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Posted Jan 20, 2004

Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services: Reporting Options for Analysis Services Cubes: ProClarity Professional, Part I - Page 5

By William Pearson

Exploration and Analysis: Charting Options

The unique decomposition perspective of our data that we can obtain using ProClarity Professional is further embellished by the visualization options that the application offers. Let's take a look at some of the simpler charting options based upon our work so far.

1.  Select View --> Business Charts from the main menu.

We note that several options are available for simple charting, as shown in Illustration 18, which, depending upon the dimensions and measures we have selected, may offer several useful views of our data.

Click for larger image

Illustration 18: Business Chart Options that Appear under the View Menu Item

2.  Select Bar Chart from the submenu shown above.

The bar chart appears, sorted, highest to lowest IS Cost, with the Alameda store clearly leading the rest, as depicted in Illustration 19.

Illustration 19: The Bar Chart for IS Cost - California Stores

NOTE: By changing the physical dimensions of the overall application window, we can make the graphics fit a wide range of physical dimensions, just as I have compacted my view above. Axis intervals shown on the chart automatically adjust with re-sizing, to give the graphic a consistent appearance within the context of the information that it is presenting.

Another decided strength that is apparent in the view presented is an indication of just what data we are viewing: The title bar above the bar graph, for example, displays measure, dimension, and level information; sort criteria is made clear underneath the graphic, and a legend appears to the right to link the colors to the members that they represent. Touching the pointer to a given member (Los Angeles in the example shown in Illustration 19) results in the contextual display of even more information specific to the member (in this case, value and name), putting a "number with the graphic" should an information consumer wish to easily see the exact amount of the measure.

We can corroborate, as well as embellish further, our view of the information by juxtaposing the same data, in grid form, below the newly created graphic.

3.  Select View --> Grid --> Bottom to add the grid view below the bar chart.

The composite view now appears as shown in Illustration 20. Because some readers relate more to graphic representations of the data, others to numbers, and some to a combination of both, this representation is often effective in getting a message across to a group of information consumers.

Illustration 20: Composite View - Bar Chart and Grid (Notes Icon Circled)

ProClarity offers flexibility in constructing similar views with different representations, of course, and the perfect combinations can be assembled with a simple swap out of the desired components.

Another compelling feature, at least from the standpoints of convenience and practicality, is the capability to append notes to our graphic composition. The Notes icon in the upper right corner of the title bar (circled in Illustration 20) can be used as an "on / off" switch for displaying a notes area that attaches to the presentation. This can come in quite handy in adding text to comment upon the data, for presenting assumptions surrounding certain elements, and a host of other possible uses. (This sort of accommodation would be a welcome addition to many of the enterprise reporting packages on the market today.)

We will conclude Part I at this stage, returning in the second half of the article to examine many more of the features that make analysis of our data a breeze in ProClarity. But first, let's go a step further in saving our view. Say we work long and hard at putting together the prefect composite for a group of information consumers, and that we want the view we have so assiduously composed to be immediately available after cube refreshes, reflecting the new data in a consistent display that is easily summoned by the viewer on a recurring basis.

4.  Select My Views from the main menu.

5.  Click Add to My Views from the dropdown menu.

The Add to My Views dialog appears.

6.  Name the view IS Cost - California Focus, as shown in Illustration 21.

Illustration 21: Adding the View to My Views

The new view appears to the left of the interface, in the Internet Explorer-esque My Views pane. The title bar we discussed earlier, above the graphic we have created, also changes to reflect the new view name. These changes are circled in Illustration 22, which depicts a full view of the ProClarity interface at this point in our practice set.

Illustration 22: The Interface at this Stage

7.  Select File --> Save Book from the main menu.

8.  Exit the application as desired.

We will return to our examination of ProClarity in Part II of this article, where we will delve further into the application and see more examples of ways that it can add value in the analysis and presentation of the data in our MSAS cubes.

Summary ...

In this article, we returned to our exploration of an earlier subseries, Reporting Options for Analysis Services Cubes. As we stated in that set of articles, our focus was to respond to a constant request from readers: to explore options beyond the Analysis Manager / Sample Application interfaces for obtaining reports from, or browsing, MSAS cubes within a range of similar business intelligence capabilities. This article presented the first of two parts, and focused on ProClarity Professional, based upon a suggestion I received from a noted practitioner in the Business Intelligence arena, and upon my own very favorable experiences with this outstanding tool in recent months.

After a brief introduction to the application, together with an overview of the process of connecting it to an MSAS cube, we examined some of the options offered by ProClarity for analyzing our OLAP data. Once we established connectivity, we performed practice examples of browsing and analyzing our data from within the application, examining the layout and navigation of the analysis interface that ProClarity offers as we practiced its use.

We will continue our exploration of ProClarity in Part II, where we will uncover more of the rich analysis and reporting capabilities of the application.

» 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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