Monthly Archives: March 2012

A New Lease of (HTML5) life for Xcelsius

Given that I was part of the team that brought Xcelsius into Business Objects, it is no surprise that I am a huge fan of the product and as I wrote in a recent post for the SAP Business Analytics blog, I believe it is helping pave the way for an important transition from Dashboards to BI Apps.

So, it was great to be in Scott Leaver’s presentation yesterday, at BI2012, to hear more details on the plans which Steve Lucas announced a few weeks ago about a future HTML5 version of Xcelsius/SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.

Hopefully, this new level of detail will stop all the talk about Xcelsius/Dashboards being a dead product and set a path to a new period of innovation for Xcelsius.

What Scott explained yesterday was that the existing Xcelsius designer would be extended with two new capabilities, namely:

  1. Preview in HTML5
  2. Export to HTML5

Which means that ultimately the workflow for creating an HTML5 version of an Xcelsius dashboard will be as simple as opening an existing xlf in the designer and choosing export to HTML5.

Work on the HTML5 components (both visual and data connectivity) and the new JavaScript spreadsheet engine are underway and we could see the first public demos of a prototype version as soon as the summer, with a “beta program later in the year” and “general availability sometime in H1 2013”.

Prepare for a period of transition

Having said that, as you might expect from such a significant change, it is not all going to happen overnight. The first HTML5 version will only offer a subset of the existing components (apparently SAP’s customer research shows that something like 80% of existing dashboards only use about 10% of the available components), but there will be a compatibility checker built into the designer to warn you if components in your dashboard are not available as HTML5 and to possibly suggest alternatives.

In my opinion, another thing you will need to consider when making the transition to HTML5 is the complexity of the spreadsheet underpinning your dashboard. Although the Flash player has come in for some stick over the years it has been through many rounds of optimization and the jury is still out in my mind as to how JavaScript engines will perform with the initial version of the HTML5 export. I would predict that, at least in the initial production versions, dashboards will run more slowly in HTML5 than Flash, but that on-going improvements in both the Xcelsius export and JavaScript in the browser will mean that parity will be achieved in subsequent releases.

Why is this so important ?

As I wrote in the post on the Analytics blog (and spoke about in my session here at BI 2012), I am convinced that interactive, engaging, easy-to user BI Apps are the future of dashboards and a key part of the future of BI (IMO much more so than what is usually referred to as self-service BI). Having Xcelsius able to generate these types of apps/dashboards for the HTML5 environment, protects the huge investment people have made in this area over the years and opens up a straightforward path forward.

As Scott was at pains to highlight yesterday, these plans are still subject to change, but for me they represent a turning point in the history of Xcelsius and could re-establish it at the forefront of BI innovation.

What to do in the meantime ?

The only question which remains is what to do between now and when this new world arrives. My view remains as it was when I responded to Steve’s initial announcement, partners play a critical role. We can help bridge the gap whilst SAP undertake this major project.

If you need Xcelsius dashboards on mobile devices today (including the iPad) you can use DecisionPoint, which is today already HTML5 ready. If you want to dramatically simplify your dashboard development (and reduce the complexity of the spreadsheets they are based on) then DecisionPoint offers some remarkable capabilities.

Not only do these offer significant value today, but we will continue to work with SAP, to ensue that we help make your transition to the new HTML5 world easier, when it comes.