Technical Paper BOBJ & ESRI GIS Integration

1. Abstract

Businesses are now looking forward to a more complete operational picture and the ability to make informed decisions on-the-fly. In recent years businesses have been striving to optimize their processes and improve efficiency by using ERP systems for workflow management and GIS for location based information management. Due to the complexity involved in handling each system no direct integration has been accomplished. This resulted in loss of opportunities to leverage spatial analysis capabilities of GIS and business transaction tools of ERP systems. This paper discusses approach to integrate SAP BOBJ with Esri GIS and also discusses the benefits gained from SAP/GIS integration.

2. Business Situation

The use of location information to drive analytics and decision making has become critical to today's enterprise. A need to better utilize assets, infrastructure, and people in the field through fast, accurate, and easy access to data and tools to efficiently and effectively execute business processes and optimize resource utilization is the need of the hour. The visualization of the location aspects associated with business information improves comprehension and communication, facilitates decision-making workflows, and creates competitive advantage for forward-looking organizations.

GIS gives businesses the geographic advantage to become more productive, more aware, and more responsive to daily business needs such as land management, site selection, facility maintenance, emergency response, construction activities, fleet management and tracking, and many others. Business Objects BI Platform is a suite of front-end applications that allows business users to view, sort, and analyze their Business Intelligence data. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such SAP enable businesses to manage workflows, monitors key business indicators, help manage resources and material procurements, help manage people and information.

Organizations that have implemented large BI systems are looking for ways to extract more value from their significant investments. Many organizations have implemented both BI and GIS and are using them independently. Business are interested in visualizing their SAP data on a map interface while GIS users are keen to monitor work-orders, data records, on their map interface which is currently available in the ERP system. Getting at that data is a major driver of GIS-SAP integration. A business user has two important queries where and what-if.

Following diagram provides an overview of various functionalities of Business Objects BI Platform.

3. Our Approach

The process of selecting an integration method and options depends on several considerations such as development flexibility and business directions for integration. The integration needs to devise several GIS and non-GIS transactions to drive the business requirements. We have described our Technical and Business approach towards the integration of Esri maps and SAP BOBJ data.

a. Technical approach

Integrating Esri maps and BOBJ provides geospatial visualization of corporate data, industry data, and demographic data. Selection of an integration approach between SAP and GIS mainly depends on the objects used to link the two systems. SAP module determines the integration objects used to link with GIS while GIS includes spatial features such as points, lines or polygons representing real life objects. In this paper we will discuss two approaches to integrate Esri maps with BOBJ; Development of dashboard designer plugin and Development of custom tool kit.

Approach 1 - Development of dashboard designer plugin

In our first approach to integrate Esri maps with BOBJ, we will use various ArcGIS services such as Base Maps, Map Service, Feature Service, Geoprocessing Service, Address Locators and searching capabilities and display SAP BOBJ data available in formats such as QAAWS, Crystal Reports, WEBI, others on map interface. We will develop a custom plugin that will be made available as add-on component inside a Dashboard Designer interface. The Dashboard designer will consume SAP BOBJ data through Live Office. The custom plugin will provide seamless integration through dashboard designer using ArcGIS services and display SAP BOBJ data on map interface. The plugin will provide quick configuration of ArcGIS base maps, features and attributes to be plotted on the map and all the capabilities of the dashboard such as consuming data from multiple sources, publishing/exporting reports in multiple formats, content linking etc.

Following block diagram provides the high level architecture where “ESRI Connector” is the custom plugin.

Approach 2 - Development of custom tool kit - Custom web app ‘Maps for SAP BO’

In the second approach we will create a custom toolkit including a middleware to configure mapping of BO data with feature attributes and a web-application to query and display SAP BO data on map interface. The custom toolkit consisting of Map Viewer, Chart Objects and other tools will utilize all ArcGIS services to consume data from business objects using the technique Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). Here we have the flexibility to use advanced GIS functionalities like GP tools on the map interface and export map to different standard formats (.pdf, .jpg, .png). Using this approach we can achieve bi-directional integration between BOBJ and Esri.

b. Business approach

The visualization of the location aspects associated with business information improves comprehension and communication, facilitates decision-making workflows, and creates competitive advantage for forward-looking organizations. Integrating Esri maps with SAP BOBJ data takes analytics capabilities to a new level enabling SAP users to view the location of assets on a map and GIS users to view SAP attributes of assets on a map. Integrating Esri maps and SAP BOBJ data helps users to easily access live SAP BOBJ data through the map interface and dynamically embed maps in reports, dashboards or portals.

Organizations that integrate GIS with SAP software today include; Utilities (water, electric, gas, waste, recycling), Local government, Oil and gas production, Defense and public security, Service providers (routing and logistics), Real estate, Forestry and forest products, Waterways, airports, ports and others.

All of these organizations have several things in common: Assets and infrastructure distributed over a wide area.

Following are some of the advantages that integration between Esri maps and BOBJ brings to the business users:

  • Retail chains can channel product to appropriate markets, understand local/regional requirements, and maintain optimal inventory levels at stores and distribution centers.
  • Financial institutions can map transaction volumes, review financial product performance, identify new market opportunities, and examine trends among client demographics.
  • Oil & Gas Exploration requires access to detailed geological surveys, and other information such as land titles and land reclamation activities. Location intelligence provides query, report and analysis tools analysts in these industries need to plan successfully, manage proactively, and keep stakeholders informed.
  • Location intelligence can help healthcare industries to provide regulatory compliance, resource and facility planning, and out-patient tracking

4. Benefits

Approach 1 - Development of dashboard designer plugin

The Dashboard Designer interface provides seamless integration of Esri maps with BOBJ data. We can leverage the entire built in dashboard designer capabilities like what if and where scenarios. Data from multiple sources such as QAAWS, Crystal Reports, WEBI can be configured through Dashboard Designer. Live Office helps to automatically refresh SAP BOBJ data without manual intervention. The custom plugin can be embedded, deployed and configured with ease.

Approach 2 - Development of custom tool kit - Custom web app ‘Maps for SAP BO’

The custom toolkit provides bi-directional integration between Esri Maps and SAP BOBJ data. We can deliver secure BI from SAP BOBJ to any application that consumes web services, including Business Objects Enterprise dashboards. We can expand BI usage to meet the BI requirements of business users without having to deploy additional BI tools. We can reduce the cost of delivering BI by taking advantage of existing investment in data and metadata (universe) and by exposing query results via web services. Ability to drill down to detailed levels of data helps in analysis.

5. Summary

Based on our approaches discussed in this paper we can help businesses reduce the cost of delivering BI by taking advantage of existing investments in data and metadata (universe) and by exposing query results via web services. Business can achieve Bi Directional Integration between Esri Maps and SAP BOBJ data. Unlike the dependency on data source our approach is flexible to consume data from multiple sources like Crystal Reports, Interactive Documents, Universes etc. In contrast to the difficult and expensive methods to access huge amount of data we provide cost effective solution which help to effortlessly display thousands of records at once to create fluent user experience.