Fundamental Options for Business Intelligence Style Reporting within Microsoft SharePoint
by Jeffrey Sward
 
Background
 

The need for business intelligence style reporting in a Microsoft SharePoint environment is common. Some features of business intelligence reporting tools include:

  • Reporting of numerical data is tabular format
  • Graphs, charts, and trees
  • Drill downs
  • Pivot tables
  • Cross Tabs
  • Custom calculations
  • Analytical features such as ranking, filtering, sorting, group by etc…
  • Dashboards
  • Exporting in different formats (PDF, XLS, TXT, HTML etc.)

Below are some fundamental choices for business intelligence style reporting in a Microsoft SharePoint environment.

 
Microsoft-Centric Solutions
 
Listed in descending order by cost effectiveness (most cost effective first). All Microsoft-centric solutions are less costly while also less versatile compared to third-party solutions.
 
Item Advantages Disadvantages
Performance Point
  • Most like third party business intelligence reporting tools
  • Versatile
  • Drill downs, dashboards, etc. built in
  • Created primarily for business intelligence style reporting
  • Learning curve
  • Must create multiple Performance Point objects in order to render one report
  • Additional major SharePoint component will require support
Sql Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
  • Relatively easy to create reports with SQL Server skill set
  • Built-in filtering
  • Requires hosting SSRS either within SharePoint or stand alone SSRS server
  • Labor intensive to expand basic functionality
  • Requires SQL Server skill set
  • Drill downs, etc. very labor intensive
Excel services
  • Leverages Excel expertise
  • Excel has rich functionally for business intelligence style reporting (pivot, graphs, etc.)
  • Using Excel as a reporting tool is stretching Excel beyond its native capabilities
  • Additional major SharePoint component (Excel services) will require support
  • End users may clone or inadvertently change existing reporting, potentially creating anarchy or incorrect results
Encapsulated SharePoint or .Net c# application
  • Most versatile of all options
  • Full functionality of .Net Applications
  • Generic .Net applications are not particularly suited for business intelligence style reporting
  • Requires extensive developer effort to create or change
  • Each report essentially a new development effort
  • Drill downs, etc. very labor intensive
InfoPath
  • Microsoft Word type creation tool is relatively simple
  • InfoPath is not particularly suited for business intelligence style reporting
  • End users can easily clone or inadvertently change existing reporting, potentially creating anarchy or incorrect results
  • Drill downs, etc. very labor intensive
     
 
Third Party Solutions
 
Listed in descending order by cost effectiveness (most cost effective first)
 
Item Advantages Disadvantages
Microstrategy
  • Versatile
  • Drill downs, dashboards, etc. built in
  • Created primarily for business intelligence style reporting
  • Microstrategy still an independent company dedicated to business intelligence reporting as their main business
  • Most robust of third party solutions
  • Expensive
  • Requires separate infrastructure
  • Generally requires dedicated administrator
  • First time set up very labor intensive
  • Dependence on third party product

 

Cognos (acquired by IBM)
  • Versatile
  • Drill downs, dashboards, etc. built in
  • Created primarily for business intelligence style reporting
  • Expensive
  • Requires separate infrastructure
  • Generally requires dedicated administrator
  • First time set up very labor intensive
  • Cognos a minor product in IBM suite
  • Dependence on third party product
Business Objects (acquired by SAP)
  • Versatile
  • Drill downs, dashboards, etc. built in
  • Created primarily for business intelligence style reporting
  • Expensive
  • Requires separate infrastructure
  • Generally requires dedicated administrator
  • First time set up very labor intensive
  • Business Objects a minor product in SAP suite
  • Generally requires third party consulting firm for initial setup
  • SAP will not support smaller enterprises directly
  • Dependence on third party product
Application generator such as Iron Speed
  • Initial application generation relatively easy
  • Versatile
  • Full functionality of .Net Applications
  • Application generators support limited functionality
  • Generic .Net applications are not particularly suited for business intelligence style reporting
  • May requires extensive developer effort to change
  • Each report essentially a new development effort
  • Drill downs, etc. very labor intensive
  • Dependence on third party product
     
 
 

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