Impressions of Web Intelligence 4.0
April 18, 2012 72 Comments
SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 has been Generally Available since September, 2011, and has generated a significant amount of buzz in the BusinessObjects community. I have no plans to create more buzz. My only desire here is to give an honest assessment of the new version. And by honest, I mean I will share what I have seen, both good, and bad.
Ribbons are for Packages
With this version, SAP has gone the way of Microsoft, replacing toolbars with ribbons. I’ve been using the ribbons in MS Office for several years now, and I still prefer the old menus and toolbars. The same is true for Webi. I don’t like the ribbons, for several reasons:
- I have to remember which ribbon to select, for the feature that I need. If I don’t remember, then I end up hunting through ribbons. This wastes time. I don’t like to waste time. I can easily remember which ribbon to select for the commonly used features. But for the less used ones, I rarely remember which ribbon to choose.
- Operations that used to take one click (simply click the button) now take two clicks. Click the appropriate ribbon, then click the appropriate button.
I’m sorry, but ribbons don’t make me more productive. They only slow me down.
Charts and More Charts
Web Intelligence now shares a common chart library with other tools. That was a smart decision. It creates a common look and feel across the various tools. But it also includes a host of new charts that we’ve never had before. Here are a few examples.
- First quartile
- Third quartile
Users can mouse over the chart to see the values.
Tag Cloud Chart:
Heat Map Chart:
The Heat Map chart is the charting equivalent to a crosstab table. It displays the intersection of two different dimensions with a measure.
The Bubble Chart allows for the comparison of two measure against a common dimension.
Some of the new charts looks quite useful. But, in addition to the new charts, we have a host of new features for the charts. There are far too many to mention. But, to name a few, you can base the chart title on a formula. You can also use gradient colors on charts.
Unfortunately, we’ve lost the ability to create custom color palettes. I’m disappointed with that.
Improved Compatibility with MS Excel
We now have the ability to save a Webi document to the new .xlsx format. When we do, we can save over a million rows of data to a single worksheet. Of course, we still have the ability to save in the old format (.xls) as well. In that case, if you have more than 65,636 rows, it gets split into multiple worksheets. So now you have a choice as to which format to choose.
What Happened to Tracking?
I don’t know how this was missed in UAT, but the Data Tracking feature, which was introduced in XI 3.x, is broken in 4.0. Here’s the issue: If you use Data Tracking, the only rows that will be formatted by the Data Tracking feature, are the rows that are also formatted by the Alternate Row Shading feature. Seriously.
So, if you use Data Tracking, here’s the trick: Set your Alternate Row Shading frequency to 1. The Data Tracking works as expected. Yes, SAP is aware of this bug, and plans to issue a fix in SP04, which is currently schedule to be out in July 2012. It is being tracked on ADAPT01618287.
What’s in a Name?
Some things have been renamed in Webi 4.0. Some of the new names make sense, others do not. The problem, of course, is that, with the new Ribbons, buttons have been moved around, and features have been renamed. This makes it that much more difficult to find what you need.
Alerters have been renamed to Formatting Rules. That makes sense.
The three axis of a 3D chart have also been renamed:
- X Axis is now called Category Axis (This makes sense)
- Y Axis is now called Value Axis (This one makes sense, too)
- Z Axis is now called Region Color (Huh? What were they thinking?)
Since the rest of the world still refers to these as the X, Y and Z axis, I have no idea why SAP decided to go against the grain.
The Data Manager is a Welcome Addition
One of the complaints from people moving from Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence has been the lack of a Data Manager. In Deski, we could always see the raw data, and information about the data in the Data Manager. Now Web Intelligence has the same feature. It’s a big improvement. The only thing missing, that Deski had, is the ability to see metadata for multiple past refreshes.
Hide and Go Seek?
For a long time now, I’ve missed some of the hide capabilities in Deski. They’ve now been added to Webi. :-)
We can now hide a block, based on a formula. If the formula evaluates to true, the block is hidden. Otherwise, the block is shown.
We also now have the ability to hide columns in a block. Simply right-click in a column, and hide it. So simple. In fact, it’s easier than Deski. :-)
Don’t Have a Fit
Fit to Page has finally been added. That’s another feature that former Deski users have been begging for, and now we have it. Thank you, SAP!
As you can see, not all news is good news with Webi 4.0. But SAP has made significant strides in adding in the missing functionality from Deski. There is still room for improvement, but we’re getting closer. Look for another post detailing the differences between the two products.
If you’ve been using Webi 4.0, what is your opinion?