Live Office is dead to me!

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SAP BusinessObjects Live Office is dead to me! This is the first thought that comes to my mind whenever Live Office is brought up as a potential solution to a problem with a customer.

I didn’t always feel that way. My first foray into serious (Xcelsius) Dashboard development was done exclusively with Live Office. Back in 2007 when we were sold Xcelsius 4.5 as a dashboard tool we were also sold Live Office as the preferred data connectivity method for dashboards. It worked pretty well for the most part and allowed existing Web Intelligence reports to be leveraged directly without rework. I remember one dashboard that was built using 59 Live Office connections from existing Web Intelligence reports. End users would never know that the dashboard had 59 data connections.

I feel the game changed once BI Services became available in the later releases of XI 3.1 through Web Intelligence Rich Client.  Since that time I have not gone back to using Live Office once for dashboard data connectivity.

BI Services provided many of the same benefits that Live Office brought to the table without some of the shortcomings of Live Office.

  1. Retrieving cached data into a dashboard

  2. Retrieving crosstabs into a dashboard

  3. Leveraging existing Web Intelligence reports with calculated measures and custom dimensions performed at the enterprise level rather than in the dashboard (excel)

In addition, while both techniques would bring back blocks of data, BI Services would allow an additional interactive method that would perform drill-down capabilities based on universe hierarchies. This technique was particularly helpful as it would minimize the number of connections that would need to be brought into a dashboard.

As of BI4, SAP made BI Services available in the BI Launch Pad as well, giving the dashboard developer the opportunity to create web services without the need for client tools. On the other hand, Live Office is a separate installation and is included as an add-on to Microsoft Excel. Live Office can also prove a bit incompatible with Excel when opening documents. Additionally, you will always need to be on the same Microsoft Office version that is compatible with Dashboards, which can prove to be a bit tedious to maintain if your company chose to upgrade Office before SAP did.  Personally, this was never an issue as the customer I worked with had a ‘Minus 10 year rule’ with Microsoft Office (sutract 10 years from the current year and use that version of Microsoft Office…needless to say I become quite proficient in Office ’97).

I decided to see if others in the SAP sphere felt similarly. I went and looked at all the conference topics at the 2012 SBOUC and could not find a single presentation dedicated to Live Office. I did find four instances where Live Office was mentioned in a presentation. Three of them were single-line mentions, and one mentioned Live Office as ‘old’ technology.

Nowadays, most SAP customers who are used to BW and BEx queries are comfortable using Microsoft Excel as BI so you’d think that they’d be excited with the opportunity to use Live Office. However, SAP seems to be targeting those customers with Analysis for Microsoft Office as it is more of an OLAP tool. Not to mention the fact that many legacy BusinessObjects customers hesitant to upgrade to BI4.0 in general and not yet having Live Office compatible with the new UNX universe doesn’t help matters (So far the case as of BI4 SP5).

So, where does this leave Live Office. Obviously, SAP will need to address the compatibility with BI4.1 or future Service Packs of BI4. There are also rumors on the twittersphere that Analysis for Microsoft Office and Live Office will be consolidated into one solution for customers which makes sense and may avoid some of the confusion to customers as to which tool is right for which solution.

For now, I see mainly two situations where you would still use Live Office.

  1. You are a legacy Crystal Reports customer and use data from these reports to connect to Dashboards. Live Office does provide you that solution.

  2. You mainly connect Enterprise data to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations as a deliverable to high-level users. Live Office does provide you that solution

Otherwise, if you are a current SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 customer, the current version of Live Office is dead to you until further notice (…or at least on life support).

Do you feel the same? Do you find other uses for SAP BusinessObjects Live Office not mentioned above? If so, please leave your comments below.

16 thoughts on “Live Office is dead to me!

  1. Great thoughts, Ahmed. Welcome to the EV Technologies blog!

    Live Office is definitely dead as an accessory to using Xcelsius 2008/Dashboards 4.0. What is less clear, with both vendors and customers, is whether the goal is to get data INTO Microsoft Excel or to get data OUT OF Microsoft Excel. I found this timely article in Forbes, A Tableau Solution To Those Excel Blues about data analysis problems that exceed Excel’s capabilities.

    What is more mystifying to me is that I’ve heard of several stories lately where the requirement is to get (very carefully massaged) data into Microsoft PowerPoint. I can’t help but think of the Steve Jobs quote– “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” But perhaps I’m wrong.

    In any case, SAP would help all of us by articulating their plans for integrating with Microsoft Office in general and the future for Live Office in particular.

  2. Thanks Dallas!

    Good points on whether the goal is get Data into Microsoft Excel or out of Microsoft Excel. I’ve always felt that if you were a manager in charge of several data analysts, you would want the goal to keep data out of Excel and into a more automated report structure and delivery schedule, such as Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports. I would think you would get a difference answer if you were the Data Analyst. Excel is easier to learn and easier to modify but you get disconnected from the source and you begin developing the dreaded multiple versions of the truth which haunts many companies.

    That’s why I’ve always seen LO best used as a delivery mechanism for data to feed dashboards and not necessarily as the deliverable itself.

    I can see an advantage to delivering data directly to powerpoint for a high level executive where the template is consistent and only the #’s change based on queries.

  3. It’s dead. During today’s ASUG webcast about Information Design Tool 4.1, it was stated that Live Office 4.1 will not support UNX universes. Will be curious if anything will be announced in the April 29 webcast about Analysis 4.1.

  4. Hi Ahmed,
    Sorry for my naïve question but how to you get “existing Web Intelligence reports with calculated measures and custom dimensions performed at the enterprise level” available in the dashboard?
    I’m a business analyst with some basic experience in Xcelsius (mainly on the business side of building the dashboard) and I’ve been using LO to feed my dashboards with some custom measures and dimensions I create in WebI.
    I thought I could access that data via LO but since it’s not supporting Unx (and my new company is on BO4) I didn’t know there were other options to access WebI reports data.
    Thanks,
    Michel

    1. Hi Michel,

      Thanks for the question. Yes, there are other opportunities aside from Live Office to bring in custom measures and dimensions from Web Intelligence into Dashboards. You now have the option to use BI Services as of XI 3.1 SP2. Basically you are publishing your block of Webi data from a report into a Web Service. From this process, you are provided a Web Service Link that is consumed by the Dashboard using the QaaWS connection method. This block of data may contain any field from your Web Intelligence Report whether it is native to the Universe or created for that specific report as a custom measure.

  5. This is a really interesting thread. In previous years, we gave SAP high marks for the Excel integration, but since 4.0 was released, we lowered it because there hasn’t been good support, or clarity, for relational data sources.

    Live Office may have been the main approach for hooking up Xcelsius dashboards, but long before that, it was the preferred interface for Excel users. It seems to me that SAP has forgotten this use case, but your post begs the question: is the Excel BI user still there?

    With Analysis for Office, SAP has a solution when the data is in an OLAP cube, but not for relational / universe data. 4.0 and 4.1, do not support the new universe format created with the IDT, only the old one, a confusing and admin intensive approach.

    I still think the BI Excel user is relevant … but I wonder if with Microsoft PowerPivot, are these users skipping modeled data sets / universe and creating their own tabular models? Are they doing this because they want to or because SAP has been unclear on support?

    I still have a number of customers who use Live Office for relational, not for dashboards.
    Regards,
    Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard
    Author: SAP BusinessObjects 4.0: The Complete Reference

    1. Hi Cindi,

      Thanks for the post.
      First off, you should know that your Business Objects XI 3.1 book was a staple on my desk back in 2006 when I first started.

      I’m quite torn about Live Office. In my previous life as an analyst and dashboard developer, it was my only method of live data delivery to Xcelsius dashboards. So, I definitely have a soft spot for Live Office. I agree with you that I still see value for it for data delivery straight to Excel, Powerpoint. It’s also a means of delivery data from Crystal Reports to Dashboards.

      Ironically, most new SAP customers adopting BI4 have previously used SAP BI through Bex Queries, which is tightly integrated with excel. So, you would think a tool like Live Office would be a natural transition for them.

      It’s a bit of a double-edge sword. I have a feeling that SAP is moving to steer users away from Excel as a modeling and data quality tool and more of a report delivery tool from Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports. This only works if users trust their data inside their Universes. Otherwise, users will be savvy enough to get their data inside another tool like PowerPivot for data quality and ultimately reporting/dashboards. At which point, they will end up bypassing many of the SAP BI reporting tools.

  6. I’ve just found this thread and would like to share my current experience with LiveOffice. I’m currently working for a Swiss governement agency. The are what I’d call a “classical” BOBJ customer having a Oracle / Teradata based datawarehouse with BO XI 3.1 on top using Webi only. For one division they heavily rely on LiveOffice. When I first heard about this my answer was as well “who ever could recommend LiveOffice to them?”. As we are currently upgrading their platform from SP2.7 to SP6.3 I had the “pleasure” to work and test a lot with LiveOffice. Let me share a few findings:
    First of all here we use LiveOffice with its primary purpose: Bring “live” data from Webi documents into Excel. No powerpoint, no Xcelsius etc. Just formated data into Excel. When I looked into it in more details I’ve found there were various reasons to choose LiveOffice (instead of using Webi directly online as an alternative):

    1. The customer’s Webi reports contains up to 30 prompts. Unfortunately BO doesn’t have any possibility to save your personal set of selected prompt values – except for having a report copy in your favorites folder, which neither we from operations side nor the business users prefer. On the other hand, people don’t want to set all 30 prompts based on their (recurring) need all the time. Here LiveOffice is a perfect fit: As LiveOffice stores the previously selected prompt values directly within the containing Excel file, a business user always has it’s own prompt values available.

    2. Realtime planning: The customer’s business division uses LiveOffice in the cost controlling and planning area. They use the datawarehouse data (over Webi reports) directly in planning sessions. They have highly complex Excel sheets containing both, datawarehouse data as well as planning elements which they want to be able to modify on the fly. LiveOffice is a perfect fit for this.

    4. Dynamic alerts in Excel data: LiveOffice takes over the (optical) cell based alerts (e.g. red, yellow green cell background) from Webi.

    3. Multi-Language: The Swiss Government is mostly multi-language (German, French, Italian). Therefore many of the documents must be created in several languages. Based on Webi and Translation manager (and a multilingual datawarehouse structure) users can easily switch the language setting and get the same document rendered in a different language. This is something Excel can’t do on its own. But using LiveOffice, this works – in most cases…

    As this customer is completely based on relational databases as of today no other BOBJ tool can fulfil these needs. Not even in BO 4.x. As you can see there are definitely some reasons why LiveOffice is a business relevant component. But I agree with other comments in this thread that obviously SAP might have forgot about it.

    Which brings me to the negative side: Whereas LiveOffice works pretty well in XI 3.1 SP2.7, we had many troubles migrating it to SP6.x. Currently, with the lastest fixpack 6.3 it works mostly again. Still, there is an issue that LiveOffice doesn’t take over number and date format. Some “not so clever” guys wrote the following KB article: http://service.sap.com/sap/support/notes/1376035 It mainly states this behaviour is “by design”. As it obviously worked in early relases of XI 3.1 this is not a feature but simply a bug. I’m currently trying to convince the support and development organisation at SAP about this…
    Anybody else using LiveOffice in the “classical” way?

    1. I’d like to share a small update re our LiveOffice bug in XI 3.1 SP6: At least one issue we face seems to be related with the language version of Microsoft Office. We had good support from SAP so far and could narrow it down to the German (or maybe in general the Non-English versions of MS Office).

  7. Hi @rbranger,

    Thank you for leaving your thoughts. My earliest usages of LiveOffice were similar to your used case scenario. Bringing data directly from Web Intelligence into Excel. Here is the dilemma that I was facing though. As a BI developer, I didn’t necessarily want the end users to be accessing BI through Excel. I’m curious to hear from you as to how your users were using the LiveOffice data they had in their Excel file. Was Excel their final destination? Or did they feed that data into another medium?

    I am still waiting to hear for a roadmap of legacy BOBJ customers who have tons of Dashboards based off of LiveOffice and are looking to move to BI41. As of early 2014, LiveOffice is incompatible with (UNX) universes.

    1. Hi Ahmed
      Re
      ” I’m curious to hear from you as to how your users were using the LiveOffice data they had in their Excel file. Was Excel their final destination? Or did they feed that data into another medium?”

      Excel is the “final destiation” in our case. But they build quite sophisticated Excels on top of LiveOffice data and it is a business critical component…

  8. Hi all,

    I also would not use LO to retrieve data for dashboards, unless there is a good reason for it (like the situation described by rbranger). Also not for XLS-content.

    But : for a customer which has BI 4.1 (SP3) in place (mainly Web Intelligence) we are starting-up a Proof-of-Concept to replace a legacy-reporting-tool (“home” made) by BI 4.1. The output of this legacy-tool is in Micorosft Word-Document. The customer likes this way of providing company KPI’s since the consumers of the data can add very simply comments in the MS-Word document to explain or give comments on the KPI’s shown in the Word-doc.

    A second reason is that these MS-Word documents are consisting of several “blocks”. Every block contains a set of data (KPI’s). Our intention here, so to use Live Office), is to create these report-blocks in Web Intelligence, and then make them available through LO-Report-blocks in the MS-Word documents.

    We do not see any other possibility then using Live-Office to replace this functionality in BusinessObjects BI 4.1. Any thoughts on this ?

    Many thanks.

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