Understanding your data is fundamental to being able to use it to your benefit. Data scientists might understand the often confusing terminology used to classify and organise data in a data management system, but the average business user is likely to respond only in blank stares when faced with such terminology. As data complexity and volumes increase, even more confusion sets in, necessitating a universal semantic layer that consistently interprets data with language that is easily understood across an organisation. And this is exactly what the SAP BusinessObjects Universe, the core aspect of the SAP BusinessObjects BI software solution, is all about.
WHAT IS SAP BUSINESSOBJECTS BI?
SAP BusinessObjects BI, also known as SAP BO or simply BOBJ, is an enterprise reporting and analytical business intelligence (BI) software solution. Comprising a variety of supporting applications that simplify the reporting and analytics process, business users are enabled to search for data, execute analytics and generate reports with ease, and without the help of data analysts. Using the simple drag-and-drop functionality, data from different sources can be integrated into one platform for a single source of truth.
A number of valuable reporting and analytics applications work with SAP BusinessObjects BI to help streamline these functions. Here are a few examples:
SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards: an application tool for data visualisation that allows users to develop customised dashboards using the reports. It includes gauges, interactive charts, and widgets.
Web Intelligence and Webi: this web-based browser is used for analytical and ad hoc reporting.
Crystal Reports: another powerful reporting and data analytics application that helps in the creation of dynamic reports.
SAP Lumira: an application tool that helps business users find data and develop customised dashboard and analytics applications.
SAP BO Explorer: similar to SAP Lumira, this application also enables users to find data from different sources and create data visualisations.
Query as a Web Service (QaaWS): A useful application for developing and publishing web services.
WHAT IS THE SAP BUSINESSOBJECTS UNIVERSE?
The SAP BusinessObjects Universe is considered the core of the SAP BusinessObjects platform because it allows business-wide users to access and understand data without in-depth knowledge into data science and related data structures and sources. It is the semantic layer between the database and the end-user interface, created using familiar business terminology to represent an organisation’s data. This makes it easy for end-users to find exactly the data they are searching for using common business terms.
Universes are made up of objects and classes that are mapped to the source data in the database and accessed through SQL (Structured Query Language) queries and reports. SQL is a programming language used to communicate with a database and to perform tasks such as update data on a database, or retrieve data from a database. Users, however, thanks to the universe, can retrieve data using descriptive terms commonly used in the business environment, such as product, customer, region, revenue, margin or costs, or the company’s specific business terminology. This is because the universe does not store data on its own but it offers information on objects, which in turn creates SQL queries retrieving the real data.
The objects created in the universe must be relevant to the end user’s business environment so that they represent a company-specific front end to the database structures. The final universe structure thus isolates the end-user from having to know where the data is stored or how it is technically structured in the underlying database.
HOW ARE UNIVERSES CREATED?
The Universe design tool (formerly Universe Designer) allows data designers to combine data from multiple sources in a semantic layer that hides database complexity from end-users. It abstracts the complexity of data by using business rather than technical language to access, manipulate, and organize data.
The Universe design tool provides a graphical interface to select and view tables in a database. The database tables are represented as table symbols in a schema diagram. Designers can use this interface to manipulate tables, create joins between tables, create alias tables, create contexts, and solve loops in a schema.
You can also create universes from metadata sources. The Universe design tool is used for the universe generation at the end of the creation process.
When a universe is designed, simplicity is key. Objects that are unnecessary or could cause confusion to the end-user should not be included, and object naming conventions should clearly explain what the underlying database field represents.
A universe contains:
- A connection parameter to a single data structure.
- SQL structures called objects that map to actual SQL structures in the database. All objects are grouped into classes and subclasses.
- A schema of the tables and joins from the database. The objects are built from the tables that are included in the schema.
- Universe Schema.
BENEFITS OF SAP BUSINESSOBJECTS UNIVERSES
The main benefits that come with Universes are:
- Front-end business users are separated from any IT responsibilities because only the universe designer or metadata modeller needs to know how to write and understand SQL and the complex structure of the underlying database.
- Through the use of the Universe Design tool, data designers can create universes in a simple, intuitive graphical environment.
- Data in the universe is secure and read-only which means that end-users can’t accidentally edit or change data.
- Data exposed by the universe can also be limited to specific user groups.
- Maintaining and updating the universe is simple
- Creating reports is made simple with an easy-to-use interface and drag-and-drop functionality
- The consistent use of business terminology makes it easy for end-users to find and analyse data.
- The universe is simple enough for all users, yet robust enough to facilitate business insight.
The universe is the core of the Business Objects suite because all users in a business can intuitively create new queries/reports using familiar business terms in order to meet business goals.