Philly Code Camp 2011.1: BI Visualizations

Many thanks to all who came out on a beautiful spring Saturday here in Philly for the 1st of 2 Code Camps in 2011!

First – many special thanks to Bill Wolff and the gang @ the Philly.NET user group. What a tremendous job these guys do and the work that they put into the UG and Code Camp is amazing.

Second – Here is the link to my presentation on Microsoft BI data visualizations. There are links embedded in the slides that also point you to some of the demos that I showed around the Data Connector for GIS visualizations, PivotViewer for sorting through large data sets and Silverlight binding.

Here are a few more links to help with the demos and code that we reviewed yesterday:

  1. Using ADOMD to connect to MDX data sources like SSAS
  2. Here is the Silverlight 1.0 pie control that I demo’d which you will want to upgrade for Silverlight 4.0 and modify for your own needs in Expression Blend
  3. The 3rd party vendors to look @ for the Silverlight controls to include in your solution that I mentioned are Telerik, Infragistics, ComponentOne, Neudesic and Visifire
  4. My blog for using cloud and mobile BI is part of a series that I am running in SQL Magazine’s BI Blog

You can use the comments section if you have further questions or would like more material. Thanks! Mark


SQL Saturday Philly: Silverlight BI

Thanks for to who were able to attend my talk this past Saturday at SQL Saturday Philadelphia on Microsoft BI Silverlight Dashboards. I had a great time and hope that you did, too.

If I missed anything here in this blog or post-session follow-up, please use this thread to ask your questions and we can discuss openly here. Or you can always reach out to me directly.

You can grab the presentation that I used here. And if you would like copies of the Silverlight code for the 1.0 MEC controls from the Microsoft Enteprise Cube project, I made a few of them available here previously. I am working on also making available the Silverlight map and pie chart, too. So keep checking back here to my MSSQLDUDE blog for those updates.

BTW, I promised a link to Silverlight support on the MAC, so here it is

And whenever I give this talk, I like to point you to Bart Czernicki’s book Silverlight BI. My opinion is that for using Silverlight with Microsoft BI, it is the definitive guide out there.

Best wishes, Mark

Light-up Your BI Dashboard with Silverlight

Silverlight is Microsoft’s ubber-cool developer technology for creating exciting interactive Web applications like RIAs and mobile apps. I often hear a strong desire from sophisticated customers who have existing BI centers of excellent or BI practices, that their users really desire and being to require engaging, interactive applications from the Web for their business intelligence applications.

What I wanted to do here was to point you to a few examples of BI dashboards built on Microsoft technology where Silverlight was used for the controls or parts of the dashboard.

Let’s begin with a presentation that I did a few years back for a Microsoft Services offering called MEC or Microsoft Enterprise Cube here. Since this is a few years old, you will see examples in that presentation of our UI for surfacing Microsoft SSAS cube KPIs and analytics via Silverlight 1.0. It was a big of a bear to do this back then because data binding was more difficult and we had to know how to write much more XAML than you do today with Visual Studio 2010. In that presentation, you will also see examples of Silverlight-based Web pages scaled to fit mobile device screens.

Now, the way that we built these was to build custom Silverlight controls, bind them via ADOMD to SQL Server Analysis Services and then expose the controls through ASP.NET and SharePoint. We had to build the dashboard outside of PerformancePoint Server, so keep this in mind if you wish to go this route with SharePoint 2010. This will be the same case in PerformancePoint Services, as you will need to use the charting controls included with SharePoint or include an Excel or SSRS report.

My man Derek Comingore of BI Voyage wrote about MEC and BI data visualizations for SQL Mag here. Look at the bottom of his posting for links to some very cool visualizations from Telerik, who has some great examples of pushing the envelope with Silverlight for BI apps.

I will also point you over to Infragistics and their awesome line of developer components, tools and consulting. There is a sample BI dashboard built using their Silverlight controls here. You can click there and play with the app and check it out. The experience of visually-compelling data, transitions and vector graphics is what Silverlight and RIAs are all about.

In my opinion, these examples of ISVs and organizations that focus on developers tools really illustrate the power of Silverlight in a true business-value added sense. For me, living in the data platform world these days, those example beat putting up a soccer game video using Silverlight any day.

Cool BI Data Visualizations

I am still going through and reposting some of my favorite, and the most popular, postings from my previous MSDN blogs. This time, I want to point you to what was one of our most popular subject areas in MEC around data visualizations, here.

That posting includes examples of Silverlight, Sparklines and PPS strategy maps. Some of those technologies have evolved since 2007, such as Silverlight and WPF improvements in data-binding, SSRS & Report Builder now have very compelling visualizations and geographic maps out of the box, and Sparklines made it into Excel 2010 (YEAH!).

But you may find the way that we had applied Silverlight controls into a SharePoint portal for dashboards as an approach or “best practice” for visualizing BI in your business. In practice, I have almost always found that compelling visualization of data in BI reports and dashboards that help draw in users, particuarly non-stastically based users, helps drive adoption of your BI solutions. In return, however, as a developer, it is imperative that you ensure that your visualizations are actually adding value in terms of bringing out the answers to the business questions. After all, answering business questions is why users access data for business intelligence.