May 23 2014

BI2014 Report Part 1

Categories: Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 2:20 am

I spent yesterday at the BI2014 event and had a very productive day. I delivered a presentation that compared Universe Designer to Information Design Tool and discussed some of the pros and cons of switching or converting universes. It was a small crowd, but I did get to meet Miss Universe from BOB and also Raphael Branger who delivered an excellent talk on various ways to help select the right BI tool. I have also had several folks comment on my LSU backpack. ;) I use the same backpack for almost all of my conferences because it’s quite likely to be the only one there, making me easier to find for folks who I haven’t met yet.

I attended a session on Mobi yesterday that was encouraging. Some of our projects that have tried to use Mobi have observed some performance issues, and apparently that has been addressed for the next (6.0) release of Mobi. The folks that build that tool are in an interesting situation… they have to try to take content that wasn’t necessarily designed for mobile device and render it there. On complex documents (those with lots of different blocks and charts, or even just crosstabs) the rendering process became complex. From what was suggested during the talk the Mobi folks have figured out a different way to interact with the Web Intelligence API that should show noticeable improvement. I’m looking forward to seeing that in action.

I also attended a session that was supposed to be an introduction to analytics but turned instead into a review of the KXEN acquisition that was made last fall. The presenter suggested that KXEN rendered most of what he was going to share obsolete because a user doesn’t need to know anything about the underlying analytics anymore. At some point I would still like to get a better understanding of the concepts.

I haven’t done much of anything outside of the conference yet, simply because I only flew in Wednesday and the jet lag is still affecting me some. It always seems to be easier to go West – even really far West such as Melbourne – than to head East. Oh well, it will be easy to go home. 8-)

May 07 2014

It’s So Nice To Be In Nice

Categories: Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 8:09 am

I’m going to be at the SAP Insider BI 2014 event in a few weeks in Nice, France. It’s my third time travelling to the “old continent” to present at a BI conference, but my first in a long time. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and introduce yourself!

BI 2014 May 21-23 Nice, France

If you’re as old as I am, you might recognize the blog title was inspired by a song from the band Gallery

Aug 13 2013

Mastering Business Analytics with SAP

Categories: Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 12:27 pm

I have said this before: if you ever get invited to speak at a conference hosted by The Eventful Group, don’t wait, don’t think, just do it! They treat speakers fantastic, and their events are well put together. Thanks to Sophie, Debra, and crew for making my stay in Melbourne wonderful despite the fact that my luggage got there 36 hours after I did…

Josh Fletcher tweeted the following link to a collection of tweets and pictures on Storify that summarize the event:

I had two sessions. The first one on Monday was scheduled opposite Mico so I didn’t have that many people attend. ;) In my first session I talked about PepsiCo and our initial success (after a long and winding road) with Explorer. I will be repeating this talk (with some minor changes) at the SBOUC event coming up in California. On Tuesday I had a second session talking about the Information Design Tool and various items to consider when upgrading to BI4. I will be posting more about that topic here on my blog in the coming months.

Oct 10 2012

2012 SAP Business Objects Presentation Posted Soon

Categories: 2012 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 6:07 pm

My virtual machine that I used at the conference seemingly crashed, or at least it would not come up in any way that I could interact with it. I fixed that this morning, and created the PDF file that I will need to send to ASUG and to post here. My apologize for the delay, but it will be up within the next few days.

Sep 11 2012

SAP Business Objects User Conference – Day 1 + 2

Categories: 2012 SBOUC, General Dave Rathbun @ 8:41 pm

Wow, lots going on. It’s the end of day two and I’m only now sitting down to write my first blog. Then again, much of what I am going to cover has probably been mentioned in a tweet or two. ;)

We started on Sunday with our 3rd annual Influencer Summit. We opened with a recap of the prior year activities from each of the four SIG chairs. The four strategic SIG areas were Product Direction, Education, Support, and Integration. One of the interesting results of the pre-conference survey was that these four areas were still the top vote recipients as areas of concern. My take-away from that is that while we have definitely made progress, there is still room for improvement. One important difference this year was SAP representatives were in the room for the entire session this year so they were able to witness and participate in the entire process. I’ll be honest; if you attended the conference this year and didn’t try to come to the Influencer Summit, you should come next year. We’re getting better and better at how we run these (we had to make some new processes up as we went along because we were doing something new) and the more people and viewpoints that SAP can hear, the better.

ASUG provided an “app” for the conference this year which has been fantastic. I don’t have a paper schedule, we don’t have to fill in paper evaluation forms that will later have to be transcribed into digital form for analysis, I don’t miss important updates during the day… in short, it’s exactly what a conference app should do. Excellent addition to the event.

Because of the app, I can tell you exactly what I did (and when) on Monday. :)

My first session on Monday was a follow-up to the Strategic SIG panel. Unfortunately there were not a lot of people there. One of the action items that I got out of the session Sunday and the lack of attendance on Monday is that we need to do a better job of figuring out how to communicate what the SIG is doing. It’s important to get that message out, so that more folks can participate.

Visual Intelligence First Look

Also on Monday I got my first look at Visual Intelligence (aka “Visi” in keeping with our normal name-shortening practice) which was first shown at SAPPHIRE / Annual Conference earlier this year. It’s an interesting offering. It’s a desktop client but requires a 64 bit operating system, so that knocks out a whole bunch of potential users on older operating systems. It uses local data but can also connect via Freehand SQL. It will also connect to HANA. Universe support is supposed to be out very soon. What is it? It’s a data collection, analysis, and visualization tool. Yes, another tool. I will admit that I left that session feeling… underwhelmed.

But the price is right; you can download a free 90-day trial and see what you think.

Later Monday evening I had the opportunity to catch up with Timo Elliott and expressed my “underwhelmed-ness” about the tool. :) He had a different way to look at it, which I am shamelessly stealing and representing here. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I did see Visi today for the first time.
Timo: What did you think?
Me: Meh
Timo: It’s like second gear.
Me: ???

The idea takes more explanation than that, of course, but I don’t want to keep trying to relate it as a conversation. Timo suggested that today many businesses have first gear (Excel) and third gear (data warehouses or data marts) but nothing in the middle. Excel is first gear. We can grab data and do some basic analysis and visualizations, but each time we get new data we have to reinvent things. And merging two (or more) different sets of data in Excel is problematic at best. To do full blown data cleansing and merging we often move to the next step of a data warehouse, which is far more complex than the Excel model and therefore third gear. Timo’s view is that Visual Intelligence provides a second gear which can smooth the transition from first gear to third. I can see his point.

What about transitions between gears? Is there a transmission holding all of this together? It turns out that Visual Intelligence can start with Excel data, so there’s an easy link between first gear and second gear. Ultimately I am told that Visual Intelligence can export its results to HANA, which could become the start of a full-fledged warehouse. But at each point I am just moving the data from one gear to another; the work that was done is lost. I don’t think I can export a visualization into Explorer, for example, for use once the data is in HANA. I can’t transport a visualization into Xcelsius either, or Web Intelligence. So once again SAP has presented us yet another tool that we have to figure out when to use.

John Schweitzer Keynote

John Schweitzer took the stage on Tuesday morning for the opening keynote speech. He and Adam Binnie recreated “Back to the Future” complete with a skateboard powered by a flux capacitor. They needed it to process the 1.21 petabytes of data. ;) It was an entertaining skit, even if John messed up and called Adam “Adam” a few times rather than “Doc” as he was supposed to. :lol: I’ll post some more thoughts on the keynote when I get time.

Semantic Layer Influence Council

One of the primary benefits of ASUG membership is the ability to participate in influence councils. I have been privileged to be a member of the Semantic Layer influence council over the past year, and while I can’t tell you anything (or I will have to … you know) I can say that I am extremely pleased with the direction of the conversations and the progress being reported. Each council runs for a year, so this version will be retired and a new one will start. If you’re an ASUG member you can check on for details on when the new council opens up for applications. If you’re passionate (or at least have a passing interest) in the direction of the semantic layer, I encourage you to consider applying for a spot.

Go, Universe, Go!

I delivered my presentation titled, “Go, Universe, Go!” today just before lunch. I’ll have the session posted for download from my blog hopefully this weekend. To be honest, I covered a couple of topics that I’ve covered in some depth before here (shortcut joins and index awareness) but I also covered aggregate awareness, so expect a blog post (or two) on that subject soon.

Developer Wars!

The evening closed with the Developer Wars presentations and awards. All I can say is that if you were here at the conference and didn’t go to this event, you missed out on a lot of great fun. The teams all did fantastic, the judges tell me that the final scores were extremely close, and John Schweitzer did an awesome Simon Cowell impression. Gabe Orthous did a mean Johnny Depp impression as a member of the Irate Pie-Rates, a dragon mascot asked for chicken, and the red-tie and blue-tie candidates came to a consensus showing that apparently even politicians can make BI work. The fourth team did not do anything for costumes, but they presented four bags of groceries to the food bank, and their sponsor (Decision First) decided to award their final day booth prize ($250 gift card) to the food bank as well. The food bank provided the data for the different teams to use during the challenge.

It was great fun, and I think all of the participants agreed that we need to do it again next year.

Wrap Up

It seems like every year I have new folks coming up to me and telling me stories about how BOB or my blog or something I have done has helped them solve a problem. If you are one of those people, please know that I genuinely appreciate the fact that you share your stories with me. Knowing that I have helped people is something that never gets old, so thank you. 8-)

Jun 18 2012

Go, Universe, Go!

Categories: 2012 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 12:22 pm

I have been selected to speak at the 2012 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (twitter tag #SBOUC). My topic this year will be a follow-up of sorts to a topic I did last year called, “Designer Essentials.” In the essentials topic I went over the basic requirements of universe design (setting up a connection, adding tables, building joins, and so on). I also covered additional steps that have to be done in order to ensure the correct results, like making sure all SQL traps are resolved. My session this year covers the next step, which answers the question:

Now that my universe is working, how can I make it go faster?

I will be covering shortcut joins, index awareness, and aggregate awareness. I have talked about all three of these features before (they’ve all been available since version 6.5) but I hope to have time to show a neat trick with the @Aggregate_Aware() function that actually has nothing to do with aggregate tables. I’m also going to touch on the use of in-database solutions like aggregate join indexes (from Teradata). It will be a lot to get through in an hour, so maybe I’ll have to eliminate some of my historically bad puns.

Nah, I’ll leave the puns in. :P

As an aside, if you’re planning a trip to Orlando there are a couple of quick things to make sure you are aware of. First, the conference is early this year. It’s in September rather than the October/November slots that we’ve seen in prior years. Second, the conference has been extended an extra day, so plan to arrive on Sunday and depart Thursday. Content delivery starts on Monday, September 10th and runs through Thursday, September 13th. The final day (Thursday) is a half-day of additional content provided by SAP covering their complete analytics product line. This additional content is included as a part of the SBOUC conference this year. Steve Lucas announced this last year during his keynote.

Best of all? Wednesday night we have a concert from 80’s legendary arena rock band Foreigner which should be a lot of fun. I grew up listening to Foreigner along with Styx (who I was able to hear earlier this year), Boston, and many other “classic rock” bands. Hm. The term “classic rock” makes me feel old…

As a personal note, this will be my 17th consecutive year speaking at what I consider to be one of the “can’t miss” BusinessObjects events of the year. My first talk was back in 1996, and was quite forgetful to be honest. The next year I delivered a talk titled “Variables and More Variables” and it has gone on from there. Take that, Donald. :P Donald did get accepted, and all kidding aside, I consider him to be one of the best BI speakers out there. I look forward to hearing what he has to share this year.

Apr 26 2012

ASUG Call For Speakers Extended to May 11

Categories: Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 3:29 pm

This year is really tough, with our conference being earlier in the year than previously. But with ASUG Annual Conference / SAPPHIRE in ramp-up mode, it seems that the number of abstracts coming in is running behind the schedule that was expected. As a result, the deadline for submissions has been extended to May 11th. One of the tracks that has the fewest submissions so far is the Semantic Layer! (Oh, wait, I have not submitted any ideas of my own yet… :oops: ) Mobile is another area that should be very popular but needs more submissions, so if you have a fun / interesting / frustrating / enlightening story to share in either of these areas, please consider submitting an abstract.

Apr 11 2012

ASUG Call For Speakers Goes Live

Categories: Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 11:42 am

The call for speakers for the 2012 fall Business Objects conference in Orlando is live now. The window for submitting abstract ideas is smaller than in previous years, primarily because the conference is in September this year. The process of getting, reviewing, and selecting the final sessions will also be done on a tighter time frame. Remember that speakers get a free pass to the event, so even if it takes ten hours or so to create your presentation that’s still like earning $150 an hour. ;)

ASUG Call for Presentations, 2012 Fall Business Objects (SBOUC) conference

Mar 21 2012

SAP Insider BI 2012 Presentations Posted

Categories: 2012 BI 2012, Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 10:21 am

I have updated my conference presentations page with links to download my two sessions from BI 2012 conference last month. The two sessions were:

Leveraging Report Variables for More Robust SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence Reporting
This session explores the role of report variables in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 and offers undocumented tips and tricks to exploit them for more creative and efficient ad hoc reporting and data analysis. Walk through system demos to understand what’s required to merge data providers in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, including tips to leverage the ForgeMerge() function to fix unbalanced data providers in a full client document. Obtain best practices for using SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report functions and other context operations to enable calculations at different levels of granularity. Explore workarounds for displaying UserResponse() values on separate rows in a table, and see how this improves the user experience. Get techniques to optimize prompt handling, including insight into whether and how to create a prompt syntax that substitutes “today’s date” for a prompt default value.

The Web Intelligence session was actually delivered with the 3.1 rich client, not 4.0 as mentioned. The conference page lists a number of blog posts related to the content included in that session.

Universe Design Techniques Proven to Boost Front-End Performance
This session dives deep into universe development and examines when, why, and how to tweak your existing Business Objects universes for optimal report performance — and when you may need to build new ones. Explore proven techniques for extending a universe to ensure more efficient queries, an optimized end-user experience, and more timely and efficient BI operations. Acquire tips to perform index awareness, such as choosing a value from the list of values (LOV) directly within the query panel, rather than using prompts. Learn how to use aggregate awareness to set up complex logic and step through a demo to see how this results in significantly improved performance on the front end. Gain insight into whether and when to leverage shortcut joins to boost query speed. Explore universe design techniques that provide the best performance when pointing to a data source outside your Business Objects system. View detailed demonstrations of various advanced universe design techniques and leave with proven strategies for incorporating them into your own environment.

The Designer session included information that I have posted about on my blog before. However, in going through my older posts to build some links to those posts I realized that I’ve never really covered the aggregate awareness feature here. I hope to address that in the next few weeks.

Mar 02 2012

BI2012 Wrap Up

Categories: 2012 BI 2012, Conferences Dave Rathbun @ 1:37 pm

This conference has been flying by, primarily because I’ve been so busy. Today is the last day of the conference and since I woke up early I went to Eric Vallo’s session on high availability. Eric is a very entertaining speaker who also happens to know his stuff. After that I visited with a few folks on the way back to my room where I will be packing to head home as soon as I finish this post.

Wednesday morning I went to Alan Mayer’s session on how to perform a self-service system health check. I had not seen him in quite a while and it’s always good to catch up. If you weren’t aware of this, I used to work with Alan back in the Integra days, and Alan has launched a new venture called Solid Ground Technologies. Alan has been a regular at BI events for even longer than I have, and he always delivers great sessions. This year was no different.

I then spent Wednesday afternoon with Michael Welter preparing for our joint training session; we delivered a 3 hour hands-on session on the semantic layer to end the day. If you can imagine in three hours we covered setting up a connection, inserting tables, creating joins, building classes and objects, differences between dimensions and details, derived tables, measures, solving loops with aliases, solving loops with contexts, and even fan and chasm traps. Yes, in three hours. Just like running a marathon. ;) We repeated the session on Thursday morning to start what was my busiest day so far.

Thursday after the repeat of the designer session I got to spend the next hour talking about one of my favorite topics: BOB. They scheduled a room for me and allowed me to talk about the origin of BOB, some best-practices or tips for using BOB (how to search, among other things) but as the conversation went along we also talked about some of the challenges of running a large and active online community. I also talked about some of the new features that I hope we will be able to release within a few months. The crowd was small, but it was still a lot of fun for me to be able to talk about our progress over the last ten years. I would have been willing to do the same talk to an audience of one.

After that I had a quick lunch (food here is decent, by the way, and no problems at all finding water throughout the day unlike at another event I attended earlier this year). I went back up to my room to test and then reset all of the demonstration queries for my afternoon session on tuning universes. I covered index awareness (which I have blogged about before), shortcut joins (also a prior topic from this blog), and finished off with aggregate awareness. I will be posting the presentation slides after I get home, and will be adding a blog post (or two) related to aggregate awareness to eliminate that gap. That session was a lot of fun, as it included a lively discussion with audience members as they peppered me with questions throughout the hour.

One interesting difference between this event and other events where I have presented is the timing: the sessions here are designed to be an hour of lecture followed by a 15 minute question and answer period. As I was preparing my presentations for this event it really helped me to know that I could include extra content; so many times I have had to cut out important or useful information just to fit inside a one hour (or even fifty minute) time window. As a presenter I found that to be a nice change, and in the few sessions that I was able to attend I didn’t mind that they ran a little bit longer.

Overall I enjoyed the event. I was told that there are about 1,800 folks that are attending (although some of those are cross-over registrations, meaning they registered for a different event other than BI2012 but their conference pass allows them to attend all of the sessions.) The hotel was nice, although it was a long walk to the event location, and the walk included a pass through the smoke-filled casino area. That wasn’t always pleasant, but it’s a part of doing business in Las Vegas.

Finally, an amusing (at least to me) story to end the week: while I am here I am also still trying to keep up with work back home. At one point I was getting extremely frustrated with the hotel Internet access. I had established my connection and started up VPN. I was trying to import a universe, make a few small changes, and then export it again. The problem was the import process kept timing out. I finally was able to get the universe imported and make the changes but was a little hesitant to try to export after the time-out failures from earlier. I didn’t want to risk having the export process interrupted (this is a fairly large universe).

Finally I decided to risk it, and I exported the universe.

The export completed successfully.

Which proves that what happens in Vegas does not, apparently, have to stay in Vegas.


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