Sacha Tomey

Sacha Tomey's Blog

PerformancePoint Planning Staging Fact Load Validation

PerformancePoint provides a staging database to load data into.  Data loaded can be validated within the staging database before synchronising to the main application.

Below is a quick description of the validation steps performed - it could help feed into an ETL specification - if any of the 'rules' are broken validation will fail and the main application model cannot be synchronised.

Foreign Key Checks
All foreign keys must reference dimension members that exist.

Leaf Level Checks
Can only load leaf level facts unless the Business Process member is set to MANADJ or FXADJ.

Header Accounts
Facts cannot be loaded against accounts of type 'Header'

Business Process Members
The following Business Process members are calculated and cannot be loaded:
- CONSOLIDATED
- PREALLOC
- POSTALLOC
- PREELIM

Time Data View
Facts can only be loaded against the 'Periodic' dimension member.

Currency Checks
Input Currency must match Entity currency unless you are loading against the FXAdj Business Process in which case you can specify a different currency.

Flow Checks
The following Flow members are calculated and cannot be loaded:
- FX
- FXO
- FXF
- OPE
- MVT
- INT

Account Type/Flow Checks
No Flow is allowed on Income Statement/Profit and Loss and Non Financial accounts.

Flow is required for Balance Sheet accounts.

Intercompany Checks
Entity, Intercompany and Account dimension members must all have appropriate Entity and Account types, that set the 'Intercompany' member property to true for all Intercompany facts

Excel Formula Auditing

A slightly off-topic post this one but it’s too good not to share. I say it’s too good, I only found out about this yesterday, maybe everyone knows about it already!

In Excel 2007 - apparently the functionality was introduced in Excel 2003! How out of date am I?! - there is a ‘Formula Auditing’ chunk on the Formulas Ribbon tab.

image

There are all sorts of goodies in here.

Trace Precedents allows you to find out the cells that make up the current cells data.

If you select a cell that is sourced from a formula and then click ‘Trace Precedents’ arrows appear indicating which cells the value is sourced from. Click ‘Trace Precedents’ again more arrows appear indicating where those source values are sourced from and so on and so forth. Below I’ve clicked ‘Trace Precedents’ four times to go back 4 levels from the selected cell J8.

image

You can go the other way too; Trace Dependents details all cells that that depend on that value. Selecting cell B3 and clicking ‘Trace Dependents’ four times traces all related dependencies.

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It’s worth having a play with the other commands in the chunk too.  Show Formulas, Error Checking, Evaluate formula and the Watch Window, together with the tracing functionality could really help debugging or reverse engineering complex spreadsheets. I just wish I knew about it all before now !

Book Review: Monitoring and Analyzing with Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007

Tim Kent already reviewed this book last month after polishing it off over a weekend.  Tim liked the book and gave a positive review.  However, I felt that it is difficult to gauge how good the book is as, to be fair, Tim is hardly a newbie when it comes to PPS Monitoring and Analytics. 

I've focused my PPS time on the planning element and normally throw the M&A elements over Tims fence so I've not spent as much time with Monitoring and Analytics as I should have.  Tim has got wise and has installed a new, higher fence, therefore, I thought it was about time I put the book to the 'newbie' test.

It's my first Rational Guide and I really like the concept.  The guides are limited to 250 pages so they have to be concise and to the point.  I like the 'pocket' size, the formatting and layout that I presume is consistent across all Rational Guides.

Considering the book is penned by two authors, I couldn't tell.  The writing style is clear and consistent and pitched at the same level throughout the book.  The detail is very well written with forward and backward references to other parts of the book to seamlessly link everything together.

The book is split into 5 parts, Introduction, Installation and Config, The Elements, Implementation and Management and finally Extras which at first I thought was just an index and an advert for the other related Rational Guides - wow, thanks, you shouldn't have - but as it happens, on the very last page is information on how to register your book to obtain more information such as extra chapters and samples that the authors, Nick Barclay and Adrian Downes, could not squeeze into the already packed 250 pages.  One perhaps obvious casualty of the page limit is ProClarity, in the words of the authors, "It is beyond the scope of this book to detail the functionality available in the ProClarity product suite..".

The introduction covers a lot of ground; Performance Management, BI and the Microsoft BI Stack and PerformancePoint Server 2007 itself.  A whopping 20 pages of intro which does eat into the 250 page limit - I'm not sure whether the scope of the intro was specified by the Rational Guide editors or the authors wanted to widen the audience but I'm not convinced it needed all of it at the expense of product related material.  It will be interesting to see how much of it is re-used in the PerformancePoint Planning companion book.

The main body of the book follows a 'theory and practice' type approach.  Firstly explaining, in detail, each subject or feature, following up with a step-by-step tutorial to implement what you've just learnt.  Each chapter and section tends to build on the previous one so it's worth reading from front to back rather than darting around chapters of interest and this is largely down to the nature of the product rather than any conscious decision I'm sure.  All in all, for me, this approach works; not only do I gain some background insight and theory behind the product, I also gain some touchy-feely experience that you can't glean from just reading alone.

If you are a newbie wanting a book to smooth out the learning curve to get you up to speed quickly and easily, with not only the product but with the theory behind the product too, this book, in my opinion, is it.  It can't take you to guru status but it provides a solid framework to provide the initial stepping stone.  To sum up, rather than spend half of the 4-day, ~£1000, Microsoft Partner PPS course learning about Monitoring and Analytics, take a couple of days off, buy this book and use it on a VPC image of the MS BI Stack - I bet you'll learn more!

71-556 PerformancePoint 2007 Beta Exam - We only bl**dy did it !

Back on November 9th, the, I think, last available day it could be taken, Tim Kent and I took the Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, Application Development Beta Exam (71-556) at the Prometric Testing facility hosted by Global Knowledge Training in Wokingham.

Soon after, we were both invited to Seattle to attend the PPS Exam Preparation workshop to review the exam in readiness for the official release.  Disappointingly I couldn't make it due to other PPS related commitments, however, much to my disgust Tim went without me, and by all accounts had a blast on the slopes of Whistler meeting a like-minded bunch of people.

Today we both found out we actually passed!  This means we don't have to re-take the officially released exam as we get an automatic credit for passing the beta version - nice !

I have not seen any official release information for the exam proper but it must be imminent now that we've received our results.  I'm not sure if this is fact but I have been told that Microsoft use the '71' prefix for Beta exams so we should expect the official exam to be numbered 70-556.  Anyone know if this numbering convention is true?

Obviously my hands are tied by the exam NDA so I can't reveal any details about the content of the exam.  Already publicly available is the list of topics that the exam covers, this list, repeated below, does match my experience of the beta exam.  I'll stop there as I've probably already said too much !  Good luck if you go for it.  Oh yeah, happy new year !

Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, Application Development Exam Topics

Configuring Dimensions

  • Configure properties of predefined dimensions
  • Configure the time dimension
  • Configure a member property
  • Populate dimensions and member sets
  • Update dimension members and member set, and member properties

Configuring Models

  • Create a PPS model
  • Configure the current period
  • Configure model and dimension usage within sites
  • Transfer data between models

Configuring Business Roles and Process Management

  • Configure business roles
  • Configure security for users
  • Configure assignments
  • Configure an approval structure

Developing Business Rules

  • Develop an assignment rule
  • Develop a definition rule
  • Develop an allocation rule
  • Configure template rules
  • Configure rule execution

Building Excel Add-In Forms and Reports

  • Build an Excel Add-In report
  • Configure an Excel Add-In report as a form
  • Configure report filters
  • Format an Excel Add-In report

Developing Dashboards

  • Create a report by using the Dashboard Designer
  • Add a data source connection
  • Add a new Web page report
  • Configure a KPI by using Dashboard Designer
  • Create a scorecard
  • Build a dashboard

Installing PerformancePoint Server

  • Install the monitoring and planning services
  • Configure a PerformancePoint application
  • Configure the PerformancePoint server
  • Assign users to administrator roles

PerformancePoint 2007 Planning - Account Type Crib Sheet

UPDATE:  Version 2 details can be found below (Link updated)

Being a non-accountant type, choosing the right account type for members of the account dimension was a little bit of 'trial and error'.  After much hair pulling and frustration at my lack of accountancy knowledge I put together a crib sheet to help make some more educated selections.

I laminated a copy and kept it to hand so I could take a sneaky peak every now and again - well, it appears that a couple more people had taken a sneaky peak and have also found it more than useful - considering they are accountancy types it struck me that it is more useful than I originally thought.

image So, as it's the festive period, and a time for giving; here's your, for accountancy and non-accountancy types alike, very own, laminated Account Type Crib Sheet. 
Just add laminate!




 PPS-ACCS.xps (183.94 kb)


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !



Planned Performance Improvements for PerformancePoint Server 2007 Planning

There are a few performance improvements planned for SP1 and earlier in an interim hotfix.  The details I have are high-level but enough to get at least a little excited that development is on going and pertinent to 'in-the-field' issues.

In an upcoming hot fix (KB946222) expected release prior to SP1 is currently being worked on.

Issue:
When a system contains a large number of assignments, retrieving the list of available assignments for a user has a significant performance issue.

Resolution:
Optimised stored procedure for retrieving assignments to dramatically cut time to retrieve list of available assignments.

Performance issues targeted for SP1 include:

  • Slow performance when re-opening assignment after save/submit.
  • No option to disable what-if calculation on assignment or matrix level which leads to unnecessary what-if queries that slow form performance
  • Successfully submitted change-lists are not automatically from the assignment in the V1 design which leads to unnecessarily large what-if queries
  • MDX query construction optimization
  • Client-Server data volume
  • These are targeted issues and hence they may not make the cut but it's encouraging all the same.

    PerformancePoint Server 2007 Hotfix now available (KB944842)

    There is a new hotfix available for Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 - The details can be found here:

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/944842

    The hotfix addresses the following issues:

    Planning

    • The property value for a filter does not display the filter selection in a form. Instead, it displays the member label.

      This may not sound that important but the change has quite an impact.  It seems that initially the PerformancePoint Planning dev team treated member name and member label attributes the same and interchanged them throughout the development.  This caused some issues, particularly surrounding filters.  Filters always displayed the member label irrespective of what property value was selected.  This meant that the label field, for filters, had to be meaningful to the user, whereas ideally the label field is a suitable place for the member surrogate key.  Having to make the labels meaningful led to complications around the ETL process and the fact that labels need to be unique.

    • You cannot select the members of a Member View that is used in a Microsoft Excel filter.

    • The page filter tree is always fully expanded when it is opened. This causes performance issues when large dimensions are used.

      Most of the complaints from so far surround performance so it's good to see some action in this area.  I have a little more detail on some of the future plans for the performance improvements for planning which I will post about soon.

    Monitoring

    • If the user has not previewed the Scorecard, the conditional visibility does not work for all languages.

    • When you select the "multi-select tree" display method, the Scorecard is displayed incorrectly for a filter. The Scorecard is typically displayed on an incorrect column.

    The hotfix is available through Microsoft Customer Support Services.

     

    Convert PivotTable to PerformancePoint Planning Matrix

    I spotted a 'Convert to PerformancePoint Matrix' menu option on the context menu
    of an Excel PivotTable recently.Context Menu

    I'd not noticed it before - it is documented within the PPS Excel Add-In help but only once, and subtly at that.  I'm glad to report, on first impressions, it appears to do a fairly decent job.

    It's a one-way process that cannot be undone and it creates a 'User defined' MDX style matrix.  You are therefore limited to making subsequent edits using the Report Properties window but suffice to say it's a handly little feature that I'll no doubt use more and more now I've found it.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    MDX Stored Procedures (Part 2)

    What seems like a lifetime ago I posted about MDX Stored Procedures and how we've built a helper class that provides a wrapper to an MDX query.

    The helper class has been stable for quite sometime now and a few people have been asking me when I'm going to release it.  Well, today is the day.

    You can download a Visual Studio 2005 C# Quick Start project from here.

    The idea behind the class is that text files containing parameterised MDX queries can be executed against a cube with just a couple of lines of code.

    Here are some notes to complement the quick start to get you going:

    Step 1:  Create an instance of the helper class

    MDXHelper helper = new MDXHelper
        ("localhost",
        "Adventure Works DW Standard Edition",
        "Adventure Works",
        MDXHelper.MDXResourceFormat.RelativeURL,
        "MDX/Product Category List.txt");

    There are a couple of overloads on the constructor.  The one above specifies all the options.  The first three parameters set the Analysis Services Server, the database, the cube.  The last two parameters specify what format the MDX query.  In this case it's a Relative URL meaning that the next parameter must specify a relative URL pointing to a text file containing the desired query.  The alternative to a Relative URL is 'Text' which means the last parameter must be the query itself rather than a path to a file.

    Step 2:  Add the parameters to the parameter collection.

    helper.Parameters.Add(
        "@ProductCategory",
        CategoryList.SelectedValue);

    Parameters are simply name/value pairs and are held internally as a generic dictionary<string,object>.  Parameters are optional but you will get an error if you invoke a parameterised query without defining a value for every parameter.

    Step 3: Execute the Query

    DataTable categoryList = helper.ExecuteDataTable();

    A DataTable or a CellSet can be returned, again various overloads exist to provide additional flexibility, for example you can set the resource format and query path on the ExecuteDataTable e.g.

    DataTable result = helper.ExecuteDataTable(MDXHelper.MDXResourceFormat.RelativeURL, "MDX/Internet Sales by Country.txt");

    Additional Notes

    The query definitions are cached in the ASP.NET application cache so if you make any changes to the query definition files you'll need to recycle the application pool.

    The helper class will only work for Web Projects.  There is no support for WInForms/SmartClient deployments.

    If you are returning a data table you can specify some additional options. 

    • Untyped is the fastest and default, returning a plain data table based on a flattened CellSet object. 
    • Typed brings back a Data Table with the Schema column data types set to match the CellSet object it was derived from.  This can be slow for large datasets.
    • UntypedFormatted brings back a plain data table but using the formatting e.g currency formats etc held in the cube.

    There are some additional properties containing meta data debugging information that have been useful.  ExecutedMdxQuery contains the actual MDX that was executed after the parameter replacements have occurred.  DatabaseServerVersion, CubeDescription, CubeLastProcess and CubeLastSchemaUpdate are pulled from the server when a query is executed.

    You can use parameters to define any aspect of the query.  E.g.  You could use parameters to swap rows and columns, define measures, pretty much anything you can achieve with search and replace.  On one hand this provides no end of flexibility but on the other provides diddly squat compile time debugging!

    The same database connection is maintained between query execution calls.

    All feedback gratefully received.