Line Chart for Analysis Services Data

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.

Overview

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:

  • Line
  • Smooth Line

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:

  • Perform a
    brief review of the general Line chart type, discussing its variants and
    typical uses;
  • Introduce the Line
    chart variant;
  • Open the
    sample Report Server project, AdventureWorks Sample Reports, and ascertain
    connectivity of its shared Analysis Services data source;
  • Create a clone
    of an existing sample Analysis Services report, containing a matrix data
    region, with which to launch our overview;
  • Examine the Line
    chart type from the standpoint of the existing report, noting how we add it to
    an open report (and thus save time in leveraging existing datasets and other
    support structures) in the Layout tab;
  • Modify the
    existing primary dataset within the sample report clone, adding filters to
    limit the size of the data presentation;
  • Make
    modifications to the report layout to support the stated client reporting needs
    and practice session objectives;
  • Create a
    complete, working sample of a Line chart data region, within the existing
    report, which will allow us to verify its accuracy and completeness once we
    have the chart in place;
  • Examine all
    relevant property settings within each of the General, Data, X Axis, Y Axis, Legend,
    and 3D Effect tabs;
  • Discuss the
    results obtained with the development techniques that we exploit throughout our practice session.

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 Reason’s
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.

William Pearson
William Pearson
Bill has been working with computers since before becoming a "big eight" CPA, after which he carried his growing information systems knowledge into management accounting, internal auditing, and various capacities of controllership. Bill entered the world of databases and financial systems when he became a consultant for CODA-Financials, a U.K. - based software company that hired only CPA's as application consultants to implement and maintain its integrated financial database - one of the most conceptually powerful, even in his current assessment, to have emerged. At CODA Bill deployed financial databases and business intelligence systems for many global clients. Working with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and focusing on MSSQL Server, Bill created Island Technologies Inc. in 1997, and has developed a large and diverse customer base over the years since. Bill's background as a CPA, Internal Auditor and Management Accountant enable him to provide value to clients as a liaison between Accounting / Finance and Information Services. Moreover, as a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) - a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies - Bill offers his clients the CPA's perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology. From this perspective, he helps them to effectively manage information while ensuring the data's reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. Bill has implemented enterprise business intelligence systems over the years for many Fortune 500 companies, focusing his practice (since the advent of MSSQL Server 2000) upon the integrated Microsoft business intelligence solution. He leverages his years of experience with other enterprise OLAP and reporting applications (Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and others) in regular conversions of these once-dominant applications to the Microsoft BI stack. Bill believes it is easier to teach technical skills to people with non-technical training than vice-versa, and he constantly seeks ways to graft new technology into the Accounting and Finance arenas. Bill was awarded Microsoft SQL Server MVP in 2009. Hobbies include advanced literature studies and occasional lectures, with recent concentration upon the works of William Faulkner, Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. Other long-time interests have included the exploration of generative music sourced from database architecture.

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