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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template

Creation

Applies to:
SAP BI 7.0 system BO XI 3.1 Xcelsius 2008 5.2.0.0. Please visit the SAP BusinessObjects Community page.

Summary
The paper describes the best practices to be taken while creating an Xcelsius dashboard connected with
SAP. The connectivity path chosen is Query as Web Services.

Author: Gaurav Kanungo


Company: Deloitte Consulting India private limited.
Created on: 05/08/2010

Author Bio
Gaurav Kanungo works with Deloitte Consulting. He has approximately three years of
experience in SAP Business Intelligence 7.0 and BusinessObjects tools.

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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template Creation

Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................... 3
Business Case .......................................................................................................................................... 3
Connectivity Model .................................................................................................................................... 3
Brief Categorization of the important phases .............................................................................................. 3
Data Model design ........................................................................................................................................ 3
Dashboard Front End (Canvas) Design ......................................................................................................... 4
Dashboard Excel Design ............................................................................................................................... 5
SAP BI-Xcelsius connectivity ......................................................................................................................... 6
Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................... 6
Related Content ............................................................................................................................................ 7
Disclaimer and Liability Notice ....................................................................................................................... 8

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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template Creation

Introduction
The paper describes the best practices to be followed to create a template for an SAP BI- Xcelsius
Implementation project. It is based on our first project experience on BusinessObjects Xcelsius. I tried to
incorporate most of the aspects regarding the dashboard like optimization, aesthetics, and standards. Above
all, as the final aim was to create a template, it had to be built in such a way that the replication process is
smooth so that other team members can create their versions in minimum time and uniformly.
As all these aspects are case dependent, they may vary between projects. The paper focuses primarily on
the process aspects and not a deep dive into the technical aspects.

Business Case
The dashboard is all about highly aggregated KPIs being compared in various scenarios. A trend analysis
arrow compares the current period value of KPI with previous period. A traffic light indicator compares the
current KPI value with a set of threshold values to judge them being good or bad. A simple bar chart shows
the historical period values for the KPI.

Connectivity Model

Query As
SAP BEx
BO Universe Web Xcelcius
Query
Services

Brief Categorization of the important phases


 Data Model design
 Dashboard Front End Design
 Dashboard Excel Design
 SAP BI-Xcelsius connectivity

Data Model design


As the end product is a Dashboard, the SAP BI backend data model should be designed very specifically
keeping in mind the following aspects:
 Business Requirement
 Dashboard performance
 Complexity balance: Front-end/Back-end
 Total development time
 Change Management
 Connectivity model
As per our business requirement, we had a highly aggregated and complex KPI based model. So our focus
was to keep even the simplest of the calculations at the back-end. As the data is populated in the dashboard
at run-time, the query needed to be highly optimized. This would directly impact the dashboard performance.
As the SAP-BO integration is still not very mature, shifting the complexity to front end was risky. The project
being a very short duration, we had a very short Front-end development phase. Being a first project of its
kind for the client, business process and design changes were duly anticipated and considerations were
made to accommodate them smoothly in future, if any. On a high level, a balance needs to be created
between all the mentioned points to achieve a smooth implementation.

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Dashboard Front End (Canvas) Design


There are certain important points to be considered which are very helpful while creating a template for the
canvas design for the dashboard:
Business Requirement – This is a very obvious factor. The design can be simple or flashy depending upon
the complexity of business requirement and audience of the dashboard.
Ease of Analysis -- A very important factor. The design and use of components should be such that the
business users should be able to comprehend the navigation easily with minimal efforts.
Aesthetics -- There is no limit to creativity but the dashboard should have the bare minimum aesthetics in
terms of intuitiveness and neatness.
Color Scheme -- Following a specific color scheme is very necessary to maintain integrity. Also, the color
combination used should not be uncomfortable to the eyes of viewer and should not distract the purpose of
analysis.
Canvas and component sizing -- Design the canvas and components to take into consideration its
appearance on the smallest and the widest of the screens. Also, it is good to have, but not necessary, scope
for some future changes to avoid massive rework.
Naming convention for the component -- As the purpose is to develop a template; the components used
should have proper naming conventions.
Assigning canvas address if there are lots of similar objects -- It is always good to have an address
assigned to objects with similar component types so that identifying a particular object does not consume a
lot of time.
Use of Filters and panels -- Using filters and panels wherever possible makes the dashboard look compact
and integrated. Again, it depends on case to case but having a compact design is always preferred.
Additional concerns include the following:
 Component Spacing
 Text Font
 Alignment of objects
 Background
As per our business case, we had a lot of KPIs being displayed in the initial screen.

So managing the space and using multiple functionality components was a challenge. For example, the Icon
button seen in the above figure acts as a button to open a chart as well as an traffic light Indicator for the
KPI.

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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template Creation

Dashboard Excel Design


It is the most important part of a template from replication point of view as most of the changes would be
made in this portion. Some helpful tips:
Formula Optimization – This is the most important aspect of excel design. There are certain formulas which
do not support Xcelsius. Out of those available, our aim is to use those formulas which take the least time to
execute. For example, a Vlookup is better than a big nested if formula. Putting even the smallest of
references in the form of formulas makes a lot of sense as it avoids manual work and makes them easy to
track.
Color legends -- Color legends are important from the perspective of quickly identifying what the cell is
basically doing:
Example:

Feeds as I/P to Dashboard


O/P from Web Services
Local Formulas and
Connections
Reference cells just for display

Uses of different excel sheets as per different mapping scenarios -- It implies neatness and gives more
space for future expansions.
Use of headings and comments with proper description -- A brief description of what the formula or a
particular Row/Column implies, is a good practice and helpful for your team to avoid blindly following the
steps while replicating the dashboard.
Use of Excel formatting -- As and when required, if the component using that value does not provide a
feature for a particular format.
Canvas - Excel Sheet address mapping -- Referencing a particular value to a component is easier if u
provide a simple address (a number or an alphabet combination) to the combination, in case you have
similar components referring certain cells.
Data range considerations -- Populating more than 5000 rows is definitely a restriction and the
performance is inversely proportional to the number of rows populated. It is more of a data model design
consideration.
Horizontal and Vertical scaling -- Keep ample amount of space for future expansions. It looks very obvious
but sometimes become a pain point if not accounted for.
The more you work on optimizing the formulas, the more you avoid the cumbersome manual work to
replicate the dashboard and eventually less mistakes.

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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template Creation

SAP BI-Xcelsius connectivity


For getting data from SAP BI to Xcelsius, following options are used very widely:
 Query As A Web Service (QaaWS)
 Live Office
 SAP BEx
It is a good practice to analyze all the options before choosing an optimal one. There are pros and cons for
all of them. A few questions to be analyzed before selecting the best option:
 Do I have detailed or aggregated data to pull into Xcelsius?
 How much parameterized is my dashboard?
 How many queries do I need to refer?
 Do I need to process the data in Xcelsius or Do I already have a formatted query and which
connectivity option supports the properties of the query?
 Do I have the necessary infrastructure to cache the query (In case of Live Office)?
 What is the version of SAP and Business Objects being using?
 How would the dashboard performance get impacted as per the choice of connectivity?
There can be many other aspects to be taken care of while selecting the most suitable one. We need to
balance all these aspects and choose accordingly.
We used Query as a Web Service as we had a highly parameterized dashboard with highly aggregated data.

Conclusion
Xcelsius being a creative tool cannot be implemented as a step-by-step approach or just following a set of
guidelines. The idea is proper planning and keeping certain bare minimum checks.

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Related Content
Please visit the SAP BusinessObjects Community page.

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BO Xcelsius Dashboard Template Creation

Disclaimer and Liability Notice


This document may discuss sample coding or other information that does not include SAP official interfaces and therefore is not
supported by SAP. Changes made based on this information are not supported and can be overwritten during an upgrade.
SAP will not be held liable for any damages caused by using or misusing the information, code or methods suggested in this do cument,
and anyone using these methods does so at his/her own risk.
SAP offers no guarantees and assumes no responsibility or liability of any type with respect to the content of this technical article or
code sample, including any liability resulting from incompatibility between the content within this document and the materials and
services offered by SAP. You agree that you will not hold, or seek to hold, SAP responsible or liable with respect to the conte nt of this
document.

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