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Web reporting with BW, still an option?

For those companies who started with SAP BW early on, BEx analyzer is still the main tool. However, web reporting in BW is available when there is a need for more user-friendly BI tooling. In this blog I write about the approach for realizing this.

The best feature of the BEx Analyzer is of course that it is an Excel based application. Especially on the Finance and Controlling department, this is highly appreciated. A big disadvantage is the need for SAP GUI to be installed. If you are using your Business Intelligence functionality for managers, this can be an hassle. Web reporting solves this issue and is regarded more user-friendly.

Please note, SAP has taken over Business Objects, they have web reporting functionality as well. For this blog I will not take these possibilities into account. I consider that part of a more broader strategy since it involves higher costs in additional license fee and possible additional hardware.

So what are the considerations when you would like to use web reporting? First of all, consider it to be a short-mid term solution. New developments from SAP will not be made on the BW web reporting, so eventually, you will want to move on to another BI tool like Business Objects.

Second, there are certain technical preconditions you need before starting with web reporting. One of them is of course the means of distribution, the SAP portal. If you do not have a portal environment and have BW 3.5, you can do web reporting but I would not recommend this. If you have BW 7.0, a portal is installed with that, so you might need to set this up. Portal customization is not necessary a complicated and time consuming project. I am not a portal consultant, but I did manage to implement one without too much effort. Stick to the standard functionality, don’t go too crazy on the look and feel, and keep the authorization roles simple. Later on, when you are used on working with the portal, you can explore additional functionalities.

Third, consider standardization of your web reporting. SAP offers standard web templates you can use to display your query. Often though you will want to build your own web templates. There are a lot of options available in the Web Application Designer tooling to use, so it is best to have some agreements on which to use. This will make your application more user-friendly, because every report will have the same build up, context menu, buttons etc. Usually two standards will do, one for analyzing and detail, the other for monitor dashboards.

Finally, start building your reports. You can use the queries you use for your BEx reporting in your standard web templates and place them in the portal. This is the easy way. You might also want to take a look at those queries and do some additional improvements. For example, enhance the variables you use to have always a default setting. In this way, when selecting a web report, you will get immediately result instead of a selection screen.

In conclusion, is web reporting with BW still an option? In my view, for those companies with the right conditions and who are looking for a quick, relatively cheap solutions, the answer is yes.