The new reporting framework for Vision (SSRS)

I had done a lot in Actuate… I think I’ve authored about 20 or 30 custom reports, most of them using sql server to do all the work since Actuate was so difficult to debug, maintain etc.

So now with Vision 6.1 I’ve been doing a lot of research into how it integrates with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

A few things I’ve discovered:

1. if you want to learn all about SSRS, the tools, capabilities, concepts and such, go to this site and buy their lesson for only $99.
http://www.learnitfirst.com
While I found Scott’s presentations to be a little bit talky and long winded, he does a great job of talking about the capabilities, intentions behind the tools, and most of all explaining concepts… makes the whole thing less daunting and more manageable.

2. So Vision 6.1 supports this set up for SSRS:
– run your reporting server on either 2005 or 2008
– connect to reporting server for report development using only one of two options:
1. report builder 1.0
2. visual studio (business intelligence development studio) 2005 with add in for connecting to SQL sever 2008 if needed

3. Report builder 1.0 needs a report model to work from… report builder 3.0 does not … you can create data sources and data sets directly in report builder 3.0 without having to create a report model first in BIDS.

I’m not sure why Deltek has done this, but it seems a bit limiting… which is probably on purpose actually. We don’t want our users to have unlimited access to the data.  We need to give them sets of data that are pre-filtered and in some cases have better columns to select from… for instance we might want to use “contract date period” rather than just “contract date” for doing a cross tab to measure revenue projections or capacity. This requires a programmer to sit down and create a new column in a report model and call it “contract date period” or something similar.

While I see a lot of promise in SSRS and using these tools to do lots of reporting for Vision, I hope they will upgrade their available toolsets quickly so we can use some of the latest and greatest features that VS 2008 and even 2010 have to offer.  It gets clunky having to keep multiple versions of sql server and Visual Studio on the same machine.

I might spend some time cracking some of these issues and developing a solution so that we can use Report Builder 3.0 or Visual Studio 2008 for example… anyone interested?

Lastly…

Here’s a take away for you that you can tell your management about:

The conclusion that I have about all these new reporting upgrades is this…

In order to produce meaningful reports, we still need the same kind of skill sets to tackle the associated problems with reporting.  Just off the top of my head:
– you need someone who ::
– understands the data at a table level
– can write sql queries, stored procs etc
– can understand and document the users’s requirements
– can actually decide the structure of the report itself and create it
– you need programmers to do the coding behind all the associated elements
– you neeed someone to put it all together and get the job done… from first report request all the way to deployment.

While a lot of these skills may be combined in to 2 or sometimes just one person, it still takes business analyst and programmer skills to get the job done… oh… and database skills?  Much to the dismay of many HR and management people, a programmer does not a database architect make.

So despite the “best intentions” of upper management at perhaps your firm and Deltek, the desire to have a tool that can just be put in front of managers to let them create ad-hoc reports that give them meaningful data upon which they can rely to make sound business decisions… remains just that… a desire.

Despite the concept being very understandable and the short time it takes for management to make a request such as this:
“can you create a report that shows me the current operating gross margin of my department or firm at any point in time?”

The work needed to get this kind of thing done remains the same.

Here’s hoping y’all had a great Memorial Day weekend.

Loren

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