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A comprehensive guide to SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer. Dr. Bjarne Berg. In This Session.

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in this session
In This Session ...
  • SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer provides robust functionality for the code-free development of dashboards, cockpits, and rich user interfaces, and also for tuning the performance of the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) queries that supply the data.
  • Step through a detailed demo that shows some simple techniques for using SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer to build a dashboard or cockpit based on good design principles.
  • Find out how summary cubes with update rules can quickly deliver information summaries, such as total sales, total sales by store, or total sales by month to your dashboard or cockpit.
  • Understand how the jump to query feature allows you to drill down into each summary category to get more detailed information, right from the dashboard interface, without the need to run additional time consuming reports.
  • Assess the pros and cons of using auto suppression and data filters with SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer. Come away understanding the role of SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer in an environment that includes SAP NetWeaver BI and solutions from Business Objects, an SAP company.
what we ll cover
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
what we ll cover1
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
the sap bi core toolset
The SAP BI Core Toolset

SAP BI is an enterprise-wide comprehensive decision support (DSS) system for analytical needs of an enterprise.

BI can also support some degree of operational reporting

The SAP BI tool set has many presentation tools and options for companies to leverage. VC is an extension of those tools.

getting started in sap bi it all starts with a query
Getting Started - In SAP-BI it all starts with a query

The query is the core method for accessing SAP BI data. You can use existing queries in your VC models.

The 3.5x BEx Query Designer

The new 7.0 Query designer was totally re-developed in MS-Visual Basic .NET

The NWBI 7.0 BEx Query Designer

what is visual composer
What is Visual Composer

Visual Composer is a tool to visualize the data. It is a browser-based modeling and design tool for rapid application development & prototyping in a code-free development environment.

visual composer for complex cockpits
Visual Composer for Complex cockpits

Modeling of BI applications using the BI kit of the Visual Composer allows business users to create analytical content for SAP portal. It offers the integration with BI InfoProviders, views, BEx web applications, PDF and more via WEB API as access to

other data sources such as OLAP and relational data sources) via Java connectors

Image source: Cubeserv

details about visual composer cockpits
Details about Visual Composer Cockpits
  • Delivered as part of Enterprise Portal in SAP NetWeaver BI 7.0 Usage Type (SPS8 and higher)
  • Different options available for rendering Visual Composer output
    • Flash
    • Web Dynpro (HTML)
  • Flash provides high-end visualization of Visual Composer models

You can pick your own rendering method in the menu: Tools  Options

visual composer data methods
Visual Composer Data Methods
  • Can integrate data from multiple data sources, including SAP and non-SAP systems, into one model
  • Different options available for data access include:
    • BI Extension Kit
    • Remote Function Call (RFC)
    • Web services
  • BI Extension Kit allows access to the following DataSources
    • SAP NetWeaver 2004 BI (BW 3.5 Support Package 14)
    • SAP NetWeaver BI 7.0
    • JDBC
    • XMLA
visual composer dataproviders
Visual Composer DataProviders
  • You can use BI queries and views as DataProviders for Visual Composer models
  • You also can use BI query functionalities for exceptions and variables along with Visual Composer models
  • Visual Composer allows access to BI history, favorites, and roles
visual composer is easy for power users to learn
Visual Composer is Easy for Power Users to Learn

Visual Composer is a power user tool that is simple to learn for someone with a little bit of technical background (i.e. controllers, report writers, analysts).

No coding required to create great-looking Web-based cockpits

Take advantage of prebuilt analytic business packages

Source: SAP

visual composer and wad
Visual Composer and WAD
  • Visual Composer integrates with Web AD-based applications using Portal Eventing Framework
  • For example, BW Web API can pass a filter value from a BEx Web application to Visual Composer
    • and vice versa
web application designer for custom applications
Web Application Designer for custom applications

WAD can also incorporate other SAP VC web items into powerful cockpits and custom report centers.

  • While WAD can be used by developers without extensive HTML and Java scripting knowledge, these skills will be useful on most projects.
visual composer 7 0 portal publishing
Visual Composer 7.0 Portal Publishing
  • Visual Composer Design time deploys Visual Composer models directly as iViews to Portal Content Catalog
  • You can then use Visual Composer iViews in portal pages, roles, etc.

There are many resources for SAP VC – The SDN community

  • This is a great site for quickly getting started with SAP VC and for down-loading a free demo-version

SAP VC – and the SAP Community Network

  • Many of the beginner questions have already been answered in the expert forums on the SAP community network

SAP VC – The SDN community Blogs

  • You can also learn from other’s experiences by getting ‘plugged-in’ to the community network blogs dedicated to SAP Visual Composer.
what we ll cover2
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
modeling overview
Modeling Overview
  • In this section we will review some of the technical options in SAP VC and take a look at the purpose of each of these.
  • After this, we will see a demo of how to build SAP VC model from start to finish.
  • We assume you have never seen the tool before and will go through the demo and the overview step-by-step

Download and getting started – The trial version

You can download a trial version on the SAP Community network.

  • However, to put it into production you must work with your SAP account executive for a license. It is normally not covered by a general SAP BI license.

Creating a model

The first task is to create an overall model to store all your pages and iViews.

The name cannot have blanks or special characters

You can organize your model in standard folder structures

  • Remember that this is a power user task, so providing the group with some formal training (4-6 hrs) would be beneficial. Also, teach them you naming conventions

The SAP VC add-ons

The models are actually graphics rendered with Adobe SVG (vector graphics)

  • If you don’t have Adobe SVG installed, you must go to their web site and download it. It is a small file and it is free

The work environment – Getting Connected

First you must make sure that your Visual composer environment is set up with connection back to your SAP BI environment(s).

  • You can also work with your technical team to setup connections to other non-SAP environments

The Portal Web Page container

You can create individual iViews that are shared in other applications such as WAD, KM folders and web pages.

You can use the portal page to group iViews.

Alternatively, you can make complex iViews that have many different display levels

  • Using the compose icon on the right, you
  • Can add iViews and Portal pages to your model

The SAP VC Configure Toolbar

We can add items and see then from the highest level, or you can ‘drill-down’ on each item and configure them individually.

Navigation is provided as a toolbar and you can also zoom in on each item.

  • This tool bar allows you to zoom, access layers, insert grid lines for layout and move objects

The magnifying glass

SAP VC has many tools that power users can play with.

The fastest way to proficiency is to try the many features. Very few things can 'break’, and the undo button is always available

  • The magnifying glass is helpful when the model is very complex and zooming in and out is cumbersome

The Annotation tool

When you are developing very complex models, it is very helpful to add annotations (comments) to document your work.

  • Consider proposing standards within your company (i.e. dates, initials, and what needs to be documented).

The iView in SAP VC

iViews can be graphical (charts) or tables and links between iViews and queries can create complex dashboards with many navigation options


Getting an Overview over complex models

Very large visual composer cockpits can be hard to read.

The Browse feature allows you to see the cockpit in a tree format that makes it easier to navigate

  • Graphical model displays can get hard to read once very complex dashboards are created

Development methodology

Plan on spending serious time with users working on layout and web page organization.

PS! you can use the SAP delivered calendar to display, or for user to interact with your data set.

  • The best way to create cockpits is to prototype it first, then ask for feedback. Since this process is discovery oriented, It is not best practices to use functional specifications to create web cockpits. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is the preferred methodology

The Back-end GML code

SAP Visual Composer uses the standard GUI Modeling Language (GML).

If you are familiar with this language, you can see the code page under the ‘source’ tab


Step 1 – Find the data you want to model

  • You can look at existing queries developed by others.
  • In this example we will create a web cockpit based on 2 SAP BI queries
  • More advanced developers can also call Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPI) that is delivered with SAP BI to build complex applications

Step 2 – Selecting the queries and defining a starting point

  • After the query is selected, the metadata is transferred to the model.
  • We select one query as the starting point and can require users to use a prompt (in this example we will leave this blank)

Step 3 – Adding a table view based on Query data

  • We add a table view and select the fields we want from the query
  • We give the table view a meaningful business name

Step 4 – Adding a Chart view based on Query data

  • We add a chart view based on the query data.
  • We decide to make it a column chart
  • The fields that we want to graph are selected
  • We add animation to the column chart

Step 5 – Defining graph & assigning meaningful names

  • We select the fields we want to graph as different data series (columns)
  • We give each column a meaningful business name (this is what the users will see)

Step 6 – Suppressing zero values from the query

  • We can suppress the sum rows from the query, so that the graphs are more meaningful and the tables are less cluttered

Step 7 – Adding navigation: Linking tables to other queries

  • When a user selects a row in the country table we want to show all the customers in that country and their sales.
  • We link the output from the country table view to the customer query and map the ‘country-key’ value between the two objects

Step 8 – Adding navigation: Linking graphs to other queries

  • We also want to give the users the option on clicking on a country in the graph and see the see all the customer’s sales.
  • Again, we link the output from the country graph to the customer query and map the ‘country-key’ value between the objects

Step 9 – Adding a table view for customer sales data

  • Previously we added a table and a graph of country sales. Now we want to add similar views for customer sales
  • First we add a table view
  • We select the fields to be displayed from the query
  • We give the table a meaningful name

Step 9 – Adding a pie chart for customer sales data

  • Now we add a pie chart
  • First we add a graph view
  • We select the pie chart type and the fields to be graphed
  • We give the field a meaningful business name

Step 10 – Suppressing zero values from the query

  • Again, we suppress the sum rows from the query, so that the graphs are more meaningful and the tables are less cluttered

Step 11 – Layout and Compiling of dashboard

  • In the layout section we arrange the objects and resize them so that they look good. We also compile the model and can now view it in the SAP Portal

The Result: the web cockpit in the SAP Portal

  • All country sales are displayed based on the first query

The Result: Navigation between the graphs

  • By clicking on the country in either of the top views, the bottom views displays sales for those customers
what we ll cover3
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up

External Web Services

  • External web services (WS) such as email, stock quotes, news services and weather maps can also be integrated into your SAP VC cockpit

External Data Providers – web services

  • Each Web Service may require different input, so you have to spend some time trying out what works for your site and how to format it.
what we ll cover4
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
making cockpits fast using the cache as a data provider
Making cockpits fast - Using the cache as a data provider

It is very beneficial to use the cache as the method for data service retrieval. This makes the cockpits faster by relying on previously accessed data stored in-memory, and you can also use broadcasting to cache as a method to pre-populate the cache as well.

Since a cockpit may have many different DataSources (queries), it can take quite some time to execute them if the memory cache is not used consistently

speeding up queries by using aggregates
Speeding up queries by using aggregates
  • Aggregates are much less used by the SAP installation base than training and common sense should dictate.
  • The interface to build the summary tables (aggregates) are intuitive and easy to master, but few are taking real advantage of them.
  • Even among those that are using aggregates, many have poorly defined solutions & seldom monitor the usage, thereby limiting the benefits of this simple technology.

To avoid poor definition and usage, aggregates should be developed after the system has been in production for a while and real user statistics are captured.

building aggregates is easy propose from statistics
Building aggregates is easy – Propose from statistics

This example shows how to build aggregates by using system statistics to generate proposals

Note: To make this work, the BW statistics must be captured.

  • Select the run time of queries to be analyzed (e.g., 20 sec)
  • Select time period to be analyzed
    • Only those queries executed in this time period will be reviewed to create the proposal
correct aggregates are easy to build propose from query
Correct Aggregates Are Easy to Build – Propose from Query

We can also create proposals from the Query user statistics.

To make this work, a representative number of queries must be executed to gather the statistics to optimize from.

We can also create proposals for aggregates based on individual queries that are performing poorly.

building aggregates fast for your sap visual composer cockpit
Building aggregates fast for your SAP Visual Composer cockpit

The process of turning 'on' the aggregates is simple

make dashboards fast use the right read mode for queries
Make Dashboards fast - Use the Right Read Mode for Queries

Select the right read mode. Three query read modes in BW determine the amount of data to be fetched from a database:

  • Read all data (all data is read from a database and stored in user memory space)
  • Read data during navigation (data is read from a database only on demand during navigation)
  • Read data during navigation and when expanding the hierarchy

Reading data during navigation minimizes the impact on the application server resources because only data that the user requires will be retrieved.

Source: Catherine Roze

make dashboards fast read mode for large hierarchies
Make Dashboards fast - Read mode for large hierarchies

For queries involving large hierarchies with many nodes, it would be wise to select Read data during navigation and when expanding the hierarchy option to avoid reading data for the hierarchy nodes that are not expanded.

Reserve the Read all data mode for special queries—for instance, when a majority of the users need a given query to slice and dice against all dimensions, or when the data is needed for data mining. This mode places heavy demand on database and memory resources and might impact other SAP BW processes and tasks.

A query read mode can be defined either on an individual query basis or as a default for new queries using the query monitor (transaction RSRT).

make dashboards fast condition exceptions
Make Dashboards fast - Condition & Exceptions

Minimize conditions-and-exceptions reporting. Conditions &

exceptions are usually processed by the SAP application

server. This generates additional data transfer between database and application servers.

If conditions and exceptions have to be used, the amount of data to be processed should be minimized with filters. When multiple drill-downs are required, separate the drill-down steps by using free characteristics rather than rows and columns.

This strategy results in a smaller initial result set, and therefore faster query processing and data transport as compared to a query where all characteristics are in rows.

This strategy does not reduce the query result set. It just separates the drill-down steps. In addition to accelerating query processing, it provides the user more manageable portions of data.


Keep service packs up-to date -

A Real Example

This company had 38 cockpits and 82 queries that improved substantially without any further changes after installing Service Pack-14

- a 39% decrease in

query execution time


Make Dashboards fast - RKF & Line Item Dimensions

  • 1. When Restrictive Key Figures (RKF) are included in a query, conditioning is done for each of them during query execution. This is very time consuming and a high number of RKFs can seriously hurt query performance
  • Recommendation: Reduce RKFs in the query to as few as possible. Also, define calculated & RKFs on the Infoprovider level instead of locally within the query. Why?:
    • Good: Formulas within an Infoprovider are returned at runtime and held in cache.
    • Bad: Local formulas and selections are calculated with each navigation step.
  • 2. Line item dimensions are basically fields that are transaction oriented and therefore, once flagged as a ‘line item dimension’, is actually stored in the fact table. This results in faster query access (no table join).

Explore the use line item dimensions for fields that are frequently conditioned in queries.


Make Dashboards fast - Reducing the Query processing time

Problem: Calculated Key Figures (CKF) are computed

during run-time, and a many CKFs can slow down the

query performance.

Solution: Many of the CKF can be done during data loads & physically stored in the InfoProvider. This reduces the number of computations and the query can use simple table reads instead. Do not use total rows when not required (this require additional processing on the OLAP side).

Problem: Sorting the data in reports with large result sets can be time consuming.

Solution: Reducing the number of sorts in the default view can improve the report execution & provide the users with data faster.

PS! Reducing the text in query will also speed up the processing some.

sap vc performance trick avoid outdated indexes database statistics
SAP VC Performance trick: Avoid Outdated Indexes & Database statistics

Database statistics are used by the optimizer to route queries. Outdated statistics leads to performance degradation. Outdated indexes can lead to very poor search performance in all queries where conditioning is used (i.e. mandatory prompts).

Real example

For high volume Infocubes, or cubes that have a high number of users, the percentage used to build the DB stats can be increased from the default 10% to 20%. This may yield more accurate query routing and better query performance (consider this especially for cubes with ‘old data’ partitioned)

you cannot drive a ferrari on a dirt road right data design
You cannot drive a Ferrari on a “dirt-road “ – right data design

When you flag a dimension as “high cardinality” SAP BI will use a b-tree index instead of a bit-map index.

This can be substantially slower if the high cardinality does not exist in the data in general (star-joins cannot be used with b-trees).

Real example

Validate the high-cardinality of the data and reset the flag if needed – this will give a better index type and performance

tip 19 use bi accelerator asap
TIP 19: Use BI Accelerator ASAP





The SAP BI Accelerator makes query response time 50-10,000 faster.

You use process chains to maintain the HPA engine after each data load

HP, Sun and IBM have standard solutions ranging from $32K to $300K+ that can be installed and tested in as little as 2-4 weeks (+ SAP license fees)

32 Gb Blades are certified by SAP

what we ll cover5
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
the future of visual composer
The future of Visual Composer

Composition Environment including Visual Composer continues to be the go-to product for creating composite applications.

Source: SAP, 2009

sap s premium offerings
SAP’s Premium Offerings

SAP Acquired Business Objects in 2007/2008 and is working on integrating BOBJ into the core SAP BI offerings.

new tools roadmap
New Tools Roadmap

Source SAP AG, 2009

other dashboard options bobj capabilities
Other dashboard options- BOBJ capabilities
  • Dashboards can be built using Xcelsius.
  • Xcelsius+ will be launched in 2009, and will be “the flagship product for data visualization & dashboards”
  • BEx Web Application Designer will not be enhanced further beyond Release NW 7.1 in 2008.

Crystal Reports for pixel formatted reports has been available with SAP BI/BW since 2002. This tool can be integrated into your tool portfolio using existing SAP NetWeaver BI queries

(NOTE: Crystal & Crystal Light will be the core tools for formatted reports starting 2010)

Source SAP AG,

bobj capabilities analysis ad hoc widgets
BOBJ capabilities – Analysis, Ad-hoc & Widgets

The Web Intelligence tool from BOBJ is a tool for ad-hoc web based reporting, query & analysis.

It is intended for end users and can leverage queries to both relational and OLAP sources.

It will be the core offering for ad-hoc end user analysis starting 2009.

With the current offering of BOBJ you can also use Desktop Widgets to place BI content direct onto a PC desktop and monitor reports and KPIs.

what we ll cover6
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up

SAP Visual Composer Options

In the Tools  Options section, you can control items such as auto save, display levels, formats, high-lights and more.

These preferences are stored for each user and can be personalized


SAP Visual Composer Workspace Options

You can also control, connectors, automatic data mapping, display of selected fields, warnings etc.

Setting up defaults for the workspace will help your power users avoid frustration. Make sure you sync the windows


SAP Visual Composer Composing Options

Pick your run-time animation and select the portal system folder you want to save your models in.

For most cockpits the default value should be Cache retrieved services

what we ll cover7
What We’ll Cover …
  • Introduction
  • SAP Visual Composer overview
  • How to build a VC model
  • Demo
  • Performance tuning
  • The future of VC
  • Other options
  • Wrap up
who gets to use the sap visual composer
Who gets to use the SAP Visual Composer?

There is often a temptation for the IT community of wanting to keep the Visual Composer tool under their domain – That is a mistake

The IT community should actively work with the power and casual users to improve human capabilities and thereby teach them to become more productive employees.

Chinese Proverb

7 key points to take home
7 Key Points to Take Home
  • SAP Visual Composer is a tool that is easy to learn
  • The tool is intended for PowerUsers – not primarily IT
  • SAP Visual Composer is not going away
  • You should provide individual training to each of the power users
  • Spend serious time performance tuning the back end queries and data stores
  • Plan for SAP BI Accelerator if you have many users of the VC models
  • Seek advise of best practices and plan on integrating data across systems, web services and other non-SAP sources.

Presentations, tutorials & articles


The Visual Composer Reference Guide - http://help.sap.com/saphelp_nwce10/helpdata/en/7c/0feaee0d214b5e9f2e890e0668a833/content.htm

Be sure to read SAP Note 1021219 for the latest information about limitations, known issues, and workarounds for Visual Composer. You can find the SAP Note at SAP Service Marketplace - service.sap.com/notes.

your turn
Your Turn!

How to contact me:

Dr. Bjarne Berg