Mastering OLAP Reports: Parameterized Grouping

About the Series …

This
article is a member of the series MSSQL Server Reporting Services. The series is designed to
introduce MSSQL Server Reporting Services (“Reporting Services”),
presenting an overview of its features, with tips and techniques for real-world
use. For more information on the series in general, please see my initial Database Journal article, A New Paradigm for Enterprise Reporting. For the software components, samples and tools
needed to complete the hands-on portion of this article see BlackBelt
Administration: Linked Reports in Report Manager
, another article within this
series.

About the Mastering OLAP Reporting Articles …

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. As I stated in my article, Mastering
OLAP Reporting: Cascading Prompts
(where I treated the subject of cascading
parameters
for Reporting Services 2000), the purpose of the Mastering
OLAP Reporting
subset of my Reporting Services series is to focus on techniques for using Reporting
Services
for OLAP reporting. 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, can be met in most respects by Reporting
Services
– at a tiny fraction of the cost.

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 OLAP reporting perspective. I hope to contribute to making this
arena 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 OLAP potential in Reporting Services will
contribute significantly to the inevitable commoditization of business
intelligence, via the integrated Microsoft BI solution.

For
more information about the Mastering OLAP Reporting articles, see the section
entitled “About the Mastering OLAP Reporting Articles” in my article Ad Hoc
TopCount and BottomCount Parameters
.

Overview

In
recent articles within this series, we have focused upon various aspects of parameterization
within the Reporting Services environment. In some cases we have
supported parameterization from structures completely contained within Reporting
Services
, and in others we have created parameter (predominantly
picklist) support from within other layers of the integrated Microsoft business
intelligence solution. As many of us are aware, enterprise reporting
applications typically allow for parameterization (via what are
sometimes known as “prompts” or “parameter prompts”) to enable information
consumers to quickly find the information they need from a report. These
parameters, whose values are physically passed to an axis specification or a
slicer in the dataset query, often act to put filters into place “on the fly;”
the “filters” are thus enacted when the consumer types or selects a value, or a
series of values, at run time.

Because they allow
information consumers to assume a role in guiding the delivery of information –
and add a “self-serve” component to the reporting experience – parameterization
in general is a popular topic in the forums and newsgroups of most enterprise
reporting applications. My first exposure to the concepts of parameterization
was in working with very early versions of Cognos Impromptu. My
continued application of those concepts over the succeeding years within Cognos,
Crystal, Business Objects, MicroStrategy,
and several more specialized applications, has given me a great appreciation
for the opportunities that exist in the business environment for effective
parameterization. Whether the reports are to be printed, displayed on screen,
or any of the other options for production / deployment, it’s easy to see the
value that parameterization can add in making the selection and delivery of
enterprise data more focused and consumer-friendly.

While
I have extended parameterization concepts into many arenas, none have captured
my attention as much as their deployment within the integrated Analysis
Services
/ Reporting Services pairing. These applications work
together to provide business intelligence in a way that is powerful and highly
flexible. Indeed, I often advise clients who are attempting to locate a
consultant to implement the integrated Microsoft BI solution (composed of MSSQL
Server
, MSSQL Server Analysis Services, and Reporting Services)
to seek a “multidimensional architect” – a practitioner who has a good working
knowledge of each of the components, and who can determine where, among
three or more possible “logical layers,” to place which components so as
to optimize the system as a whole.

NOTE: For details surrounding hands-on
approaches (as you will see, they are Legion) to the mechanics behind
supporting parameterization, (including the generation of picklists) in Reporting
Services
, see these articles in MSSQL Server Reporting Services series
here at Database Journal:

Throughout various articles of this series, we have
generated simple lists to provide virtually all we need to support
parameterization within Reporting Services and other enterprise
reporting applications. In this article, we will perform an examination of the
straightforward mechanics behind the parameterization of grouping,
and sorting of the members within the group we select. We will get hands-on
exposure to parameterizing grouping within a preexisting sample OLAP
report. Beginning with the general concepts, we will continue into a practice
session where we set up a scenario, within which we work with a basic OLAP
report, to expose the steps involved. In examining the rudiments of grouping
parameterization
within an OLAP report containing a matrix data region, we
will:

  • 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 perform our practice exercise;
  • Make structural
    modifications to the clone report, to prepare for our practice exercise session
    with parameters;
  • Perform a
    brief overview of the concepts behind ad hoc grouping, which we will use
    to support the stated reporting needs of a hypothetical client;
  • Modify the
    existing dataset within, and add a new dataset to, the sample report clone, to
    support group and group member sorting parameterization;
  • Make
    modifications to the report layout to support the stated client
    reporting needs;
  • Add Report
    Parameters
    to support ad hoc group
    and group member sorting selection;
  • Modify matrix
    settings to fully enable the newly supported group and group member sorting
    parameterization;
  • Modify the
    face of the report to dynamically reflect grouping parameter selections
    made at run time.
  • Discuss the
    results obtained with the development techniques that we exploit throughout our practice session.
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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