SAP Design Studio Shaping Up Sloooow and Steady

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.

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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