think I’ve used it in years, even when I have gone back to work with the desktop product.

    VBA
    This is my biggest complaint. Over the years I have used VBA to automate a number of tasks, and I will miss being able to use these utilities. The new Designer product for 4.0 is also VBA-less, which is really disappointing for similar reasons. Web Intelligence does allow for extension via Java, so I guess I will be learning a new language. :)

    Insert Favorite Feature Here
    I am sure there will be other folks reading this and thinking to themselves, “What about insert favorite feature here?” That’s where the influence council should prove to be valuable. The stated purpose of this council is for SAP to get feedback and input on how to make the transition easier, either by enhancing the conversion tool, or deciding what features to add to Web Intelligence.

  10. Comment by Ran Braun

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the summary of the council.
    It’s comforting to see that the issue is being dealt from all sides, and that the decision wasn’t made lightly.
    The company I work at is in the middle of moving from BO6.5 to the DESKI, and WEBI.
    We plan to limit the DESKI as much as we can, and convert everything to WEBI.
    When I play with the WEBI, it feels incomplete… or half-baked.
    There’s plenty of small features I use all the time, and now some work, and some don’t (For example the “list of values” when writing a formula, and allowing the selection of the value from the list)

    I look forward to reading more info and experience from you about the subject,
    Ran

  11. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    The list of values is a nice option, to be sure! I also miss the option to get prompt text when filling out the UserResponse() function. The auto-complete on function names is nice, but it would be useful to have auto-complete for the function arguments as well.

  12. Comment by sam

    I do see a problem with correlated subqueries in webi but not sure how it works in r3 because i am still using r2. There is a work around using alias but still going to miss this option.

  13. Comment by Tim

    I don’t think free hand SQL is required in WEbi All user reporting needs should be handled by the Semantic Layer. Free hand SQL should be restricted and should not be included in Web Intelligence. I feel a lot of the resistance to Web Intelligence is coming from full client implementations that are slow to respond and adjust to web based applications.

  14. Comment by Phil Reid

    Dave,

    I would have preferred to attach my spreadsheet of issues, but that isn’t an option.

    These comments (in no order of priority) all relate to WRC in v3.1 SP3

    As you may see, I have made no comment about the lack of VB, as I never use it; although I know that this is a major concern for others. Similarly, I very seldom use drill-down or hyperlinking, so there’s no comments relating to them either.
    From my comments below, ’speed’ is a recurrent theme. The bottom line for me is that Webi just isn’t slick enough. In isolation these may be small concerns, but together they become a real pain. Development times for properly formatted, complex reports is considerably longer using Webi, and that is the ‘bread and butter’ for many users.

    Problem ID Capability Category Severity Fequency Impact Workaround Comment
    1 See number of records returned by a query. Usability Low Daily Speed Use NumberOfRows function
    2 Rapid scrolling through large number of records. Usability Medium Weekly Speed Save as Excel Useful in reconciliation type of tasks. In Webi have to click through the pages.
    3 No ‘Copy All’. Functionality High Daily Speed Save as Excel Cannot copy a block into Excel apart from as an image.
    4 No Print Preview. Functionality Medium Daily Speed Save as PDF
    5 No print options (can only use printer defaults). Functionality Medium Daily Speed Save as PDF
    6 Using Autofit cell format and Structure Mode are not compatible. Bug? Medium Monthly Speed Column widths are minimised so information not visible.
    7 No ‘Insert Cell After’. Functionality Low Daily Speed Manual cell positioning
    8 FormatDate’ function Functionality Medium Daily Speed / Accuracy Requires specific case sensitive syntax in Webi.
    9 No single click to select complete rows or columns. Usability Low Hourly Speed Multiclick
    10 No right click / copy / paste functionality. Usability High Hourly Speed CTRL-C / CTR-V in formula bar Requires double the number of mouse clicks.
    11 Cannot copy and paste a selection of cells from a block from one tab to another. Usability High Daily Speed Can only copy and paste an entire block.
    12 No warning if you delete a column that has been filtered. Functionality High Daily Accuracy In Deski you are asked if you wish to retain the filter.
    13 No ‘Fit To Page’ option. Functionality High Daily Speed / Appearance
    14 Cannot select multiple tabs for deletion. Usability Low Weekly Speed Delete one at a time.
    15 Cannot Delete or Rename files from within File>Open Usability Low Daily Speed Delete from within ‘My Documents’.
    16 Cannot export multiple documents at the same time. Usability Low Weekly Speed Export one at a time.
    17 Cannot double click to maximise the query panel Usability Medium Hourly Speed Manually enlarge it.
    18 No syntax prompting when using Formula Editor Usability Medium Hourly Speed e.g. When using ‘WHERE’ operator.
    19 No ability to select from LOV when using ‘WHERE’ operator of ‘If..Then..Else’. Functionality High Daily Speed / Accuracy A real problem when using complex formulae.
    20 No ‘Evaluate the formula in its context’ option when creating variables. Functionality High Weekly Speed / Accuracy Massively useful utility to generate the correct extended syntax in formulae.
    21 Cannot stop LOVs from refreshing when selected in a Condition. Bug? High Daily Speed LOVs should only refresh when you force them to do so.
    22 No freehand SQL option. Functionality Medium Rarely Speed & Flexibility Use ‘dummy’ objects from a Universe and then modify the SQL.
    23 Cannot view the ‘raw’ data returned by a query Usability Medium Weekly Flexibility As seen in Deski Data Manager.
    24 Cannot create some complex filters. Functionality Low Rarely Speed Create boolean variables. e.g. Match(,”F*”)
    25 Cannot hide columns in a block. Functionality High Weekly Flexibility / Appearance
    26 Charting options are limited compared to Deski. Functionality Medium Monthly Flexibility / Appearance
    27 Cannot group variables. Functionality Medium Monthly Speed Use If Then Else.
    28 No slice and dice panel Usability Medium Weekly Flexibility

  15. Comment by Stephen Watson

    Apart from the ones mentioned above, I would point out 2 very report oriented formatting issues missing from WEBI, present in Deski.

    1) Line/Bar chart on one axis (Have to buy an SDK from a third party to do this). Its possible on separate axis but the scales on these two separate axis cant be automatically synchronised. Therefore visual representation is skewed.
    2) Breaks on values. Currently breaks repeat for all values within a dimension, and sometimes this means you end up with totals being the same as the detail above (if the value doesnt break down any further in other dimensions). Sometimes you only want one or two running sums within a dimension set and you need a break on value for this.

    Thats my rant over with.

  16. Comment by sam

    Thanks Tim. we do manage all subqueries by creating conditions at universe level.

  17. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Someone should make a list of features that are in Webi and not in Deski…

  18. Comment by sam

    Dave, I noticed one, XIR2 webi has merge cell option but deski doesn’t have it.

  19. Comment by Chris

    Dave – I am more disappointed with the overall direction the product has taken. A web browser has never been ideal for large datasets and it seems all the vendors are putting their eggs totally in this basket. Different needs may require different toolsets, so why is it not considered to keep a client-server tool that avoids all the web-based complexity? Oh to be back in the days when all that was between my BO client and the data was a single middleware connection. I realize times change, but it seems the more the product evolves, the more complex the architecture becomes making it almost impossible to administrate.

    Unfortunately, this and SAP’s behavior around licensing has forced us to move to Oracle’s BI product. 3.1 will be our last upgrade. BO had so much going for it and it saddens me to see us move away.

  20. Comment by cheryl

    I share all the disappointments of other users I’ve read about here. Here’s another one I didn’t see: In Desktop I have many reports with linked queries. I often link a sales query with a forecast query (and a budget query). Currently, the forecast is “locked in” for the month, because Desktop Intelligence allows me to turn my forecast query off after I’ve refreshed the latest. Web Intelligence does not–a click of the refresh button, refreshes everything whether you want it that way or not.

  21. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    You can mark data providers in Web Intelligence as being non-refreshable, just like you could in Desktop Intelligence. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding your comment…?

  22. Comment by Jon Fortner

    I’d just like RCT to actually work. There always seems to be some issue with it. We are upgrading to XI 3.1 SP3 FP3.5 and RCT fails on ALL DeskI reports with the same error, “Not Converted: No Data Provider”, but the reports work fine in Infoview/DeskI. No luck finding any postings on that. The second reason is we have over 5,000 DeskI reports and need to be able to do this in mass, not selecting them one by one. I’m sure we wouldn’t do all 5,000, but it’ll be a lot.

  23. Comment by Jon Fortner

    On other comments I read, I did see a note out there that 4.0 will have fit to page for WebI. Also, see this

  24. Comment by Tony

    I currently use deski most of time but also work with webi. I have been using both on a regular basis for the last 2 years and if someone asked me which was better and easier to use I would always say Deski. If I did not know better I would think that deski came from webi since it seems like a better product. If your going to change make it for the better and not for the sake of change. If somebody wanted to make alot of money they would make there own version of deski and sell it to all of us that are having webi shoved down our throats.

  25. Comment by Adnan

    One of @Dave Rathbun suggestion was a compilation of features that are in Webi and not in Deski. Here the link from sap wiki.

    http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/BOBJ/Conversion+from+Desktop+Intelligence+to+Web+Intelligence

    Hope this would be of help.

  26. Comment by Antonio

    Hi Dave,

    Do you know whether we will be able to “call” the Web Intelligence application from within a VBA script as we currently do for DeskI?

    E.g. Dim BOApp As busobj.Application and Call BOApp.LoginAs

    Regards
    Antonio

  27. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Nope. Webi and just about everything new in BI4 will be available via a Java environment rather than VBA. It makes senes, since Java is platform independent, but it means that utilities such as my universe compare script will have to be rewritten, or may not even be possible.

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