Using Webi as a Dashboard Tool
When it comes to dashboard tools, there are many players in the market – the most popular ones being Qlikview, Tableau and Xcelsius. The cost to purchase a license for these can range from a few hundreds to many thousands of dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could build dashboards without having to purchase the expensive dashboard licenses? For SAP Business Object users, there is an alternative. Developers can build insightful dashboards and visualizations using webi (Web intelligence) that contain much of the same features as a traditional dashboard tool. I personally have used webi to design and develop many dashboards that are used by clients on a daily basis providing the same key visualizations as a traditional dashboard tool, enabling them to keep a pulse on their daily operations and gauge business performance.
In this blog, I am going to talk about how you can create powerful and effective dashboards using webi and the features within webi that can be leveraged in order to achieve this. The key here is to use the webi features intelligently thereby creating the effects of a typical dashboard. This blog is intended for individuals with a good technical understanding of webi report development. In addition, this blog only applies to SAP BI 4.0 and above. It may or may not work for earlier versions but you are more than welcome to try it out and post back the results.
Below are some of the key features of a dashboard and how you can design and build it using webi:
1. Metrics: These are the most important ingredient of a dashboard. Metrics can be measure objects from the universe and/or calculated using “Calculation Contexts” within the webi report at run-time. The concept of calculation contexts can be daunting for many. I was one of them until I read a few great blogs that helped me gain a clearer understanding of them. Here is a link to a great blog about calculation contexts with examples (https://michaelwelter.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/removing-the-confusion-from-calculation-contexts/).
2. Visualization: This one is pretty straightforward. Webi contains a pretty rich variety of charts and tables that can be used to display the data in a form that best suits the audience of your dashboard.
3. Interactivity: Now we are getting into the crux of this blog. Let’s take a look at some of the interactivity features that webi has to offer and how to apply them to your webi dashboard.
a) Drill-downs (in-place): These can be designed within the universe using “Navigation Paths” and will allow the dashboard users to drill-down on the dimensions on a chart or table in-place within the dashboard. More Info Here
b) Selection drop-downs (eg: Products, Customers, States etc): In order to create the effect of a drop-down selector, the filter bar can be used to add the dimensions on which the users can filter the data within the webi dashboard.
c) Report Element Interactivity: Charts and tables can be linked to one another using the “Element Linking” feature. This allows for a parent element (Charts, tables etc) to be used as a selector or driver for filtering one or more child elements (Charts, tables, blocks). This feature turns charts and tables into an input control by which other report elements (child) can be filtered. More Info Here
d) Dynamic element hiding: If there is a need to dynamically hide or show a specific report element (Charts, tables etc) based on a selection from a drop-down, the “Hide when following formula is true” property of the report element can be leveraged. You can access this property by right clicking on the report element and selecting Format Chart -> General option on the left pane. You can then create a flag variable that is set to a value of 1 or 0 if the condition for hiding (or showing) the report element is met. You would then use this formula for hiding or showing the report element. More Info Here
e) Drill-Through Reports: This can be achieved by configuring an object within a report (usually a dimension) as an opendoc report link to another webi report. The target webi report should be configured to accept one or more prompts that will be sent within the opendoc report link. Whenever the user clicks on the dimension, a pop-up window displays another report specifically run for the dimension value clicked on. More Info Here
f) Dashboard Screens: Some dashboards require multiple screens with visualizations specific to the subject area within that screen. Here, the webi report tabs/add report feature can be used to group visualizations as desired.
4. Accessibility: In order to make it easier for end-users to access the webi dashboard, I provide them with an opendoc link to the webi dashboard. This is a time-saving feature that allows the end-users to get to the dashboard quicker and minimizes the steps along the way. This works really well if you have SSO configured within your BO environment.
5. Details report/tab for extract purposes: I usually provide an additional report tab where I provide the raw data that was used to build the visualizations within the dashboard. This gives the end-user the ability to look at the details that were used to build the visualizations. This also allows the end-user to extract this dataset into excel and perform their own analyses. In order to accomplish this, just add all the objects from the queries into the table element within a separate report tab and name it “Details”.
I am certain there are other tricks that can be performed to allow for creating more dashboard-like features within a webi report but these are the ones I have actively used for client deliverables with great success.
I hope some of you can use this information to create and deliver some insightful dashboards for your clients.