The Xcelsius Learning Curve Illustrated

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SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, formerly Xcelsius, is a great product because it provides a free-form design approach to dashboards. Like any technology, there is a learning curve for going from a novice to a guru, and time and practice is what it takes. For new dashboard developers, here is the natural process that you will go through as you learn and discover how to implement dashboards.

FREE FORM DESIGN You open SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, paste some Excel data, hook up a pie chart and like magic you get a simple dashboard visual. The allure of drag and drop design and instant gratification provided by the dashboard preview panel is what draws new users every day. Now you have been tasked with building a real dashboard and you realize that you don’t know where to start… The drawback of a free form design tool is that you do start with a blank canvas. The first roadblock you will hit is learning what components are available and when to use them. Wrapping your mind around concepts exclusive to Xcelsius like selector insertion and dynamic visibility takes time and some practice. The good news is that there is a ton of information available on the web, including videos on MyXcelsius.com

DATA OVERLOAD The next big hurdle to overcome is mastering data connectivity and at the same time not overloading your dashboard. The trick is to offload the heavy lifting and calculations to your server and then load only the data that business users will visualize. The first challenge is figuring out what data connectivity option to use. SAP Dashboards offers a variety of connectivity options that is dependent on which version of the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise platform you are running. The connectivity option you chose should be based on your development needs, data source, and query response time.

INFORMATION OVERLOADThere is no specific numbers for the number of queries or rows of data that you load into the dashboard because performance is effected based on the number of dependencies between data, components and Excel logic. Learning how to streamline or reduce the dependencies into an efficient system is where you start the process of becoming a dashboard design guru. As you build more dashboard projects, you will need to ensure you are not trying to  cram so much information into a single dashboard, that you overwhelm end users and cause performance problems, thus killing user adoption.

DASHBOARD BOX At some point you have mastered connectivity, learned all of the tips of the trade, and can make Xcelsius do great technical feats with your creativity. You have found the bounds of what the technology can do out of the box. This is where third-party solutions can make a huge difference. You can take small steps forward with Essentials Bundle, or take a huge leap forward and gain the ability to re-think how you approach Xcelsius dashboards with Antivia XWIS. I still have yet to see a better dashboard tool in the marketplace when I look at what is possible when Xcelsius is combined with Antivia XWIS. As you find gaps, there are plenty of add-on solutions for everything  from mapping, to visualization, and even printing.
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