Reporting Services 2016 Training: online, free

I’m pleased to present a four-week, on-line SSRS 2016 course on behalf of Microsoft; hosted on the edX platform developed by  Harvard, MIT and other major universities.  The first session began this week but there is still time to get started.  Additional sessions will also be offered in the future.

This is not a promotional free trial or some kind of limited offer to get you to sign-up for a more expensive training class.  It is high-quality, in-depth training sponsored and produced by Microsoft for free, and led by yours truly – and co-presented by Chris Randall; Senior Content Developer for Microsoft Learning Experiences.  The course, with all the materials are free.  If you would like an official verification certificate, it’s optional and a mere $49 extra.  This course provides general knowledge, helps students develop basic, foundational skills and then focuses specifically on data visualization using existing and newer SSRS features.

Analyzing and Visualizing Data with SQL Server Reporting Services

Learn to create mobile reports, paginated reports, and KPIs using business data with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

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In this computer science course, you will learn to build reports with SQL Server Reporting Services, which includes new visualization features and mobile capabilities. You will learn to create reporting solutions, mobile reports and dashboards.

Whether you’re new to reporting services, or experienced with earlier versions, we’ll show you how to build tables, matrices, advanced visualizations, and dashboards with key performance indicators. You’ll design and deploy compelling, interactive reports for smartphones, tablets, and browsers.

By the end of the course, you’ll have developed a complete reporting solution and be ready to analyze and visualize your own business data with SQL Server Reporting Services.

Note: To complete the hands-on elements in this course, you will require an Azure subscription. You can sign up for a free Azure trial subscription (a valid credit card is required for verification, but you will not be charged for Azure services). Note that the free trial is not available in all regions. It is possible to complete the course and earn a certificate without completing the hands-on practices.

Course Syllabus

Skip Syllabus Description Module 1: Report and Dashboard Solutions
This module introduces report concepts, authoring roles, and tools available to create reports and dashboards.
Module 2: Basic Report Design
This module presents the reporting design and deployment ecosystem and lifecycle, report design techniques, and the expressions language of SQL Server Reporting Services.
Module 3: Visual and Interactive Reporting
This module introduces charts, scorecards and dashboards, and how to author analytic reports using data stored in multidimensional cubes and in-memory tabular models.
Module 4: Mobile Report Solutions
This module introduces mobile reports, including layouts and deployment, and how to add key performance indicators (KPIs) to your report environment.
Final Exam
The final exam accounts for 40% of your grade and will be combined with the weekly quizzes to determine your overall score. You must achieve an overall score of 70% or higher to pass this course and earn a certificate.

Meet the instructors

bio for Paul Turley

bio for Chris Randall
Paul Turley
Intelligent Business LLC
Chris Randall
Senior Content Developer, Microsoft Learning Experiences

Learn more and enroll

A companion to the course, my new Professional SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services book from Wrox Press, is in final production and should be available any day now…

Power BI and Excel–the Dynamic Duo

Attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference last week reminded me once again that the most-used data analysis tool in the world is Excel.  This isn’t startling news but it is an important reality that can be easy to ignore until being reminded that users usually want to WORK with their data rather then just seeing their data.

Following are some take-aways and thoughts from the PASS BAC event and recent news on the Excel and Power BI front…

Power BI – Analyze in Excel

– this new capability in Power BI and Excel for many users completes the cycle and brings the product full circle.  I’ve built a lot of Power BI solutions in the past year or so, and the most recognized request from users and stakeholders was that they wanted to know how to work with the data in Excel.  There are a few related features that make this a reality today.

Analyze in Excel is a feature of the Power BI service that allows data in a Power BI model to be (you guessed it…) analyzed in Excel.  More specifically, choosing this option (by clicking a link) opens Excel on your desktop, creates an ODC file containing connection information for the Power BI  as a data source and creates a Pivot Table in the new Excel workbook – all automagically and without user interaction.

At this point, Excel has a live connection to the Power BI model just like any data source (cube or tabular model).  Just add fields to the pivot table… use normal Excel features; add charts, filters, slicers, you name it.  Just do what you do with Excel and it works with your Power BI model data.

This a great for consuming a published Power BI model as a single source of truth in a tool that users know and love to use.

Here’s the cool thing… Power BI can use Excel visuals as dashboard content.  You can pin Pivot Tables, Pivot Charts and entire worksheet selections to a Power BI dashboard tile.  To do this, save the Excel workbook to the OneDrive associated with the Power BI subscription.  Now that Excel can consume the Power BI model as a client, using these features together makes Power BI and Excel part of the same ecosystem and extends the power of the platform rather than just more features of the individual tools.

A companion feature of Excel 2016, Publish to Power BI, makes it much easier to push content to a Power BI subscription.

Tutorial: Use Excel Reports in Published Power BI Subscription

Third Party Power BI Vendor Support

As a fairly new entry in self-service BI and analytics space, we’re all watching Power BI.  Adoption has been impressive as has been Microsoft’s commitment and investment into the platform.  Another heathy sign of any new platform is the investment of vendors.  I’m not endorsing anything but just making some observations.  At the conference, I saw several new third-party additions for Power BI and I’ll share a few as  examples:

Pyramid Analytics – Publish PBIX content on-premises

Pyramid Analytics has one of the most comprehensive add-on products for SQL Server Analysis Services.  It’s an entire suite of server-based visual and reporting tools, along with narrative report authoring and self-service tools that leverage the depth of SSAS and MDX functionality.   Pyramid announced their intent to provide on-premises Power BI publishing in their product last summer and have been working to deliver on what should be available in the next couple of weeks, based on internal build demos I saw at the conference.  This will the first offering for an on-prem collaborative Power BI solution.

PowerON BI – Write-back to Power BI and SSAS tabular for forecasting and planning

I’ve used the Power Update tool from Power On in the past.  When I saw the Power Planner demonstrated, the simplicity and ease-of-use just knocked my socks off.   The ability to write-back forecast data and report on real-time “what-if” scenarios has been a difficult to achieve holy grail in the Microsoft BI space but these guys have it right.  The concept is amazingly simple: in a PivotTable, change the total of any calculated or aggregated measure.  The contributing details and subtotals are proportionally recalculated and written back into the model’s data source and then then refreshed.  Large models using SSAS tabular use small partitions to isolate changes.  We’ve built custom solutions to address specific user requirements using a similar architectural approach (with considerable effort) but this tool seems to be flexible enough for different use cases.  They’ve also created custom visuals that allow data changes to be applied using Power BI visual charts and tables.  Quite nice.

Adam Saxton (aka Guy In A Cube) reviews Power ON BI during his coverage at the PASS Business Analytics Conference.

Custom Visuals – from the community contributors or roll-your-own visuals

In the Fall, the Power BI product team opened the visuals API and provided a development toolkit with sample code in GitHub projects.  Several individuals and companies responded, along with Microsoft, to create 48 (so far) new custom visuals that can be used by any Power BI user to extend their solutions.  A recent entry is the Long Text Viewer that describes a Power BI query in verbose text.  This is a useful for documenting the context of reports and visuals.


Additionally, a new set of Excel-based custom app visuals are in the works from the Excel teams and community.