First Look at the New SAP BusinessObjects Exploration Views Prototype

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.

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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:

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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.

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It immediately shows me the requested data set:

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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:

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At any time, I can use the “Explore” link in the top right to change any aspect of a chart (data choice, formatting, etc.)

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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:

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I can also add personalized alerts by choosing one of the charts, and adding the alert details:image

As I change the values chosen in the “Year” filter at the top, all the charts and alerts change to reflect this:

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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).

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Once you have the view, you can hide the toolbox, and freely change the sizes of each pane of the window.

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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.):

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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).

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

14 Replies to “First Look at the New SAP BusinessObjects Exploration Views Prototype”

  1. Hello Sir,

    This is Syed Shabuddin working as BO developer for uma company.
    My company has a ERP data and working on BO XI R2 and we need a Xcelsius 2008 to generate dashboard.
    I want to know which one is suitable for my company (present/enterprise) and how can I integrate to my ERP Data
    Xcelsius Present 2008 Service Pack 3
    Xcelsius Enterprise 2008 Service Pack 3

    Please give me suggestions regarding this,
    iam waiting for ur valuable suggestions.
    Thanks & Best Regards,

    Syed Shabuddin

  2. Hi Timo Elliott,
    Very interesting. Do you have an idea when this will be productized?

    Thanks

    1. Kalyan — no, that’s sort of the point of the whole “prototype” process — when (and if) it becomes a product — and what features it ultimately has — depends heavily on customer feedback: instead of SAP guessing whether there’s a market for the product, we can get real feedback in advance. In the past, some prototypes have gone production very quickly, some just faded away, and others were bundled into future releases of the main product line. So if you like exploration views, please don’t hesitate to contact the prototype team and let them know what you think…

  3. Great stuff. Good to see it’s being given the right amount of thought. We like Explorer the way it is, but there is alot of room for improvement.

  4. Great stuff. Looks really nice.

    For enterprise usage and full proliferation centrally administered/generated personalisation based on user roles or similar has to be supported. It’s difficult to get 300+ mgrs to go in an define their own view and filter to their main responsibility area.

    To make it something the business (others than analysts) can relate to in their daily life, it could be nice if SAP used this technology to revamp (or started again from the top!) their business process guides for analytics and provide full walk-through guides for various manager roles in a standard company, e.g. procurement manager should do step x to z monitor and analyse y business events. Could also be be sales manager, tax manager, inventory manager, etc. The exploration views would be perfect for this, provided some standard views for these roles are delivered off the shelf and data part is easy to set up.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I’m a big believer in “analytic” or “decision” templates that help everybody in a company analyze data as well as the people who do it best. It’s a theme that BusinessObjects even actually implemented in the product a few years ago, but it was too early, and probably too limited (although if there had been more adoption, that would have changed).

      A central pillar of the strategy is Streamwork.com, which provides the ability to set up “templates”, and recognizes that the discussions about analytics should become part of the solution, not something that is done separately. Another is the growth of analytic apps, with a predefined set of best practices as part of the product (suggested analytic steps are implemented as part of the SAP BusinessObjects products).

  5. I’m quite amazed by the functionality of this solution. It looks as if it combines the best features of existing tools like WebI, Xcelsius (wrong name, I know) and BO explorer and puts it together in a highly customizable user experience by heaving drag and drop options, alerting, adding or deleting measures and dimensions.

    It does raise some questions about how to position this tool next to for example Xcelsius or the BO Explorer since there is quite some overlap. I dedicated a blog post to this prototype earlier this week on my own website to share my findings.

    I’m absolutely convinced that there is a market for this kind of solutions. Users will be way less depending of the IT department to build op a dashboard / analysis environment and if this in-memory market will start booming, it will be a matter of time before customers will reach out to these kind of solutions.

    Great developments in the BI market!

    1. Pieter,

      As you say in your other comment, the big change is the move from interfaces that separate the “design” or “query” phases from the “consume” phase. If you have a fast-enough interaction speed with the data (think SAP HANA), you can have a “query” happen every time you click something in the interface, without it spoiling the user interaction. The Explorer was the first product that used this change the user interaction, and exploration views extends it…

      For others: I believe that traditional BI architectures are rapidly becoming obsolete, and this will make big changes to how we do BI in the future. See this post: a big leap forward.

  6. Hi Timo,
    This looks fantastic – I saw it at FKOM in Barcelona and am downloading now! This is obviously aimed at the Qlikview world – as far as I can see the only thing missing is drill-down from a specific chart component to the next hierarchy level in the universe. Is this planned ? (Sorry, I know the answer is its a prototype and I should forward my suggestions to the innovation centre), but I figured you might be close to the source ….

  7. Hi Timo,

    I´m just trying Exploration Views as a ramp up partner. Just one quick query.
    I cannot find performance charts as an option when designing my view… an option that I see that you have in your screen shot.

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