Author: Norm Warren, Mariano Teixeira Neto, John Campbell & Stacia Misner
Publisher: Microsoft Press, 2011
Aimed at: SQL developers and SharePoint administrators
Pros: A readable and understandable introduction to BI in SharePoint
Cons: Runs out before getting into code
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank
The title of this book sounds like a developer's bad dream; if you had to pick two topics where the users won't know what they want, but will blame you when you do as they ask and it doesn't meet all their needs, Business Intelligence and SharePoint must be pretty high up the list. Putting the two together sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, SharePoint 2010 has some rather neat BI tricks hidden up its voluminous sleeves, so you shouldn't write off the idea as completely stupid. In addition, this is actually a book that avoids most of the hype and incomprehensible terms, and actually tells you what to do, how to do it, and why you're doing it in the first place.
The book kicks off with a chapter called Business Intelligence in SharePoint, where the authors explain what they mean by BI, how Microsoft approaches the topic, and how SharePoint fits in. The next chapter makes the overall problem even clearer by considering which tool to choose from Microsoft's many options - SQL Server Reporting Services in SharePoint, PerformancePoint Services, the Excel 2010 PowerPivot add-in, Excel Services, and so on. Each option is given a short summary, and a suggested list of 'Use this tool to...' cases. This is a very useful outline, because faced with nine tools running within SharePoint, you might well be losing the will to live. Chapter 3 continues to depress by considering the difficulty of providing data that is trustworthy. It's another good relatively high level description of the stages of going from a database to user reports drawn from SQL Server Analysis Services cubes. This outline would be useful for either of the intended audiences, as it does a good job of explaining in reasonably clear terms what the stages are and what you're actually trying to do.
The next four chapters each take a detailed look at one of the BI services in SharePoint and how to use it. The first of these chapters covers Excel Services, showing how to create a workbook that shows a BI report. Next, PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint is introduced, with good clear descriptions of when to use the different versions, what advantages they offer, and how to create and use a PowerPivot Workbook. Visio Services also gets a chapter; for me, this was the least successful of the chapters, but that might be because I've never really been convinced that adding diagrams to the already convoluted process of understanding data is a good idea.
PerformancePoint Services is the final of the chapters looking at individual services. If you're familiar with earlier incarnations of Microsoft BI systems, PerformancePoint Services is the successor to Office Business Scorecard Manager, and like its predecessor lets you work with dashboards, scorecards and Key Performance Indicators. Next there's an understandable chapter on bringing it all together to create a BI system with a dashboard, an Excel workbook, a Visio drawing, SharePoint PKIs and PerformancePoint webparts.
The book finishes with three good appendices. The first is a discussion of Virtual Machine Setup and SharePoint Configuration, a topic that has reduced strong men to tears. The second appendix is a DAX function reference. DAX - Data Analysis eXpressions - is PowerPivot's query language, and it's enough like Excel's functions to not pose a problem. Finally, there's an appendix looking at SharePoint as a Service in Office 365, Microsoft' recently introduced cloud-based offering of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Office Pro Plus. This appendix is more theoretical discussion of the cloud and how things work in theory, and is probably the weakest element of the book.
Overall, I was surprisingly impressed by this book. It's readable, understandable, and useful - three words I didn't expect to use when describing ANYTHING to do with BI and SharePoint. It would be a good book for a SharePoint administrator to read so they understand what's going on, and would give a useful introduction to a developer who needed to know how things fit together in SharePoint and just which bit they should be using and how. My one caveat is that for developers, the book doesn't go far enough into sample systems and code.