Adatis BI Blogs

Loading the PerformancePoint Planning Account Dimension

I've been setting up some PerformancePoint Planning demonstrations for both clients and internal knowledge transfer.  As part of these demonstrations I've been loading the Account Dimension from CSV files.  There are several other ways of loading data into PerformancePoint planning dimensions and models and I'll no doubt post about the alternatives in the future. There is a small gotcha that I'd thought I'd share.  The pre-defined Account Dimension contains a member property called Account Type.  This member property utlises a lookup table for the various built-in account types such as Unit, Expense etc.  The PerformancePoint CSV format requires that the first row contains the field (or rather member property) names, and optionally data types, with the remaining rows that actual data.  This is slightly different for the Account Type member property, as this is a lookup field, you need to specify the key field name instead, in this case, AccountTypeMemberId. With that known, you would be forgiven in thinking that, in order to load data against that field, you need to specify the actual AccountTypeMemberId.  However, that would result in a new member property being created called 'AccountTypeMemberId' that contains the value and not the description.  The proposed destination field Account Type would be left unpopulated. Instead, to correctly load the member property, rather than use the Id, you need to specify the actual description from the lookup table.  (Not the only un-intuitive feature of PerformancePoint Planning!)

PerformancePoint Evaluation Release

The first "official" release of PPS Server 2007 is now available on MS public downloads, albeit an evaluation copy x86 x64 I've not installed it yet so not sure whether there's anything in that didn't make it to CTP 4 but Nick Barclay has posted on the fact that the SAP BW connector for Monitoring has been cut from the release! Still no sign of a full release on MSDN? I'll update once I've had a look around.  Oh and the sample data is back!

Community Days: September and October 2007

I'm out and about in the community at a couple of events in the UK over the next month or so: September- 26th Sep - UK SQL Usergroup meeting - Data Mining in practice and BI in Katmai(Register)- 27th Sep - Business Intelligence Partner Update Day(Register) October- 16th Oct - Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 Launch (Register) Unfortunately I'm missing the SQLBits Community Day on 6th October but if anyone is attending any of the same events as me, be sure to say hi !

PerformancePoint Server 2007 UK Launch (Details)

As Sacha posted the other day the UK launch for PerformancePoint Server is on the 16th October and it looks like we'll be getting a proper do like the US with Dr Robert Kaplan presenting.  Bruno Aziza will also be making the trip over as will Peter Klein (CFO of MS Business division).  No Jeff Raikes but still sure to be some super-excitement! The details and registration are available here

PerformancePoint Server 2007 UK Launch

I have it on good authority that the UK launch for PerformancePoint Server 2007 is 16th October 2007, a day under four weeks after the 19th September 2007 US launch. I'm not sure if either of these dates coincide with the RTM date and whether the RTM date will be for just the 32-bit or together with the 64-bit version too.  The 64-bit CTP releases have followed shortly after the 32-bit version so I guess it's fair to assume the RTM will not be any different.

SQL User Group BI Evening

Chris Webb has already mentioned this but looks like registration for the next UK SQL BI user group evening is now open (Look for events on the right).  Edenbrook's Mark Hill (SQL 2008) and IMG's Suranjan Som (Data mining) are presenting. If that's not enough to get you there then free beer and pizza should do the trick :)

PerformancePoint CTP4 out

From Ben Tamblyn - The CTP4 for PerformancePoint is now on the connect site.  Couple of things to note from the read-mes and doco: This is just the 32-bit release - 64-bit will be out next week due to a performance issue being resolved. If you're still on CTP1 or CTP2 you'll need to uninstall before you install CTP4.  You can upgrade from CTP3 but make sure backup anything important Lots of new functionality in both Planning and Monitoring.  Some key ones: Sorting in Analytic Charts and Grids Formatting on charts and grids Lots of new chart types Export dashboards to Powerpoint (Not sure if this will be live data like you can do in Proclarity) PAS integration Planning server performance improvements migration between environments This is the last CTP release before product launch next month.  The US launch looks like it will be a big do, with lots of super-excitement! So what's in store for us?  

Analysis Services Stored Procedures - Views

Whilst not changing nappies and singing lullabies, Sacha is developing a .Net mdx helper class that behaves very much like an ADOMD command and runs an mdx query that returns a data table.   "Why not just use ADOMD?" I hear you ask - as Sacha mentions there are a number of reasons such as the fact that the data types are not returned (needed by .Net controls like Chartfx) and top level hierarchies ("All Time" etc ) are not always returned dependant on your query layout.  And in fact Sacha's little helper (ho ho ho) does use ADOMD but rather than use the returned table it parses the XML file that is generated.  This XML is actually quite simple once you get your head around the layout and is in fact very rich containing all sorts of metadata that is not returned in by ADOMD Other nice functionality includes the ability to return a number of cube and database properties (Description etc, last update, last processed); But the functionality I really like is that the class uses a stored query definition which can contain parameters much like a SQL stored procedure.    Sach and I have had a number of conversations over the past few days about why there is no concept of this in AS2005 (or 2008?) and haven't come up with a valid reason.  Surely people out there want to be able to re-use the same mdx queries (with different parameters).  How cool would it be to be able to use "exec mdxsp_GetResults(Param1, Param2)" in various mdx editors.  At current the query defs are stored in text files but we're looking at alternatives such as using msdb or the even the xmla cube def itself. In fact I'm surprised that no-one has done this already - or have they?? Very interested to know if people think this is something worthwhile? NB - if you found this blog looking for the excellent AS Stored procedures project it's here

Dates for the diary

As reported by David Francis PerformancePoint has a target release to market date of September - seems a little ambitious with CTP4 only coming out a month earlier  Ben Tamblyn has also tickled our tastebuds with talk of a UK Business Intelligence Conference later this year. As Sach has reported SQL 2008 and VS 2008 get released early next year. And lastly and most definitely most importantly is the 7th July 2007 which is the date that Sacha and Julia's daughter Rosie Tomey was born!! Huge congrats mate :) 

Who will buy PerformancePoint?

An interesting article published by Stephen Swoyer on the TDWI website suggests that PerformancePoint might not appeal to the audience that MS intends it to and it's biggest competitor will be itself in the form of Office, Excel and the existing MS BI stack.  It's a little sensationalist and not particularly well researched (no mention of planning or ProClarity!) but it did get me thinking about who actually will buy the product and what they will do with it. The article suggests that the price tag will put off small to medium businesses and indeed if it were only a reporting product (as the article seems to suggest) the price tag may be a little high - though hardly out of the league of other third party reporting products on the market.  In my opinion it is the unmentioned planning component that will be one of the main selling points for those small to medium businesses that the article suggests will be put off by the price tag;  The ones who currently plan and forecast using a monstrous spreadsheets and outrageous pivot tables. You know the ones - where some clever accountant has re-written a relational db engine using most of the Excel functions ;) Edit:  As my colleague Sacha has just reminded me, you also have to take into consideration that the planning component requires the writeback functionality of SQL Enterprise Edition which of course adds a fairly hefty chunk to the price tag.  However I still feel that the pricing for a fully fledged BPM suite is very competitive. Once you throw the ProClarity functionality and Sharepoint integration into the mix as well then the costs become really hard to argue against even if you're not going to use all the components.  In reality I think that most of the potential clients will already favour MS and are likely to have some element of the BI stack in place already.  However as Chris Webb suggests, the concept of a business user being able to carry out most of the tasks required to put a PerformancePoint implementation live may be a little unrealistic.  I think us techies may not be out of a job just yet! What the article does get across is that PerformancePoint isn't really very well understood yet by those who have actually heard of it.  September release dates are still being bandied around and it seems MS has some work to do .  Of course, as with most major MS products, the take-up on version 1.0 is not likely to be huge but the marketing department needs to get started now to be ready for V2.0 (or maybe V1 SP1!)

PerformancePoint Resources

There's still (understandably) relatively little information out there about PerformancePoint and what to do if you have an issue but one that I'm guessing gets overlooked is the Connect site itself.  There's a lot of feedback starting to build up so there is a good chance that the issue you've come across has been logged by someone else already and may have a solution. And of course don't forget to give feedback of your own if you find something that doesn't work or you don't like. Update: as Nick Barclay has spotted, the official PPS team blog seems to have fired up again after a period of inactivity.  Well worth keeping an eye on.

CTP3 PerformancePoint Now available

In what will no doubt be a huge cross post of blogs, Ben Tamblyn got there first with the news that the CTP3 of PerformancePoint is now available from the Connect web site. This release is only for the monitoring component - CTP4 will be a Planning release.  There are a couple of hot fixes available for Planning DO make sure you read the upgrade guide in the Documentation download - it's not as simple as just installing the new release over the top.

Best BI Blogs

These days if you want to keep up with all the latest news and developments (especially in our small little BI world) you need to follow the blogs of those who are in the know. Here are some of our favourites: An idea or two... SSIS expert Colin Kirkby (and top guy) Cutting edge! Chris Webb's BI Blog MDX Guru! (Thanks for the link Chris :) Christian Wade's Blog A bit quiet recently but still a great archive of posts Darren Gosbell [MVP] - Random Procrastination Australian BI guru and mastermind behind the excellent BIDS Helper Donald Farmer: Doing Data Integration Soft spoken Scot and MS Group program Manager (and fish farmer) some great posts.  Leading the data mining push at MS Establish. Execute. Evolve. Adrian Downes MS BI blog with some great PerformancePoint posts - Adrian co-wrote an excellent BSM book  with Nick Barclay (see below) Hitachi Consulting BI Blog A combined blog from the folks at Hitachi (though mostly Reed Jacobson) Intelligent Insight on PerformancePoint Ben Tamblyn is Solution Channel Development Manager for MS in the UK and has some great insight on what MS are up to in the BPM world JamieMac's Weblog Jamie MacLennan is AS Dev Manager at Microsoft - excellent data mining resource Microsoft Analysis Services Edward Melomed's Blog - The AS Program Manager and one of the original members of the AS team Microsoft Business Intelligence Blog Patrick Husting's blog - some good PerformancePoint posts here. Patrick is another BSM expert Microsoft OLAP by Mosha Pasumansky The one and only.... Molding the Microsoft BI Stack Shameless plug for my business partner Sacha Tomey's excellent BI and .Net Blog Nick Barclay's BI Blog Nick is BSM expert and co author with Adrian Downes (see above) PerformancePoint Server 2007 Troy Scott is posting some of the best PPS blogs at the moment Random thoughts on Microsoft Business Intelligence products Patrice Truong's great SQL BI blog SimonS SQL Server Stuff More general SQL than BI but still a good read SQL BI Marco Russo - his bio is in Italian (but his excellent blog is in English) SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence Mr Sutha Thiru - he never sleeps! SSIS Junkie Conchango's Jamie Thomson SSIS - if you haven't heard of him you should give up now! Thoughts of a Freelance Dolphin Trainer Steve Mchugh - A bit different but always entertaining and very knowledgeable ;) The Kirkopedia Kirk Hasselden - Kirk was development manager for SSIS and now focuses on Microsoft's MDM outlook Of course there's plenty more so apologies if I've missed anyone - please let me know and I'll add them. When I have a bit more time I'll add these to a link section on the site

Microsoft acquire Stratature

Microsoft have acquired the MDM company Stratature  So Kirk Hasselden's hints were as thinly veiled as they seemed after all! He was almost apologetic for not being able to tell us anymore at his session in Seattle and with hindsight it's clear why. This is definitely an interesting move and if MS are planning to bundle this very capable product in with Katmai (enterprise edition perhaps?) then it will really push them to the top of the league for enterprise data solutions.

MS BI Conference 2007 - Day 3

Steve Ballmer's speech was something of a disappointment.  We got seats early so Sutha could sit close to the front and get a taste of what life will be like when he takes over as CEO from Steve in a few years.  There was no dancing around the stage, no whooping and hollering and just a load more standard blah.  No exciting announcements as we were all expecting and a load of weak questions in the "Ask Steve B" section. Rubbish really Kirk Hasselden's MDM session was also very disappointing - the audience was expecting to gain a bit of insight on where Microsoft are going with MDM (or "who are they going to buy") but Kirk wasn't sharing anything and lost most people early on with generic blah. We managed to corner him afterwards and he was almost apologetic and admitted that there was loads going down and annoucements would be made within a few months.  My guess is stratature may have some new owners in the not too distant future So highs: Michael Treacy's keynote on Day 1 was outstanding, he is without doubt the best public speaker I have ever seen. From a personal point of view made some excellent contact which may help Adatis move to the next step. Lows: Content of the sessons has been a bit average, definite lack of freebies being given out.  An organised UK session one evening would have been usefulSo now I'm all BI'd out and on the way up to Whistler for the weekend for a break that has been a long time coming.

MS BI Conference 2007 - Day 2

It was confirmed that Katmai will definitely be released in 2008 - Also found out that yesterdays announcement that MS had bought SoftArtisan wasn't entirely true - they have only licensed the technology.  It "could" be included in the Katmai release.  The rumours are that Reporting Services will be the most radically revamped part of the release. Couple of good sessions in the afternoon from TK Anand and The evening's entertainment was at the Experience Music Project for the Conference gala dinner. We spent the evening chatting with <namedrop>Nigel Pendse<\namedrop> who was actually a really down to earth guy and very approachable. He has his opinions on things but he tells it like it is.  Got some valuable insights into the BI world and who's going to be acquired next. He was tight lipped but did let on that Cognos Objects might be the next consolidation of our ever shrinking market