Business Objects Lifecycle Manager

It looks like Business Objects may have seen the ‘light’ on version and source control.

As you may be aware, Business Objects has never included version control functionality into its software. The moment you release a report into production, that’s it, no turning back. (Unless of course you done the smart thing and took a backup of the original report or universe). This led to a number of third party software companies to develop Business Objects versioning and migration software. The three third party tools of note are Noad’s EQM, Version Manager from Infosol and Version Manager from ebi experts.

Business Objects has now decided to integrate version control and migration functionality into its new XI 3 software. Currently available as an open beta on the XI 3.1 platform (itself a beta), Business Objects LifeCycle Manager can be downloaded from the following link:

http://beta.businessobjects.com/lcm

This product allows users to manage promotions between environments, version control and rollback functionallity and dependency checking. It also appears that there is a scheduling feature which allows for releases out of hours. To be honest, I think it is safer to release manually to avoid the potential problem of releasing something to production that you shouldn’t have. But then again, some users are bound to find this handy.

This looks like an interesting development from the part of Business Objects. I am looking to download the beta and will feedback my findings.

I’m not sure however, how this sits with the third party developers. Obviously they have filled an obvious gap in the market with their products. I’ve used EQM extensively and find it to be a very good product. However, if the Lifecycle Manager is any good, and if the pricing model for this new product is competitive, or dare I say it, bundled in for FREE, then these third party developers will need to slash their prices or find they no longer have a market for their product.

Addendum – I’ve just read that this product will be part of BOE with no separate license required.

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Hans Rosling – The best stats you’ve ever seen

I was left speechless recently by a fantastic presentation by Dr Hans Rosling. Recorded in February 2006, Dr Rosling communicates in an effective manner various misconceptions we have about the developing world. What has this to do with Business Intelligence? Well, to add a bit of spice to his presentation, he presents a mass of statistical information (which on it’s own can be quite boring), using software he and his team have developed. This software is called Trendalyzer. I’m sure you will find his presentation interesting.

So what is this software called Trendalyzer? Well to quote Gapminder – “Trendalyzer software unveils the beauty of statistics by converting boring numbers into enjoyable interactive animations. ”

This is certaintly true, as Dr Roslings excellent presentation demonstrates. And guess what company has recently acquired Trendalyzer? Stand up messrs. Brin and Page of Google. This should prove to be very interesting.

Business Objects Support woes

We’ve recently been trying to help out a number of our clients who are having problems with Business Objects technical support.

This has been caused by problems in migrating Business Objects support to SAP. As you may be aware, Business Objects migrated all their support to the SAP system in early July. This does not appear to have been a smooth process by any stretch of the imagination. Users have reported problems with gaining access to support, lost cases, etc.

Such is the fury of users, that a post in the excellent Business Objects forum now runs to 9 pages! PC World has picked up on this and has posted an article on the topic. Several other magazines have picked up on this story. However, it appears to have been a syndicated story as they all reprint the same article.

So what can you do during this transition period? Well, three main things.

First, if you have an urgent support case, escalate it to your account manager. He or she will have access to the support team and can direct your query to the correct person.

Second, if you use a Business Objects partner or third party consultancy, call upon their expertise to solve your particular issue.

Third, make use of the excellent Business Objects community forum. This is simply one of the best forums available on the internet. This is independent from Business Objects and SAP, and works on a volunteer basis. More often than not, you will find answers to your questions here. If you have a question which has never been asked before, post it. It’s free. You’ll find that the community will try to help you with an answer before long.

While this appears to be a real problem which will take time to sort out, once migrated, you should find the SAP support site a whole lot better than the old Business Objects site.

New Business Objects Certifications

Business Objects have released a few more exams. The Pearson Vue website now offers the following two exams which lead to a new certification: Business Object Certified Professional – Web Intelligence.

  • QAWI201V3.0: Business Objects Certified Professional Web Intelligence XI 3.0
  • QAWI301V3.0: Business Objects Certified Professional ? Business Objects Web Intelligence XI 3.0 ? Level Two

I’ve also noticed that there are two new exams for certification in Crystal Reports 2008:

  • RDCR08201: Business Objects Certified Professional – Crystal Reports 2008 – Level One
  • RDCR08301: Business Objects Certified Professional – Crystal Reports 2008 – Level Two

This will lead to Business Object Certified Professional – Crystal Reports 2008. If you are thinking of certifiying in Crystal Reports, make sure you take the correct path – XI or 2008.

Bullet Graphs in Google

If you’ve been following Stephen Few’s articles regarding data visualisation, you will be familiar with the terms Sparklines and Bullet Graphs. I’m a big fan of these types of graphs – they make so much sense and present a great deal of information simply, cleanly, concisely and in a very small footprint.

Several people have been implementing their versions of sparklines and bullet graphs with great success. I came across an article recently describing how to create bullet graphs using the Google Chart API in seven steps. This is quite a powerful tool, as you can now pass a series of parameters into a URL and get Google to display a bullet graph on your web page. An example of a bullet graph using the Google Chart API is shown below:

Bullet Graph using Google Chart API

If you’d like to read more about Sparklines, Bullet Graphs and data visualisation, I’d highly recommend that you borrow, or even better, buy Stephen Few’s Information Dashboard Design. Stephen highlights many of the failings of the current data visualisation tools available from all the BI vendors. He goes on to describe why they fail to get the message across and goes on to produce his version of how information can be displayed in a more meaningful and uncluttered way. Essential reading in my view, if you are responsible for, or invlving in developing graphical reports, dashboards and analytics.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence 2008

Gartner have produced some interesting research on the Business Intelligence market for 2008.

This is particularly interesting as a number of the larger BI pure play vendors such as Business Objects and Cognos have been purchased by some larger software vendors – notably SAP and IBM. Some of the small BI pure plays have also been snapped up – Microsoft’s purchase of ProClarity and Tibco’s purchase of Spotfire.

There is also a useful section at the bottom which lists the strengths and weaknesses of a number of the vendors which makes for some interesting reading. Have a read of the research article.

Business Objects News – #1 BI vendor by revenue

BusinessObjects have reported on their website that they are the Number 1 Business Intelligence vendor by revenue.

Analysis by firm IDC states that BusinessObjects has a 19.2% market share and has exceed the $1bn revenue mark – apparently the first BI vendor to do so.

These are still early days following their purchase by SAP. However, this does provide some form of comfort to clients that have invested in the BusinessObjects platform, as well as those developers and consultants who make a living from this working with this software.

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