Empowering Self-Service Analysis with SAP’s BI Tools

SAP-BusinessObjects100555014BlogRemoving the technical complexity from report creation and data analysis is one of the leading tenets for business users when it comes to accessing data. For nontechnical professionals, a degree in computer science along with extensive knowledge in SQL is no longer a requirement in today’s BI landscape. That work can be left for the data scientists and BI/DW team. But for actual decision makers and their staff, retrieving information from the data warehouse (running queries and building reports) should be intuitive and an extension of their business knowledge.

This is where SAP’s BusinessObjects Web Intelligence makes its case as one of the premier “must-have” tools in an analyst’s arsenal. And SAP Lumira is hot on its heels with its easy-to-learn charting and storyboarding capabilities.

Web Intelligence is, debatably, planet Earth’s leading self-service query, analysis and reporting tool and has been for more than a decade. Released in 1997, it has continuously experienced profound growth and enhancements with every release. Lumira is SAP’s “cool new kid” data discovery and visualization application introduced in 2012 as Visual Intelligence. The original name didn’t stick but the product did. In 2013 it was renamed to SAP Lumira and received more than its share of attention from product developers. Built specifically to compete in the white-hot realm of self-service data discovery, business users will find very little overlap between it and Web Intelligence allowing both tools to coexist peacefully.

Self-Service Analysis with Help from the Universe
Querying a data warehouse can be a daunting task, even for the most adept reporting specialists. Understanding the subtleties of table relationships, nuances of object hierarchies, dimensional instances, contexts, subqueries and case logic is a challenge for anybody in today’s quickly changing world of mammoth data warehouses. Thankfully, SAP BusinessObjects shields the business user community from the majority of these complexities without the need for constant IT support.

So how do they do it?

The answer exists somewhere “within the universe.” In SAP BusinessObjects terminology, it is the Universe — the patented semantic layer that serves as an intermediary between the database and reports. The “objects” in BusinessObjects are nothing more than aliases of database fields. These objects often contain case logic, calculations and field definitions. They are then grouped into classes and made available to users according to the joins of their source tables.

Once an SAP BusinessObjects Universe is published, users can build their own advanced reports with little to no direction from IT. With proper Universe design, users can create “inexpensive” detailed queries without unknowingly producing Cartesian products. Queries are created by dragging predefined objects and conditions into the query panel without having to write a single line of SQL.

What’s the Purpose of Self-Service Analysis?

By empowering users to create ad-hoc queries, they’ll be able to apply their knowledge of the business to the data retrieved from the warehouse to build ideal analytical documents. Getting actionable intelligence into the hands of decision makers has always been one of the primary goals of business intelligence. Identifying opportunities for improvement should be followed by taking action. BI without the ability to act on findings is nothing more than research.

When users have access to the best tools, learned to “fish” for themselves and have the authority to act on their findings, the value of a data warehouse and business intelligence reporting implementation becomes immeasurable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim is a senior data warehouse developer on the Enterprise Reporting team for Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) at their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the lead author of all three official SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence textbooks and has more than 12 years of business intelligence development experience.

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