Business Intelligence Tools in the SharePoint 2010 Toolkit - dummies

Business Intelligence Tools in the SharePoint 2010 Toolkit

Being able to make sense of your data is where the concepts of business intelligence (BI) and performance management come in. Much of the content you have in your SharePoint 2010 sites is technically business intelligence, but often this information may be stored and arranged to benefit a working team and may not be visible or integrate with other pieces of the data puzzle for your organization.

Business data can include enterprise databases, spreadsheets, lists, reports, charts, diagrams, presentations, and so forth. SharePoint supports all this content and includes new tools to work with specific types of content, such as Access Services and Visio Services. SharePoint 2010 also includes a Business Intelligence Center site template, which includes the Microsoft PerformancePoint Dashboard Designer.

Chances are you’ve already used many of these tools and applications in or out of SharePoint 2010.

Here are some of the major players in your SharePoint BI toolkit:

  • Analysis and ad-hoc reporting: Creating one-off reports with reporting tools like SQL Reporting Services or Crystal Reports.

  • Excel spreadsheets: Ahh, the old standby. If SharePoint is the Swiss Army knife of applications, Excel is the Swiss Army knife of analytical software.

  • Excel support in SharePoint: If Excel is your application/file of choice, you can always upload Excel spreadsheets to a SharePoint library, especially if multiple people need to be able to access and edit the file.

    • New Pivot Table add-in: Extra power for large spreadsheets that allow users to pivot large amounts of data in SharePoint.

    • Excel Services: Perhaps you want users to use a spreadsheet you built and/or a tool you made with Excel, such as a calculator, but not have them change the file itself. That’s what Excel Services is for. Plus, your users don’t have to have Excel installed on their computers.

  • Other analytical support in SharePoint:

    • Access Services: A new feature that allows you to create an Access database on your own computer and then publish or convert it to SharePoint components. Your tables turn into SharePoint lists, and your forms and reports run in the browser.

    • SharePoint lists: Don’t forget that SharePoint lists are great for tracking, have built-in input forms, and allow for filtering, sorting, grouping, and totaling, as well as have calculated columns.

    • Business Data Services: Allows you to connect to backend data sources and integrate the data into SharePoint without code.

  • Standard reporting: Although some of your reports may be in Excel, chances are that your organization uses enterprise-wide databases, such as SQL Server, with a reporting tool to produce necessary reports generated on a schedule.

    SQL Server has a Reporting Services component, which has multiple tools that integrate with Office and SharePoint Services. You can access data from the database, but you can also use it to access data from SharePoint lists and store the reports in SharePoint libraries. These kinds of reports are generally run at specific timeframes with well-defined outputs, as opposed to ad-hoc reports.

  • Business intelligence and performance management visualization (graphic stuff): Uh oh, another buzz word — visualization. People have so many names for the ways they display their performance and business data, visualization covers the whole gamut.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So is a chart, diagram dashboard, scorecard, status list, and so forth. The status of your organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance is going to hit home faster and resonate more with graphical representations.