metric or formula to the report. You can

metric or formula to the report. You can also interactively turn a tabular report into a graphical display. Universes act as a semantic layer between the user and a database. Business Views are objects that help report designers and end users access the information they require. You can take advantage of Business Views only in Crystal Reports, whereas you can access universes in Crystal Reports and the Web-based Business Objects Web Intelligence. ReportNet provides the capability to generate reports using a drag-and-drop interface from a set of data elements available in the Query explorer. After your administrator has created the analysis layer, you can use constructs, such as nested queries, as you would from Reporting Services. Microsoft Access enables ad hoc report development through its report designer interface. You can create crosstabs and basic column style reporting quite easily. It is a great desktop query tool for basic reporting requirements. On this topic, Business Objects provides much more capability to do ad hoc reporting. Most of the capabilities that you would find only when you are designing and building new reports with the other tools, you can do in the analysis interface within Business Objects. You always have access to the semantic layer (the universe) from which the report was created. You only need to 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 leaving the viewing environment. For ease-ofuse in ad hoc reporting. Business Objects has a clear advantage over the other tools. Comparing Publish, Subscribe, and Access After you create your report, you need to be able to get it to your anxiously awaiting business users who are starved for information. Each of these tools has somewhat different capabilities in supporting reporting on demand, scheduled reporting, and automatic distribution of this information. The following sections provide detailed analyses of these capabilities among available tools. Publishing your reports For Business Objects, the Live Office add-in enables users to integrate business intelligence data within Microsoft Office and easily create or modify reports to individual requirements. In addition, Business Objects Enterprise Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 347

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Business Objects XI offers similar tools from which

All of these tools are capable of providing nice graphical reporting. Crosstab analysis can be done in all tools, but using different techniques. The list control in Reporting Services provides a more free-form technique to assemble repeating sections than the other reporting tools, which conform to a banded report styling Reporting with parameters and formatting options Reporting Services provides support for parameter-based reports, allows dynamic visibility of detail rows of a report, provides many formatting alternatives to choose from, and allows reporting from multiple datasets within a single report. You also can write expressions and use these to display information or handle processing within a report. Business Objects can also support these capabilities. However, it can handle the drill-down reporting as requests to the database and will refresh a report to bring back more detail from the database. Crystal Reports is more comparable to Reporting Services in that there may be some drill-down in any report based on hiding detail rows and allowing users to expand these areas to reveal the detail. ReportNet allows the development of parameter-based reports. ReportNet ships with a full set of sophisticated prompt types that can be applied to the data. These prompts allow users to modify report criteria such as date and time, and can take the form of a cascading list, a picklist, radio buttons, and more. ReportNet provides Condition Explorer, which enables authors to easily hide or show information in a report based on specific conditions. This works much like the Reporting Services Expression Builder. Advanced report design includes multiple linked or independent queries per report, separation of presentation and query layers, and logical layout page control and conditional formatting. It also provides for multi-query compound reports and the ability to embed dynamic objects. The conditional report layout adapts dynamically to the data content and end-user requirements. Report Builder for ad hoc reporting by business users Also, BO XI exposes some of the common end-user needs for customizing reports. By right-clicking, you can insert a new column of information. BO XI allows you to go back to the universe or metadata for the report to add a key 346 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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Business Objects XI offers similar tools from which

Business Objects XI offers similar tools from which you can build reports. The toolbox in the Web-based, report-development interface provides controls for a grid, chart, text, subreports, lines, and images. You can drag and drop these onto the report design interface. ReportNet offers similar tools in the toolbox, including crosstabs, lists, and charts, as well as images, live embedded applications, dynamic HTML items, and logos that can all be linked with one another to provide greater context. Accessorizing reports Reporting Services provides for accessories like sorting, grouping, filtering, formatting, and using expressions. All of these tools provide good and intuitive capabilities. Crystal Reports offers less of a free-form report creation experience since it provides the grid for you to add query fields and formula fields directly. Business Objects allows a free-form development interface that requires an administrator to set up a semantic layer, called a universe, which maps the data schema to business friendly objects. Dynamic prompts and cascading lists are now available in Crystal Reports and Business Objects, allowing prompt values to be populated from values in a database. Prompts can be arranged in a cascade, where one value in a prompt constrains values in subsequent picklists. ReportNet provides a separation of report layout and query layers similar to the report design interface with Reporting Services. This allows you to select report columns from a list and place them into a Web-based grid for reporting. Prompt types can be applied to the data. These prompts allow users to modify report criteria such as date and time, and can take the form of a cascading list, a picklist, or radio buttons. ReportNet s multilingual capability means that reports can be authored once and localized automatically. In Query Studio, you can change a tabular report to a crosstab report directly. COGNOS Framework Manager delivers an enterprise data model that encapsulates all business rules, data descriptions, data relationships, and other administration tasks. It insulates the report author from the technical challenges of the underlying data. With Framework Manager, you can separate the database representation of the data from the business perspective, define single conformed definitions of metrics, and reuse the same definition in multiple business views. Microsoft Access provides a report design interface with a toolbar of controls. This is similar to what Reporting Services offers. You can create many report styles as well as charts using the wizard or the designer interface. Reports can be designed that prompt the user for parameter values which is implemented as a popup dialog prompt for the required values. Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 345

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provisions for delivering reports. You may export reports

Comparing Report Development Each of the tools provides an interface to develop interesting reports. Some tools provide many options for developing reports geared to the type of user. A report development environment for the business analyst needs to be different than one for the professional report developer. The following sections compare the different report development environments provided by the tools. Using a report wizard In Chapter 4, I describe the Reporting Services Wizard for creating new reports. Microsoft Access has a wizard that has a similar look and feel. Crystal Reports provides a comparable wizard. Business Objects offers no wizard but enables efficient report creation via a drag-and-drop paradigm for creating reports. ReportNet does provide a wizardlike style of creating reports, although it is not referred to as a wizard per se. The wizard style of help is really unique with Microsoft Reporting Services. This can be a helpful tool for quickly creating reports or for learning how to design reports for new business and IT professionals. Business Objects XI provides you with the ability to build a semantic layer or business model (similar to the report model in Chapter 8) called a universe. The universe consists of all the data elements of the database that are accessible expressed in business terms and not technical terms. Each data element has a short business description to define for the business user. The user can select from these elements and drag them onto the designer panel to construct a new report. This is the intuitive way of creating reports that approximates the functionality of a wizard. Styling with report types You saw in Chapter 5 that Reporting Services provides standard report items in a toolbox. Third-party developers also may create new controls and allow you to extend the toolbox to do new things with reports. The tools available in the toolbox include textboxes, tables, a matrix, rectangles, lists, subreports, lines, images, and charts. Microsoft Access provides some basic report-building tools in its design interface. In some ways, you have more tool options because Access enables you to add check boxes, radio buttons, option grouping, buttons, drop-down lists, list boxes, lines, and images. You have options to build tabular or freeform reports as well as charts. 344 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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provisions for delivering reports. You may export reports

provisions for delivering reports. You may export reports and burst them to e-mail addresses for business users. You can also develop dashboards containing navigation links to other reports with deeper levels of detail. Reporting Services Reporting Services is a great product for the professional report developer because of the Report Designer, and for the business user because of the Report Builder. Its Report Manager gives you a means of organizing reports easily in secure report folders as well as an administrative interface to create subscriptions, history, and other advanced features. Report Manager can connect to Analysis Services and utilize this interface to create a drag-anddrop report-authoring capability. All the tools I mention are greatly similar, and I investigate them further in the sections that follow. Comparing Data Retrieval Features Reporting Services is the topic of Chapter 1. In this section, I compare Reporting Services to the other reporting tools. Retrieving data from a database Reporting Services enables you to create shared datasets and easily prepare datasets for reporting and analysis. Each reporting tool shares this capability. Each tool has its own unique approach. Access and ReportNet do not provide access to OLAP data sources. For relational sources, there are many similar capabilities between these tools. Both can work with SQL Server databases. ReportNet can connect to most relational database formats, but not any OLAP data sources at this time. ReportNet can connect to SAP Business Warehouse (BW) which is a hybrid data source that functions similar to an OLAP cube. To do this, the tool uses MDX (see Chapter 17 for more information on MDX) rather than SQL queries to go after BW data. ReportNet can provide a single metadata model containing both SAP BW and non-BW sources. This means that your users can have reports with data from all corporate data sources with shared filters and prompts throughout your SAP BW implementation or while you are consolidating non-SAP data into your SAP BW solution. Business Objects has connectivity to a wide range of different data sources any vendor flavor (Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server), and many of the popular OLAP data sources (Hyperion Essbase and Microsoft Analysis Services). Crystal Reports supports connectivity to as many data sources. Chapter 19: Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools 343

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Chapter 19 Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular

to add new features and efficiencies over the years, including built-in wizards to help new users design reports quickly, and a fairly intuitive query designer that enables you to join and query tables without knowing SQL. However, Access reports are desktop reports, unless you use an approach to export a report to a snapshot and publish to the Web. Reports are authored on a desktop- based application interface, which is not supported on the Web. Business Objects After the acquisition of Crystal Reports in 2004, Business Objects became the largest vendor of reporting and analysis tools. Business Objects has existed for nearly 15 years and is working toward integrating Crystal Reports and Business Objects into an integrated platform. Its product development plans call for the development of Business Objects XI (XI short for Extreme Insight). Both Business Objects and Crystal standalone versions support OLAP data stores for reporting. All products can accommodate maps in reports, provide conditional formatting control of all objects and report sections, provide report designers the flexibility to resize objects onscreen, and enable you to work offline and create reports in design or preview mode. Business Objects offers a way to author reports on a Web client. Business Objects is well suited to the business user who needs to do ad hoc reporting. Anyone can create reports easily because Business Objects offers an easy-to-use metadata layer from which you can drag and drop objects with business-friendly descriptions into a report. COGNOS ReportNet ReportNet is a new reporting tool by COGNOS built on a Web-native architecture. ReportNet provides ad hoc, managed, and production reporting. It supports dynamic, cascading prompts, a Web-based report designer, powerful ad hoc functionality including strong drill-through, and report hyperlinking from report to report. The data access component of ReportNet is the COGNOS connect manager, which is a Web-centric data access control. Report development environments called studios are geared to specific types of users. Query Studio is a flexible report designer that allows switching from tab to crosstab, creating calculations and building reports quickly with an intuitive interface. Query Studio is geared to the business user who needs to develop reports quickly for presentation. Analysis Studio is a report designer for the business analyst and facilitates doing crosstab reports quickly. Report Studio provides more reporting capabilities and is more suitable for a technically proficient report developer. In all of these studios, you can create and use templates that help you create reports. A rich set of tools (similar to the Reporting Services toolbox) enables you to create sophisticated reports with nested controls. Report Studio also contains 342 Part VI: Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

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Chapter 19 Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular

Chapter 19 Comparing Reporting Services to Other Popular Reporting Tools In This Chapter Introducing other popular reporting tools Comparing data retrieval among tools Comparing report development for tools Comparing publish and access capabilities Comparing management and administration Comparing reporting tool prices In this book, I focus mainly on the power and capabilities of Microsoft Reporting Services. But Microsoft Reporting Services isn t the only available product; other tools have been available longer than Reporting Services. This chapter provides an overview of the capabilities of some of the key reporting and analysis tools available and some comparisons of them. Introducing Other Reporting Platforms Among the top reporting and analysis tools on the market today is Business Objects. Business Objects integrates Crystal Reports and Business Objects reports into a new Business Objects platform. Also, COGNOS introduced a new Web-based reporting tool called ReportNet, which is the company s first new product for its new BI platform architecture. Another leading report writing tool is Microsoft Access. In the following sections, I describe in detail what each of these tools can do. Microsoft Access reporting Microsoft Access is part of the Microsoft Office platform. It offers reporting capabilities that have been proven over many years. Microsoft has continued

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Part VI Migrating from Other Reporting Tools

In this part . . . Just how does Microsoft Reporting Services 2005 stack up against other reporting tools on the market? I explore a few of the popular reporting tools as objectively as possible in this part to provide a comparison analysis. You will understand some of the similarities and differences between Microsoft Reporting Services 2005 and these other popular reporting tools. Okay, you have used other reporting tools before but are now convinced that Microsoft Reporting Services 2005 is the best way to create and distribute your reports. It is time to find out how to covert some of these old reports into Reporting Services 2005 reports.

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