One of the most important, and less understood or used, featured of the SAP BI platform (BusinessObjects) is the Publication feature. Publications are essentially a “mass mailing” tool, that allows BI content developers to develop highly sophisticated, personalized and robust delivery mechanism of content directly to users email boxes. In particular, the dynamic recipient list flavor of publications, allow BI users to deliver reporting content to email lists, regardless of whether they are users of the BI platform. This content can be personalized, and delivered based on data driven rules to each user. What this spells is a very powerful, simple and easy to use, mechanism to address many business process issues related to information delivery. Let me describe a case in point:
A professional services firm charges for hours worked by consultants, therefor, timely time entry of consultants’ billable hours is critical to the business operation. To assure consultants do not miss the time entry deadline each week, we can use a publication. How does it work?
The time entry system has a table of users, and their email addresses, as well as table for collecting time entry data with hours entered by week and day.
Two webi reports have been setup to support the publication: the first report is used to generate the dynamic recipient list. The report contains the three required columns for such a list (ID, Name, Email) and has a filter that only retrieves users who are missing time entry for the prior week.
A second report, which will be used as the actual content to send to the users, was also created with the users email address (will be used to personalize the publication and “link” the distribution list to the report), and some text asking the user to enter their time for the missing week.
With the two reports ready to go, all that is left, is the publication setup. The following screen shots describe the publication creation setup. In this case, the mHTML format was used to deliver the report content right in the email body for the users. Enjoy!