BI Widgets and Xcelsius for Interactive Desktops

I was on the outskirts of a project some time ago that was seeking to create an interactive desktop for account reps. It was very ambitious and there was definitely consideration as to how BusinessObjects could fit into that architecture at the time. While there were only labs prototypes, we started looking at custom developed solution to plug BusinessObjects into a desktop.

Fast forward almost five years now and BI Widgets is one of those tools you don’t see in use very often. BI Widgets is a very simple little desktop integration app for SAP BusinessObjects that lets you embed report parts into your desktop that can be refreshed off instances and more. I’d like to explore how we might use it in a mix of today’s tools.

When I started jotting notes for this blog, I really thought I was going to be building a prototype from the ground up. The first idea today is simple: create a widget in Xcelsius that can integrate smoothly into a desktop. Fortunately, Ryan Goodman has just written a great blog post on using a twitter feed as a source in Xcelsius which saved me a bunch of time. Thanks Ryan! Be sure to read the comments too for some relevant points on twitter’s feed API as well.

So moving on, you have a great example of how to build a twitter ticker in Xcelsius. Export that compiled dashboard to a location on your SAP BusinessObjects deployment. Now the fun part, launch BI Widgets from your desktop and let’s focus first on creating a connection to your deployment. When launched successfully, it should appear as an icon in your task tray in Windows as shown here (first icon on the left).

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With BI Widgets running, we need to create the connection. Right click, and choose the hosts option to edit the connection.

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Begin with a host name (CMS name), then ensure the host URL is reflective of your web tier (if not on the same server. Ensure a user name and password is specified and click OK.

With a host in place, we can actually navigate to our content. Right click on the icon in the task tray again and choose the Document List Explorer option.

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I’ve already exported my dashboard SWF to my favorites folder as just “Ticker”. When I click on Ticker, this window is actually going to give me a preview of that dashboard in this same window.

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With this preview in place, it feels a little awkward with this scrolling text, but now we can drag and drop this sliding text to the desktop to place the widget out there.

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Voila. Taking Ryan’s excellent walk through of using a feed to build a dashboard, we have a widget that has a great home on a desktop. There are tons of options and iterations to consider here.

  • Any data source will work: enterprise data sources, public data sources, etc. in WSDL, XML, or other connectivity types.
  • You can load up a desktop with dashboards, Webi report parts, or Crystal Report parts.
  • You can tailor the experience based on the users needs, ultimately giving them widgets to encompass any job function.
  • You can refresh parts live, or use the instance mechanisms to get fresh data on a recurring basis.

Got any cool widget ideas?

2 thoughts on “BI Widgets and Xcelsius for Interactive Desktops

  1. That is a great question. You still have to grapple with the fact that Flash is not supported on either of those iOS platforms. However, if you consider new possibilities in proxy services to render Flash on those devices, check out http://www.skyfire.com/. A new player that converts Flash on the fly. If you have an extranet BOBJ deployment, this becomes possible. Secure? No idea yet. But worth watching.

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