SAP have just announced a new Exploration Views prototype, based on the BusinessObjects Explorer platform. It builds on the core strengths of Explorer (easy-to-use interface and fast, in-memory calculations) with more options for business people to customize and share their own views of the data, without requiring help from IT.
Exploration views is exactly what its name suggests: instead of having just a single view of the data in Explorer as you have in the current product, you can set up several different views at the same time, with user-defined alerts, and the ability to define filters that act on multiple views at the same time.
Here’s a quick walk through of some of the basic functionality. For more information (and a longer, more complete explanation of the features), you should consult the Exploration Views prototype User and Admin Guide (part of the download from the SAP BusinessObjects Innovation Center)
You first log on to the system, then either open an existing Exploration View or create a new one:
Each view has several “sheets’”, and each sheet can contain several charts or tables of data. To create a new chart, I choose the measures, dimensions, and type of representation.
It immediately shows me the requested data set:
To create an additional chart, I simple repeat the process, dragging the chart icon from the toolbox to the right-hand window (above, below, left, or right of the existing chart), and choosing a different measure, dimension, and representation:
At any time, I can use the “Explore” link in the top right to change any aspect of a chart (data choice, formatting, etc.)
In addition to charts, I can define a table view of data, or a “filter control”. I can define a new filter control simply by dragging it to where I would like it to appear in the workspace and choosing a dimension and type:
As I change the values chosen in the “Year” filter at the top, all the charts and alerts change to reflect this:
I can also use the top bar to access and change the global set of filters at any time, which change all the charts on the sheet by default (I can “lock” individual views so they don’t change, if necessary).
Once you have the view, you can hide the toolbox, and freely change the sizes of each pane of the window.
There are some lovely touches in the prototype – for example, it’s very easy to select a value (such as “Alberto Ascari”, above), and then simply drag it to create a new window focused on that single value (which can then be easily modified to change to a different view, include a different dimension, etc.):
Using these basic building blocks, business people can quickly provide a customized view of the data, then share it with others using the “share” button in the top right, which allows you to create a “bookmark” URL for your view and send it to others (subject to security settings).
Exploration Views is currently a prototype. SAP is taking a 2.0 approach to innovation, by providing early prototypes that can be downloaded and installed by anybody who is interested. Anybody who has feedback on the ideas and interfaces is encouraged to contact the Innovation Center team. Once the feedback has been gathered, SAP will then work out how best to include these features in future versions of the product.
I view the new Exploration Views prototype as element of the next leap forward in analytics, and it is different from existing approaches in two important ways:
- Exploration Views is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the in-memory processing power of Explorer. As in-memory infrastructures become more widespread, there is less need to separate the “design” and “consumption” aspects of the data access. Because each change to the data view is more or less instantaneous, we can give more power to the users to customize and control their own view of the data, without having a separate, complex “design” interface.
- Exploration Views are focused on personal customization, and should be considered a complement to existing approaches that provide a shared “dashboard” view of data.
I’ll explore these (important) themes in more detail in a future post.