Modern Reporting with SSRS 2016 & 2017, and Report Tool Options – PASS Sessions

It’s official.  The PASS Summit schedule was announced and I will be doing three sessions:  A full-day preconference, a regular session and a panel discussion with other industry professionals.  Come back to this post for follow-up information and selections of content from these sessions after the event.

The PASS Summit is my favorite event of the year and I always leave with so much valuable insight and information.  PASS is my annual battery recharge for the rest of the year.  It is a vibrant community of professionals and industry leaders who love to share and exchange learnings.  Not just an opportunity to attend sessions presented by top-notch experts and product owners from Microsoft but Summit presents many real opportunities to sit and talk, meet and socialize with these industry influencers.  My perspectives change and I go back to my clients, classrooms and projects with solutions and a fresh new approach.  I’ve been going to the PASS Summit for twelve years and every year is literally the best Summit ever.  In the industry, there is no better investment of time and energy compared with what you will gain by attending.  I look forward to meeting many of you at Summit.  Please introduce yourself and say ‘Hello’.

My session descriptions are following.  It was an honor to be selected to present a full-day preconference session.  Thanks to the program committee for this great privelege!

Modern Reporting with SQL Server 2016 and 2017 Reporting Services
The full-day preconference session is on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 from 8:30 to 4:30.

The 2016 product release was a big upgrade that, once again, brought SSRS into center stage as a market-leading reporting and dashboard design tool for operational and BI reporting.  The big news was that SSRS reports truly run in all modern web browsers and work on mobile devices and all desktops in a new modern web portal.  The introduction of Mobile Reports, formerly known as Datazen, gives mobile device users interactive, tactile and actionable dashboard style reporting on all the popular mobile smartphones and tablets.  The 2017 product brings even more goodness with the integration of Power BI Report Server, on-premises Power BI report integration in a cloud-free platform.  Join Paul for a full-day pre-conference session where you will explore new capabilities and learn to integrate modern reporting into your data platform.

The Data Visualization Panel Discussion is on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 4:45 PM.  This is a 75 minute session.  Join Mico Yuk, Ginger Grant, Meagan Longoria, Chris Webb and myself for an engaging discussion about data visualization tools, choices and challenges.

Your Complete BI Toolbelt: Using Power BI, Excel & SSRS Together to Create Integrated BI Solutions
This is also a 75 minute session on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017 at 10:45.

How do you choose the right reporting tool for the job? Everyone knows that Power BI brings kick-butt visuals and interactions but it doesn’t do multi page reports for print, Excel dishes meat and potato financial sheets and pivot reports but they always look like, well, spreadsheets; and of course our old friend Reporting Services delivers highly-formatted, multi-page reports but it just doesn’t look good in yoga pants anymore. Can we use these tools together? You bet your sweet patootie, we can. Come and learn how to choose the right tool for the job. I will show you how to orchestrate beautiful business solutions by stitching these bad boys together using actions and drill-through navigation…. and maybe a few tricks you haven’t seen before.

Mobile Reporting in SSRS 2016 and 2017

If you are a Reporting Services practitioner, the Microsoft mobile report story can be a little confusing with two very different choices.  As I’m preparing to deliver a full day preconference session for the PASS Summit on October 31st titled “Modern Reporting with SQL Server 2016 and 2017 Reporting Services” and a general session during the main conference tiled “Clear Skies and Not a Cloud in Sight – Power BI On-Prem”, this has me pondering about what my mobile reporting message will be.  Being part of the Microsoft MVP Program and participating on a number of product team advisory boards provides insight into how things often work at Microsoft and how products tend to evolve and align over time.  I am forever enthusiastic about using and promoting Microsoft BI and reporting tools, but I am not bound by any covenant to adhere to a simplified marketing message from Microsoft or any other company.  To that end, I share some thoughts about the current state of mobile reporting…

This is the story of two products – or rather one product that is now a service and another product that is now a component of another product.  A few years ago, Microsoft began to formulate a mobile usability story among many fragmented tools.  They had a really good reporting product: SSRS, and they had a pretty good self-service BI capability offered as a bunch of Excel add-ins; namely: Power Pivot, Power Query and Power View – but it didn’t do mobile.  They bought Datazen which was a decent mobile reporting and dashboard tool, designed primarily for IT developers and semi-tech-savvy business pros to quickly create mobile dashboards using traditional data sources.  Datazen wasn’t really a self-service BI tool and wasn’t really designed to work with BI data in the true sense.  It was a good power user report tool but was young and needed to be refined and matured as a product.  Datazen became “Reporting Services Mobile Reports” and was integrated into the SSRS platform as a separate reporting experience with a separate design tool, optimized exclusively for use on mobile devices using platform-specific mobile phone and tablet apps.  Since initial roll-out, product development stalled and has not changed at all since it was released with SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition.

Meanwhile, the “Power…” Excel add-ins evolved into Power BI, a free downloadable desktop tool that requires no other Microsoft products and a cloud-based service that requires no other investment but a monthly per-user subscription.  Now there are multiple deployment, scaling and licensing options.  Power BI has been wildly successful and Microsoft continues to sink a ton of resources into the ongoing development, support and innovation of the Power BI platform brand.  Today, Power BI has a very solid mobile story.  Like the Datazen/SSRS Mobile Reports product, it runs on all modern mobile devices in platform-specific phone and tablet apps.  Reports render to HTML5 so it works in all modern web browsers on desktops and mobile devices.  In short, Power BI is all that – with a very bright future; and SSRS Mobile Reports is well, it is what it was when it started – and its future is a little unclear.  And, to make the choice just a little more cloudy, Power BI integrates with Reporting Services in a number of different ways.

Yours truly started writing a book about SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services with Mobile Reports about two years ago when the Datazen was all the rage and Power BI was just a marketing tag line for Excel-based Power Pivot and SharePoint.  In my Wrox Press book, “Professional SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services with Mobile Reports” I thoroughly covered the SSRS mobile reporting capabilities and I still believe it to be a good choice for certain scenarios.  Now that I’m working with consulting clients to add mobile and self-service features on top of reporting and BI solutions, I tend to discuss the capabilities of Power BI before introducing SSRS mobile (if ever).  So here’s my boiled-down analysis and advice at this point in the rapidly-changing mobile BI landscape…

If you need self-service BI that can be viewed on mobile devices, use Power BI.  If it needs to run on-premises without cloud services, the new Power BI Report Server may be the right ticket but some of the mobile capabilities are still in the works.  Either way, SSRS And Power BI are are good pair of tools that Microsoft plans to support for the foreseeable future.

If you need mobile reports developed by IT pros or dedicated report designers in an on-premises (non-cloud) solution for your company, SSRS Mobile Reports should be a consideration but also consider whether Power BI will meet your needs.  If so, it may offer better options and capabilities in the long-term.  Make sure you understand the data latency and volume limitations, and keep in mind that SSRS Mobile Report Reports requires a SQL Server Enterprise license.  Like SSRS Paginated reports, there are no user restrictions for a licensed server.

Consider the licensing options for Power BI.  If you need to support hundreds of users, you will either need to budget for monthly individual user Power BI Pro licenses, SQL Server Enterprise with Software Assurance and/or Power BI Premium to support any number of read-only report users (retail list price is ~5K per month).  Also consider that SSRS Mobile Reports is an Enterprise license feature.  If your company is a SQL Server Standard license shop with no plans to upgrade, your choice is pay monthly per user for Power BI Pro or to make do with standard paginated reports.

Following are links to my upcoming sessions at PASS Summit 2018:

Modern Reporting with SQL Server 2016 and 2017 Reporting Services

Clear Skies and Not a Cloud in Sight – Power BI On-Prem

…and here are the slides from last week’s session at SQL Saturday Vancouver, BC on August 26th:

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