Mastering OLAP Reports: Parameters for Analysis Services Reporting, Pt. I

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 2005 in recent
months, 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 this article, we will get hands-on exposure to providing the
most basic Parameter support, from the perspective of reports based upon
an Analysis Services 2005 cube, for the information consumers we
support. Our hands-on practice will specifically focus upon how to create a Parameter
(or, more precisely, a “parameterized filter”) through the use of the graphical
user interface, the MDX Query Builder. As a part of our examination we
will take a look at some of the processes that transpire “out of sight” within
Reporting Services
, primarily to form a foundation for subsequent articles,
where we build upon this knowledge to create parameterization capabilities
which we can finely customize to the needs of our local environment. While some
of the practical concepts we cover in this article are quite basic, a good
understanding of the nature and sequencing of object creation, based upon
settings we make within the MDX Query Builder, is essential to the more
extended procedures we undertake elsewhere. In this article, we will discuss
the general concepts, and then set up a scenario within which we work with a basic
OLAP report, to expose the steps involved. In examining the rudiments of 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 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 within a Matrix data region;

  • Create, within
    the graphical Design Mode of the MDX Query Builder, a filter for
    which parameterization is enabled via the Filter pane setting;

  • Preview the
    report to observe the runtime Parameter in action;

  • Inspect the
    automatically created Report Parameter and its settings;

  • Examine the
    automatically created Dataset underlying the new Report Parameter;

  • Discuss the
    interaction of the various components in supporting the runtime Parameter
    that the end consumer sees;

  • Discuss the
    results obtained with the development techniques that we exploit.
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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