There are two main types of reporting used within Business Intelligence. These are ad hoc reporting and Enterprise Reporting. Whilst ad hoc reporting allows users to create and manipulate queries on the fly, Enterprise Reporting uses standardised reports with defined content; this type of report is often referred to as a pre-canned or standard report. The presentation and formatting of the report does not change but the data within it does.
An example of a pre-canned report might be the Daily Sales Figures report which as its name suggests contains the sales figures for the day. The report could be designed to present the sales figures through meaningful tables and charts. Every night the day’s sales figures would be loaded into the data warehouse and then the Daily Sales Figures report would refresh on an automated schedule and be distributed to all business users on the distribution list. In this way it is ready for them to read at 8 am when they arrive at the office. This process is known as Enterprise Reporting.
Although Enterprise Reports are referred to as pre-canned they can still be highly interactive and made to be fully refreshable at will. SAP BusinessObjects includes a world class Enterprise Reporting tool known as Crystal Reports.
The concept behind Query & Analysis is really about empowering the Business User and Analyst to interact with data on the fly in a Self-service BI environment. There a few tools available from SAP BusinessObjects that fulfil this criteria. First of all, here’s a little background, so as to avoid any confusion around what the products are.
Historically, the original Query & Analysis and Reporting tool was simply called ‘BusinessObjects’. Back then if you were to ask someone what reporting tool they were working with they would just say ‘BusinessObjects’. That was the only tool, until sometime later the first version of Web Intelligence was released. After BusinessObjects acquired Crystal Decisions the ‘BusinessObjects’ reporting tool was renamed Desktop Intelligence, sometimes also known as Deski. Running alongside Desktop Intelligence the thin client tool Web Intelligence was being developed.
Over the years Web Intelligence has grown to become SAP BusinessObjects’ flagship tool that allowing non-technical users to create new queries, slice and dice, and then drill down through their data all via a web browser. The advancement in Web Intelligence means that Desktop Intelligence is now coming to its end of life.
A second tool available is Voyager. Voyager is an Online Analytical Processing Tool (OLAP). In the BI 4.0 release Voyager is superseded by SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for OLAP and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for Microsoft Office. It should be used when analysis is required against large data sets.
We also find it useful to think of a third tool under the Query & Analysis category. That is the search tool named Explorer. The original name for Explorer was Polestar.
To build your BI System you will need to install and configure a Business Intelligence platform. The Business Intelligence platform is the heart of your BI System and for SAP BusinessObjects this comes in two main versions. These are SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI and it’s bigger brother SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise has full BI Platform Scalability. After installing and configuring your BI platform you will be able to leverage its many capabilities. The capabilities will vary depending upon which license you buy.
There are some very useful BI capabilities available such as SAP BusinessObjects Encyclopaedia which you can use as a BI knowledge management tool and BI Content Search which will allow you to make powerful searches through your BI library of reports, or use Explorer (Polestar) which will allow you to make google like searches on your BI reports and data. You can use the Threaded Discussions capability to collaborate your Business Intelligence with your colleagues.
There is a full administration console known as the Central Management Console which will allow you to do many important things such as configurations and setting up your security model. Through the Central Management Console you will also be able to know what is happening on your BI System by activating SAP BusinessObjects Auditing. Many organisations set up at least two environments such as a development and production environment. You may also opt for testing, training, and pre-production environments. To promote your BI content through the environments you can take advantage of the BI platform’s Lifecycle Manager.
Databases are queried with technical languages such as SQL and MDX code. However, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform includes two tools Universe Designer and Universe Builder that will enable you to build your own universes. These universes generate the query code behind the scenes so that business users don’t have to write it themselves or make requests to IT. In fact business users do not even need to know that the code exists.
The BI platform is also capable of supporting dashboards and by purchasing the Xcelsius Dashboards product you can create many interactive dashboards for your KPIs. You can also incorporate your Xcelsius Dashboards with other components such as Widgets and Web Intelligence Reports into a single dashboard with Dashboard Builder.