WebI best practices, use & adoption: Q&A with Gabe Orthous (transcript)

WebI best practices, use & adoption: Q&A with Gabe Orthous (transcript)

Reading time: 10 mins

When and how can you make WebI projects more interactive and anticipate business needs from the start?

SAP BusinessObjects expert and BI 2012 speaker Gabe Orthous took questions from members in one-hour live online chat, here in the SAP BusinessObjects Forum on Tuesday, June 26 with my colleague Bridget Kotelly, conference producer for BI 2012 Las Vegas, Milan & the upcoming event in Singapore, 16-18 October 2012.

The conversation drifted into some questions on tools and tricks, but Gabe also included some great advice about how to “sell” self-services to your stakeholders and end users.

Bridget Kotelly: Welcome to today’s SAP BusinessObjects online Forum on WebI design & usability.  We’re looking forward to some great advice today, and I’m delighted to have Gabe Orthous here as our featured expert this hour.  

For those who don’t know Gabe Orthous already, he’s a senior development manager for the Business Intelligence group at McKesson Revenue Management Solutions, and a coauthor for the forthcoming SAP PRESS WebI book. Gabe recently presented a number of sessions at our BI 2012 conference in Milan, including a session on McKesson’s WebI implementation and designing WebI for high user adoption.  

Thanks for joining us today, Gabe! And before you get into answering these questions, can you just open up with your thoughts on ‘why WebI?’  What do you see as key benefits of Web Intelligence?


Gabe Orthous: Why Webi? Great question! let me start with Gabe’s top 10 features and functionality:

1.No need to install software on client machine (online ad hoc webi)

2. Segments users into consumers (Reading) and creators (Design)

3. Streamlined user experience – Ribbon based toolbar in BI4. Making the environment consistent.

4. Self-service model allows users to create their own reports (no need for IT to create them)

5. Powerful Semantic Layer – Universe: No need for users to know SQL.

6. Multiple data access, not just SAP but also agnostic data sources

7. Robust Infrastructure for navigation using the BI Launch Pad (Infoview) – eg. . Monitoring of report usage.

8. Rich Internet Application – Webi powered by Java

9. Much-improved charting engine allows for awesome dashboards in BI4

10. Conditional formatting (alerters) and Data tracking features in Webi.

By the way, I want to make sure my comments are taken as my opinion only.  Anything I say is not necessarily the views of my employer or SAP, but my own.


Enrique Melo: Can you enlist advantges / disadvantages of WebI vs Web Application Designer 7.0? When to use each tool?

Gabe Orthous: Enrique, Webi is a user-centric, simple and intuitive report autho ring tool.  Interactivity with the user is inherent in the product such as drill filters, hyperlinks, and input controls.

A robust web-based architecture using SOA makes it a stable environment.  I have not used WAD personally, however I’ve experienced in previous projects that adoption of that technology has been poor.  The main difference for me is self-service, the ability of allowing users to own and create their own reports based on a common semantic layer (universe).

Thank you for your question – Gabe


creekp: We are new to Business Objects but a long standing SAP customer.  As part of our move to BW 7.3 we implemented BO 4.0 (dashboards, Crystal for enterprise and Analysis for OLAP). 

We are hitting issues with some of the features of Crystal and Analysis for OLAP e.g. connecting to non SAP data / ad-hoc querying of data (it is currently not as good as Bex Analyzer).  As a consequence we are starting to investigate the use of the semantic layer and WebI as a replacement for analysis for OLAP reports.

As SAP BW will continue to be our main data source via a BICS connector, what are the watch-outs / downsides of using webi over SAP BW either via a BICS connector or via the semantic layer? Also what impact does Feature Pack 3 have? 

Again, we are starting to evaluate it and when we should implement this feature pack.  Any justifications I can get for moving to this later version would help a lot.

Many thanks.

Gabe Orthous: creekp, I would definitely go with Feature Pack 3 for BI 4 (aka SP4).  There have been lots of improvements in this release which eases the issues with connecting WebI with Universes. For example: you can have a universe access SAP ERP in the form of InfoSe ts, SAP queries and ABAP functions. For additional information please refer to: bit.ly/GGcTGe

Thank you for your question – Gabe


gianfrancofiorentini: Actually, when you create a WebI report on a datasource based on a BICS connection, all measures in report show #TOREFRESH before any data update, because a BICS connection sets any measure with “Database Delegated” as default setting. Does the new Feature Pack improve or change this feature? If not, is this improvement planned in the future?

Gabe Orthous: Have you tried removing the Scope of Analysis in the Web Intelligence query?  If this does not work, then I think development is looking to solve this in future releases.  I don’t work for SAP so would not be able to tell you when.  Check this out à scn.sap.com/thread/1338289 

Thank you for your question – Gabe.

[Editor’s note: After the close of the Forum,  Ingo Hilgefort added a few points from the SAP side. He added:” This is not related to the scope of analysis, this is related to the fact that key figures are configured as database delegated.With Feature Pack 03 all key figures that are configured as a SUM for the aggregation in SAP BW are also treated as a normal SUM in Web Intelligence. – Regards, Ingo Hilgefort, SAP”]


maricela_avila42: Hi, I’m working BO 4.0 an d BI 7.3. I’m creating WebIs with Universes which are connected to BI’s queries.

I want to use four obligatory key date variables in WebI because in the BI’s query is set (current period and previous period) but the Universe accepts one obligatory key date only.

I need these key date variables are avaible to create WebI report. Coould you hel me with this issue?

Gabe Orthous: Maricela, I saw your earlier blog post on this issue; unfortunately I do not know the answer to how consume multiple key dates.  I’ve only seen one used.  This seems to be tied to more universe designer functionality, i.e I don’t believe there is a solution on Webi.  I would recommend searching and then opening up the issue to the Business Objects Board community. www.forumtopics.com/busobj 

Thank you for your question – Gabe

Ingo Hilgefort: Key date variables are fully supported. You create the key date variable in the BEx query and Web Intelligence will leverage it.Take a look here:scn.sap.com/community/bi-platform/busine… – Regards Ingo Hilgefort, SAP


BridgetKotelly: How do you measure ROI for Web Intelligence?

Gabe Orthous: My motto has always been : Success = Adoption. It is hard to quantify sometimes the true ROI for WebIntelligence and BI initiatives.  Especially when it refers to making actionable decisions based on data.  For the main differentiator and competitive advantage is when you have active and engaged users in the system “selling” the BI initiative to their peers.


BridgetKotelly: I know that in Milan there was a lot of interest during your customer discussion forum recently in Milan about how to ‘sell ‘ self-service in your organization?  Can you offer some tips and strategies on that?

Gabe Orthous: Self Service: no matter what I create, somebody is not gonna like it.  We can go through an entire waterfall SDLC (requirements, design, implement, test and release) and at the end the users don’t use the deliverables. Why? Because, there is a thinking of “build it and they will come.”  In my experience, when someone creates something, they own it, and if they own it… they use it. 

How do you sell self-service? You give the power to the users and align to their expectations.  Also there has to be a systematic approach to “anticipate the business” by providing them with what’s next in the analysis of data.


BridgetKotelly: Can you list out some of the new features of BI 4.0 that can increase user adoptions?

Gabe Orthous:  BI4.0 – Gabe’s Top 5 Key Features

1.Ribbon Menu – remember Excel 2007 vs 2010, you got used it didn’t you?

2.Graphing and Visualizations – Charting engine has30 + charts

3.Tabs – each report can be opened and saved so next time you open Infoview they will be ready and available

4.Navigation – page setups navigation has been greatly improved

5.Prompts – now stacked one on top of the other.


a.yeates: Hi, We have been big users of Business Objects XI in that past few years and have recently moved to SAP and are using BEx instead to create queries.  We are now looking at WEBI Rich Client as a means to get offline reporting out to our sales force. 

Do you have any tips on how to approach this to get the best out of the tool? 

Gabe Orthous:  Rich client is a powerful tool for end users, but I would limit it to “super” users.  The reason I tell you that, is there an additional maintenance required to maintain fat-client installs.  Additionally, you may want people to come and consume reports to Infoview and thus it makes better sense to use Webi. I have seen RichiI deployed successful and I think it is a great tool for developers and analysts alike. Have you thought about mobile BI from SAP for sales?

Thank you for your question – Gabe


BasiaBuczkiewicz: Thanks for your questions, all.

We are looking to upgraded from 3.1 to 4.0 Q1-2013. We have just gone live with the first of 4 key locations SAP implementation. We are NOT a BW shop except for the BPC module. SAP ECC 6 is the version we deployed.

To close gaps in the ECC reporting, we are considering building reports on BPC and ECC for the finance team. However I am hearing the end result is not as ea sy as it is portrayed and we may want to warehouse the data into our TeraData environment first, since the custom ECC solutions are not delivering what is needed.

WebI is our leading strategy yet if I put the reports on ECC directly or on BPC directly, I would not be able to enable power users.

With BI4 Feature Pack 03 or Service Pack 04 you are able to create a Universe on top of BW and also on top of ERP and it also allows you to combine those two sources.

a) With 4.0 Can I deploy WebI on ECC? BPC/BW? (Pros/Cons?)

b) Or is Crystal a better option? Would you please provide your insights on pros/cons? 

c)  Are the performance issues for either/both a risk?

d) If we go the Universe route for Crystal, are there any limitations? 


Gabe Orthous:

a) With 4.0 Can I deploy WebI on ECC? BPC/BW? (Pros/Cons?)

Webi on ECC no. I would deploy BW and then Universe to feed Webi.  Pros: your BI environment is separate from your transactional systems and allows for greater flexibility.

Ingo Hilgefort:  With BI4 Feature Pack 03 or Service Pack 04 you are able to create a Universe on top of BW and also on top of ERP and it also allows you to combine those two sources.


b) Or is Crystal a better option? Would you please provide your insights on pros/cons?

Crystal Reports could be embedded into a custom solution, the issue is that BI4 SDK does not contain all components from previous versions, so you may run into limitations there.


c)  Are the perfomance issues for either/both a risk?< /p>

Yes, unfortunately.  The BW/Universe/Webi in BI4.0 would give you the best “overall” end-user experience…. IMHO 😉


d) If we go the Universe route for Crystal, are there any limitations?

Limitations yes, but it depends on your user requirements… please refer to this podcast on differences between CR and Webi tools.




BridgetKotelly: Thanks to all who posted questions and followed the discussion!

A full summary of all the questions will be available here in Insider Learning Network’s SAP BusinessObjects group. If you have registered for this Q&A, you will receive an email alerting you when the transcript is posted.

And as I mentioned earlier, Gabe is also a coauthor– along with Jim Brogden, Heather Sinkwitz, Mac Holden, and Dallas Marks – of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide. This new edition is coming out in September.

Gabe is also speaking at our upcoming Reporting & Analytics conference October 29-31 in Las Vegas.

And you can always reach Gabe on Twitter @orthous as well.  

I’m also currently planning now for our first ever BI 2012 conference in Singapore, and I invite you to join me there October 16-18 for more on BI report design and development, including specific tracks on SAP BusinessObjects. For more information and ongoing updates, be sure to visit the BI 2012 conference web site.

And thank you again to Gabe Orthous of McKesson for joining us today!

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