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At the recent ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (SBOUC) in Orlando, one of our customers, Ed Poropat from Newell Rubbermaid, gave a compelling presentation on how he uses SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) in conjunction with Antivia XWIS, in Newell’s Global Writing business unit. The two compelling things about this presentation were:

1) Ed is not a technologist, he is a finance manager
2) He described what he is doing as “self-service BI”

The really interesting thing for me is that Ed is actually doing self-service on two levels. The first level is that he (as a finance end-user) is creating the dashboards himself. He extracts data from his corporate budgeting system and the business unit’s IT department then loads this data into a SQL Server database, from here Ed uses the XWIS components inside Xcelsius to create his own interactive, drillable dashboards (perhaps ironically for a finance person he has no need to resort to complex Excel formulas as XWIS does all the work for him).

So Ed is doing what could be called “end-user self-service dashboard creation”. However, that is not the end of the story. The final end-users of the dashboard are the business unit’s finance management team including the business unit’s CFO. They use the dashboard to understand how their business unit is performing. Due to the combination of XWIS and Xcelsius, the dashboard is interactive and at many points throughout the presentation Ed described this as giving the business unit’s finance management team “self-service” access to their information.

Critically, when asked “how much training did your end-users need”, Ed replied “none”. The reason being that he (a finance person) had built the dashboards to be intuitive to other finance users, so a bit like an iPad app there is no manual or training required.

This is an incredibly powerful story. One end user creating an optimised information delivery tool for other end-users. No need for the involvement of IT (expect to provide the data platform) and the ultimate end-users receiving a system which they can get into, get what they need and get out as quickly as possible, all made possible by the Antivia XWIS / SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard combination. Now that’s what I call self-service (squared). I would also call this a BI App but that is another story (about which you can find more here, here and here).

The dashboard Ed presented is pictured below (with the data removed), but please, please, let's not get into discussions about whether this is a dashboard or not, the important thing is that it helps Ed and his colleagues run their business. That is enough for me !

Don't believe an end-user can create interactive dashboards with SAP Dashboards / Xcelsius ? The video below shows just how easy it can be.

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