Alan Whitehouse's Ramblings

Continuing to work until my heavy investment in lottery tickets finally pays off….

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    The views expressed in this blog, while intelligent and always right, are strictly my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone else with which I am in any way affiliated. And don't forget, I own the rights to all information on this blog (except for the stuff I stole from other people).
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Creating a Microsoft BI Demo Environment

Posted by Alan on October 26, 2011

One of the big struggles I have had over the past few years is the ability to do a comprehensive sales, proof of concept or training demo that covers the entire Microsoft BI Stack and always being able to present practically anything in any combination without the luxury of a huge lead time.  Why has this been a problem?  Well it is all due to the fact that the robustness of the Microsoft BI stack is really a double-edged sword.  On the positive side, I have a ton of great functionality to choose from that can be molded to fit the unique needs of the client.  On the downside side, staying on top of all the potential moving parts has become more and more difficult over time as the product line has grown.

So up to this point I have been pretty much been relying upon the virtual images that Microsoft creates, albeit it with tweaks and modifications of my own.  Over the course of time I have worked with many versions of the Microsoft All-Up BI demo.  The 7.1 version was a great start and the first one with which I ever worked.  I am not sure if a 8.x image was ever produced, but if it was I don’t believe it was ever made available to the general public.  The 9.2 image sucked big time and that is an understatement.  And the latest image entitled “X” (for 10 I assume) is fantastic and really shows the potential of the products and has a great deal of “eye candy” as well.  In fact, you can visit the Microsoft Online Demo Solutions site and check out 9.5 and X and judge for yourself.

Now I know Microsoft puts in a lot of effort into these and for the most part does a great job, but all these images share one fatal flaw.  Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Business Intelligence, Excel, Microsoft, Office, PerformancePoint, PowerPivot, SharePoint, SQL Server | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Comment on Microsoft’s Mobile BI Roadmap

Posted by Alan on October 18, 2011

At the SQL PASS conference last week Microsoft made an announcement on their Mobile BI Roadmap.  For a quick synopsis you can read a post by Mary-Jo Foley over at the ZDNet site.  I wasn’t at PASS but based on her and some other posts and sources I have spoken with a couple of things jumped out at me on their announcements.

The first announcement is that some time in the first half of 2012 is that Microsoft will enable their existing corporate BI Web-based solutions to run in browsers on Apple’s iOS and Windows devices.  I guess the assumptions here is greater support natively for the Safari browser on iOS desktop (not iPad) and support for Windows Phone 7.5.  While this is a nice announcement I don’t think it was what most of us were hoping for.  The phone offering is great but I have not yet lost a deal due to support for displaying BI data on a phone regardless of the operating system.  The iOS announcement is better news but I really wonder what it means in terms of adoption.  Most of the companies I have worked with have Apple desktop users in-house.  Mostly these are the creative folk and in these clients the IT departments have also deployed things like Citrix or Terminal Services so these Apple uses can access all the non-creative applications they need to use on a daily basis.  I think the real take away here, and what I am happy to see, is that Microsoft has now publicly recognized that there is a business opportunity to be had with publishing the end-user BI interaction to devices other than Windows desktops.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Business Intelligence, Microsoft, PerformancePoint, SharePoint | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Update on the TGO Planning Solution

Posted by Alan on October 7, 2011

It has been a while since I did any serious posting.  My off hours have been busy with summer activities (mostly drinking beer and mojitos on the back deck) and work has been consumed with our new planning solution.  Any of you who have followed me know about my long and sordid history with planning solutions.  To avoid the pains of the past we here at TGO Consulting decided to take matters into our own hands and over the past 6 months have been working on building our own solution.

I am very happy to report that a half-year of joy, frustration, awe, anger and a dozen other emotions has finally resulted in our first release.  Below is our first semi-formal write-up for True Sky Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting.  I am sure it will undergo some marketing transformations as we refine our message, but it should give you a good overview of what we have accomplished.

* * * * * *
True Sky Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting™ is a powerful and flexible solution that helps organizations manage and streamline their planning process.  The basic philosophy of True Sky™ can best be described as:

  • Budget in Excel
  • Manage in SharePoint
  • Store in SQL Server

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Excel, SharePoint, SQL Server, True Sky Planning | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Looks Like Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 Metro Won’t Be Playing Nice with Microsoft BI

Posted by Alan on September 19, 2011

The other day I had a little free time and installed the Developer Preview of Windows 8 on my Asus EP121 slate.  All in all, the Metro interface they have developed so far works very well on the slate.  You can definitely tell the software is pre-beta, but you can get a great feeling of how well this interface will work on a slate.  Especially for those of us who want a slate to be not just a content consumption tool but a content creation tool as well. 

So as I have been playing with things, I have also been reading blogs about what is happening with Windows 8.  One of the things that jumped out at me was that according to a post in the Building Windows 8 blog, if you use the Internet Explorer 10 browser that launches natively within the Metro interface you will be launching a HTML5 focused browser that prevents the loading of add-ins.  I am guessing that the reason for this is the tendency of certain plug-ins to suck up an exorbitant amount of battery and the fact that Metro is geared towards tablets, then battery is everything.  So the first thing that comes to mind for most people is support for Flash.  But I think that the success of the iPad has proven that you can get along without Flash.  

However, what also came to mind to me was the loss of Silverlight and ActiveX and what that means to Business Intelligence.  Both Silverlight and ActiveX are used quite a bit within SharePoint and the Microsoft BI stack.  For instance the Decomposition Tree and the upcoming Project Crescent are both Silverlight based and a ton of SharePoint uses ActiveX.  Luckily the engineers at Microsoft at least give us the option of switching to the “desktop” version of IE which does support plug-ins, but that transition is certainly not a seamless one or at least it isn’t right now. 

I get why Microsoft is doing this but for me personally I don’t like someone else making the decision on which plug-ins I can or cannot use.  Force me to install from an application store, give me warnings about performance and batter life up the wazzu, make me click “yes I understand” a dozen times — but let me make the choice.  If I didn’t want a choice I would buy from a guy wearing a turtleneck.

Posted in Microsoft, PerformancePoint, SharePoint | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »