Speaking the language of business intelligence with an Australian accent

Thursday, May 17, 2007

PPS MA - Dashboard Designer Productivity

I plan to post a bit more in the near future on the Monitor & Analyse parts of PerformancePoint. These posts will be prefixed by PPS MA so as to give a little more clarification on what part of PPS the post pertains to. I also hope to get more time to blog on the Plan part too. We'll see...

I wanted to expand a bit on some of the high-level productivity enhancements of the newly designed Dashboard Designer interface. This new UI will enable designers to be far more productive in a much shorter timeframe.

Live & ASP.NET Preview: The ability to preview a scorecard (or report) within the designer application is enormous. No more publishing and then going out to SharePoint to check the effect of a tweak or two to a particular element. What's even more useful is the ASP.NET dashboard preview - you don't even need to deploy or publish the dashboard element in order to see what it looks like and how it functions. The ASP.NET preview is generated using the local IIS instance on the machine DD is running on to create a temporary (fully functioning) version of the dashboard. While you're not actually previewing the dashboard in the Designer app itself you still skip the need to publish or deploy to SharePoint. This kind of sandboxed, disconnected, environment will be welcome news to many.

Drag & drop: Apart from inteacting with OWC components (when creating ReportViews), everything in BSM Builder requires at least one (or many more than one) click - there is no drag & drop functionality at all. If you have a fairly involved scorecard Objective > Perspective > KPI hierarchy, you can expect a pretty tired finger in order to get the layout right. Dashboard Designer brings with it much more drag'n'dropability across the board. This is particularly useful when building scorecard hierarchies. There are still buttons to nudge things up/down/across but the ability to simply place things where they are needed is great. In the shot below the Geography.City attribute is dragged from the Details pane over to the scorecard deign surface and dropped to the left of the cost KPI. We would then configure which members of the attribute we wanted to break the Cost KPI down by.

Server interaction: elements published to the web service are easily accessible and browseable through the main pane. In BSM we have to invoke either Import or Create functions in order to get a glimpse of what is currently published on the server. In DD we have a simple tabbed interface where we choose either Server or Workspace to view or work with elements from either area, simple. DD gives us much more related meta data about interrelated elements too, but I'll cover that in another post soon.

The ribbon: I must admit, I've been a fan of the ribbon concept since I first saw it in Redmond a couple of years ago. It's great to see that it's been brought into DD; it will only make life easier. Something that is also worth noting is the fact that the ribbon is a very extensible interface... we will have the ability to extend just the ribbon and just about every facet of the dashboard designer in a number of ways.

The ribbon layout as we currently know it in CTP2 will be changing. Apparently the design team are planning a reorg to better expose new functionality. We can expect CTP3 some time in June, I am told.

Wizards, wizards, wizards: Lots more wizards for just about every function. Some of the wizards even cross element boundaries, like the Scorecard wizard which provides a step to actually create KPIs for the scorecard you are in the process of building. The plug-in framework that the M&A (Monitor & Analyze) team have used to create these wizards is also available to developers in order to create custom wizards too.

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