Supporting cast for Reporting Services The following important

Supporting cast for Reporting Services The following important report objects from Access are supported in Reporting Services: Grouping. Access defines a group level using a combination of three properties: the group expression, the GroupOn property, and the GroupInterval property. A group that does not have a group header or footer is merged with the group contained within it. If the group does not contain another group, sorting is applied to the detail section and the group is dropped. Expressions. Access uses expressions to specify values that appear in text boxes. Access uses Visual Basic as its expression language in addition to some aggregate functions. Reporting Services converts these expressions. Functions. A Reporting Services report definition uses Visual Basic .NET as its native expression language, while Access 2002 uses Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Array Functions. Reporting Services supports the array functions such as LBound or UBound. Parameters. During the import process, Reporting Services scans each expression within a report for variables that do not correspond to field names or controls. These variables are added to report parameters. Furthermore, the data type for stored procedure parameters is always imported as a string. After the report is imported, you must manually change the parameter to use the correct data type. If you import a report containing a query with query parameters, the query won t convert when you import. To import the query, temporarily replace the query parameters in the Access report with hard-coded values, and then replace them with query parameters after the report is imported. Making sure everything converts Some parts of Access lose a little something in the conversion between Access reports and Reporting Service reports. For example, all bitmaps that are embedded within a report are converted to BMP format when the report is imported, regardless of their initial format. So if your report includes JPG and GIF files, the resulting resources imported with the report are BMP files. The bitmaps are stored as embedded images in the report. You should be aware that conditional formatting in Access is not converted. Also, the description field in report properties in Access is not converted. Chapter 20: Converting Reports from Access 357

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Chapter 20 Converting Reports from Access In This

To start using this import feature, follow these steps using the Business Intelligence Development Studio: 1. In the Solution Explorer, right-click the Reports folder. A pop-up menu appears. 2. Select the Import Reports menu item from the pop-up menu. You see tools you can import from. 3. Select the Microsoft Access menu item. When you use the import feature, all reports in the database or project file are imported. If your Access file contains many reports, you may want to create a separate report project into which you can import the reports, and then open the individual RDL files in your main report project. You may have to edit the reports after they are imported into Report Designer. Understanding how Access reports differ from Reporting Services After you import an Access report into your project, you will find that some features convert well and other aspects are just not supported. For example, the page layout in Microsoft Access is different than in Reporting Services. Access arranges items on the page using bands or sections that span the width of the report. The bands can include report header, report footer, page header, page footer, groups, and detail. Reporting Services provides a more flexible layout. Data regions provide grouping and detail, and you can place multiple data regions anywhere in the body of the report. Side-by-side placement is also supported. It also includes banded page header and footer sections, similar to that in Access. When a report is imported from Access into Reporting Services, the page header and footer from the Access report are converted into a Reporting Services report page header and footer. Groups and detail are converted into a list data region. The report header and footer are placed into the body of the report, rather than in a separate band. This may result in item placement that is slightly different than what is in the Access report. In some Access reports, report items that appear to be adjacent to each other may actually overlap. When the report is imported using Report Designer, this overlap is not corrected and may lead to unexpected results when the report is run. 356 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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Chapter 20 Converting Reports from Access In This

Chapter 20 Converting Reports from Access In This Chapter Importing Access report objects Converting Access functions Supported and unsupported Access functions Putting final touches on converted reports Upsizing an Access database to SQL Server as a conversion strategy You may be contemplating taking reports created in Access and converting them to Reporting Services reports, thinking they d look better on an intranet compared to a desktop view. How do you get started? One way is to start from scratch and develop the new reports using your basic understanding of the Access report or implement based on the requirements specs used in developing the Access reports. Another alternative is to see how much of the Access report can be brought in using the Import Reports function of Reporting Services. Then you can work on this starter report to fix problems or enhance it based on the functionality available by using the new tool to compete the implementation. In this chapter, I cover all you need to know to proceed. Importing the Access Report You can use Report Designer to import reports from a Microsoft Access database (.mdb) or project (.adp) file. Report Designer converts each report within the database or project file to RDL and saves it within the designated report project. The data source for the Access reports must be available when the reports are imported. You must install Access 2002 or a later version on the same computer that Report Designer is installed on in order to use the import feature.

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COGNOS and Business Objects have been battling for

online analytical capability, plus its ability to support offline viewing of information within a report, provides a comparative advantage if these capabilities are needed. Even for SQL Server database environments, this may justify the additional expense for another reporting tool. The future development plans for SQL Server Reporting Services will no doubt target this gap in interactive analytical capabilities where BO XI establishes its superiority. Report Builder is in its first version. Given time and additional development from third- party vendors developing new controls for it, the Microsoft Reporting Services platform will no doubt soon evolve into a more robust interactive analysis tool. But if your organization is using SQL Server currently, the price is right for starting to use Microsoft Reporting Services as your enterprise reporting platform. 354 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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COGNOS and Business Objects have been battling for

COGNOS and Business Objects have been battling for the desktop BI marketplace over the last ten years. Each is priced comparably and is similar in the functionality and scalability of the platforms. Recent integration work has enabled these tools to more easily be scaled to the entire enterprise over the Web. However, these tools come with a price tag. Since Microsoft Reporting Services is an extension of SQL Server and is built in to the price of the server product, there are obvious advantages of considering this platform s capabilities. If your company has standardized on Microsoft SQL Server or has many server deployments of the database, you can leverage this investment and provide sophisticated reporting on this platform with no additional cost. This is a significant price advantage. Tool Comparison Takeaways If you read the previous sections, you will see parity among the various reporting tools in many of the reporting categories. The fact that Microsoft Reporting Services comes with the SQL Server database makes it a powerful consideration for the reporting tool of choice with SQL Server, provided your requirements for analytical slice/dice/drill/pivot/filter are appropriate. Whereas Microsoft Access is part of the Microsoft Office family and supports desktop reporting, it is a desktop-oriented product. It is a reporting tool and a database management system, but cannot scale to the number of users or speed of processing as SQL Server. Reporting Services is the next step for Access users who need to move to a more powerful platform. COGNOS ReportNet has many similarities to Microsoft Reporting Services. However, its drill-down capabilities are not as strong as what is provided in Reporting Services. Furthermore, it does not have the report subscriptions capability that Reporting Services has to push reports to subscribing users as a Web link or an e-mail attachment on a scheduled basis. Business Objects XI does have this report subscription capability, however. It has comparable report designer capabilities as Microsoft Reporting Services. Where BO XI excels (pardon the pun) is in interactive viewing of the report. You can drag in another data element to add it to the grid, or pull a column out of the grid to create a nested report on that variable. You can transpose rows and columns and do crosstab analysis on the fly. You can also change a tabular report into a graph with the click of a toolbar button. All of these changes can be done without ever leaving the viewing environment. This Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 353

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Comparing Advanced Reporting Capabilities Here s a brief comparison

Scorecard brings together goals, targets, and the current metrics into a view to show whether a business is performing according to the business plan. You can sort based on priority, color, or perspectives (customer, product, learning, operations). You can also drill down on the status to see a trend of how a business has performed historically compared to goals, period by period. Business Objects believes that going into the Reporting tool should be a seamless experience. If you re accustomed to working in the Microsoft Office environment, the reporting experience should be seamless with Office. As a result, it has focused on integrating its reporting capabilities with Microsoft Office, since this is the leading spreadsheet, word processing, and personal database environment. The presentation to the executive committee has to reflect the correct numbers at the time when the presentation is made, by making the data available in a report that is embedded and live within a PowerPoint presentation. Being able to refresh the numbers in a report on demand, you can utilize one PowerPoint slide deck to show the monthly financials that are consistent from month to month. This saves on presentation development time and provides a consistent framework for an executive review of business performance. In this way, Office products can become the front-end interface to business intelligence. Dashboards can be developed using Business Objects technology (note that this involves buying a lot more software). You can add discussions to any document in the system either by selecting it from the document list or while the user is viewing the document. Threaded discussions can be used for collaboration to understand the details related to the top-level view of the information A BI encyclopedia is available to show the business meaning of the report. The encyclopedia describes the purpose of the report and the type of information. It can also describe a guided analysis scenario where it can walk the user through the steps in the drill-down and trending investigation. Another facility is the context, which shows the more technical aspects of the report, such as the data source and the formula definitions on the report. Comparing Price COGNOS, Business Objects, and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services provide a powerful reporting and analysis platform suitable for enterprise reporting. One of the first questions people ask of these tools is how much they cost. 352 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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Comparing Advanced Reporting Capabilities Here s a brief comparison

Comparing Advanced Reporting Capabilities Here s a brief comparison of how the various reporting tools handle advanced reporting tasks. Making reports interactive Business Objects XI enables users (via its WebIntelligence platform) to click on an object and drill down without having to change to a different product. The document map control was originated with Crystal Reports and is now a component or report part option for any standard report within Business Objects XI. You can navigate from report to report through the Infoview portal, a component of the BO XI platform. Business Objects can provide for intuitive drill-down by the business user, or change from a quarterly trend to a monthly trend with a little setup. ReportNet has a capability of setting up a dashboard containing drill paths to navigate to lower levels of detail. Microsoft Access does not support hyperlinking to other reports and passing parameters as the context to the receiving report. Reporting from OLAP sources OLAP database sources will be introduced in this release so that customers can utilize their data stored in OLAP servers and easily standardize Business Objects XI for all of their BI requirements. Initially this capability will be available for the SAP BW, Hyperion Essbase, and Microsoft Analysis Services OLAP databases. This is referred to as OLAP intelligence in the Business Objects XI platform. In this way, Business Objects provides similar access to OLAP as Reporting Services. Neither COGNOS ReportNet nor Microsoft Access supports reporting from an OLAP data source. Reporting for executive use Dashboards can capture the context for a particular job. The information is actually pulled into the dashboard and is ensured to be relevant for that specific user. Click on a graphical display control (like a gauge or some similar control) on a dashboard that shows progress on a particular goal, and drill to a more detailed report to understand why. Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 351

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Delivering reports Business Objects users can create schedules

manage all the services of the BO infrastructure and configure which servers are allocated to running various services of Business Objects. This capability enables you to scale to a 16-server cluster without having to shut down any server or node on the system. BO XI also recently achieved the Microsoft Datacenter Certification. Folders and categories work together to provide strong navigation capabilities. Folders are locations to store documents. Complementary to folders, categories are used for classifying documents in Business Objects Enterprise. By creating a combination of folders and categories and setting appropriate rights for them, you can organize documents according to multiple criteria and improve both security and navigation. You can upload new BO reports or any Microsoft Office document into the new report folders. ReportNet also supports the use of public folders to organize reports. It is comparable to what Reporting Services or Business Objects has to offer in terms of folder management and organization. Securing information Business Objects can leverage the Office/Windows security environment so that secure information is secured with Windows rights and privileges. Also, Central Management Console is a centralized management tool that can be used to administer security. BO also provides single sign-on with Active Directory authentication. You can also define reporting and tool function privileges within the Central Management Console to finely control access to all features and functions within the BO enterprise platform. COGNOS ReportNet is security agnostic it works with virtually every security model. Where required, an API lets you accommodate custom authentication models. ReportNet also leverages security models of any existing COGNOS products through the COGNOS Series 7 authentication provider. ReportNet does not replicate existing enterprise models to enable application security. You can secure all report objects in COGNOS ReportNet, setting permission rights for use by the appropriate users or groups. Report objects include folders, subfolders, individual reports, data connections, and ReportNet capabilities (such as authoring). Microsoft Access does allow some security to be built into the model. However, it does not support a robust security model and it is not integrated with any Windows security strategy. You can define user privileges of open, read, modify, and administer for each object in the database. You can set passwords and encrypt the database. 350 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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Delivering reports Business Objects users can create schedules

Delivering reports Business Objects users can create schedules on virtually any timetable, including daily or weekly dates and times, as well as any business calendars. Users can share documents via e-mail or send them to a system inbox, printer, or file in several different formats allowing further interaction. COGNOS ReportNet can send content to eliminate the need for portal access or it can send e-mail links to eliminate the need for portal navigation. The ability to push information out to users rather than forcing them to pull content provides flexibility for the entire report user community. Scheduling tools allow these reports to be pushed automatically. As I mention previously, Microsoft Access can publish reports to the Web. This is a push capability where a Web page renders the report information from the access query. This could possibly be scheduled to work as a macro based on an event from the Windows scheduler. However, there is no function to allow distributing Access reports via e-mail according to a schedule. Comparing Management and Administration of Reports Organizing your reports in a folder hierarchy and providing for high security in the access of reports are design goals for all reporting tools. Many of the vendors have focused on providing an intuitive folder-based system for organizing content, and this has become the standard. All of the vendors have in recent years expanded their platforms to provide for security management capabilities to finely control the access of users to individual reports or access to functions surrounding the management of reports, such as the ability to schedule or access underlying data. Managing your reports BO XI has the ability to better manage the data side of the infrastructure. Central Management Console can help integrate the security with an existing infrastructure security. You can inherit the security model from any of the popular security environments. An audit dashboard shows the users per hour, the load on the system, and the run times for specific queries monitored throughout the day. In the Rights Management module, you can set user-specific privileges to allow editing and viewing report objects. You can Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 349

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metric or formula to the report. You can

XI Premium also includes auditing capabilities that enable IT to more easily administer individual user accounts and reports and give more insight into the actions users take and which reports they access. You can use Live Office to embed your business intelligence data into Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. Then you can share the resulting Office documents securely by using Business Objects. Publishing capabilities formerly were provided by a separate ad-on called Broadcast agent, where reports could be scheduled and sent as e-mail attachments for report distribution. Now this functionality is embedded in BO Enterprise. Scheduling a report provides the ability to schedule documents on behalf of others. This secure mechanism allows a single report to serve the needs of multiple users by delivering only the specific subsets of information to each user according to their security profile. Business Objects supports the report history option to save a snapshot of the data at a specific point in time. ReportNet provides robust scheduling and bursting capabilities. Data is read once and then deployed in multiple formats to a massive number of users. Reporting that s this easy to use and administer can truly be extended across the global enterprise. ReportNet reports can be rendered as HTML or PDF, or e-mailed to individual e-mail accounts. ReportNet doesn t give you the ability to produce report history, a snapshot of a report at a specific point in time. Microsoft Access does have the capability to publish reports to the Web. This is a push capability where a Web page renders the report information from the access query. Microsoft Access doesn t support any concept like report history. Accessing reports on demand For optimized self-retrieval through portal access, COGNOS ReportNet uses the cache control facilities provided by the HTTP protocol. Although pages in COGNOS ReportNet are dynamically generated to provide rich content, it can intelligently decide whether a page needs to be regenerated or simply refreshed if already viewed. This capability is similar to Microsoft Reporting Services. Business Objects also caches the reports so that if the report has been delivered through the browser based on a request by another user, it is available to any subsequent business users from the cache. Microsoft Access doesn t handle the caching in the same way as the other tools. The report requests are always executed on demand. 348 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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