This week I was invited by an SAP BusinessObjects customer to participate in a discussion with SAP regarding whether they should use Visual Design Studio or Xcelsius to develop new dashboard based BI applications for a new project.
The representatives from SAP explained the roadmap for their BI tools that they released just over a year ago where they would be focusing primarily on 5 major BI tools going forward instead of the 15 (between SAP BW and BusinessObjects) currently in use. They explained that Visual Design Studio is a BI application development tool that is a natural follow-on to Web Application Designer (WAD) on SAP BW and could also provide an alternative to Xcelsius Dashboards being used to develop BI applications. They also clearly articulated that there is no end-of-life announced or planned for Xcelsius. While there are no major new developments planned for Xcelsius, the tool would continue to have minor enhancements made to it and supported for the foreseeable future. They also acknowledged there are many third party add-ons to Xcelsius that do enhance its capabilities.
This is 100% consistent with what I heard from the SAP Product groups and executives at Sapphire in May with one small caveat. At Sapphire it was stated that SAP will not develop any migration tools or utilities for converting Xcelsius to Visual Design Studio as they had determined it was not viable.
SAP has embarked on a new convergence strategy. No longer will products be replaced but they will converge instead. This will apply to all the tools in the BusinessObjects suite with the exception of Desktop Intelligence which has been on a replacement schedule for a number of years now.
While Visual Design Studio is now being used by a number of SAP BW and ERP customers, it has seen little to no traction amongst the BusinessObjects only customers. This was borne out in the discussion as SAP had no customer references on hand for any BusinessObjects only customer that has successfully switched to Visual Design Studio. There are many reasons for this and some were brought up in our discussion. Firstly, Visual Design Studio is still very much evolving as a tool and does not have equivalent functionality to Xcelsius (SAP Dashboards) – there are not as many built-in components available, it does not handle “What If” scenarios, it is lacking in the dynamic visualization capabilities. Secondly, Design Studio is a programmer tool, not a BI developer tool. Today, Xcelsius dashboards and applications are often developed by BI developers and even by power end-users. Visual Design Studio requires the skillset of a web application programmer. While it is a natural evolution for Web Application Designer (WAD) on SAP BW, it is not for Xcelsius.
SAP is quick to point out that their future power user visualization tool is Lumira and they have talked about a convergence between Visual Design Studio and Lumira. This actually makes more sense to me than a convergence between Visual Design Studio and Xcelsius.
The conclusion of the discussion was that SAP recommended to the customer that they try to use Visual Design Studio first for their BI application and if it did not have the capability they needed, they use Xcelsius instead. My recommendation is continue using Xcelsius for your BI applications going forward until a better solution that surpasses it comes along.
This recommendation is based on my experience and what I am seeing out there every day with organizations needing to build rapid, reliable and versatile BI dashboard applications that run on both desktop and mobile, connected and offline and can integrate with a wide variety of data sources, applications, portals and other products.
And someone is bound to mention that Xcelsius is Flash based and that Flash is not supported in mobile environments and may well not be supported in some web browser versions in the future. Xcelsius today produces HTML5 and with third party add-ons can do some pretty amazing things in its HTML5 form and on mobile which is why we are seeing an upsurge in new Xcelsius application deployments in 2015. (So if I may, here’s a shameless plug and a link to our very own dCode third party add-on product from InfoSol UK Labs for example. Update: dCode is now available for purchase!)
SAP has no plans to replace Xcelsius. Their convergence strategy is a work in progress and we must give it time to see how it plays out.
In the meantime, BusinessObjects customers should use Xcelsius (a.k.a. SAP Dashboards) for building the best BI dashboard applications. There will be plenty on display at this year’s SAP BusinessObjects Analytics and User Conference (#SABOUC) in Austin, TX from Aug. 31- Sep. 2 in the keynotes, the education sessions, the hands-on training and the exhibit area.