10 Steps to SAP BusinessObjects BI4 – Retiring Desktop Intelligence

The last dance with Deski

One of the big hurdles on the journey to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4) is dealing with all of those pesky old Desktop Intelligence (Deski) reports. Love it or hate it, Deski is going away! (eventually)  If this is news to you, you may be in a state of panic, wondering what to do with all of your nostalgic Deski content.  Don’t worry though. It may not be as bad as you think. SAP has provided us with a simple intuitive tool for the conversion process.

In the following paragraphs, I lay out a high level overview and provide some questions that you may need to consider for your Deski conversion project.

Identify, Plan, Organize

The first step is simply to identify the Deski reports in your organization, and ask questions as you develop your attack plan.

  • How many Deski reports are in the CMS’s public folders?
  • …private folders?
  • …inboxes?
  • Are there users who have locally stored Deski content to convert?
  • How often are these reports accessed?
  • When were they last accessed?
  • Are they still relevant?
  • Do any of the Deski reports use delivery rules?
  • Do any of them contain freehand SQL?
  • Would Crystal Reports be a better fit than Web Intelligence?
  • Is the Deski content in sync between environments (ie. development, staging, production, etc.)?

The answers to these questions, and likely others not listed, will help you begin to formulate a plan. Once you have an inventory of your organization’s Deski reports, you can start to evaluate and decide what to convert and what to retire.

Deski has been around for a long time, so there’s a good chance that your organization has ancient reports that are never, or rarely, accessed. Your organization also may have reports that are simply just poorly written reports. In either case, you may have content eating up valuable storage space. This could be an excellent opportunity for some “spring cleaning”.

Convert, Evaluate, Test

The Report Conversion Tool is powerful, and most reports should convert nicely to Webi. This is not always the case though. Fortunately the conversion tool does output a nice report that lets you see why some of your conversions may have failed.  A couple of potential reasons for failures may include use of delivery rules, or filters/objects that worked in Deski but are incompatible with Webi.  When the conversion process is complete, take a close look at the partial and failed conversions, and then start opening and checking all (even successful) reports.  Test everything.  For some of your partial conversions and/or reports that use freehand SQL, you may find that they might be better suited as Crystal reports.  In any case, you may find needs to manually convert some of your content.

Practical Application

Now that we’ve looked at a high level overview, lets take a look at what it might look like in an actual organization.  We have had the pleasure of assisting a few customers with their Deski conversion projects. In the following paragraphs, I will give you an idea of the migration process that we followed in one of our most recent projects.

The client that I assisted had three SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 landscapes organized into development, staging, and production. As described above, my first step was simply to get an idea the scope of the Deski footprint in the organization.

This can be done through CMS queries, but may not be quick and simple. Instead, I used the Sherlock® CMS inspector to generate a quick report of all Deski reports in their three systems. I provided the client with a detailed report that showed each report’s name, location, and the last activity date. I provided a report that showed Deski documents that were unique to development, staging, or production, as well as reports that had matching CUIDs, but were not identical. I also showed the client a list of all Deski reports that existed in private folders and inboxes, the reports’ activities, and each relevant user’s contact information. With this information, the client was able to easily eliminate inactive reports, identify reports with high usage, and notify relevant users of the upcoming conversion. Users were notified that any reports that were not in the CMS would not be converted.  We also found that content did not match between their three systems, and required for us to resynchronize the content before converting.  Once the initial research, planning, and organizing was complete, we were ready to start migrating.

Example summary of user content
Example summary of user content
Example summary of public content
Example summary of public content

It is useful to know that when the report conversion tool does it magic, it creates a Webi version parallel to each Deski report.  It is possible to convert the Deski reports in place without moving to a different location.  However, for this specific project, it was decided to consolidate the Deski reports into a central location.

Prior to the conversion, users were notified to not create or modify anymore Deski reports in the system to (hopefully) ensure that nothing changed. I then created a folder at the root level called and named it Deski. Next, I created sub-folders directly under it for Public Folders, and User Folders.  Under Deski -> Public Folders, I recreated the folder structure for folders that contained Deski reports.  Under Deski > User Folders, I created a sub-folder for each user that required conversions, and created folders to represent Favorites, and Inboxes.  Finally, we copied in the reports that needed to be converted.

Folder structure example
Folder structure example

The process of creating folders and copying content was a little tedious, and may not always be practical for all organizations.  However, it was greatly simplified by the Sherlock® inspection reports that were gathered up front.  This little bit of extra work also helped simplify the evaluation / testing stages at the end.

At this point, we’re ready to convert.

Report Conversion Tool

For my project, I used the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 tools to convert within the same environment and then promoted the reports once the BI4 landscape was ready. The BI4 client tools, while similar, do have some differences.  The following is a quick glance at the conversion tool for XI 3.1.  For a more in-depth look at the tools for XI3.1 or BI4, please refer to SAP’s BusinessObjects XI3.1 Report Conversion Tool Guide or BusinessObjects 4.0 Report Conversion Tool Guide.

The report conversion tool’s shortcut is located in the Start menu under the BusinessObjects client tools directory. Simple browse to and click the shortcut.

Report Conversion Tool shortcut location
Report Conversion Tool shortcut location

A command prompt window will briefly appear – very briefly – and then will disappear. Unless you check your system’s processes, you may not realize that anything is happening. However, the report conversion tool should be loading in the background will eventually appear. It is not too long of a wait, but this could be a good time to top off your coffee.

Don't blink.  Blink and you'll miss it.
Don’t blink. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Once it loads, you will be prompted for your CMS’s credentials.

Login box for Report Conversion Tool on BOBJ XI3.1
Login box for Report Conversion Tool on BOBJ XI3.1

Highlight the reports that you want to convert, and use the double arrows in the center to move them to the right.


Click next when you are ready, and the program will start converting.  Depending on the size and quantity of reports, this could take a while.  At this point, I moved it to the background and worked on other tasks.

The magic is happening!
The magic is happening!


When the conversions are complete, you will be presented with a summary that shows the number of reports that were fully converted, partially converted, and not converted.  If desired, you can select “compare fully converted documents,” which will attempt to auto-magically compare the original Deski with the new Webi document.  However, this process can take a while and still may recommend for you to manually check the reports.  Also if desired, you can select the option to save the conversion results to your audit database.  For more information, refer to SAP’s user guide.  When you are ready, click next to proceed.

summary screen example
Summary screen example

On the next screen, you can publish the new Webi documents back to your CMS.  By default, all fully and partially converted documents will be selected, and will be published to the same locations as the source documents. Check or uncheck the reports to specify whether or not they will be published. Then, if desired, right-click inside the document columns to change options on the new reports, including the name, target folder, categories, and connections, etc. Then when ready, click next to publish.

Pre-publication decisions
Pre-publication decisions

Publishing can take a while depending on the volume of content that you are looking at. When publishing is complete, you will see a summary screen that shows success or failed publications. When ready, click close.

Publishing example

Finally, you will be presented with a conversion summary that lists the conversion status, file name, and error messages of partial and failed conversions. If desired you can highlight and copy the results text. This can then be pasted into a text editor or spreadsheet.  Use this summary report as you go through and check your documents.

Conversion Results Summary
Conversion Results Summary

In my most recent project, most of the reports converted cleanly. However, there were still a decent amount of partial and failed conversions. A fair amount of reports failed or were partially converted due object or filter functionality differences between Deski and Webi. In some cases, the client was able make minor adjustments to the reports to fix them. In other cases, they either abandoned or completely rewrote the reports using Crystal Reports.

The above example was only one case though. Each organization can be drastically different. We’d love to hear some of your thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments.