Blog Archives

SQL Server Reporting Services Tips and Tricks to Improve the End-User Experience

In the last post, we saw SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Expressions Tips and Tricks. In this post, we will see few tips to improve the end-user experience with SSRS.

SSRS is a great reporting tool and for us to be able to deliver/address most or all of the end-user needs/requirements, we need to have a good understanding of the tool and its capabilities. In this post, we will take a look at the following tips and tricks:

  • Display Total Number of Pages while Navigating
  • Display Everything in a Single Page
  • Display Report Parameter Selection
  • Display No Rows Error Message
  • Page Settings for Optimal Printing

To continue reading, catch the full article here: SQL Server Reporting Services Tips and Tricks to Improve the End User Experience.


BI Basics – Business Intelligence and Cloud Computing

The term “Cloud Computing” has been “Buzz Word” for quite some time and it is continuing to gain popularity for the benefits it offers.

In this post we will define what is Cloud Computing, Understand different Cloud Computing Models, and what is the connection between Clouding Computing and Business Intelligence.

What is Cloud Computing?

Wikipedia defines it as “Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet)

In simple terms, “Cloud Computing is the delivery/offering of a part or all of a set of Hardware, Memory (RAM), Storage, Network, Software, and Applications etc. for Use as a Service On-Demand over Internet”.

Cloud Computing Models

Cloud Computing is delivered in 3 different models as:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Cloud Computing Models

In the above representation, the components mentioned in each of the circles represent the components managed by the vendor as part of each of the cloud computing models. As we move from the inner most circle to the outer most circle:

  • The amount of things we manage reduces
  • The amount of things managed by vendor increases
  • The amount of control we have over the system decreases
  • The amount of technical expertise required to manage the system reduces

Cloud computing offers various advantages. Following are some of the major advantages:

  • Makes it very convenient to provision hardware, software, and infrastructure in a short time as the Procurement, Maintenance, and Management of infrastructure is taken care by vendor.
  • Offers sufficient flexibility/room for changes in the system during the implementation phase as provisioning is a quick and simple process.
  • Ability to scale up/down rapidly on-demand. It’s highly elastic!

Why Cloud Computing is Suitable for BI?

Many BI Projects fail due to various reasons including Lack of Vision, Overly Complex Design, Inappropriate Choice of Tools/Technologies, Poorly Defined Metrics/KPIs, Inadequate Business User/Decision Maker Involvement, Lack of Room/Flexibility for change during implementation phase, Insufficient Funding/Budget Allocation, Increased Time to Market, and many others.

Of these reasons, Lack of Flexibility for change, Insufficient Funding/Budget Allocation, and Time to Market are few major reasons for failure. Organizations often fail to realize the importance of BI System and hence allocate inadequate funds. Procuring Hardware, Software, & Setting up Infrastructure takes up a lot of time due to processes (approvals etc.) involved at the organization level, thereby increasing the Time to Market, and often does not offer enough flexibility for change, and hence lead to Project failure.

There is a need for a system/offering which allows sufficient flexibility during the phase of implementation of a BI Project, allow sufficient agility, affordable hardware/software, and faster procurement of Hardware/Software and Setting up of Infrastructure. These features are offered by Cloud Computing offerings like Windows Azure. In fact, those are some of the attractive features offered by Cloud Offering, making Cloud most appropriate for hosting BI Applications in various scenarios.

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PowerPivot – Introduction to PowerPivot

PowerPivot is a Self-Service BI Tool from Microsoft. It is basically a data mashup and data exploration tool allowing us to analyze millions of records from variety of different sources in a matter of few minutes or even seconds. It is based on a in-memory technology known as “xVelocity”, which operates in memory and does all the necessary calculations within memory thereby offering a very high-speed data analysis/exploration.

It comes in two flavors:

  • PowerPivot Add-In for Excel (Excel 2010 and above)
  • PowerPivot for SharePoint

Here are some of the salient features of PowerPivot:

  • Similar to Excel, making it easier for business users, data analysts, and excel users etc.
  • Is available freely as an add-in for Excel.
  • Can be installed in just few minutes and you can get started with analysis.
  • Supports a wide variety of data sources.
  • PowerPivot formulas/expressions (DAX) are very similar to Excel formulas/expressions.
  • Due to it’s similarity to Excel, it’s very easy to adopt, and can be quickly adopted.

I have been playing around with PowerPivot for quite sometime now and it has been quite exciting so far. I will be writing a few articles in the coming days on how to work with PowerPivot for Excel.

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Until next time, happy learning!