Self-service reporting

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by Bill Anton James Serra | March 2014 | Enterprise Articles

In this article by James Serra and Bill Anton, authors of Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012, we will look into what self-service reporting is and talks about how Power View solves self-service reporting needs, covering its main features and functionalities.

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Server 2012 Power View – Self-service Reporting

Self-service reporting is when business users have the ability to create personalized reports and analytical queries without requiring the IT department to get involved.

There will be some basic work that the IT department must do, namely creating the various data marts that the reporting tools will use as well as deploying those reporting tools. However, once that is done, IT will be freed of creating reports so that they can work on other tasks. Instead, the people who know the data best—the business users—will be able to build the reports.

Here is a typical scenario that occurs when a self-service reporting solution is not in place: a business user wants a report created, so they fill out a report request that gets routed to IT. The IT department is backlogged with report requests, so it takes them weeks to get back to the user. When they do, they interview the user to get more details about exactly what data the user wants on the report and the look of the report (the business requirements). The IT person may not know the data that well, so they will have to get educated by the user on what the data means. This leads to mistakes in understanding what the user is requesting. The IT person may take away an incorrect assumption of what data the report should contain or how it should look. Then, the IT person goes back and creates the report. A week or so goes by and he shows the user the report. Then, they hear things from the user such as "that is not correct" or "that is not what I meant". The IT person fixes the report and presents it to the user once again. More problems are noticed, fixes are made, and this cycle is repeated four to five times before the report is finally up to the user's satisfaction. In the end, a lot of time has been wasted by the business user and the IT person, and the finished version of the report took way longer that it should have.

This is where a self-service reporting tool such as Power View comes in. It is so intuitive and easy to use that most business users can start developing reports with it with little or no training. The interface is so visually appealing that it makes report writing fun. This results in users creating their own reports, thereby empowering businesses to make timely, proactive decisions and explore issues much more effectively than ever before.

In this article, we will cover the major features and functions of Power View, including the setup, various ways to start Power View, data visualizations, the user interface, data models, deploying and sharing reports, multiple views, chart highlighting, slicing, filters, sorting, exporting to PowerPoint, and finally, design tips. We will also talk about PowerPivot and the Business Intelligence Sematic Model (BISM). By the end of the article, you should be able to jump right in and start creating reports.

Getting started

Power View was first introduced as a new integrated reporting feature of SQL Server 2012 (Enterprise or BI Edition) with SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition. It has also been seamlessly integrated and built directly into Excel 2013 and made available as an add-in that you can simply enable (although it is not possible to share Power View reports between SharePoint and Excel).

Power View allows users to quickly create highly visual and interactive reports via a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface. The following screenshot gives an example of a type of report you can build with Power View, which includes various types of visualizations:

Sales Dashboard

The following screenshot is another example of a Power View report that makes heavy use of slicers along with a bar chart and tables:

 

Promotion Dashboard

We will start by discussing PowerPivot and BISM and will then go over the setup procedures for the two possible ways to use Power View: through SharePoint or via Excel 2013.

PowerPivot

It is important to understand what PowerPivot is and how it relates to Power View. PowerPivot is a data analysis add-on for Microsoft Excel. With it, you can mash large amounts of data together that you can then analyze and aggregate all in one workbook, bypassing the Excel maximum worksheet size of one million rows. It uses a powerful data engine to analyze and query large volumes of data very quickly. There are many data sources that you can use to import data into PowerPivot. Once the data is imported, it becomes part of a data model, which is simply a collection of tables that have relationships between them. Since the data is in Excel, it is immediately available to PivotTables, PivotCharts, and Power View.

PowerPivot is implemented in an application window separate from Excel that gives you the ability to do such things as insert and delete columns, format text, hide columns from client tools, change column names, and add images. Once you complete your changes, you have the option of uploading (publishing) the PowerPivot workbook to a PowerPivot Gallery or document library (on a BI site) in SharePoint (a PowerPivot Gallery is a special type of SharePoint document library that provides document and preview management for published Excel workbooks that contain PowerPivot data). This will allow you to share the data model inside PowerPivot with others. To publish your PowerPivot workbook to SharePoint, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the Excel file that contains the PowerPivot workbook.
  2. Select the File tab on the ribbon.
  3. If using Excel 2013, click on Save As and then click on Browse and enter the SharePoint location of the PowerPivot Gallery (see the next screenshot).

    If using Excel 2010, click on Save & Send, click on Save to SharePoint, and then click on Browse.

  4. Click on Save and the file will then be uploaded to SharePoint and immediately be made available to others.

Saving files to the PowerPivot Gallery

A Power View report can be built from the PowerPivot workbook in the PowerPivot Gallery in SharePoint or from the PowerPivot workbook in an Excel 2013 file.

Business Intelligence Semantic Model

Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM) is a new data model that was introduced by Microsoft in SQL Server 2012. It is a single unified BI platform that publicizes one model for all end-user experiences. It is a hybrid model that exposes two storage implementations: the multidimensional data model (formerly called OLAP) and the tabular data model, which uses the xVelocity engine (formally called VertiPaq), all of which are hosted in SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).

The tabular data model provides the architecture and optimization in a format that is the same as the data storage method used by PowerPivot, which uses an in-memory analytics engine to deliver fast access to tabular data. Tabular data models are built using SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) and can be created from scratch or by importing a PowerPivot data model contained within an Excel workbook.

Once the model is complete, it is deployed to an SSAS server instance configured for tabular storage mode to make it available for others to use. This provides a great way to create a self-service BI solution, and then make it a department solution and then an enterprise solution, as shown:

  • Self-service solution: A business user loads data into PowerPivot and analyzes the data, making improvements along the way.
  • Department solution: The Excel file that contains the PowerPivot workbook is deployed to a SharePoint site used by the department (in which the active data model actually resides in an SSAS instance and not in the Excel file). Department members use and enhance the data model over time.
  • Enterprise solution: The PowerPivot data model from the SharePoint site is imported into a tabular data model by the IT department. Security is added and then the model is deployed to SSAS so the entire company can use it.

Summary

In this article, we learned about the features of Power View and how it is an excellent tool for self-service reporting. We talked about PowerPivot how it relates to Power View.

Resources for Article:


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Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Learn to quickly create reports in SSRS and Power View as well as understand the best use of each reporting tool with this book and ebook
Published: March 2014
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About the Author :


Bill Anton

Bill Anton is an independent consultant whose primary focus is on designing and developing data warehouses and Business Intelligence solutions using the Microsoft BI stack. He has over 10 years of experience in the industry, and enjoys working closely with clients to overcome their data-related challenges. Bill is also an active member in the SQL Server community and enjoys sharing knowledge and helping others. When he's not working with the clients, he can usually be found answering questions on the MSDN forums, attending SQL PASS meetings, or writing blog posts at http://byoBI.com.

James D. Miller

Jim has been in the IBM Cognos TM1 consulting practice since 2004 with a primary focus on architectural design, development and implementation of business performance management projects from inception through implementation, including the “Rapid Assessment and Design (RAD)” process, full-scale system design, including project management, technical leadership, evaluations and team building. Jim has over 30 years of relevant business management, systems design and implementation, data rationalization, and proven project delivery experience. Key roles have been Senior Solutions Architect, Project Manager, Team and Technical Leader and Mentor. Jim has also spent time as a technical instructor and trainer.

Jim currently owns the following IBM certifications: IBM Certified Developer - Cognos TM1 (perfect score 100% on exam), IBM Certified Business Analyst - Cognos TM1, IBM Cognos TM1 Master 385 Certification (perfect score 100% on exam) and IBM Certified Advanced Solution Expert - Cognos TM1.

James Serra

James Serra is an independent consultant with the title Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence Architect. He is a Microsoft SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience. He started his career as a software developer, then was a DBA for 12 years, and for the last seven years, he has been working extensively with Business Intelligence using the SQL Server BI stack. At different times, he has been a permanent employee, consultant, contractor, and owner of his own business. All these experiences, along with continuous learning, have helped him to develop many successful data warehouse and BI projects. He is a noted blogger and speaker, having presented at the PASS Summit and the PASS Business Analytics conference. His blog is at JamesSerra.com.

He has earned the MSCE: SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence, MSCE: SQL Server 2012 Data Platform, MCITP: SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence Developer, MCITP: SQL Server 2008 Database Administrator, and MCITP: SQL Server 2008 Database. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from UNLV.

James resides in Houston, TX, with his wife Mary and three children: Lauren, RaeAnn, and James.

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