SAP Design Studio 1.6 was released on 26th November. The new release includes a number of significant additions and features which further enhance the functionalities in version 1.5. Since its release, I’ve incorporated the new features into a dashboard in order to assess the impact that the new features are likely to have on both the developer and the report consumer of Design Studio applications, and the benefits to clients looking to improve their dashboards.
Binding basic components to DataSources
With the addition of being able to bind all components to data sources, SAP Design Studio 1.6 has dramatically increased both the possibilities of analysis and the transparency of applications, whilst simultaneously reducing the effort to maintain dashboards.
One of the main frustrations with previous releases of Design Studio was the fact that, to actually display KPI’s in a text box, they had to be set with a piece of scripting. This meant that every time the data source was changed, the KPI values had to be manually reset. Consequentially, scripting was replicated in multiple places, and the updating of KPI’s could easily be missed. Furthermore, it was time consuming for new application designers to work on an existing dashboard as it wasn’t axiomatic which data sources feed the KPI’s and where these are being populated.
The result of the ability to bind text components (and other basic components) to data sources is that far less scripting is needed resulting in both a more efficient and transparent dashboard.
One of the new components which is going to improve the functionality of the dashboard from an end-user perspective is the new Info Chart.
While existing charts are still available, Info Charts should be used to develop new applications. It has all of the same functionality as the old charts, but offers a much wider range of chart properties, as well as some interesting interactivity features for the report consumer.
Previously, if you wanted to allow the user to select which type of chart they wanted the data to be displayed in, you had to use a variety of CSS classes (for SAP icons), text components and scripting to update the chart. However, in conjunction with the Info Chart, there is another component which is the chart type picker which the developer links to a particular chart meaning that the user can easily update which chart type they want to view at run-time. In addition to the chart picker, there is also the Info Chart Feeding Panel which allows users to change and configure the charts, thus increasing the flexibility of the tool and allowing for greater user interactivity.
Built-in CSS script editor
Another new addition aimed at reducing development time, and improving the integration of components within the Design Studio, is the built-in CSS editor.
The Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) determines how HTML components are displayed within the web browser. Previously, the application would reference a separate CSS document stored locally if the dashboard was being developed locally, or on the SAP BI Launchpad if connected to the BI Platform. The latter of these connectivity options was particularly frustrating as, after every change, the new CSS file had to be uploaded again to the BI Platform. Furthermore, these changes would only take effect when the application was refreshed. This resulted in a lot of wasted time when trying to improve the design and styling of an application.
In SAP Design Studio 1.6, developers can edit the CSS within the application itself, meaning that the changes will take effect immediately, and the CSS file doesn’t have to be re-uploaded to the SAP BI Platform. While this might seem like a simple addition, it will have a massive time saving impact on developers when trying to style the dashboard.
Geo Map enhancements
One of the biggest developments in SAP Design Studio 1.5 was the Geo Map component which finally provided comprehensive geo mapping functionality with the flexibility to use open source maps combined with custom GeoJSON files.
However, the 1.5 Geo Maps component only supported polygon shapes and markers on the Geo Map using custom GeoJSON files which were added to the repository of the application. In SAP Design Studio 1.6 this has now been further enhanced by the ability to use lines on the geo map, allowing for more use cases where this component could be applied. Furthermore, additional analysis and visualisation is introduced by the ability to now overlay pie charts on top of the map allowing for easier analysis of regional and cross-regional performance.
Increased mobile optimisation
The first thing that developers will notice when creating new applications within SAP Design Studio 1.6 is the two new modes which they can choose to create an application within. These are the SAP UI5 mode and the SAP UI5m mode. The newly named SAP UI5 mode was the sole mode available in SAP Design Studio 1.5, however with Design Studio 1.6 there is a new mode which applications can be built in which is SAP UI5m mode.
The SAP UI5m mode is mainly used for mobile devices to ensure that components are rendered for mobile devices while also using SAP Fiori UI’s which were not previously available in 1.5.
While this seems like a useful addition for creating mobile applications, it is likely that the majority of applications will continue to be created in the normal SAP UI5 mode due to the fact that this mode offers greater flexibility due to the fact that key components such as charts and popups are unavailable in SAP UI5m mode. Furthermore, SAP Design Studio 1.6 offers the functionality to migrate normal SAP UI5 applications to UI5m mode but not vice versa. Therefore, it is likely that most applications will continue to be built in UI5 mode unless they are to be specifically run on mobile devices.
Whilst print formatting may seem counter-intuitive for an application which so heavily relies on user interaction, for many clients this is often a key factor when considering SAP BI tools. With this in mind, SAP Design Studio 1.6 increases its credentials to appeal to the report consumer. While the options are still limited, a new Wrap Header Text scripting event means that the document can be more easily formatted, while the new ability to send directly to PDF offers the potential to simulate report bursting through scripting.
Creating new measures
Previously, simple calculations within Design Studio were made laborious by the fact that you had to use a combination of scripting and variables to achieve the most simple of calculations. However, with SAP Design Studio 1.6, new measures can be created based on existing measures within the data source. These are currently limited to things such as running sum and percentage as shown below, however it would be great if this was expanded in future releases to allow for much more flexibility in dynamic calculations.
It’s clear from the above that the release of SAP Design Studio 1.6 brings a combination of new components as well as increases in functionality which greatly increase the power of Design Studio. New components, such as the Info Chart, will greatly increase the flexibility of applications giving much more self-service functionality to the end-user. Meanwhile, the ability to bind basic components like text components to data sources and the built-in CSS script editor will greatly improve the ease of development of Design Studio applications. Some of the new features such as the ability to create new measures offer a limited benefit currently, but potentially big improvements if expanded in future Design Studio releases. The combination of all the new features is that Design Studio applications in 1.6 will involve applications with less scripting meaning that the time of development is decreased whilst simultaneously increasing the ease of maintenance.