Through the looking glass, with Web Intelligence 🐇

Exactly two years, that’s the amount of time I’ve been working with Business Objects and more specifically with Web Intelligence. Time to put pen to paper and give an honest (I promise) opinion on the little brother of the reporting tools. Down the rabbit hole we go!

Like Wonderland, Web Intelligence can get quite peculiar.
Like Wonderland, Web Intelligence can get quite peculiar.

Growing larger and smaller

The first thing I will tell you up front, before starting with Web Intelligence, I only had a little bit of experience with other BI tools (stressing the “little” part here). I now know my way around a bit, but it’s safe to say I was (and still am) no expert.

That little bit of previous experience did help, because Web Intelligence seemed quite daunting in the first weeks. The new options kept coming. It kept growing larger and larger as I learned of more and more functionalities.

What helped me (aside from the great support of my Cubis colleagues) was focusing on one part of WebI at a time. Trying to get familiar with one part of the tool, before moving on to the next. I was dropped in an already extensive BO environment, but it helped me realize why things were built a certain way.

“Curiouser and curiouser”

If you’re looking for the prettiest visualizations out there or the easiest drag & drop functionalities, Web Intelligence is not your tool (again, being brutally honest here). But the greatest strengths of WebI lie under its hood.

You don’t have to be a programmer to be able to use WebI, but there are a lot of incredibly useful functions at your disposal. You can format dates, use if-else or where clauses to name a few. There’s a lot of tools in the toolbox. You don’t have to be a Steve Wozniak to use WebI but having a notion of programming goes a long way.

One thing that seemed like magic in the beginning were its scheduling capabilities. Filling up the same report with different kinds of information, and then being able to refer to one specifically. Imagine having ten sales offices and being able to send out ten specific links and reports, one to each, but you’d only need one report and one publication to do it. That’s just cool.

The queen of the advantages (reference alert) however would be the fact that it’s integrated in an entire SAP landscape. Authorizations defined in your Business Warehouse are automatically passed on to Business Objects and Web Intelligence. Lacking authorization on a cube? Then you will not be able to open a report based on that cube either, safety first

PG13

I’ve probably thought about this more than I should’ve, but what if we were to look at WebI like a movie. Is it a romcom, a blockbuster, an indie film, …? The answer still escapes me, it’s a weird question after all, but what I am sure about is the parental rating it would receive.

In the first paragraph I promised to be honest, and I will, that’s why I’ll say here and now: WebI would be PG13. Think about it, or maybe not… What I mean here is, I’d caution absolute beginners against using this tool. WebI has a steep learning curve, and some BI knowledge is required. If you have no familiarity with other tools like PowerBI, Qlik or Tableau, you’ll find some challenges on your path.

Web Intelligence has very powerful functionalities but mastering those takes knowledge and experience.

Looking behind

Ultimately, at the customer where I’ve been working for the past two years, Web Intelligence filled in a lot of our needs (and then some). We made full use of everything WebI has to offer. From scheduling and coding to its visualizing capabilities.

Even so we still made use of other tools, to fill in the gaps (or rabbit holes if you will). WebI fits into the BI strategy and has earned its place in the reporting landscape at the moment.

I won’t die on a hill defending this tool, but it has a lot going for it. Of course, each company is different. Different processes, different goals, different ideas. Here at Cubis we strive to think and build together with our customers. How can we, together, reach the highest potential? That’s our starting point.

If in a year from now we think it’s best to step away from Web Intelligence and move to another tool, we won’t hesitate to say that. The surest way to prevent yourself from learning something is to believe you already know it.

The end

If you’ve never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland there will have been some rather confusing references. Nevertheless, I want to thank you for reading until the very end.

Have a lovely rest of your day.

Martijn Van Herck

SAP Analytics consultant
Likes to read 📚