Simple Doughnut Chart for Analysis Services Data

This article focuses upon Simple Doughnut
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, 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. And 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 implementers 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 Doughnut chart is, in
general, somewhat less popular than other chart types, such as the Pie chart,
yet it is often selected in scenarios where the characteristics of a Pie chart
can be had with some variety. In this
article, we will introduce the Simple Doughnut 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 to see the details behind the
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 Simple Doughnut 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 Simple Doughnut 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 Simple Doughnut Charts for Analysis Services

In
Introducing
Reporting Services Charts for Analysis Services
, we learned that the Doughnut
chart type is available in the following variants:

  • Simple
    Doughnut
  • Exploded
    Doughnut

In
this article we will focus upon the Simple Doughnut variant, although we will
take up the other variant within relevant contexts in sister articles of the MSSQL Server Reporting
Services series.

We noted in our introductory article that Doughnut charts are
functionally identical to Pie charts (except for the “hole in the center”), in
that they are typically used to present percentages (as in “percent
composition of a whole,” etc.). The size of the “slice” is determined
by the value. Categories are represented by individual slices.
The “hole in the center” of the Doughnut chart type allows for more contrast in
differentiating “slices,” as its
three – dimensional rendering, which gives “slices” four sides (rather than the
three afforded in the Pie chart). The Doughnut chart therefore presents smaller
slices more clearly, in many cases.

In this article, we will introduce
the Simple Doughnut
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 Simple Doughnut chart, we will:

  • Perform a
    brief overview of the Doughnut chart type, discussing its variants and typical
    uses;
  • 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 Simple
    Doughnut 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 Simple Doughnut 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, 3D Effect and Filters 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 Simple Doughnut 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 Simple Doughnut 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 Simple Doughnut 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 Doughnut chart report. The group
has stated that they want to leverage this “conversion” process to learn more
about the construction and characteristics of Simple Doughnut 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 at least some of the accuracy and
completeness of the new report (a feature 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 Simple Doughnut 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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