On February 7th, 2018, SAP came out with a “Simplified Strategy”, bringing about a couple of changes aimed at their BI portfolio. Of the changes suggested, one of the major change is the decision to move forward with SAP Analytics Cloud as the primary tool for Data Discovery. Here you can see their simplified roadmap:
 
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On the same roadmap, you should be able to observe SAP Lumira as the target tool for Dashboards & Applications. SAP Lumira Designer already stands strong in its ability to build simple or complex Analytic Applications and Executive Dashboards. What we haven’t really dived into is its ability to cater to the requirements to satisfy Self-Service BI needs. As part of this blog, let’s look at how best it serves the needs for Self-Service BI.

Self-Service BI

Whenever we talk about Self-Service BI, it’s always assumed it’s BI without the involvement of an IT team. But is it? Let’s assume that we’re using a tool such as SAP Lumira Discovery to create our own visualizations – is IT not involved here? Come to think about it, IT is actually responsible for providing us the end-user tool, setting up Data Sources and providing us with access. It is therefore essential to understand what constitutes Self-Service BI.

Gartner defines self-service as:

“Self-service business intelligence is defined here as end users designing and deploying their own reports and analyses within an approved and supported architecture and tools portfolio.”

As you can see, even with completely autonomous self-service scenarios, the IT team is involved in enablement at the least. It is thus, essential to change our connotations about the term “Self-Service BI” – in a real enterprise, Self-Service BI would mean different things to different groups of users. This is something we will look at a little later in this blog.

Types of Self-Service BI

When you take a very broad look at Self-Service BI, you will find that there are actually two types of self-service BI:
 
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  • Guided Analytics, usually constituting dashboards and analytic applications, is a form of Self-Service BI wherein users do not need to construct their own visualizations but can navigate through the dashboards to perform other analytic options such as filtering and drilling down. These typically present users with information in the form of Visualizations and are straight-forward and easy to use.
  • Structured Self-Exploration, usually involving easy-to-use BI tools for storyboarding and ad-hoc visualization, is a form of Self-Service BI where users have more flexibility and can use any data source of their choosing to construct their own visualizations to arrive at answers they are looking for. In this type of a Self-Service scenario, users are not presented with information, and must work their way towards it.

Types of Users

Now that we understand the types of Self-Service BI more clearly, let’s look at how different types of users can perceive “Self-Service BI”. We are just using an example here, but the number of such groups could be more in bigger organizations:
 
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When you have multiple groups of users such as Analysts, people from the Finance department, the Sales team and C-level executives, the requirements for each of these groups of people are likely to differ and hence, their expectations from and perception of “Self-Service BI”.
 
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While business-oriented users may have fewer requirements from Self-Service, users such as Finance or BI Analysts may have more requirements usually leaning towards more “hands-on” with the data. But regardless of the requirements, we can clearly observe that these users fall into some category of Self-Service BI or the other.
 
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It’s apparent that each user can be fit in either category of Self-Service BI. Just as easily, SAP Lumira Designer can be used as a tool to cater to the requirements of either type of Self-Service BI.
 

SAP Lumira Designer for Self-Service BI

 

Guided Analytic Applications

SAP Lumira Designer is first and foremost a dashboarding and an application building tool. The Analytic Capabilities in SAP Lumira Designer can help create robust applications with well established analytic threads. SAP Lumira Designer allows developers to use BIAL scripting to introduce a host of interactive options on applications which can further enhance this analytic capability of the application. Filtering and Drilldown capabilities can be implemented to allow users to start using Guided Analytical applications in a typical top down manner – from the highest level as an executive dashboard, drilling down into a more detailed report by linking it to another URL.
 
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Furthermore, the introduction of collaborative capabilities such as Commenting and Scheduling bring more power to these applications.

Structured Self Exploration

What we tend not to realize very easily is that SAP Lumira Designer has in-built capabilities that will allow users to create applications that are even capable of meeting requirements for Self-Service. For instance, let’s consider some of the “Self-Service” requirements that we covered earlier – the requirements coming in from different user groups. This is how SAP Lumira Designer can address these requirements:

Requirements

SAP Lumira Designer

Drill Down

•     Crosstab with Drilldown functionality (standard)

•     Can be implemented on Charts using scripting

•     Partner Extensions for Charts with built-in drilldown

Navigate

•     Dedicated Navigation Panel

•     Filter Panel with Navigation Mode

•     Scripting

Parameterize

•     Prompt Handling Mechanisms built-in

•     Components to filter through data

Commenting

•     Can be implemented as a workaround

•     Expected as standard on the roadmap

Report Variants

•     In-built functionality to set Bookmarks

Print/Export

•     Export to PDF, XLS, CSV, Analysis Office available

Mobile Access

•     Standard functionality

Select Data Sources on the fly

•     Backend Connection component

•     Standard Dialogs for System and Data Source Selection at runtime

Dynamically Changing Data Visualizations

•     Chart Type Picker

•     Chart Feeding Component

•     Scripting

SAP Lumira Designer also makes it easier for developers to deploy solutions for Self-Exploration through the use of templates. A Generic Analysis template available out-of-the-box allows users to directly deploy and run applications capable of self-exploration with minimal hassle.
 
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In fact, in previous versions of roadmaps from SAP, we will find that SAP Lumira Designer was toted to be a replacement for Analysis for OLAP as well. Many of the capabilities that the tool offers is already a part of SAP Lumira Designer, setting it up to be a very viable replacement as an on-premise solution.
 
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There is no denying that structured self-exploration on this tool will still have gaps. For example, while users can still connect to live BW queries and HANA views on the fly, as you can see below, SAP Lumira Designer still lacks in the Data Preparation layer:
 
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Fortunately, Interoperability between SAP Lumira Discovery and SAP Lumira Designer is available to bridge these gaps. SAP Lumira Discovery still stands strong as an option for customers looking to leverage their on-premise investments and fill the gaps in SAP Lumira Designer when it comes to Self-Service capabilities.

Future SAP Lumira Roadmap

As we said when we started this blog off, SAP’s recent blog on their Analytics Strategy has left a lot of customers in doubt about their own strategies for Self-Service BI. While SAP recommends SAP Cloud Analytics for Data Discovery going forward, they are still endorsing SAP Lumira Designer as their premier tool for applications and dashboarding. As we demonstrated through this blog, SAP Lumira Designer meets quite a few requirements for Self-Service BI from a varied user set. However, the gaps, now being covered through SAP Lumira Discovery will still need an alternative. This is something that SAP is already focusing on, as evident from their roadmap for SAP Lumira:
 
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Some of the planned self-service-based innovations may include the addition of drag-and-drop capabilities for story composition (similar to what we saw in SAP Design Studio 1.6 and earlier with Online Composition).
 
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With these planned innovations, SAP Lumira Designer is poised as a very strong alternative for Self-Service BI, whether it is Guided Analytics or Structured Self-Exploration. As such, the tool is filled with myriad possibilities thanks to extensive customizability through scripting, composites and a host of other features. It will be interesting to see how the tool grows out and how it can canvas ever-changing requirements.

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