Flynet Xcelsius Server 2012This week I attended the Flynet training course for their Xcelsius Server with DataConnect product.

I have been playing around with DataConnect (DC from here on) over my own data but this was the first chance I’d had to use the demo data and to use the tool in the company of Flynet staff and other developers (there were four of us on the course).

It is a two day course that is aimed at the novice developer or analyst who has limited (or even no) experience of Xcelsius (now called SAP Crystal Dashboard Design) and has not used DC before.

DC is a SQL creation tool that converts SQL statements into Xcelsius compatible web services.

Xcelsius is the main SAP dashboard product that enables you to create rich, interactive data visualisations that connect to live business data.

Flynet Xcelsius Server (FXS) is a combined solution incorporating both products so to create connected dashboards so using FXS requires skills in both DC and Xcelsius.

This training course covers all you need to know to get started creating your own connected dashboards. The course assumes that you know some SQL basics and are comfortable with Microsoft Excel. After going through the basics of installation and licensing and administration it is into the meat of the DC sandwich – the Designer client.

All the lessons and activities are based on the demo database that comes bundled with the product. It is a simple seven table database comprising of Orders, Products, Accounts, Sales People, and Areas.

The training covers connecting to a database, creating SQL queries through the UI (including constraints, operators, aliases, joins, keys, NULLs, parameters, functions, aggregations, ordering, formatting, and manual SQL generation), and then creating, publishing and testing web services.

The DC part of the training is thorough and well-paced with plenty of exercises, some of which are saved for later use in Xclesius. Every part of DC is covered so by the end you will have enough knowledge to go away and really get to grips with it.

With DC covered it is time to use those web services and create something in Xcelsius to consume the data.

Teaching Xcelsius isn’t easy as there is a steep learning curve at the start until people ‘get it’. The fact that Xcelsius has Excel embedded is both its strength and its weakness and this also applies to teaching it.

Students are usually very familiar (often proficient) with Excel and this gives them a head start, but they will often expect Xcelsius to work “just like Excel does”, and it doesn’t. What I find is that there is a light bulb moment when they suddenly ‘get it’. Once they grasp the principles of Xcelsius the rest just flows as it is more of the same.

The Flynet training covers just about every aspect of creating an Xcelsius dashboard, from components to the Excel sheet, through connections and cell mapping. Drilling and data insertion is covered, as are triggers and parameters, dynamic visibility, validation responses, aesthetics, and debugging. The Xcelsius training is rounded off with dashboard deployment.

The final act is to put it all together with a Do It Yourself task that incorporates all the DC and Xcelsius skills learned over the two days. You are given a brief and can choose to follow the step by step instructions or wing it if you are confident enough.

The instructions mean total novices or anybody struggling with the course can still get to the end and the exercise can be revisited at a later date as a refresher.

The course notes that you take away are thorough and should be good reference material until you are comfortable to go it alone with DataConnect and Xcelsius.

For more information regarding Flynet Xcelsius Server and training just drop me a line.

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