In this chapter, we will cover the following recipes:
Connecting to the BI launch pad
Navigating within the BI launch pad
Using the BI launch pad toolbars
Adjusting the preferences
The report menu functionality
Working with different objects of the BI launch pad
SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform is a worldwide leading BI platform that enables organizations and enterprises to improve their entire way of working by getting better business decisions and insights about each and every aspect of the organization's business processes, whether it's sales goals that require tracking, chain management, billing, revenue from sales of products, amount that the organization spends on salaries, measuring net profit, and so on.
In the 21st centuryâan era of mass data explosion and information that can be pulled from an endless list of data sources, which can be found in social networks, files, multiple databases, and unstructured dataâwe can say for sure that an organization without a solid BI platform will find it very hard to manage its resources, respond to the rapidly changing financial reality, or even fail to perform common and simple tasks such as reporting to its customers.
The BI content is stored here. The content includes reports that are created by the different types of SAP BusinessObjects applications and are published to the BI launch pad environment.
Through the BI launch pad, we can launch various types of SAP BusinessObjects BI applications that are suited for the different tasks of data manipulation, whether it's a simple reporting and analysis report, a fancy dashboard, or a pivot table slicing an OLAP cube.
As a web environment, the BI launch pad can be accessed using a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome through a local site that can also be accessed from outside the organization like any other website.
The BI content can also be easily accessed from mobile devices and tablets.
The BI launch pad environment supports various login methods such as Windows Active directory, SAP login, LDAP, and SAP BusinessObjects enterprise, which enables organizations to integrate their existing login method with the BI portal and client applications as well. The entire BI content is secured. Only users with the appropriate rights can access reports; this is one of the most important aspects of the BI environment as reports may display sensitive data such as sales figures, salaries, and data that should be secured like credit card numbers.
The data in the database can be secured as well by what is known as row level security, enabling common data security scenarios such as region managers viewing the sales per region report to retrieve only the relevant data for the region manager.
The rights for the BusinessObjects applications are secured as well, and we will usefully come across the following two main user types:
Since data can be defined and analyzed in many different ways and there are different requirements on how to pull and display the data, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform supplies various different BI tools that are categorized according to the following data requirements:
Reporting: This is the main BI tool in almost every enterprise aiming to establish a self service BI approach. It enables non-IT users to build their own reports, ad hoc querying, and reporting based on various data sources. Under the SAP BI suite, we can find Web Intelligence, which is the core BI product and our book reporting tool, and also Crystal Reports, which enables you to create highly formatted reports.
Dashboards: This is for creating beautiful and visualized interactive dashboards that can display monitored data, KPIs, and mainly aggregative data for the executive board and top managers. Here, we can find the Dashboard Design and Design Studio dashboarding tools; both are covered in separate books.
Analytics: Although there are many tools that can be found under this category, I will focus on two of them that can also be launched from the BI launch pad: SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis. While the second tool mainly focuses on analyzing OLAP cubes such as BW, HANA, Essbase, Analysis Services, and other OLAP sources, by using traditional OLAP mutlidimensional slicing and dicing, the first tool enables data exploration by using simple search engines and getting highly visualized answers that also support geographical presentations (maps).
Almost every enterprise is combined with different audiences and different data structures that need to be analyzed in different ways supported by a specific functionality; this answers why we will usually come across at least one BI tool, either web-based or a client one.
We want to access the BI launch pad and view which reports are displayed in our main home screen window.
Open a web browser that is installed on your computer and type the SAP BI4 server URL in the address bar.
Usually, the server URL is
On the login page that will appear, we will choose the authentication type Enterprise, as shown in the following screenshot, and enter our username and password that are usually supplied by the SAP BI4 administrator:
There is also a general top-right toolbar that enables options such as Log Off, Preferences, search, and running applications, as shown in the following screenshot:
The BI launch pad is a web application being run and hosted on the SAP BI4 server, and it functions as a website that can be accessed through a web browser, allowing the users and the organization to access their BI content using the Internet.
This setup requires configuration at the server side, IT, and security within the organization, but is considered a basic practice that leverages the launch pad accessibility and usability.
The login screen and the home screen can be customized and can be changed so that the look and feel will fit the organizational format and logo as well as the user requirements by using the customization kit.
For further information on how to customize the home screen, refer to the Adjusting the preferences recipe and also Chapter 13, Working with BI Workspaces
By clicking on any report name in any one of the report subareas, the relevant report will open and display its data. The relevancy of the data in the report is dependent on the date and time the report was refreshed and saved. For example, we can open a report that ran on yesterday's data three days ago.
The main folder is the personal folder where the user can watch all their private reports.
Under the user-private objects, there is an accordion menu that can direct us to the public folder view.
In Public Folders, we will be able to view, depending on the user's security, the organizational/company report tree structure.
In the public folder, all kinds of reports are kept and are ready to be used by the various types of users. This folder also has a structure that corresponds to the departmental divisions of the organization.
Here, the user can simply navigate to the relevant folders that they use, as shown in the following screenshot:
The BI launch pad also enables simple file-folder navigation, allowing the user to switch between their personal data and views and the public and corporate reports, which are organized in a folder structure.
For information on searching, refer to the Searching documents recipe
For information on how to work with different applications, refer to the Launching applications recipe and Chapter 2, Creating New Queries
When we switch to the Documents tab, we will be able to see a toolbar located at the top-left of the screen. This toolbar is used for general functionality that can be applied to the reports and objects hosted in the BI launch pad, as shown in the following screenshot:
This toolbar enables us to perform basic functionalities that will help us to easily manage the reports by using the following options:
New: This enables the user to build a new folder under the private folder or under the public folder tree, adding a local Crystal Report and office files and building a new publication (a scheduled report job) and a hyperlink.
The following options are available from the toolbar only if a report is marked:
We will mark a specific report in one of the public folders. Click on the Organize button and choose Copy, as shown in the following screenshot:
Go to your private folder and click on it. Go to the toolbar, click on Organize, and choose Paste, as shown in the following screenshot:
The report has been copied.
Copy is probably the most common action ever in any application we have worked with, but on the other hand, a quite painful one as business users can copy and paste reports to multiple destinations, sometimes for the wrong reasons, causing report inflation and multiple copies of the report. Is it because of a slight change in the report or because you require another version for scheduling? It's best to consult your SAP BI administrator.
The preferences are a set of options that can adjust and configure the BI launch pad default environment's behavior. We can find among the preferences options that can change the user password, define a new look and feel for the Home tab, or even create shortcuts for a preferred public or private folder.
By clicking on the Preferences button, a new screen will appear, structured from the following seven main categories:
General: In this tab, the user can adjust the look and feel of the Home and Document tabs, for example, the Document tab can be adjusted in a way that every time the user switches to this tab, a specific public folder that they mainly work with will immediately show its content, as shown in the following screenshot:
In the next frame, the user can adjust the columns that will appear in the Report list view:
The last option in the general category is adjusting the working mode of the Internet browser with the reports. Another option is fixing the number of reports per page, as shown in the following screenshot:
Locales and Time Zone: In this category, the user can adjust the product, language, and time zone locales. These definitions are mainly important to maintain the local conventions of date, numbers, and time that will be applied on the viewed objects such as reports, object names, and descriptions, as shown:
If Java runtime is installed and ran through the web browser, then choosing Rich Client Application would be the preferred view and will modify the options to enhance the Web Intelligence functionality.
Drill Options control which drill options will take effect:
Prompt when drill requires additional data: In case the drill results in fetching another query, the user will get a prompt notification before the query will run again
Synchronize drill on report blocks: Drill will be applied on all report blocks (tables, charts, and so on)
Hide Drill toolbar on startup: The drill bar will be hidden when starting a new drill
Start a drill session: This will start the drill on a current or new report
Crystal Reports: This category sets the viewing options for crystal reports.
The preferences control the basic settings of the view options, the BI launch pad's look and feel, and enable the user to configure the main screens and panels for their way of working.
Searching across the BI launch pad not only enables us to find reports without knowing their location or entire name, but also enables us to look for reports that are using a specific object or even specific data.
Using the search engine on the top-left bar, we will enter the search words
The results will be presented in a list of relevant objects that correspond to the search results as well as categorized search results in the left panel, such as by type of the report, folder location, and objects, as shown in the following screenshot:
All the objects in the BI launch pad are being indexed, and as a consequence, this allows the user to search reports not just by the report name, but also by the data inside the reports.
We distinguish between two types of applications by their way of launch:
Applications that run through the BI launch pad environment tab and don't require any extra installation (BEx Web Applications, Module, BI Workspaces, Explorer, and Web Intelligence)
Applications that require local client installation and only supply quick and centralized access to those applications that will be opened locally on the user's machine (currently only Crystal Reports)
As we discussed in the Introduction section, the set of different reporting tools handles different aspects of data as well as different functional requirements, for example, an interactive report versus a data presentation that doesn't require drilling or analysis.
As a prerequisite for the successful running of the different web applications, a Java runtime environment is required to be installed on the user's machine or terminal; the installation part of Java is usually done by IT, but can also be downloaded manually by the user the first time they launch an application that uses Java.
To get the exact information about which Java versions are supported by which web browser, you can refer to this official guide at SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.1 Supported Platforms (PAM) at http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/go/portal/prtroot/docs/library/uuid/507d3365-009b-3010-04b0-e5abc8f00c91?QuickLink=index&overridelayout=true&58879706677981.
In order to create a report using Web Intelligence, we will launch the appropriate application from the home screen and the right-hand side application launch bar, as shown in the following screenshot:
By clicking on the Web Intelligence icon, the Java runtime message will pop up first asking us to enable this application to run.
Once this application is approved, the message won't reoccur and we will be able to launch Web Intelligence and other applications that are using the Java runtime without the following intermediate stage:
The Java runtime activates an applet that enables rich functionality while working with Web Intelligence reports. This option can be configured by changing it in the Web Intelligence category. In order to get a better understanding of what are the differences in terms of functionality between Java and the HTML panel, I suggest you to read: http://scn.sap.com/community/businessobjects-web-intelligence/blog/2013/12/16/feature-differences-between-the-web-intelligence-clients-bi41-sp02. Now, the report interface will be launched and will be ready for the next step of creating the Web Intelligence report, as shown in the following screenshot:
The BI launch pad can access all the report applications from one main toolbar.
The question of which application the organization and the business users should adopt is one of the main questions in Business Intelligence technologies in general, and can easily fill an entire book.
For further reading on this matter, I recommend reading the official SAP article regarding choosing the right SAP BusinessObjects BI client at http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-38981, or just search
Which BI tool + SAP BI4 on Google.
The functions that can be found in the right-click menu are equivalent to the BI launch pad left-hand side toolbar.
We want to explore the right-hand speed menu options, and by right-clicking on any Web Intelligence instance, we will get the following menu:
The report menu has the following options:
Create Shortcut In My Favorites: This creates a shortcut in the user's favorite folder
Cut: This cuts the report
Copy: This copies the report
Copy Shortcut: This copies the shortcut to a specific destination
Delete: This deletes the report
In order to view a report's schedule history, right-click on the report name. Go to the History option. In the next screen, we can view the report's history data, as shown in the following screenshot:
As we have seen, the right-click menu simply enables us the same functionality as in the main toolbar by speeding up the basic functions that can be applied on a report.
For further information on how to schedule reports, refer to Chapter 12, Scheduling Reports
Non-report objects or simply BI launch pad objects: Publications (advanced schedule objects), hyperlinks, folders, categories, and local files are used mainly for organizing objects, scheduling, and adding external files such as office files
We want to understand the basic difference between folders and categories.
Folders and categories are both used for report organizing and grouping, while folders can be seen as the physical layer that actually contains the files, and categories are the logical layer enabling report navigation and can be seen as a pointer to a folder.
The basic idea behind categories is that this structure supports multiple locations by using one report file.
The system administrator can give permissions to a folder while organizing the reports in a totally different category structure.
We want to add one of the reports to a category. We will right-click on one of our reports and choose Categories, as shown in the following screenshot:
All the objects can be organized in a folder structure and can be grouped in a category structure as well.
Once we have the basic structure of the report's folders, we can allow users from the entire organization to access, share, send, edit, and create reports in one secured and easily accessed environment.
By enabling different types of objects to be hosted at the same environment, the organization can adopt a centralized approach towards its BI content, and can manage and run the reports, automatic scheduled jobs, users, and other standard repository objects that can be accessed through workstations, laptops, mobile devices, and tablets.