SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP6 was released two weeks ago and we have been testing and exploring its new capabilities since then. In this blog post I will be taking a closer look at some of the new functionality that SAP has brought to Web Intelligence: the introduction of automatic date hierarchies, hyperlinking within documents, and the auto-refresh option in the Fiori interactive viewer.
Creation of date-hierarchies in reporting has been a time-consuming task in previous versions of SAP BusinessObjects. If you are working with transactional data, or if the data-mart you’re accessing hasn’t had years, months and weeks added as fields, then there is repetitive work to be done. New objects need to be created with SQL in the universe for every date you want to aggregate or, if you don’t have access to the universe, then creating them afresh every time in individual reports is even worse.
SAP Lumira Discovery and SAP Analytics Cloud already allow you to automate the creation of date and time hierarchies and add fiscal year definitions. With this new release Web Intelligence is granted the same ability, a welcome relief for report builders!
Once you have run a query, any dimensions defined as dates will have this option on a right-click menu in the available objects list:
Fig 1: Right click a date dimension
This ability is also available for variables which have been created in the report with datatypes of ‘date’:
Fig 2: Right click a date variable
Selecting the option to ‘Create Time Dimension’ opens a new window where you can select the precise details of the hierarchy you require:
Fig 3: The date dimension options
There are some limitations – selecting ‘week’ disables the quarter and month selections, and vice-versa, although the ‘day’ level is allowed with any other choice.
The fiscal calendar option allows you to set your tax-year’s starting month and the start day of your reporting week.
Once you’ve accepted your choices the new objects are available by expanding the node created under your original date dimension – not in the ‘variables’ folder at the bottom of the list. If you selected to create additional attributes for each new level then these are displayed as details of their related objects, just like in normal universe design:
Fig 4: The date dimension objects
The new date objects work just like any other dimension and can be dragged and dropped into charts and tables or referenced in variables. When used in charts the dimension automatically fills in periods where there are no values in the data, helping to complete trend lines and standardise axes. Another great benefit is that as the month-name objects are now based on a true date, they automatically sort themselves into the correct order:
Fig 5: Date-dimension months in a chart
This new feature will save you time and effort in your reports, as well as removing frustration: no more year numbers with commas in, no more having to apply custom sorts to month names, and no more proliferation of variables in already complex reports!
Navigating within large or complex reports with multiple report-tabs can be an issue – if detailed analysis is placed on different tabs to the summary for example, your hard work may go unnoticed! In Web Intelligence 4.2 SP6 you can give users shortcuts to those far-flung pages so they get to see the whole picture.
Intra-document links can now be created that work just like the OpenDocument links to external reports that have been available for years. A simple right-click in the location that you wish to display the link brings up the context menu and the new option is found in the ‘linking’ section:
Fig 6: Adding links
Selecting ‘Add Intra-Document Link…’ accesses a window where you select the report tab that you want to open with the hyperlink, and create a tool-tip that will be seen when hovering over the link:
Fig 7: Selecting a report tab
It’s as simple as that – now clicking on a column of data can move the viewer through analysis within the one report. This can make report design and navigation more intuitive, with less need for sign-posting, written directions or training.
One thing to note though – since Web Intelligence 4.2 SP4, the ability of HTML code to run in the application has been secured – you may have to go into the CMC and enable HTML elements before you’ll see the effects working in your reports.
In the Fiori interactive viewer version of Web Intelligence more functions have been added to the software to bring it closer to the fully featured HTML and Java versions. SAP have taken things even further however by adding functionality that is not available in those legacy versions: automated refreshes of reports and animated charts. With these two additions as well as some behind-the-scenes tweaks, Web Intelligence could offer true hands-off dashboard functionality!
The chart animations are switched on from a toggle in the report properties:
Fig 8: Chart animation option
When enabled the charts open with animations like those seen in Xcelsius or Lumira Designer – bars and columns elongate from the baseline, pie charts open up like fans:
Fig 9: Chart animations
If you linked this functionality to a report that also made use of the auto-refresh option then a big-screen dashboard in a break-out or reception area could be high-impact and engaging. The auto-refresh option is found in the ‘advanced’ properties section of a report open in the interactive viewer:
Fig 10: Auto-refresh option
Fig 11: Auto-refresh schedule
It allows you to set the schedule on the refresh so you can synchronise this with your data updates.
Turning on the auto-refresh places the report into a view-only mode, where users can move between tabs if required, but not edit the report or change other settings. The report must be taken out of auto-refresh mode for other actions to be taken.
Once in the cycle of auto-refreshes the report does not time-out, meaning it can stay open on a screen all day. It will consume a licence from your platform during this time, but it means that no one has to be actively running a report to display up to the minute information.
So with these and other great additions to Web Intelligence in 4.2 SP6 there are many reasons to upgrade your software! If you have any questions or want to speak to somebody about the benefits of SAP BusinessObjects and Web Intelligence, please get in touch with DSCallards today.