Line Chart for Analysis Services Data
April 30, 2009
This article focuses upon Line charts, and extends the examination of Reporting Services charts for Analysis Services data sources that we began in an earlier article of my MSSQL Server Reporting Services series, Introducing Reporting Services Charts for Analysis Services. In that article we summarized the many different chart (or chart data region) types that are available, and looked ahead to individual articles surrounding each type, where we would specify details and real world innovations involving the use of each in reporting Analysis Services data. We noted that the focus of these related articles, perhaps interspersed among other topics within my MSSQL Server Reporting Services series over time, would be the design and creation of Analysis Services chart reports of various types, and the exploitation of the rich and flexible features contained in Reporting Services that enable us to make report data more meaningful, and easier to understand, from the perspective of our information consumer audiences.
In many cases, which I try to outline in my articles at appropriate junctures, the functionality of well-established, but expensive, solutions, such as Cognos (PowerPlay, Impromptu, and other applications), Business Objects, and myriad other reporting / OLAP applications can be met in most respects by Reporting Services at a tiny fraction of the total cost of ownership. Moreover, the flexibility and richness of the chart data regions alone in Reporting Services exceed, in many ways, the rather fixed options available in other enterprise reporting solutions.
As I have repeated in many of my articles in this column, one of the first things that become clear to early adopters of Reporting Services is that the knowledgebase for Analysis Services reporting with this tool is, to say the least, sparse. The vacuum of documentation in this arena, even taking into consideration the release of several books surrounding Reporting Services in recent years, continues to represent a serious undersell of Reporting Services, from an Analysis Services reporting perspective. I hope to contribute to making this space more accessible for everyone, and to share my implementation and conversion experiences as the series evolves. In the meantime, we can rest assured that the Analysis Services potential in Reporting Services will contribute significantly to the inevitable commoditization of business intelligence, via the integrated Microsoft BI solution.
Note: For more information about my MSSQL Server Reporting Services column in general, see the section entitled About the MSSQL Server Reporting Services Series that follows the conclusion of this article.
As we observed in Introducing Reporting Services Charts for Analysis Services, Reporting Services enables us to present both summarized and detailed data in colorful, easy-to-read charts of various designs, from which we can chose the layout and type that best meets any given business requirement. Among the types offered, the Line chart type ranks, along with the Column and Bar types, among the most popular. (We introduced the simple Column chart and the simple Bar chart in Simple Column Chart for Analysis Services Data and Simple Bar Chart for Analysis Services Data, respectively.)
In this article, we will introduce the basic Line chart type and get some hands-on exposure to its creation and its general characteristics. This will serve as a basis for other, more in-depth, practical exercises in coming articles, where we will extend the value of our chart-enhanced reports in myriad ways. Among these ways, just for starters, are the capability to format chart and other objects within a host of options, to drill down / drill through to see the details behind graphical / numerical summaries, to combine chart reports with other types of reports, and to access many other options in the powerful Reporting Services tool set.
My objective within this article is to assist the reader in quickly assembling a report containing a working Line chart (relying upon, for instance, already assembled datasets and other underlying support within an existing sample report), and to move efficiently into targeted reporting nuances that meet real world needs. While this initial introduction will focus more on the creation of a Line chart, the report we create will serve as a basis, in prospective articles, to demonstrate more detailed intricacies that I have found useful in meeting business requirements of my own clients and readers. The ultimate objective, as is typically the case within my various series, is to provide hands-on opportunities to learn overall, start-to-finish procedures, before homing in on specific options of interest (although we will certainly deal with many of these options in even our early exercises, as a part of completing the stated objectives of these sessions).
Introducing Line Charts for Analysis Services
In Introducing Reporting Services Charts for Analysis Services, we learned that the Line chart type is available in the following variants:
In this article, we will focus upon the simple Line variant, although we take up the other variants within relevant contexts in sister articles of the MSSQL Server Reporting Services series. We noted in our introductory article that Line charts are typically used to compare values over time. In generally describing the type, we observed that the Line chart presents series as a set of points connected by a line. Values are represented by the height of the point as measured by the y-axis. Category labels are displayed on the x-axis.
In this article, we will introduce the basic Line chart data region in detail, and gain practical exposure to the creation of a basic example of such a chart that is employed in reporting from an Analysis Services data source. In introducing the Line chart, we will:
Objective and Business Scenario
In this article, we will perform a relatively straightforward examination of the Line chart type, from within a copy of an existing sample Reporting Services 2005 report that we will create for this purpose. Our focus will be to create a working Line chart, using an Analysis Services data source (the Adventure Works DW sample OLAP database / Adventure Works cube that accompanies the installation of Reporting Services), while discussing various characteristics of this chart type as we progress.
We will examine relevant chart properties, and get some initial hands-on exposure to the manipulation of those properties to support the delivery of information to meet the needs of a hypothetical group of organizational information consumers. Other articles within the MSSQL Server Reporting Services series will advance beyond the practice session that we undertake here, using the Line chart we create as a basis from which we can concentrate on in-depth procedures and nuances that we can use to achieve precision in meeting specific requirements, and delivering data presentation effects, that we might encounter within the environments of our respective employers and / or clients.
The Business Need
For purposes of our practice procedure, we will assume that a group of report developers and analysts, composed of members of the Sales, Marketing, Information Technology, and other departments of the Adventure Works organization, have expressed the need to present some of the information displayed in the existing Sales Reason Comparisons OLAP report through a new Line chart report. (They state that they wish to work with only a limited time span, and only a single Sales Reasons data, to make the process quicker and the ultimate chart less crowded, at least for purposes of working together to create a prototype.) The group has stated that they want to leverage this conversion process to learn more about the construction and characteristics of Line chart reports in general. Moreover, they assure us that they will extrapolate the techniques they learn to scenarios where they will design, create and deploy reports of this type in the future.
Once we understand the business need, we propose using a copy of the existing Sales Reason Comparisons report (which, among other samples, accompanies the installation of Reporting Services). Our tandem objectives here, we explain, are 1) to streamline our procedures (by using existing connections, datasets, and other structures that are already in place within the pre-existing report), and 2) to provide a ready means of verifying the accuracy and completeness of the new report (a capability that might be useful in initial report testing). We mention, as an aside, that we can always delete the existing matrix data region prior to deploying the final report.
Once we obtain agreement on this approach, we begin the process of creating the Line chart report to satisfy the information consumers.