Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 – #bookreview

Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010
By Norm Warren, Mariano Teixeira Neto,
John Campbell and Stacia Misner

(Microsoft Press, $44.99, paperback)

This useful and well-written book was created, at least in part, as a response to customer complaints about SharePoint documentation. The customers told Microsoft they needed a better sense of  “the big picture” of how business intelligence (BI) and SharePoint 2010 mesh together with BI software tools.

Business intelligence is the process of extracting important and useful information from the massive quantities and flows of information available to companies at any moment.

A stated Microsoft strategy is to “democratize” BI, to make business information and insights available to all employees of a company, so they can make “faster, more relevant decisions.”

What SharePoint 2010 does, the writers note, is to work “with SQL Server reporting and BI tools to surface BI data in meaningful ways.”

Two important focuses for “the BI stack” are “report authoring,” using Microsoft Office, PerformancePoint, Dashboard Designer, and more,  and “report viewing,” in “just about any browser,  in Microsoft Office, on Windows 7 phones, and in SharePoint Search.”

The authors state that in planning this book, “we chose not to include information about setting up all the various tools and databases—although we did include a synopsis of best practices for planning, deployment and configuration.”

A number of step-by-step processes and screen shots are included, however, to illustrate some key configurations, setups, menus, tests and examples. But frequent references to other documents also are made. And some processes are described as “beyond the scope” of the book.

The writers add that “[b]ecause this book is aimed primarily at three audiences—SharePoint administrators, business users and BI developers—we were forced to sharpen our focus and choose only the most relevant BI products from Microsoft for these audiences.”

The four highlighted products are: (1) SharePoint Excel Services; (2) SQL Server 2008 R2 PowerPivot; (3) SharePoint Visio Services; and (4) SharePoint PerformancePoint Services.

Within the BI world, there generally are two types of users: power users and casual users. Power users delve into BI almost daily and frequently “develop advanced technical skills” that help them use BI tools “to explore the data without restraint,” the authors say. Casual users, meanwhile, tend to be “department managers, executives, or even external stakeholders such as customers or suppliers” who are less skilled at using BI tools and need simple interfaces that can help them “find the information they need on their own.”

The 384-page book is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Business Intelligence in SharePoint
  • Chapter 2: Choosing the Right BI Tool
  • Chapter 3: Getting to Trusted Data
  • Chapter 4: Excel Services
  • Chapter 5: PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint
  • Chapter 6: Visio and Visio Services
  • Chapter 7: PerformancePoint Services
  • Chapter 8: Bringing It All Together
  • Appendix A: Virtual Machine Setup and SharePoint Configuration
  • Appendix B: DAX Function Reference
  • Appending C: SharePoint as a Service—“Office 365”
  • Index (19 pages)

The book does not come with a CD, but a companion website offers interactive exercises and code samples to download.

The minimum hardware and software requirements cannot be described briefly here, because they vary, depending on whether you want to (1) use pre-configured virtual machines present in the 2010 Information Worker Demonstration and Evaluation Virtual Machine (RTM) or (2) install SharePoint 2010 software, perform the configuration procedures and create virtual machines from scratch. These options and their various choices are described in Appendix A and Appendix B.

Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 can be an informative and useful guide for executives, managers, employees, suppliers and customers who must use BI on an occasional basis. If your goal is to become a BI power user, but you are just getting started, you also should look into this book.

Power users of BI may want to consider having this book, as well. You may be well-versed in one particular area or aspect of business intelligence. But business itself changes very rapidly these days, and a narrow expertise suddenly can  become less useful. You may need “the big picture,” too, to help you figure out where else to specialize, just in case.

Si Dunn

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