I’m pleased to announce that the third edition of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference is now available in print and ebook. The book is intended for BI administrators, developers, and business users who are both long-time and new SAP BusinessObjects customers. Here’s what you need to know about what’s new, what’s covered, and the back story for the book that almost wasn’t.
There are a few chapters on administrative tasks such as securing the data and content, migrating from test to production (Lifecycle Manager), and having multiple developers work on the same universe. Documenting and quality assuring a universe is often an overlooked task, but is a best practice we also include.
Part 3 of the book is updated content for Web Intelligence and re-written by my co-author, Elizabeth Newbould. Elizabeth is a long-time BusinessObjects consultant in Michigan and was the technical editor for the first edition of the book in 2003, as well as the author of the chapter on Web Intelligence Formulas for the second edition of the book. Many of the work flows in Web Intelligence have changed from XI 3.x to 4.0, starting with the Launchpad, which replaced InfoView. From here, users can assemble their own dashboards, interact with existing content or launch various applications. She also covers new capabilities such as accessing BEx queries directly, using the Outline feature (brought in from Desktop Intelligence). There are chapters on the basics of refreshing reports, creating new queries, formatting, formulas, and complex queries. Part 4 of the book is all new content and expanded scope of this edition of the book to include Dashboards and Explorer. Part 4 was a collaborative effort between Clark Duey, a BI director and former consultant in Southern California, Elizabeth, and myself.
The Back Story: Why I Wrote Another Book
Which brings me to the back story of this book. When version 4 was first announced, McGraw Hill asked me if I would update the book. I initially declined, because it consumed too much unpaid time and over time. I also worried it would be perceived that I might be biased toward one vendor. Some of you may know me only through my BusinessObjects expertise, but much of my work involves working with other BI products, consulting on tool selections, publishing the BI Scorecard reports, and teaching for TDWI. Would an updated book jeopardize any perceptions that I was biased towards one vendor? I wrestled with this concern the most. Financially, writing a book is largely a community service effort, so there is clearly no financial bias. It would be easier to write a white paper for a vendor. In the ten years I’ve been an independent analyst, I’ve learned that some vendors will cry foul when things don’t go their way and will guilt me when it suits them. Most importantly, I’ve yet to have a customer complain or express concern. By now, customers know that for deep expertise on BI products, I have to get my hands dirty. Further, McGraw Hill lobbied that books were more important than ever: an updated book would be critical for a large constituent of users and consultants that in an economic down turn, have little money for classroom training. My editor knows I have a strong desire to help people and a desire to serve a community that has led to so many opportunities for me in the BI space. With so many changes in this product release, I could justify that learning the new version to update the book was also necessary evaluation time for BI Scorecard. The clincher was that I could work with two co-authors, so it would be a third of the effort of the earlier books. Easy!
So indeed, we started working on this book in early 2011, writing to the ramp up version of BI 4.0. But then as you know, the first release of version 4.0 was much later and less stable than was expected. It’s hard to write step-by-step instructions or best practices when the software didn’t always work the way it should. By mid summer, we all agreed to stop writing until the product was generally available, and that date ultimately drifted into September 2011. We started writing again, with more stability, but with word that Feature Pack 3 was just around the corner with some substantial changes. Great, so a book that takes a year to write, would have a shelf-life of 6 months!? In February 2012, Feature Pack 3 was released to ramp up so we both re-edited initial chapters and continued to write new content. By then, my co-author Clark had changed jobs and was in the midst of a major ECC and BW upgrade, so had to scale back his work on the dashboard chapters … and what I had hoped would also include a Live Office and Analysis Office Edition chapter. So at various points in the last 18 months, all three of us have contemplated abandoning this project. SAP was unwavering in their support, providing access to all versions of the software, and answering countless questions, some that were bugs and some that were author error. I suspect SAP was equally wary of our questions, complaints, and demands, as we were wary of a moving target and an effort none of us had bargained for. I have sometimes affectionately (and not-so-affectionately) called this book “The Never Ending Story.”
So now that we have a beautiful new edition, we are dancing in the streets and all that pain is long forgotten! Well, not really, but I guess it’s like having a child: give us a few weeks, and all that matters is that we have helped one person, one user, one BI administrator, and indeed it will have all been worth it. For sure, I learned the new version, which is my job, for all BI tools, book or no book. There are some capabilities that I would have liked to cover, but repeating the project manager’s mantra, time, scope, and resources, (we were out of time, and out of resources), I had to let go of some of my wished-for increased scope. Will I ever write another reference book? They say never say never. But I also think that with the growth in the BI market in the ten years since I wrote the first book, publishers are more willing to publish books in this space. It makes it easier for other authors to cover new modules and products, so I hope whatever we missed in this edition, others will continue to fill.
As for my next book, I have in fact already contracted with McGraw Hill to write a sequel to the Successful Business Intelligence book, a tool agnostic book on best practices for greater success. With the rise (and hype) of big data, the sequel will include some case studies on those success and failures. So if you have an experience to share, I hope to hear from you! (either on the record or off).
In the meantime, if you’d like to buy the latest SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference, Amazon seems to have the best prices at the moment, available in both print and ebook. Or if you happen to be at TDWI next week, SAP will be giving away some for free, while supplies last.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard