A Picture tells a Thousand Data Points


image In the post “Unleashing the Power of your Information” I eluded to how your organizations data is a hugely valuable asset. For one, being able to gather it all together into one place with a product such as, SQL Server Integration Services, allows you to do all manner of analytics on it. While that indeed may be hugely interesting, even fun, there of course comes a time when you need to share those hypotheses, because that is when the data becomes more valuable to your organization.

We’ve all witnessed spreadsheets or tables created from spreadsheets with columns of numbers. I’ve seen dozens of slides with tables of customer satisfaction figures on, and the presenter tell me the such and such country rose by so many points. I’m staring at the slide trying to find where that figure is. It’s painful! Bottom line, “People understand pictures”, so when trying to convey data, delivering it in some form of pictorial representation is going to help your audience understand the data quicker. If that customer satisfaction information was in the form of map, I’d certainly have a better chance of finding Luxemburg’s numbers.

So here you are, you have invested in state of the art SQL Server 2008 R2 Business Intelligence (BI) technology, your terabyte Data warehouse can tell you all manner of interesting insights about how your products and services perform. You now need to bring the gap between row after row of numbers and management.

SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services (SSRS) has been designed to help in this area. The tools are designed to be more productive, and that is not just being easier to use. “More productive” in this context is enabling users to create better reports faster. The ability to easily reuse reports or components of reports has also come a long way. Users creating sub-reports from other reports is not new, it was something SQL Server customers started doing almost from day one that SSRS became available. That insight into how customers were using SSRS drove the improvements in the reuse capabilities, now IT Departments or departments in general can create components, data sets included, and share these out, either for use across an organization of just for that department. This practice has been used within Microsoft, the internal IT group started out by creating a series of components, based on past requests. There was an expectation that requests for other components would come in, but in fact what they found was that most of the published components meet the general needs. These components were taken, modified and republished as needed. This improvement in SSRS has taken the reporting load of the IT Department.

image While the improvements in SSRS may have taken the load of the IT Department we still need to bridge the gap between how the IT Department creates and shares components and how users build on them and share them. That bridge is SQL Server Reporting Services Report Builder 3.0 and SharePoint 2010. Report Builder 3.0 has been improved to help you visualize and share your insights; Map Controls help your users gain new insights from location-based information by helping mash up business data with rich visualization of geospatial data. Gauges, Sparklines and Data Bars provide additional ways to portray data. All this wrapped in a new “Office” style UI to make report creation easier. Coupled with this, integration with SharePoint 2010 provides an enhanced way to share reports. SharePoint provides a Silverlight interface that allows you to see thumb nails of reports in the library, making the location of the report easier and quicker.

All the analysis of your data is not going to yield the best results if you cannot convey your findings in an easily consumable way. There is no doubt SQL Server 2008 R2 has been enhanced with new BI features, but as much time has also been spent improving the supporting reporting services for creating and sharing reports. This combination empowers your users to create and share BI solutions through familiar and intuitive tools.

Related Resources

What’s New in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services

Report Builder 3.0


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