SQL Server 2012 & Project Server, Part 2– Business data visualisation with PowerView

PowerViewIn this second post looking at some of the new capabilities of SQL Server 2012 and how they can be leveraged in your Project Server farm, we are going to look at PowerView.

PowerView was originally announced as Project Crescent and has wowed pretty much anyone that has seen it. In essence, PowerView allows you to build visualisations of your data using a simple drag and drop interface that are ‘Presentation Ready’ meaning there is no nasty wiring up of data, simply drag your data onto the surface and being analyzing it.

PowerView can leverage data from two types of source, a Tabular model in SQL Server 2012, or a PowerPivot workbook stored in Excel. Of the two, the latter is by far the easiest to get up and running.

To start with I am going to assume you have set up your farm to leverage PowerPivot, this requires adding a special ‘PowerPivot’ analysis services instance to your farm and then configuring the farm to use it. The whole set up experience has gotten better in SQL Server 2012, but it’s still fiddly requiring a wizard to be run and a number of content types to be manually added to the relevant reporting library. There is a great video taking you through the whole process here , including how to set up the server side and the Excel client PowerPivot add-on.

In my case, I was keen to try out PowerView against Timesheet data mainly because I worked at an organization that used timesheets extensively and was familiar with the data model and some particular reporting use cases I wanted to try.

To start with we need to import the Project Server data into PowerPivot. To do this, open up the PowerPivot for Excel add-on and choose to import from a SQL Server Database.

Get data from SQL Server

 

A table import wizard will be shown, configure it to point at your Project Server Reporting database and click next twice, you will then be presented with a list of all the tables and views available in the database to use for reporting. As I am interested in timesheet info, I am going to pull in some timesheet only tables and a couple of the generic _userview tables.

Importing into PowerPivot

 

PowerPivot will then proceed to import the tables and this is where the really clever stuff will start, in most cases PowerPivot will be able to automatically infer the relationship between the tables, but as I have chosen to pull in the EPMProject_UserView and EPMResource_UserView tables I need to help it with the relationships.

 

PowerPivot Relationships

Creating a relationship is pretty easy, simply choose ‘Create Relationship’ from the design ribbon and select the relevant tables and joins.

 

Manually create relationships

The final step before building the PowerView was to save the PowerPivot back into the gallery in SharePoint.

PowerPivot uploaded into SharePoint

 

Once the PowerPivot Excel spreadsheet is in SharePoint we can start to build the PowerView by clicking on the PowerView icon which will open the designer.

Create Power View Report

The designer will show a design surface on the left and a list of entities on the right hand side. To start building the PowerView simply select the relevant information on the entities and drag it onto the design surface.

PowerView Designer

PowerView will automatically highlight the entities that are related from the relationships either detected automatically or manually set.

Once the entities have been dragged onto the design surface, PowerView allows the user to select the best way to visualize the data, allowing the user to change the layout and visualization method (table, graph or tiles). The PowerView can also be further refined through the use of slicers and filters.

PowerView visualisation

So in about 15 minutes I put the above timesheet analysis PowerView together, showing all resources in the organisation, and a breakdown of Planned & Billable work across the month, week and projects all with a few drag and drops.

The real power of course comes from interacting with the PowerView, so clicking on a resource name will change the data, clicking on the projects of hours breakdown will automatically cause other parts of the PowerView to filter as can be seen below.

Filtered PowerView Visualisation

There are a number of other parts to PowerView that I haven’t explored in this post, specifically things like Play Axis that allows you to see data sets changing over time, which would be interesting to wire up to some of Project Server timephased data, the ability to embed the visualisation into a PowerPoint slide, card and tile visualiations to name but a few. Luckily Microsoft have released an excellent tutorial over at TechNet that takes you through the process of building PowerView from start to finish. If you have SQL Server 2012 installed and are using Project Server 2010, I challenge you to get cracking to wire up some Project data and amaze your executives and PMO !!

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2 thoughts on “SQL Server 2012 & Project Server, Part 2– Business data visualisation with PowerView

  1. Thanks for a very informative article. Some of our customers are hesitant to use Excel as an end-user Ad-Hoc reporting tool and they need some sort of tool which can be used by Executive Management for Ad-hoc reporting needs. Powerview seem to fit the bill.

    I have a question, My customer regularly archives completed projects in Project Server 2010. But he still want to see those projects data (basic data like Project Category, Department Name, Year Compeleted etc) in SSRS Reports. Now once the Project gets archived, it gets removed from Reporting Database and Quering directly against Archived database is not supported by Microsoft.

    What is the best way to show Archived Projects data in Reports?

    • Your best bet would be to do some form of logical archiving, where you use a flag or custom field to hide the project from views / filters etc. That way the info will stay in the Reporting DB and be available for your reporting, but not necessarily visible in the UI.

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