Power View is a new self-service ad-hoc reporting and presentation tool released with SQL Server 2012. The business value provided through this tool is tremendous and it is another great example of Microsoft catering to the self-service BI demand. This blog post provides an overview of the new tool and how it fits into a corporate BI program.
Until now, Excel has been the go-to tool for less-technical business users who need to create reports or presentations with charts and graphs to illustrate the point they are trying to make. In fact, some companies still have Excel-based reports for most of their reporting, which is just as crazy as a cell phone with a rotary dial. And let’s be honest, even with the expert use of sparklines, data bars, and heavy conditional formatting, these reports based on Excel still look amateur. Bottom line, Excel is an outstanding tool for analysis, but a poor choice for reporting and presentation.
And let’s not forget Report Builder, which is presented and sold as the “self-service face of Reporting Services.” As those of us who’ve used Report Builder can attest, there’s quite a bit of effort from the IT side that must take place (building shared data sources, shared datasets, and possibly some report-parts) before a less-technical business user is going to be able to create anything, much less a highly interactive and visually appealing report. So in the grand scheme of things, really, how “self-service” is Report Builder?
Fear not, friend in despair – Power View delivers on the shortcomings of both of these self-service tools. Professional looking visualizations and a dynamic and visually intuitive user-experience with a development effort requiring the technical know-how of a pet rock… How does that sound? Finally, a tool for business users who don’t want to have to read an entire manual just to create a report and presentation that still won’t impress senior management.
Below is a screenshot of a sample Power View report that a non-technical business user could put together in minutes:
Unfortunately, by showing you a static image of a Power View report, I’m doing a complete disservice to the product. Thankfully, the smart people at Microsoft have created a sandbox environment for people to test drive the new tool so that they can get a more realistic idea of the extremely interactive experience that accompanies the development of a Power View Report:
Click here to view the tool.
Here’s a brief list of things to keep in mind while using this tool:
- It runs entirely in the browser (requires Silverlight), so there’s no application to install on client workstations.
- The tool features a familiar PowerPoint-like user interface.
- Everything is done via mouse clicks; only the title requires using the keyboard.
- Objects on each view are automatically connected as soon as they are placed on the page.
- Even objects within objects (ex. bars on a bar chart) can be clicked to filter.
- It uses shading and dimming to direct user attention to points of interest.
And now for the best part: Not only can users export the report directly to PowerPoint for a presentation, but the PowerPoint presentation retains all the interactivity that you experience when viewing the Power View report through the browser. Unfortunately, this option isn’t available in the sandbox environment from the link above, so allow me to paint the picture for you:
You’ve spent the past two months digging into the guts of your company’s data and have isolated three metrics that – if improved – promise untold fortunes in increased revenue via reduced production and waste costs. You’ve thoroughly supported your findings with a set of Power View reports that look great and follow data-visualization best practices. And you just rocked the presentation in front of a group of VPs and C-level execs. As you’re mentally patting yourself on the back, the VP of Production fires of the following question, “what will it take to track these metrics?”
Thankfully, you’ve used Power View so you can confidently respond with the following… “Well, Bob, all you need is a copy of the PowerPoint slides. I’ll email you and everyone else in attendance a copy right now. As long as you’re in the office or on the corporate VPN you can just open up the file…everything will automatically refresh and you will be able to interact with the data as I did during the presentation.”
There are a few requirements to be aware of. First, Power View is installed as part of the SQL Server 2012 add-in for SharePoint 2010. So – no SharePoint, no Power View. Also, Power View reports can only be created on top of PowerPivot files (that have been deployed to SharePoint 2010) or Tabular Models (running on an Analysis Services 2012 instance). However, a public preview of Office 2013 was just released and I’m happy to report that Microsoft will be integrating Power View functionality inside of Excel 2013. This is a strong move by Microsoft and, just like the addition of PowerPivot, will help fortify Excel’s position as one of the top business user tools in the industry.
Hopefully this post has given you enough insight to realize that Power View is a game changer in the Microsoft self-service BI story. Now what are you waiting for, go give it a try and let me know what you think. Here’s the link again.