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Posted Sep 12, 2005

Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis Services: Reporting Options for Analysis Services Cubes: MS Excel 2003 and More ... - Page 6

By William Pearson

Excel Microsoft Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services

The Microsoft Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services, available for free download from Microsoft at this writing, has proven itself to be a clever reporting and analysis tool within itself. I also recommend it to clients and readers who wish to learn Analysis Services, and particularly MDX, concepts from a practical, user-friendly perspective. The Add-in provides flexible reporting and analytical capabilities for data imported into Excel from Analysis Services cubes, where Analysis Services acts as a middle-tier server for OLAP and data mining.

The Analysis Server still manages the cubes and provides rapid client access to cube information, so the Add-in effectively provides another reporting option with Excel as the client. The Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services provides integration between Microsoft Office XP and Office 2003 editions and Analysis Services (Service Pack 2).

The Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services is particularly useful in that it allows us to put our existing Excel skills to work to quickly and easily create reports that meet the business needs of our respective environments. This tool provides an excellent means of equipping one's organization with a refined capability to identify opportunities, and to respond to business conditions, as well as to perform in-depth analysis and reporting within the realms of planning, forecasting and budgeting, as well as sales and marketing and a host of other arenas that impact our businesses. It allows us to easily access the potentially large volumes of data that our cubes contain by providing a means to import data from one or more Analysis Services cubes, and to then use a combination of Analysis Services and Excel techniques and functionality for a wide range of analysis, manipulation and presentation capabilities to support corporate decision making.

The capabilities we can leverage with the Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services are many. They include:

  • Importing data from multiple Analysis Services cubes;
  • Combining data from multiple dimensions to obtain a multidimensional perspective;
  • Performing drillthrough to see underlying source data (the transactions that make up balances, etc.);
  • Specification of filter conditions;
  • Performing ranking;
  • Performing writeback to cubes (excellent client input application for budgets, forecasts and the like);
  • Performing what-if analysis (in conjunction with writeback and otherwise);
  • Leveraging actions resident in targeted cubes;
  • Using page filters (in addition to the more pedestrian row and column filters) to display subsets of data;
  • Leveraging server-side formatting;
  • Using enhanced navigation capabilities;
  • Creating free-form and structured reports (the two primary types within the Add-in);
  • Using Excel formatting and calculation features.

The Microsoft Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services is available at the following link:

http://www.microsoft.com/office/solutions/accelerators/exceladdin/default.mspx

Documentation and white papers that are also available on this page provide a great introduction to this powerful add-in. I have used the Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services recently in providing client writeback capability within an engagement where no other client existed that was adequate for this purpose. In addition, I have found the reporting capabilities worthwhile for scenarios where a full-blown OLAP reporting solution, such as SQL Server Reporting Services, was either not required, or where an interim need existed for which an integrated, industrial strength solution was being developed for later implementation. Moreover, the Microsoft Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services has often served me as a convenient means of independent verification of results obtained in Reporting Services or other reporting applications, and as an overall tool to support such peripheral needs.The add-in provides two reporting modes, free-form and structured, each with its own features. For more information, see Free-form and structured reports.

Conclusion

In this article, we explored the integration of Analysis Services and MS Office Excel 2003, to present updated options for client reporting and other business intelligence capabilities. The central focus of the article was a basic, hands-on review of the Excel 2003 PivotTable Report. Within the context of the article, we examined the role of Excel 2003 as the "client representative" of the Analysis Server, and examined ways to leverage the multidimensional reporting and analysis capabilities supported by Analysis Services cubes.

Our examination of the PivotTable Report features available in Excel 2003 included PivotTable Report options that provide for creating robust and flexible reports. As part of our exploration, we performed hands-on practice that included setting up a connection to an OLAP cube, as well as navigating member information and cube data. We drilled down to details of reporting summaries, and ventured beyond the " X-Y " presentation of dimensions, creating a page "slice" and working with dimension combinations to make our PivotTable report even more multidimensional. We also examined formatting options within the report.

In addition to our examination of the once-solitary Excel option for OLAP reporting and analysis, the Excel 2003 PivotTable Report, we provided a brief summary of another Excel 2003 OLAP Reporting option, the Microsoft Office Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services, as well as direction as to where the Add-in might be obtained.

» See All Articles by Columnist William E. Pearson, III

Discuss this article in the MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services and MDX Topics Forum.



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