2.1 BI Edge products and technologies
The BI Edge suite includes a full set of reporting tools that can be organized by function and complexity. For example, there are end user tools with lower levels of complexity, such as BI Launchpad and Xcelsius. The value of these tools is highly based on the infrastructure available to the project team. This infrastructure is designed with server-based tools that may be more complex, but are primarily designed for use by technical admins. For example, the Universe Design Tool creates the semantic layer and data connections in a hierarchy to publish relevant information in a business layer. The business layer data can then be consumed by BI Launchpad and Xcelsius applications. In the case study, I will configure a full information workflow example. Figure 2.1 highlights that there may be many tools and layers involved in generating a report that is embedded within a corporate reporting strategy. For some, this graphic may also highlight the jumble of tools and interface technologies within the solution architecture.
Figure 2.1: BI tools jungle
Figure 2.2 shows a partial view of the technologies and highlights the process from semantic to data and the business layer in red. You need to keep in mind that these three layers are at the core of the BI Edge concept; they are essentially the building blocks of the universe concept. Therefore, if you want to create a report in BI Edge, you very rarely just create a query and use the reporting tool to create a list and/or graphical visualization. The idea is that you can utilize a complex network of data sources, which you would connect on the lowest level called the semantic layer. By semantic, I mean the logical language established for reports, which will be represented by the data sources selected for the reporting infrastructure.
This selection will define the scope of data to deal with in reports. However, these data sources may have different representations of data and multiple areas of business focus. For example, there could be manufacturing and CRM data from various sources that may have unique column names for data. On the data foundation layer, this data is organized and prepared for business use. Then, in the third layer, the data is logically aligned with a business focus so that it can be easily understood by functional consultants for reporting.
While at first glance this may sound like a lot of overhead, the concept makes sense when you have complex data sources with multiple layers of privileges for user groups and departments. However, you are right that, for a simple report and ad hoc reporting, this concept may be perceived as a headache for a user who just needs to create a quick report in Excel. However, in the long run, the problems you face creating a mess of quick and dirty reports will be resolved with the organizational structure of the layered concept introduced with the universe.
Figure 2.2: BI universe layers
In the following section, we will look at the BI Edge tools. In addition, we will review the tools that are already built in with SAP ECC. You will also learn how to connect them.
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