Continuing on from the What’s New post, here are some of the changes and improvements to the product. This post covers some of the more subtle changes and improvements to the product. You could argue that some of these belong in the “what’s new” post, but let’s not split hairs here.
Again this is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think I’ve got most of major ones in here. As before I’d love to include screenshots but cannot because they’re from the Beta 1 build and MS have asked me not to include these. Beta 2 should hopefully be out some time this month.
Analytic Charts & Grids
The overall improvements to the Analytic report engine both from a designer and end user perspective continues to get better. Here are some of the major improvements.
Improved chrome - Charts now look shinier. Like pie charts this is something that many users will appreciate but doesn’t really add any significant analytical value. Nonetheless pretty things tend to impress some users.
Select measures - Users can add or remove individual measures from chart or grid using a set of checkboxes.
Interactive chart labels - In PPS 2007 the graphical elements themselves i.e. the bars or lines within the graphs were the interactive parts. The labels on the X and Y axes of graphs can now also be right-clicked to expose interactive functionality too.
Filtering - Top / Bottom N filtering capabilities are available for both end users and developers.
SSAS cell formatting surfaced - Cube-based cell formats will be brought through and displayed in analytic grids. [Big round of applause]
Per measure formatting – The format of individual members can be altered in the designer. Nice feature but because the analytic reports are pulling data from a cube the formats should be correctly applied therein to begin with.
No more design time browse button - In order to test the interactivity of a particular analytic report there is no need to launch a separate window via the Browse button. Designers can interact with the charts and grids directly.
Better cube object browser experience - The cube metadata in the Details Browser is properly organized in the way we are used to within SSMS, Excel and others. Dimension attributes, attribute hierarchies and folders are grouped within their parent dimension containers. You can also filter the content of the pane for a specific measure group.
In general there are several new interactivity & layout capabilities that have made their way into scorecards. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the changes to this element fully. Suffice it to say that there will be more opportunities for people to try and make scorecards into reports by treating the scorecard element as a pivot table and then being disappointed when it doesn’t deliver the exact functionality they expect. Hopefully the new scorecard power will be used with appropriate responsibility.
Dynamic dimensional axes – scorecards support user interactivity with dimension hierarchies. In PPS 2007 you had to add individual members or sets and craft the axis hierarchy by hand. Now you can add, say, the All member of the Product Categories hierarchy and you will have full interactive access to all its descendants within the scorecard.
New target metric display settings - have a new set of dialogs with several new options including the ability to calculate and display the variance between the target and its associated actual. You can also configure the variance calculation to show either a Percentage of Variance or just a number. Within the Percentage of variance there is an option to show either a Difference from value or Progress toward value.
Security per data source element - This is a really good one. Security context can now be configured on each individual data source element. In PPS 2007 data source security was a server level setting and was a source of many questions in the PPS forum. In the latest version you can choose what security scenario you’d like to apply to each data source definition within Dashboard Designer. The two primary methods being the use of the Unattended Service Account or Per-User Security. The only difference between the SSAS and Tabular data source configuration options respect is the SSAS data sources offer the ability to make use the CustomData connection string property as well.
Multiple actuals per KPI – You can now create more than one Actual within an individual KPI. This one sounds trivial but it’s not, it opens up the door to much richer KPIs. BSM and PPS 2007 supported exactly one actual metric per KPI. Because you can now have more than one actual the designer provides the ability to link each target metric to the appropriate actual metric.
Metric cloning - When configuring the data source of a specific metric you can point towards another metric and clone its settings. So you’ve already created a metric that has a data source, calculation or setting that you want to clone you can point the data source property of your new metric to the existing metric. Under the covers Dashboard Designer copies the settings of the target metric into your new metric. A nice time saver. Note however that this is a one time clone of settings, the element definitions will not remain synced thereafter.
Calculated metrics – When configuring the data source property of a metric there are some new dialogs to help configure calculations. Using them you can create calculations that reference other KPI metrics. Some pre-built calculation will be available such as Growth as Percentage, all you need to do is fill in the formula to reference the appropriate metrics. The PPS team posted some details on this new feature the other day. This may come in handy for KPIs that source metric data from different places. On the other hand, if your KPI sources data from a single cube these kind of calculations should be baked into the cube itself whenever possible.
Time Intelligence Formulas
Two new functions have been added to the STPS. They are the <PeriodName>ToDate and the Full<PeriodName> functions. They have been created to enable better period-to-date functionality. But couldn’t we already to that kind of stuff with the original PPS TI formulas? Sort of. If you wanted to do a YTD using PPS 2007’s TI functionality you would define a range of values with an STPS formula. This would return a set of appropriate period members. For example Year.FirstMonth : Year.Month would return a set of month members from Jan-Nov for the current year. This was great if you wanted to apply the set of members across a scorecard or report axis but it did not help if you wanted to do something like provide a YTD column on a Scorecard using TI. The new functions fill that need. When used together the …ToDate and Full… functions return an aggregation object of sorts as opposed to a set of members. For example the STPS formula YearToDate.FullMonth returns a TI aggregation object for the year-to-date value up to the last full month. QuarterToDate.FullDaty returns an aggregation object for the current quarter up to the last full day.