With the recent acquisition of Datazen by Microsoft, if you have SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition or later with Software Assurance, you can leverage (download and use) Datazen to create visually appealing dashboards for mobile devices across all the major platforms at no additional cost.
In this article series I am going demonstrate how you can use Datazen to quickly and easily create dashboards and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for mobile devices. In my first article, I talked about Datazen Architecture and its different components, different Datazen applications like Datazen Publisher for authoring and publishing dashboards and Datazen Viewer to view published dashboards on different platforms. In my second article, I demonstrated the installation and configuration of Datazen Server and in this article, I will demonstrate creating data source, data views and then creating dashboards using them with Datazen Publisher.
Creating Dashboards with Datazen Publisher
You can use Datazen Publisher to author and deploy dashboards. To get started, install Datazen Publisher from here. Once installed you can launch Datazen Publisher and it will ask you to connect to Datazen server as shown in the image below. If you have already installed Datazen server, you can connect to that or you can use demo Datazen server for your learning or development purposes.
Figure 1 – Connecting to Datazen server
Once you are connected to the Datazen server, you can see all of the available dashboards on the server to which you have access. For example, you can see these dashboards and KPIs, as shown in the image below, if you are connected to the demo Datazen server.
Figure 2 – Dashboards and KPIs on the demo Datazen Server
When you right click on the Datazen Publisher, you will get options to create a new dashboard, connect to a new Datazen server and then to manage settings like application branding, background synchronization, etc. Click on the Create icon to create a new dashboard.
Figure 3 – Creating a dashboard from Datazen Publisher
On the Create a New Dashboard wizard, you have the option to create your dashboard from scratch or from an existing or already deployed dashboard.
Figure 4 – Create a new dashboard wizard
If you select the second option (from an existing dashboard), it will ask you to select the dashboard that you want to use as base; you need to select one and then you will see the dashboard design canvas similar to that shown below. On the left side of the dashboard canvas there are four important options (Layout view to edit and author dashboards, Data View to see the underlying data for the dashboards and chart controls, Dashboard settings to specify local and server settings for the dashboard and Run Preview to quickly see how your dashboard would look when deployed on the Datazen server).
On the left side, you will also see different navigators, which you can use as filters in dashboard, different gauge, chart, map and grid controls that can be utilized in the dashboard. When you drag and drop a control in the dashboard canvas, it comes with sample data that can be used as reference to understand, how to feed data to that specific type of control.
On the top right side of the canvas, you can see options to set the layout in terms of rows and columns, specify how the dashboard should look on different device types (tablet or mobile) and different color themes to choose from.
When you select any of the controls in the dashboard canvas, related properties will be shown in the bottom of the screen as shown below. You can change these properties based on your need.
Figure 5 – Dashboard canvas
To map the chart control’s properties with the underlying data, you need to first select the control and then click on the Data View icon in the top left corner as highlighted in yellow in the image below.
Figure 6 – Dashboard canvas – Data View
Once you are on Data View page, you can accordingly map the incoming data with chart control properties as shown in the image below:
Figure 7 – Dashboard canvas – Mapping data with control
If you are using Datazen Publisher for the first time, it will ask you to specify the working folder for storing content locally during development:
Figure 8 – Setting up working folder where all your contents will be saved
You can click on the Add Data button to add data into your dashboard. This will bring up two choices of loading data into the dashboard; you can either take data as input for your dashboard for visualization from an Excel file or use the data view created on the Datazen server. These data views can be based on a variety of sources and are discussed more in the next section.
Figure 9 – Adding a new data view to the dashboard
Creating Data Source and Data Views
Before you start using Datazen Publisher to author your dashboards, you need to create data views. You can think of a data view as a tabular result set of your query and can have associated data refresh schedule; though you can also specify the data view to be real time in which case it is not refreshed automatically but rather data is only queried from underlying data sources when it is requested by the users.
As shown in the image below, you need to create a data source in order to create data views from an underlying data source. On the Control Panel web application, click on the Data Source link on the left and specify different parameters to connect to your data source.
Figure 10 – Creating a Data Source from a variety of sources
For example, in my case I wanted to connect to SQL Server and hence I specified these details. You can click on the Test Connection button to check connectivity to the underlying data source based on the different properties specified.
Figure 11 – Creating SQL Server data source
On the next screen of the Create New Data Source Connection wizard, you need to specify user groups or users who are going to have access to this data source:
Figure 12 – Assigning permission to the created data source
Now click on the created data source and then click on New Data View on the top right corner, which will launch the Create New Data View wizard as shown below. Specify details for the data view based on your requirements and click on the Next button.
Figure 13 – Creating a data view based on created data source
The final screen of the wizard, as shown below, will show you data retrieved using the query you specified in the last step:
Figure 14 – Specifying the display name and data types for the columns of the data view
Figure 15 – Sample data view
Once the data view gets created you can verify it here. For example, as you can see below, I have a data source local and a data view Sales By Country.
Figure 16 – Verifying the created data view
Using the Created Data View
Once you have created your data view, you can go back to Datazen Publisher, connect to the Datazen server where you have data, and create a dashboard. In the Data View tab of the dashboard, you can click on the Add Data button on the top right corner and it will launch the wizard as shown below. You can select the second (Datazen Server) and then click on the Next button.
Figure 17 – Adding a data view to the dashboard
If you are adding your first data view to the dashboard, it will ask you to use the existing connection to Datazen server to retrieve the data (if you are connected to more than one Datazen server).
Figure 18 – Choosing the Datazen server to use data source from
Once you are connected to a Datazen server, you will see a list of available data sources to which you have access. Select the one that you want to use.
Figure 19 – Choosing the data source on the connected Datazen server
Now you need to select the data view available on the selected data source as shown below:
Figure 20 – Choosing the data view to pull data from selected data source
And finally, you can click on the Import button on the last screen of the wizard to pull data from the underlying data source using the data view selected, which should look like the image shown below:
Figure 21 – Data imported in the dashboard for use within controls
Please note, you need to install Datazen server for collaboration, sharing with others, letting everyone comment on the dashboard, and access the published dashboards on different platforms. If you want to just create dashboards for yourself and use it on the Windows platform, you probably don’t need to setup Datazen Server (you can use data from an Excel file as input to the dashboard), in that case you can simply use Datazen Publisher to create dashboards locally for self-use.
Datazen enables dashboard and KPI creation based on data from a variety of data sources and publishing it to Datazen Server. After publishing, dashboards and KPIs are accessible on any mobile device via its native app, or through any major browser if the required access has been provided.
In this article of the series, I demonstrated creating a data source and data views and then creating dashboards using them with Datazen Publisher. In the next article of the series, I will demonstrate creating filters, publishing dashboards to the Datazen server and creating drill-down dashboards.