SAP Design Studio Shaping Up Sloooow and Steady

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Over the weekend, I was working on a brand new article for SCN where I will demonstrate how to “quickly” create a geo Choropleth / Heatmap in SAP Dashboards and then distribute the embedded location intelligence into Webi and Design Studio. After getting 90% of the way of the way there, I hit a wall trying to expand on a simple example I created in Design Studio, leading to this article..

If I have learned anything, it is that customers are not afraid to look elsewhere for analytics tools if it drives value to the business faster. I think the appetite for lengthy dashboard design projects has shrunk to an all-time low. Speed and ease of delivery are the highest priority for customers today, so finding that balance of simplicity and power is certainly easier said than done.

Here are some thoughts after my Design Studio adventures this weekend

1. I am definitely not the target user for Design Studio– I spend my days running a business and product design / vision. I am conflicted because with Design Studio being pitched to customers as a “premium” alternative to Xcelsius, I feel obligated to learn how to use it and continue this blog… After 2 years, I still don’t get the visceral reaction to Design Studio that I do with other Dashboard Design tools… Being a technologist in 2014 I feel that I should be able to quickly create my own dashboard if I have data readily available.

2. You can not be a casual user of Design Studio… yet– Either you need to be a developer or be a professional Design Studio developer. I have been able to casually learn Tableau, Qlik, DecisionPoint and other analytics tools, but Design Studio seems to be a brick wall for me. It requires too much time and continuous focus to be a casual user.

3. You can’t move fast– At least with my system configuration where I am running on a Windows 7 VM, I grew frustrated waiting for the spinning rainbow with almost every action. Going into a dashboard and knowing exactly what I want to see, I want to move quickly to get to the end result and move onto the next feature I want to create.

4. Today, Design Studio professionals need to know how to use the SDK: There is no way around the fact that if you want Design Studio to meet the wide range of requirements of today’s dashboards, you will need to be a wizard with Design Studio scripting or have the ability to whip up some JavaScript components using the SDK. Additionally, there are amazing extensions from the ecosystem, including Graphomate; Their stuff looks awesome! We have been using APOS Dashboard Migrator as a bridge for CMaps Analytics and it works great.

5. The small Design Studio Community lacks a good platform to thrive: EverythingXcelsius was a fantastic hub for information related to Xcelsius but SCN is absolutely horrible. The Design Studio portal is a single thread of un-organized information related to Design Studio, SDK, Dashboards, SAP Connectivity, and other development related topics directly related to Design Studio. You have some top notch experts delivering extremely useful content but it is going into an SCN black hole.

Additionally the developer base is fragmented from day one so, that creates challenges for knowledge management when you are using one tool for different use cases like Web Apps, Mobile Apps, and Dashboards. These are 3 very different things from a design and execution standpoint.

6. SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) and Design Studio are two different animals- SAP Dashboards skills do not translate to Design Studio, so you need to re-think how you approach using this new tool. This is a fundamental problem, because the one thing that makes SAP Dashboards incredibly powerful and successful is the ability to design the dashboard and perform a basic level of adoption testing in parallel to ETL, Universe and query development.

THE FINAL VERDICT?
I have never been bullish on Design Studio because I have seen what it takes to create a successful dashboard solution and it always starts with the end users. SAP Dashboards is successful not because it was crammed down customers throats, or because it was the best solution to enterprise dashboards. It succeeded because it opens up a process for creating dashboards where the end result is priority #1, and you get to work backwards to fetch data.

The good news is you have an SAP product team who has been along for the same ride and genuinely want Design Studio to be a great solution. It is an uphill challenge because they have to meet the expectations of the most widely adopted BusinessObjects tool after Crystal and Webi and their starting target market (and possibly still their main focus) is BW Web App Designer customers. At the same time SAP has to try and catch up to a marketplace that is accelerating beyond Xcelsius and Design Studio.

Stay tuned for my article on SCN this week:

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3 Comments

  1. It is a pretty steep learning curve for an Xcelsius developer to become a Design Studio developer. That’s why I suggest all my customers to look for a Web Developer with HTML5, CSS and JS skills when hiring for a DS role rather than looking for a SAP BOBJ consultant with DS experience (which is very rare to find).

  2. Hey Ryan,

    I’ll offer respectfully a different opinion!

    As someone who wrote about a dozen Xcelsius addons using the Flex Builder SDK, let me be one in the other camp to say how much I couldn’t stand Flash, and the Xcelsius themes are quite dated. The lack of design-times scripting in lieu of Excel acrobatics never was my cup of tea, however I come from a heavy coder background and longed for a Script Window. I’m also an old school BEx WAD designer so you can see where my perspective may be completely different 😉

    Also, Query Builder was promising but then abandoned. QaaWS/BIWS still proves a faster option for load times but at the tradeoff of having to do stuff in like 3 different middleware hoops to get there. Not a very fun workflow.

    I’ll cheer on Xcelsius’s slow fading away. I won’t shed many tears.

  3. Your opinion is actually very important for this discussion because it mirrors the feedback I have had for years by many other developers whom I have connected with. SAP Dashboards always seemed like they had the right idea and vision but never enough attention or resources to on that vision because of what you describe above.

    There are 150 million excel users that all speak the same language, and tens of thousands of Xcelsius designers who also speak the same language. There was once a highly vibrant community of these Excel power users and an entire micro-economy around Xcelsius that is all but dead. Some of the best BI applications I have ever seen are produced with Xcelsius or via custom HTML5. I am still waiting for that killer Design Studio use case that will get SAP Dashboard Developers imaginations going.

    Perhaps that is where we can do some brainstorming..

    For remaining BusinessObjects customers, SAP is pushing Design Studio as a premium alternative without indicating how or why Design Studio is going to help drive higher adoption or create faster delivery, or incremental value to the business. The fact that the technology is HTML5 and SAP is putting weight behind it may sell software but it does not help grow a community.

    Interested to see where all of this goes but wanted to put on record a snapshot in time based on where we are at and help give feedback to my SAP Dashboards readership who may be stuck.

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