The Evolution of Xcelsius

Tiddler is eaten by big fish and big fish is then gobbled up by shark. That’s how acquisitions go in the BI world and Crystal Xcelsius (or SAP Crystal Dashboard Design as it is now known) followed the same path.

Back in 2003 Santiago Beccera and his son combined in an unlikely double act to tackle the issue of boring, rigid data presentation and analysis tools. Beccera Snr was a frustrated data guy who wanted the ability to perform interactive, on-the-fly analysis and present snazzier reports to the powers that be. He was on a crusade to stop execs falling asleep during presentations.

Becerra spotted a gaping hole in the market and alloyed his son’s video gaming skills with his own business data experience to create an innovative, award winning product in the family garage. A product that would go on to make the Beccera’s fortune.

Through their Infommersion, Inc company the Becceras marketed and sold their $195 application which they called Xcelsius Professional Edition and was a rich, dynamic dashboard creation tool that used Microsoft Excel to hold the underlying data and produced Macromedia Flash based data visualisations.

Within a couple of years Infommersion Inc had been acquired for $40m by Business Objects and the product had been rebadged as Crystal Xcelsius.

Within time Business Objects would be bought by SAP with the whole Crystal and BO suites coming under the SAP umbrella, including Xcelsius which would duly arrive at its current incarnation of SAP Crystal Dashboard Design.

As Xcelsius evolved under SAP control many of the original Infommersion staff went onto pursue other BI paths and are still active at some of the current major players in the BI world such as Centigon, Roambi and QlikTech.

Xcelsius started life as a dashboard creation tool that worked in tandem with Microsoft Excel. You would create your spreadsheet in Excel and then import it into Xcelsius where you would hook up all the components and controls on your dashboard. By the release of Xcelsius 2008 Excel had been integrated into Xcelsius meaning all canvas and spreadsheet work could be done from the same interface.

Over the years the product has been made more stable and robust (addressing many of the reliability and performance issues of early incarnations) and regular fix/service packs are released to continually mould Xcelsius into the market leading (contentious?) application it is today.

Business Objects integrated Xcelsius into their enterprise stack enabling connectivity between Xcelsius and the BO semantic layer via Query As A Web Service (QaaWS) and Live Office. This provided developers with access to large volumes of data from underlying databases via Business Objects universes and reports as well as Micorsoft Office documents. This move represented an important leap forward in the evolution of Xcelsius.

An Xcelsius SDK gives developers the ability to create third party add-in components (and even unsupported Excel functions) that fully integrate with Xcelsius and ‘fill in the gaps’ that the off-the-shelf product has missed or performs poorly at. There are now a number of third party vendors who provide plug ins to enhance the ability of Xcelsius and make it an attractive tool for creating dashboards.