Nov 15 2010

Universe Compare Tool Progress Report

Categories: 2010 SBOUC, VBA Tools Dave Rathbun @ 11:16 am

I have had a number of questions or requests related to the release date for my universe compare tool that I demonstrated at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference last month in Orlando. I am happy to report that I have almost completed the “digging out from under” process that occurs every year after the conference season, and hope to be able to finalize the initial release. All I have to do is remove the logic that checks for object incompatibilities (related to Aggregate Navigation) as large universes contain too much data to fit in a standard (old version) spreadsheet.

Once that is complete, I will release the initial version here on my blog. I anticipate at this time that I will be able to do this early in December. Thanks for your patience.


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 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-)


Sep 08 2010

Universe “diff” Tool To Be Released At Orlando Conference

Categories: 2010 SBOUC, VBA Tools Dave Rathbun @ 9:21 am

I am happy to be able to (finally!) report that my universe “diff” tool (first mentioned a long time ago) is nearing completion. I have been using this partially completed tool on my own for many years, but the only things it compared were objects and predefined conditions. As such it was somewhat useful (mostly to me) but since it was not complete I did not release it even internally to my employer. When I started to extend the code to compare joins, tables, contexts, and other universe components I soon realized that the way I had originally written the code was not very modular. I was going to have to either write specific routines to compare each universe component, or go back and rewrite what I had in order to make it more generic. I didn’t do either of those things. :)

As of today I have completed the rewrite and am now going to extend the comparison to other universe components. I expect to have the final code ready to demonstrate (and release) during my talk Change Management Strategies For Universe Developers at the fall BusinessObjects conference. And of course once I release it there, I will also set up a way to download the code here on my blog.

Why use this tool rather than some of the other tools that are available? For one thing, it will be free. Free is good. :) It will be released under the GNU GPL license, which allows me to retain the copyright on the code while ensuring that the code can be distributed without restrictions. Support for the code will be on an “as time allows” basis here on my blog. For more details on the GNU GPL license (if you are not familiar with it) I have included a link at the end of this post. Basically it says that I retain copyright of the code, but anyone can use it however they see fit. So there are no restrictions on using it for personal or company use, and it can even be redistributed. The only requirement is that the code remains free of all restrictions and that my copyright information be retained in a visible fashion.

I’m excited to be able to finally complete this project. When I submitted the abstract for the conference I was hoping that it would get accepted, and that would be the incentive for me to get around to completing the code. It seems to have worked. Now all I have to do is complete my slides and get them submitted (a week late). I look forward to being able to share the results and the code in Orlando.

Related Links


Jul 28 2010

Change Management Strategies For Universe Developers

Categories: 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 8:13 am

Yesterday I mentioned my first talk that I will be giving at the fall BusinessObjects conference this year. Brian Durning and I are going to compare and contrast Crystal and Web Intelligence. But that’s not all. In the session immediately following that one I will be giving a talk about change management for BusinessObjects universes.

Session Code: 804
Title: Don’t Lose Control: Change Management Strategies for Universe Designers
Day and Time: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 2:45PM – 3:45PM

My final material is subject to change as I see how long each section gets, but here’s a brief overview of the areas I am considering covering.

  • Impact of database changes
    What happens to my universe when my database changes? How can I address those issues in a way that causes the least impact on my reporting team?
  • Impact of universe changes
    What happens to reports when I change my universe?
  • How can I compare two versions of a universe to see what is changing?
    This is the big one… several years ago I started a script that allows me to check two different versions of a universe and see what is different. I have been using the script for a while now and it does most of what I need, but it isn’t complete. I plan to (hope to) get the code finished by October so I can distribute it at the conference, and of course here on my blog. The code will be released under the GNU GPL (open source license). Details of that license and what someone can (or cannot) do are found on the GNU GPL home page. I will demonstrate the code and how it works under various change scenarios during my presentation… assuming I get it all working the way I want it to, of course.
  • These were the ideas I had in mind when I submitted the abstract. Time will tell which of them make it into the final presentation. Anything that doesn’t make it will very likely show up here as blog posts.

    At some point, anyway. I mean I only started working on my universe change script in 2007… ;)


Jul 26 2010

Dueling Reporting Tools

Categories: 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 9:53 am

I submitted several abstracts for consideration for the fall conference this year. The one I was the most excited about got accepted into the Webi/Deski track, and is called, “Discovery Versus Delivery: A Comparison of Client Reporting Tools.” Here is the formal track designation information.

Session Code: 603
Title: Discovery Versus Delivery: A Comparison of Client Reporting Tools
Day and Time: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 1:30PM – 2:30PM

What is this talk about? A while back I wrote a post about a very short (single page) slide from SAP that shows how to pick which tool for a particular problem. For this presentation, Brian Durning and I will be doing a demonstration of strengths of two of the most important tools from BusinessObjects: Crystal and Web Intelligence. We plan to cover (and demonstrate!) several scenarios that should help show where the strengths of each tool lie. I will be covering Web Intelligence, and Brian Durning will be covering the Crystal side of the house.

It should be fun. 8-)

Related Links


Jul 23 2010

October Conference Season Heats Up

Categories: 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 2:09 pm

A few weeks back I got an acceptance notice for an abstract I had submitted to TechEd this year. TechEd is in Las Vegas and I will be speaking about universe design to SAP folks that want to learn more about how to use BusinessObjects tools outside of their ERP/BW environment. It should be fun.

Earlier today I got notified that I have also been accepted to speak at the ASUG fall conference in Orlando. This is the conference that replace the Insight conferences put on by BusinessObjects these past few years, which were then followed by the two GBN conferences in Dallas. Since GBN has been folded into ASUG now our fall conference is now under their umbrella. If you are a “classic” BusinessObjects customer who wants to continue to see new and exciting things that you can do with your tools, this is the conference to attend. There will be some great stuff coming from SAP employees about XI 4 that you won’t want to miss, as well as (I am sure) a number of “can’t miss” sessions related to XI 3.x (and perhaps even earlier versions) that will help you make the most of your current environment while we all wait for XI 4 to be generally available.

In a few days I will post more details about my abstracts. I look forward to seeing everyone in Las Vegas or Orlando or perhaps even Both. :)


Jun 07 2010

Call For Speakers Extended to June 13

Categories: 2010 SBOUC Dave Rathbun @ 8:59 am

If you procrastinated just enough to miss the deadline, or if you were inspired by some extra stupendous ideas just after the submissions window closed, you are in luck. :) The call for speakers for the fall BusinessObjects conference has been extended until June 13th.

To repeat something I mentioned earlier (a tweet from Jamie Oswald)

Did you know that speakers at #SBOUC get free admission. That’s like making $1,000/hr. Go submit an abstract. http://ow.ly/1KefI #ASUG #BOBJ
10:40 AM May 19th


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