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