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Tutorial of SAP Digital Dashboard

Jiaofeng Lan, Shuo Sun, Sonam Sobti, Yangfan Deng


December 11, 2013

1 Introduction to SAP Crystal Dashboard


1.1 What is Crystal Dashboard
Dashboard is a powerful data visualization design tool belonging to SAP Crystal Solution Package
which is a series of Business Intelligence tools. The software can help enterprises take control of
complex data and give it meaning, turn raw data into sophisticated, interactive dashboards that will
help clients understand your data more quickly and thoroughly. Crystal Dashboard use a simple point
and click interface to consolidate key information from multiple sources into dashboards to monitor
business performance. Dashboards with what-if analysis and visualizations such as charts, maps
and gauges present critical business key performance indicators (KPIs) with drillable, interactive
dashboard views that can be deployed through SAP Crystal Server, or via Flash, documents, web
applications or mobile devices.

1.2 Why Use Crystal Dashboard


Crystal Dashboard is the first Dashboard software in the world and bridge the gap between data
analysis and visual presentation. It has several features and benifits to make it a popular tool in
enterpirse business intelligence application.

Performance monitoring
Simplify complex reports and data by consolidating them into actionalble, drillable dashboard
in an understandable format with charts, maps and gauges.

Platform independent information management


Make organized information available to everyone in multiple ways (Microsoft applications, web
applications, mobile devices, etc).

Facilitate decision making


With predictive models and real-time data, clients can can impact their decisions immediately
with what-if analysis.

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1.3 When To Use Crystal Dashboard
Crystal Dashboard is often a part of the business intelligence(BI) platform. Usually the key
clients of Crystal Dashboard is top management of a company. Because of the request of real-time
performance on big-data and the popularity of evidence-based decision making, Crystal Dashboard
has more and more popular position in BI solutions. In these times, Crystal Dashboard has good
opportunities to produce its advantages:

Provide real-time corporate information to management

Simplify big data into understandable format

Visualize complex reports and data

Build predicting models and management models to facilitate decision making

1.4 How to use Crystal Dashboard


In a nutshell, Crystal Dashboard import from Excel spreadsheets or databases, provide user
with multiple digital dashboard component, connect data to different components, add interactive
features build what-if or other management scenarios and export dashboards into existing platform
or applications.

1.4.1 Installation
Crystal is a Microsoft-Windows based software that cannot support Mac or Linux now. SAP
Crystal Dashboard 2013 Departmental Edition can be downloaded from SAP website for a 30-days
free trail. Two key technologies are combined in Crystal Dashboard: Microsoft Excel and Adobe
Flash Player. The two applications are required before installation.

1.4.2 Skill Needed


Crystal Dashboard is designed to be easy to use. Since the core model of Dashboard is built in
Excel, medium level of Excel knowledge is required. E.g. functions and formulas in Excel.

1.4.3 Importing Data


All Crystal Dashboard dashboards start using Excel spreadsheets often containing some data hav-
ing gone through some analysis, massage, shaping data. Crystal Dashboard uses an Excel spreadsheet
and imports a snapshot into memory snapshot. After the data is in memory, Crystal Dashboard dis-
connects from the Excel spreadsheet. Separated from the actual spreadsheet data out this method
can ensure two things. First of all, your ultimate instrument panel is a separate object, independent
of the original spreadsheet position or status. Secondly, it ensures that your final dashboard size as
small as possible so that it is easy to distribute.
Crystal Dashboard can also import data from different databases and web servers such as SAP
Crystal Server. When Crystal Dashboard cooperate with other businesss intelligence softwares, this
data importing method is more common.

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1.4.4 Building Visual Model
Visual model is essentially a dashboard in design mode. Much like a PowerPoint slide, your
visual model starts off as a blank canvas on which you can add components. Components are those
elements that give your dashboard its utility and purpose: charts, gauges, menus, forms, and so on.
The idea is a single component added to your visual model, tying each component, importing the
data. Experienced users will apply finicial and management model in dashboad. E.g. Figure 1 is a
finiance balance table applied in Crystal Dashboard.

Figure 1: Balance Sheet With Crystal Dashboard

1.4.5 Export Dashboads


After you are satisfied with functionality and visual appearance of your model, Crystal Dashboard
is ready to compile it. First, Crystal Dashboard compiles your visual model to SWF file format.
Compiled into a SWF file format ensures that your final dashboard play smoothly on any screen size
and across multiple platforms. Moreover, this ensures a small file size of the dashboard, so as not to
drown your user with gigantic 40MB file.
After the visual model has been compiled to a SWF file, it is then published to a format of your
choice. You can choose to publish your dashboard to PowerPoint, Outlook, an HTML Web page,
an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, or a Macromedia Flash file. At this point, your dashboard is ready to
facilate your information management!

2 Example of Model Building


The interface of Crystal Dashboard is divided into 4 main parts. The left part is components list.
The upper middle part is the canvas for Dashboards. the lower middle part is Excel spreadsheet.
The right part is attribute of component.(Figure 2)

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Figure 2: Crystal Dashboard Interface

2.1 Introduction to Crystal Dashboard Components


Crystal Dashboard contains nine kinds of components: Charts, Containers, Selectors, Single value,
Maps, Text, Other, Art and backgrounds and Web connectivity.

2.2 Example 1 Create a Bar Charts With Selectors


1. Import data into Excel spreadsheet. The data contains products sales data of 7 products from
January to April.

Figure 3: Product Sales Data

2. Add a column chart (in chart) and a list box (in selector) into the canvas.

Figure 4: Original Dashboard

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3. Create label for list box

Figure 5: Product label

Click link button in label option in components property, then link it to the product label
cells(Figure 5) in Excel.

Figure 6: Product Sales Data

4. Create dynamic data area and link it to the components.

Figure 7: Dynamic Data Area

(a) Create an area in excel as dynamic area for column charts.


(b) Click the list box. In its property area, click general option. In data insertion area: make
insertion type Row.
(c) Link the source data to the area of purchase quantity of each products of each month.
(d) Link the destination data to the yellow dynamic data area
(e) When you click each item in list box, it will insert the according line into the dynamic
area.

5. Link the charts to dynamic data.

(a) Click the chart.


(b) In the property area, link the chart to the first cell of dynamic area. (the name of product).
(c) Write the subtitle name as Purchase by Month.
(d) In data area, choose by series.
(e) Click the plus button at the bottom of the series, add a new series Purchase.
(f) Link the value to the last four cells of dynamic data area (the purchase quantity of each
month).
(g) Link the category labels to the month area.

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6. Preview the model
Click button and you will see the preview below. Preview mode can help to test and debug.

Figure 8: Final Dashboard In Preview Mode

7. Export the model


Click file menu, choose export. Then choose the format you want to export. E.g. export it as
.swf file. You can insert swf file into webpage, slides or documents.

2.3 Example 2 US Sales Map


1. Dashboard(Please click and test the function!)

2. Function of this module:

Click each state, the pie chart will show percentage of each product of each state.
Click each state, the table will show sales data of each state in detail.
The color of each state is alert of each of sales data. If it is red, then the sales data is too
low.

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3. The spreadsheet of this module:

2.4 Example 3 Personal Finances Budget


1. Dashboard(Please click and test the function!)

2. Function of this module


The tab page provides chart and table modes. In Chart model, user can get the trend and
constitute of his budget and actual expense.
Click the drop down menu at the left top of the module, choose one of the option you
want to see details. The Year to Date Total chart and Budget vs Total chart will change
according to users options. Click the table option user can get details in tables.
In What-if analysis, user can drag the slider to change the budget of each cost option.
The three charts will change according to the change of each option.

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The scenario function can save, load and delete the budget scenarios. User can use this
function by clicking the scenario button at the right top.

3. The spreadsheet of this module:

3 Frequent Asked Questions


1. Do I need to install Adobe Flash while using Dashboard ?
The Adobe Flash Player version 9 is required in order to function Dashboard Normal. If you
do not have Adobe Flash installed as part of the installation process, you can download and
install Flash Adobe website.

2. How to change the language in Dashboard ?


Go to File Preferences Language, and select the language in the drop-down menu.

3. What if my prefer language is not listed in Dashboard?


Language that is selected during installation is only available in the Preferences drop-down.
If you wish to add an unavailable language, you should uninstall and reinstall Dashboard .

4. Why does Dashboard function abnormally after I upgrade my Microsoft Office?


When Dashboard is installed, it will automatically configure itself to work with Microsoft Office
version that is currently installed. If you upgrade or change the version of Microsoft Office on
your machine, you must re-install Dashboard in order to properly use the new version.

5. Why do the appearance of the components change when I Copy it to a new visualization?
Some component customization will carry over into a new visualization. Themes do not carry
over into a new visualization, but other customization will effect the appearance properties in
the new visualization.

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6. Why does not the visualization appear exactly the same with my spreadsheet customization?
Some Excel features (conditional formatting and macros, for example) cannot be supported in
Dashboard models. So Dashboard will not display just exactly the way in your spreadsheet
customization.

7. Why does my table look different with my Excel spreadsheets?


The table component only supports Verdana font. To match your opinion, please change your
font to Verdana in your spreadsheets.

8. Can I re-import the spreadsheet with renaming files?


You can re-import the spreadsheet and renamed it, but any binding to the previous spreadsheet
will be lost in the new visualization.

9. How can I embed SWF files into existing PowerPoint presentation in Dashboard ?
You can open a SWF files and embed it into a new PowerPoint presentation by using the Export
to PowerPoint Options. Then you can cut and paste your SWF into another presentation.

4 Troubleshooting Questions
1. Why dont my Excel macros work?
Dashboard does not support macros in Excel spreadsheets at this time.

2. Why do I get the message A script in this movie is causing Flash Player to run slowly ......?
The Flash Player for viewing in Dashboard visualization will display this message when the
script has been running for more than 60 seconds. Since the complexity of Dashboard visualiza-
tion, larger visualizations running on slow machines may result from displaying this message.
If you click No on the message dialog boxes, the visualization will load properly. Note: while
in preview mode, press yes to abort the script will cause the preview to stop working. You
will need to exit the preview, and then return to the preview mode for the correct preview
visualization.

3. Why do I get a serve busy message?


The message indicates that the Excel has a pending operation or is busy preforming an instruc-
tion. Make sure that the Excel is not in the process of editing and then click Retry on the
warning dialog box.

4. Why doesnt my URL button work?


Your URL must include http:// in order to make it function properly.

5. Why single value component cannot be dragged?


The values of single value components are linked to cells with formulas cannot be adjusted.

6. Why isnt my visualization connecting with external data source?


The Flash version 9 that is required by Dashboard has security features, which may prevent
connecting with external data source. Without a policy file, SWF files from one domain cannot

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access data on another domain or sub-domain. In addition, SWF files served over HTTP cannot
access data at an HTTPS location.

7. Why doesnt my component show scientific formatting?


The visualization currently doesnt support scientific formatting at this time. Calculations that
depend on scientific formatting will not be affected.

8. How large can the Excel file be?


There is no limit size of the excel file being used in Dashboard . Though there are many factors
that can affect the performance of the visualizations. Those factors include: The amount of
data that is being changed during the visualization The number of components on the canvas
The complexity of calculation being performed The performance can also be greatly affected
by the speed of the computer.

9. Why does my visualization look strange when I open it?


When the visualization is loaded, all selectors insert their default selection data into their
destination ranges to populate other components with data. The selector at the highest layer
inserts last if there are more than one selector inserts into the same range. You can use the
Object Browser to view the order of the components and change the order using the Layer
Options.

10. Why Microsoft office files cannot be opened normally when Dashboard is running?
The Microsoft office files may not be opened normally when LiveOffice Compatibility Mode is
enabled. To turn the mode off, select File Preferences Excel Options. Then uncheck the
enable button under Live Office Compatibility, click Apply and then OK button to exit.

5 Evaluation of Digital Dashboard


5.1 Delimitations of using Crystal Dashboard
Dashboard supports most of Excel functions, but not all. The list of the functions supported
can be found under Help Dashboard Supported functions.

By default, Crystal Dashboard has a row limit of 512 rows that are readable from any data
block. That means that if you have a query returning 2000 rows of data, only 512 of them are
going to be read. Though we can change the value for row limit, but inflating this number too
high can make the dashboard slower as load times increase. Anything over 2000 rows can be
unpredictable. Therefore Dashboard is not a good tool for analyzing 30,000 rows of data at the
same time. But the problem can be solved by importing data from databases or web servers.

Dashboard doesnt support Pivot tables, you have to use aggregate functions like SUMIF instead.

There are limitations when it comes to SUMIFs, VLOOKUPs, Index and some other array
fomulas. Though these can be handled by Dashboard, the more formulas you have in your
dashboard the slower it becomes.

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Crystal Dashboard is a visualization and presentation tool. It is not a back-end reporting tool.
It does allow data manipulation and transformation but solely for the purpose of visualization
and interactivity. For advanced data transformation such as type functionality, Dashboard is
not a good fit.

After you begin with data modeling, it is not advisable to change worksheet names as it may
result in losing all component cell bindings. Moving a worksheet from its position can also
result in loss of bindings. It is therefore advised to plan out all your sheets before you begin
with modeling.

Crystal Dashboard is known for its visualization technology, not as a complete dashboard or
scorecard solution. While Crystal Dashboard most definitely can build amazing dashboards
and scorecards, it represents only part of a complete dashboard or scorecard package. Most
dashboard and scorecard technologies on the market today come with a complete infrastructure
for managing key performance indicators and metrics, strategy mapping, collaboration, security
and navigation.

5.2 Advantages of Crystal Dashboard


Crystal Dashboard enables simple point-and-click designs. Its interface includes prebuilt skins,
components, maps, charts, and one-click export that can easily be used by business users without
really requiring technical skills to develop fully interactive business dashboards.

Close relation with Excel. Creating charts in Dashboard is not only easy but very similar to
creating charts in Excel. Many charting methods and concepts that you applied in Excel apply
to Dashboard as well. Also a lot of powerful Excel function can be used in model building, such
as fomulas, which empower Crystal Dashboard.

Enables easy distribution of dashboards to your workgroup. With Crystal Dashboard work-
group, it is easy to distribute live dashboards and visual business models in Microsoft Power-
Point, Word, Outlook, and Adobe PDF so users have easy access to live data to gain deeper
insight.

Visual components such as Sliders, gauges, filters, numerical input tools enable evaluation of
multiple what-if scenarios in real-time, with the click of a mouse right on the dashboard.

Dashboard results in gain in productivity when compared to programming. Below given is a


scenario to state the same.

Steps to Bind Data Result Programming Crystal Dashboard


Fetching data into result set 5-10 minutes 3 minutes
Converting data into bindable objects 5-10 minutes 0 minute
Performing looping calculations 5-10 minutes 1 minute

Most dashboards contain at least a half-dozen visualizations, each requiring unique data sets.
Assuming that it would take average 20 minutes, to create one visualization programmatically,
it takes about five minutes to do the same thing using Crystal Dashboard. So assuming you
have six visualizations, you can build a dashboard with Crystal Dashboard in little less than

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30 minutes to versus approximately 120 minutes with a more programming approach. That is
about 400% increase in productivity.

Crystal Dashboard has alert functionality which is commonly used to call the attention of the
user to a specific item or action that has reached some pre-established limits. These limits are
often called targets, budgets, benchmarks, etc. and serve as a standard to which an item is
compared.

Platform Independence make Crystal Dashboards easily apllied in diffenrent applications.

Multiple Languages support. Crystal Dashboard is available in Dutch, English, French, German,
Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese

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