Tag Archives: SharePoint

Microsoft Business Intelligence Now and Into The Future

10 years ago, it was SSIS/SSAS/SSRS

Then in 2007 SharePoint, PerformancePoint/SSRS

Then in 2010 Power Pivot in Excel/SharePoint, then Power View in SharePoint

Then in 2013 Power BI … Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map.. In Excel and Office 365.

Now in 2015 Power BI Version 2. Not in Office 365, separate. Power BI Designer, or use the Power BI web site to set up your dashboards, mobile, etc.

All the while, the existing solutions that have been available previously are still there and available, making things… well, confusing to say the least.

Most shops .. It all depends on when they started going heavy BI with the Microsoft tools, on where they land. Also, how well they could move when things change, as well as how much they want to stay up to date with the tools.

If you started 10+ years ago, you probably have a good base of ETLs written in SSIS, as well as many multi-dimensional (MD) OLAP cubes in SSAS, and SSRS reports off your cubes and data warehouse, running in SSRS Native Mode. You started with SQL 2000 if you were lucky, with cubes and dts packages, but then SQL 2005, then 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2 and now are on 2014. You really liked 2005 SP2 and 2008 R2 for the BI features :). This setup is like the VB6 or .NET Winforms of BI. It will probably be around forever in some way shape or form but not a ton of updates and Microsoft has moved on.

If you started a little later you might have SSRS in SharePoint mode, and some Performance Point dashboards. You might have even used Performance Point for planning/budgeting (and loved it?) until Microsoft killed it. Then you had to look for alternatives for that, or use OLAP Cube Writeback. In my opinion, SSRS in SharePoint and Performance Point are dead. Not dead as in they don’t work or won’t be supported, but I see them as the wrong path, life supported direction. If you are still using these heavy I would look for alternatives.

Now it gets interesting. You started with Excel 2010 and PowerPivot (no space!) and had SharePoint 2010 setup and Power View in SharePoint. You created V1 Power Pivot models, they were limited, you could do some things, but still it was limited. You still needed to get data somewhere so SSIS ETL’s or something to get data in tables you can use. If you are using Power View in SharePoint, I would hurry up and look for alternatives, it is dead (my definition of dead like SSRS/PP in SharePoint). Excel 2010 is long past and V1 PowerPivot is dead too. Seems like this era was short lived and just a stepping stone.

Then, in 2013, Power BI. So they added a space to Power Pivot :) .. And made it better, v2. Added missing features, Tabular SSAS cubes even! And Power View could be used in Excel. They both came by default in Excel (depends on version) but turned off. Power Query came out of nowhere and is awesome and Power Map, while buggy, was better than nothing. But what do you do with all these solutions you build? Where to publish? Not SharePoint on prem? But Power BI in SharePoint Online.. So you need Office 365 and Power BI subscription. You set up Data Management Gateway so you can get to your on prem data sources. You can refresh once a day or manually. You can do some pretty cool things, create workbooks with pivots and Power Views.

But you are missing things. Missing things like the ability to schedule a report to run and email someone, like SSRS. You are missing awesome formatting abilities for every pixel like SSRS. You wonder when SSRS is going to come to Power BI or what your options are… you hope you see iterations and features released to Power BI as that is the path, but then..

New Power BI Preview comes out in 2015. It has a standalone Power BI Designer (reminiscent of the Performance Point designer) that lets you create reports, dashboards and save a file to publish to the NEW Power BI portal. So you have two Power BI portals.. New and old. They don’t overlap or talk to each other, the licensing is different, etc. The old Power BI lets you connect to SQL on prem with refresh with the DMG and other data sources, etc. The new one does not. The new one lets you connect to GitHub and SalesForce and Marketo, but not other data sources that the old Power BI did. The new Power BI lets you connect to on-prem TABULAR SSAS cubes with refresh, but not MD ones (yet). The new Power BI lets you connect to excel data in OneDrive/OneDrive for Business. So could one publish a data file out to ODFB to faux refresh? I have yet to try. The new Power BI lets you publish dashboards to the iOS Mobile apps and also  embed (up to 10 MB – which needs change to be bigger) on websites. New Power BI has an API that lets you create your own connectors / REST API for things. And the list goes on and on.

So where does that leave us? Well, of you invested time and money in BI the last 10 years, you might feel like Microsoft is abandoning you. It kind of seems that way. You need to change or get left behind. But what do you change to? Change your MD cubes to Tabular? Rethink your architecture? Sync data to Azure?  Power Pivot/Power Query? Abandon SharePoint as a BI tool? Move your reports from SSRS to something else or Power BI (if you can?) I am unsure. Still trying to figure it all out.

One thing for sure is, it will always keep evolving. Me, I would say, tabular first if you are on prem. Try to use Power BI where you can. Minimize SSRS reports. Use SSRS native instead of SharePoint. Stop using PerformancePoint if you are still using it or thinking about it. I bet at some point SSRS comes to the new Power BI – there is an item on the UserVoice forum already asking for it. Try the Power BI Designer and Website and see what you can do. Always be trying to get something going in the newest and latest technology/tools available.

Have Fun with Microsoft BI now and what is yet to come!


No More Attachments

What is one of the biggest time sucks in corporate information workflow?

Email Attachments.

Let’s go through an exercise.

Person A sends out an Excel document, Word document, PowerPoint presentation – choose your poison. They send it to 6 people. They ask each person to update a section and send it back to get merged.

First off, this is very 1999ish. We have better ways to do this. But let’s continue.

Person 1, 2, 3 start to update their sections. Person 1 replies directly to Person A, Person 2 replies to all. Person 3 though needs feedback from people not on the original chain. So they cut out their section, create a new document, and email it to Person X and Y. Person X updates something and sends it back to Person 3 but also CC’s Person B. Person Y updates the SAME part and sends back to 3 and X.

Confused yet? I am.

Person 3 then needs to merge sections but there are conflicts. So more back and forth on that with more attachments and revisions. Naming files CoolFileName_Rev5, Rev6, etc.

Meanwhile, back to our original 6. It has been a few hours, or a day, and Person 4, 5, 6 have been updating their stuff but haven’t sent anything back. But wait! Person 1 realized they didn’t have some critical info in the document, so they create a new revision themselves, this time with changes incorporated from Person 1 and 2, but not 3, and new changes from Person A that they forgot. They then send that revision back to Person 1-6 again and say sorry, but figure out what I changed and update your sections again. We go back to zero.

I could keep going here but you get the idea. Before you know it, there are multiple copies (10? 15? 20?) floating around, none of which are the master. It ends up being way more work for everyone involved.

I said earlier this is a better way. But what is it?

Well, using collaboration tools the way they were meant to be used would be a great start.

How about this? Person A saves their document to SharePoint (or insert your favorite collaboration tool here). In the document library they save it to, they turn of document revisions. They then send out the same email but without the attachment, instead a link to the document. The instruct Person 1-6 to try to “edit it Office Online/Web” so they can edit at the same time and not run into having file locking issues.

Person 1-6 then start their edits, and they can see the others working on it. Person 3 asks Person A to share the link/document library with Person X and Y, and they join in as well. Person X then asks for Person B to be included, and that happens too.

When Person A realizes they forgot some key info, they just update the master and send out a note that they update it, but everyone working on the document sees that too, and better yet, revisions are saved as time goes on, so they can see edits over time.

Which way do you want to work?

I choose the latter. Let me hear it.. “but so and so doesn’t know how to use tool X” or “it is too hard to get it going” etc. Well, I would choose a little pain up front the first few times using this new way of doing things instead of the perpetual nightmare of attachments forever.

Can we all agree, that “no more attachments” would be a good mantra? Who is with me?

OneNote for Mac and OneNote API released, but something is missing…

I try to use multiple services. Google Drive, DropBox, Skydrive (now OneDrive) – the personal version – OneDrive for Business, Evernote, Wunderlist, Exchange Tasks, OneNote, etc etc. Why? Well to compare and contrast. What is good, what is bad, what is missing, what is – ubiquitous.

A few months ago I was use Evernote heavy (again). It is pretty ubiquitous. Every device, platform, web, etc. But, I really do like Microsoft OneNote. There are pros and cons to both apps, and I really do like how Evernote does tags, but that is a different blog post. OneNote was almost everywhere. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Web.. but missing a native Mac OS X app. That changed today. FINALLY a native Mac app for OneNote. There are third party apps that kind of work, but nothing like the real deal. Integrates with OneDrive (personal) via a Microsoft account.

I think even bigger news is the OneNote API – allowing for apps and services to integrate with OneNote, very big news indeed.

But what is missing? One glaring omission to complete the story, in my opinion, is the lack of any kind of client or integration on Mac OS for OneDrive for Business. There are OneDrive for Business apps for Windows and iOS, and Office Mobile apps which let you access your OneDrive for Business content for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. But glaringly omitted is any kind of Mac OS X app. Now, I was secretly hoping with the release of OneNote for Mac, that it would have integration with Office 365 or On-premises SharePoint out of the box, which would solve part of the problem, but I don’t see that integration, or I can’t find it.

Why do we need OneDrive for Business for Mac? Because, most organizations have a mix of client operating systems. These orgs want to use things like SharePoint, or Office 365 – OneDrive for Business – to let users save and share documents – internally and externally – replacing consumer (and faux business) apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, even OneDrive personal edition. But without a Mac client, it is VERY hard to get complete buy in to use the OneDrive tools. Yes, Mac users can use the web, but – they don’t like being treated like 2nd class citizens, and I don’t blame them. I use both Windows and Mac, and it would be awesome to be able to go between and use the same tools and services. Hopefully, someday.

So now, you can hit your OneNote notebooks in your personal Microsoft Account, OneDrive, but you can’t open your corporate notebooks, where I would guess many people would want to use OneNote for Mac. Microsoft – give us OneDrive for Business for Mac! We are waiting!! (take a quick glance at the image on this post, it almost looks like a Mac unless you look hard…  they are teasing us!)

Day 1 Review #sqlpass #summit12

This SQL PASS Summit was my third, and it was good. Kind of crazy timing as we just had a baby 2+ weeks ago, so I am very lucky I got to go.

Day one was Wednesday Nov 7th. There is a kickoff thing the night before which is always good to see everyone again, etc. There are pre-cons two days before (5th, 6th). Myself, as with many I talked to, came out the 5th, thinking the conference started the 6th, which we were mistaken, so it was kind of a free day, but still things going on. The website said 6th-9th so we all assumed without digging into the detail. At least I wasn’t the only one.

The first day keynote was good, Ted Kummert from Microsoft which I have seen a few times now, and the same cast of characters, Amir Netz showing off more Power View and Movie data. The big things announced that made me perk up were SQL Server 2012 SP1 and Power View over OLAP (coming soon?). No big flashy giveaways like BUILD, but good keynote, then the fun starts.

I attended 4 sessions on Wednesday

1. BIA-303: What’s New in Analysis Services 2012? – Chris Webb

This was my first session of the day, and it was in 305-TCC. TCC was across the street, which maybe was like that years past, but I never had to go to any, so everyone seemed lost. We finally got there, but then Chris Webb told us that the abstract was wrong in some places and the talk would mostly be about tabular, not multidimensional. Oh well, good stuff anyways. There was one slide about OLAP stuff. The biggest thing I got out of this was xEvents for SSAS, and how to pull into PowerPivot. This is the first time I have seen Chris Webb present and it was good.

2. BIA-316-M: Enterprise Information Management: Bringing Together SSIS, DQS, and MDS

For the second session, it was two Microsoft employees. I like to try to hit many sessions by Microsoft Employees because well, they usually have worked on the products, and they get into details, and they sometimes let some juicy details slip.

Matt Masson and Matthew Roche are great presenters, funny and play off each other. They showed and telled SQL Server 2012 MDS and DQS and discussed how it could and should be used in orgs. Master Data is a huge issue in many businesses and the Microsoft solution looks really good. Using DQS along with SSIS to clean your data, or as a very smart “spell checker”, and then MDS to track changes, workflow, and send back data to source systems if you’d like. The big thing here I took out was how they see MDS fitting into businesses, and that a BI team should implement MDS/DQS to make sure their dimensional data is clean and the “golden master” they need for great BI reporting, and updating back to source systems is a secondary thing.

3. BID-212-S: Around the World with SharePoint BI Toolbelt

This was a typical Brian Knight session. Not as huge of a production as some of them I have seen. Just him and his employee/bi architect and a helper/demo person.

They showed quickly how to get SharePoint setup for Excel Services and Power View and then did some demos. Overall good stuff but seemed a bit rushed and some things didn’t work. They demo’d PerformancePoint, which who knows what future that has, but seems like the best tool for OLAP scorecards in SharePoint. Performance Point has been an enigma for us to do anything with, not sure we ever will. I always see it demo’d and see the benefits, and see what it can do, but we never get around to doing it. Maybe someday, or maybe it will just get replaced by something..

As I said he brings up a sales person from his team or someone new to show how easy it is for a non-techie to use Power View (or whatever tool they present) and go through a little demo.

4. BID-102: Mobile Business Intelligence for Everyone, Now!

Final presentation of the day was with Jen Stirrup, who also won the PASSion award on Thursday. I also chatted with her briefly Wednesday morning, which was good as I haven’t met her before this summit. The presentation was OK. It was a 100 level, but I wanted to see some Mobile BI. I have some high expectations as I saw Jen Underwood present on Mobile BI at TechEd, so was expecting more of the same. Jen Underwood was actually in the audience and answered some audience questions.

The presentation had some technical glitches, and also dug a little to deep into visualization discussion, which is good, but I wasn’t expecting it in this one, maybe a different session. Jen showed some stuff on her iPad, and talked about how she uses Azure and SSRS in Azure, and also HostedPowerPivot, which was good stuff, but nothing new that I didn’t see at TechEd.

I use MobiSSRS for SSRS reports on iOS and that works great, she didn’t mention it, but Mobile BI presentations can get into the “3rd party app here and there” instead of what you can do out of the box. With mobile BI though, the first question is, “do you run SharePoint?” and the second is, “It is Enterprise?” because that makes a big difference in what you might try to do

Wednesday was a good day, I didn’t do much in the evening besides just grab a bite to eat and hit the hay. Bummer this year was that I started getting a cold on the way out on the plane, and it ate at my voice all week. Nothing to serious but enough to not want to talk in a pub about BI much as you have to yell.

More to come about Day 2 and Day 3, and overall thoughts..

Cool Things I Have Been Doing On the Computer Lately

In the past couple of months, weeks, whatever (time flies) I have been doing some pretty cool things on the computer, in a wide range of areas. Just want to get them down on paper (you know what I mean)…

1. Yammer – working hard on growing Yammer community, external networks, just getting engagement and showing the benefits. It’s fun.

2. Kinect – did some Kinect hacking. On my own then with the group, got some cool stuff to show. It is crazy how easy it is to get something up and running with Kinect and the SDK. I see this stuff taking off in the coming months/years.

3. Azure – dorking around with Azure, looking at what it can and can’t do, what it could do well, how it would fit in with everything.

4. SQL 2012/Power View – been playing around with SQL 2012 since “Denali”, but now its got an official launch date (March 7th) and things are getting real. Power View demos online, trying to figure out how SQL 2012 is going to fit into our infrastructure and just learning as much as I can about it.

5. Ruby – been getting into Ruby and Ruby on Rails on my Mac, git, sqlite3, heroku, etc. Trying to learn more things that just the .NET ecosystem.

6. Ubuntu – same here, set up a VM, been trying to use it consistently, trying to get the other viewpoints from Windows and Mac and where things are at. Keep up with the joneses so to speak.

7. Android – I picked up a Samsung Galaxy (Verizon 4G) a few weeks ago and have been using it. I still love my iPhone, but getting more into Android. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is a pretty good OS, there are still quirks, but its better. Verizon sucks around where I live btw.

8. Google+/Picasa Web Albums – been getting this into my photo workflow, for sharing and backup. Liking it so far.

9. SharePoint 2010/FAST – been researching and reading FAST server like crazy trying to see how it will fit in with a potential project. I think it could be amazing. more to come.

10. SMS – been playing around with different frameworks, and seeing how they compare, trying things out. Using Voice and SMS is all the rage these days. (Hall and Oates thing anyone?)

Bonus: Nothing with computers, but I have been really getting into brewing beer/homebrewing. I think we have made 5 batches now, and the ones I have tasted so far are really good. It is a fun hobby and breaks up the constant technology I am involved in. More to come here too.

And much much more. Time is limited, time to post is limited. Getting out there and doing cool things is fun, and sharing them is fun too. Gotta find the right balance. I hope everyone is having a cool 2012 so far.

Selling Management on SQL 2012

2012 is going to be a big year in the SQL world. No, the world isn’t going to end. SQL 2012 should get released by Microsoft, hopefully in the first half (cross your fingers for the first quarter!) of the year. Great! But many out there are now on SQL 2005, or 2008, or 2008 R2, some even on SQL 2000 (SP4 – still get support?) but you want to get to SQL 2012. What can you do to make that transition easier? You need to sell the features and benefits, just like anything else.


If you have any kind of clustering environment, or mirroring, or are even thinking about doing clustering, then SQL 2012 is going to be what you want to do. With AlwaysOn, it makes it dead simple to create and manage clusters. If you look back over the versions of SQL, and think clustering, you might shutter. With 2012, things become much easier and management has to see this benefit, as with anything, to make your systems more available with the new AlwaysOn

Master Data Services and Data Quality Services

Microsoft came out with their first round of Master Data Services (MDS) in SQL 2008 R2, but it was lackluster. The interface is clunky, weird, and hard to use. Most “end users” of MDS aren’t going to be that technical. You need something simple, like SharePoint, or Excel. MDS is neither (even though its a weird version of SharePoint). With 2012, MDS is vastly improved and actually something viable where an Enterprise could use it for a Master Data Management (MDM) solution. Couple that with Data Quality Services (DQS) and you get tons of bang for your buck. with MDS and the excel add on, this will be just what the doctor ordered for MDM groups in businesses.

Business Intelligence

Near and dear to my heart of course, is Business Intelligence. What a huge release for BI folks in 2012. First off, a whole new analysis services type, Tabular. Columnar Vertipaq type cubes. Reverse engineer PowerPivots right into SSAS Tabular and then tweak to release out to the Enterprise.

Then the enhanced SSIS stuff, better IDE, better management of packages, and more. Of course the integration with the Visual Studio 2010 IDE is a welcome feature, especially for those of us that also need to work on C# and .NET 4.0 stuff!

But don’t forget the potential biggest thing yet out of the BI tools for 2012 – Power View (yes the space is intentional, not sure why.. but now we have PowerPoint, PowerPivot and Power View). Naming aside, Power View could be a HUGE analytics tool to get more BI out to the people in an Enterprise. First off, they plan on making it work on iOS! Power View works on tabular cubes, so you see the tie in there. The one big thing with Power View, is it just works inside of SharePoint. No stand alone editor. You better have SharePoint 2010 and a pretty good SharePoint admin along side your BI team to get all this stuff working. Some of the enhanced end user alerting in SSRS integrated mode looks nice as well. But once again, you need SharePoint! DON’T for get the SharePoint!

There is much more in SQL 2012 that will make DBA’s lives easier, and BI pros development streamlined. Too much to outline in just one post. But if you are trying to sell SQL 2012 upgrade to management, the “big three” things I outlined above are a good starting point. One thing to be aware of though is that the licensing model has changed in SQL 2012 to core based, so you would want to read up on that.

I’m excited for SQL 2012 bits to hit and I hope you are too!

#spstc SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities quick recap

Last weekend, the SharePoint admin and I went up to the Twin Cities to hit up SharePoint Saturday. It was a good time (ScarePint the night before) and then 4 sessions and networking. Some good content on caching, silverlight vs HTML5, Performance Point and then Visualizations in SharePoint.

The sessions were OK, the people were nice. I wasn’t 100% engaged as I felt the sessions lacked some advanced content, but it was good overall. Definitely a different experience for me since I usually hit up .NET or SQL events.