10 Lessons you Must Learn to Master SAP Dashboard Development
After you get past the hello world demo, it is time to get into the weeds and learn the features and tricks that will transform a basic collection of components into a powerful dashboard. Some of the most important features are hidden in plain sight. We have pulled them together so you can brush up your skills and move from an SAP Dashboards novice to a pro!
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This article is pre-reading material for our Location Intelligence 101 with CMaps Analytics online course.
1. Creating multi-series charts
When you build dashboards, the most important tools for communicating information are charts and tables. A great advantage of SAP Dashboards is that it uses a chart creation process that is similar to Excel. Learning how to create multi-series charts is an important step to take your visualizations beyond basic, single series charts.
Here is a video that shows you how to accomplish this feature.. It is a little old but just as good today as it was in 2009!
2. Dynamic Visibility:
While the purpose of dynamic visibility is simple, the concept takes a little getting used to for new users. The idea is simple… A user clicks in the dashboard and elements become visible or invisible. In real-world dashboards this feature is critical to provide multiple “views” or perspectives.
To use SAP Dashboards you MUST master selectors and the concept of “data insertion”. This data insertion concept simulates the act of transplanting data from one range in your Excel sheet and placing it into a “destination”. This is a critical building block for SAP dashboards and a difference maker between a basic and meaningful dashboard.
4. Filtered Rows Insertion Type:
The first major hurdle in mastering SAP Dashboards is understanding how selectors work and the process for manipulating data. If you are loading data into SAP Dashboards and using components to move and filter data, this is a feature you need to use.
5. Dynamic Selections
Dynamic selection builds on top of Filtered Rows as the only way to dynamically filter data within a dashboard without layers of confusing Excel logic. This is where we dive into the deep end of SAP Dashboards because there are multiple dependencies to create basic functionality.
Something to consider: It is at this point where you will start to wonder why you got into this dashboard mess. Depending on the complexity and data volume requirements, this may also be the point where you want to consider the wide range of third party solutions to simplify your life and make a profound impact on performance. If so, skip ahead to #10.
6. INDEX(MATCH) formulas
This combination is extremely useful for looking up a single row or column of data based on multiple inputs. There is a best practice to INDEX / Match to reduce the overhead and simplify your dashboard. Often I see INDEX formulas performed on a large Excel range.
7. Change Measures Dynamically with Column Insertion:
If you need to display information and dynamically change the measure (KPI), your typically looking at a simple column data insertion. If this sounds like foreign language, you should review #2 and the notion that selectors are your best friend when it comes to creating meaningful analysis.
8. Concatenation for Meaningful Titles:
Concatenation is a valuable aid for combining multiple selections or values to create dynamic, meaningful chart titles. Too often I look at dashboards that provide limited information to an end-user. This trick will ensure that your dashboard effectively communicates what a user is viewing.
9. Drill Down Dilemma:
There is a reality when working in a two-dimensional data model, with SAP Dashboards and BI4 data connectivity. There is no notion of “drilling” without data connectivity powering. In the Excel world you use cascading filters to simulate drilldown but Xcelsius chart components present some technical boundaries that challenge even the most savvy dashboard developers.
You have a few options at your disposal for drilling in SAP Dashboards:
10. Excel Data Volumes that will Kill Your Dashboard:
This is the million dollar question for all dashboard developers who embark on creating the ultimate dashboard. While it does require some level of planning and is highly dependent on what kind of data connection you are using, I use the rule of 10,000 cells to keep me safe. That can be 10*1000 or 20*500. The number of data points you load vs the number visualized is also difference. For example, if you link a chart or table to 1000 records, it will crash your dashboard.
Excel based dashboard limitations vs query size limitations vs dashboard limitations
In short, Excel / Xcelsius is limited to a number of records / data that you can view.. In fact ALL dashboard and data visualization tools commonly used for business have size limitations in how much data can be viewed at one time.
Dashboards built with connected data however, open the door to fetch data on demand which expands the capacity of a dashboard, it when you fetch data, you are doing so within the bounds of your dashboard.
So that leads us to dashboard limitation of data volume assuming you know the limits of the visualizations themselves. I have seen dashboards capable of displaying tens of millions of records, just not all at the same time. When you search the internet for shirts, do you want to see every shirt made or do you have specific preferences of what shirt you would like to view? The same concept applies for dashboards. There are outlier cases where users do need to view a larger volume of data points at one time than the dashboard technology can handle. In my experience that is less than 10% of the total market.
Something to consider to remove all reasonable limitations:
Once again, add-on solutions do extend and change these limitations drastically. For example, Antivia XWIS can query, drill and manage tens of thousands of records without increasing the size or complexity of the dashboard. In fact your dashboard is multiple orders of magnitude simpler with tens of thousands of records than 100 records without XWIS.
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