Extending Reporting Services with additional elements and client side script

In the age of HTML5 one of the most interesting extensions to SSRS is the ability to run client side script. Add to that several new elements that allow you to include IDs and custom CSS classes to any SSRS element , turn any textbox into any HTML Input type and turn any SSRS rectangle into an HTML Form, Iframe, scrollable region or custom HTML. At Forerunner Software we are giving you all of the features you have been wanting in SSRS. Client side script and RDL extensions open up an almost unlimited set of new scenarios significantly increasing the interactivity and ability to integrate reports into other applications. Below are just a couple of example that users have done.

  • Using client side script and input elements you can quickly turn reports into data input forms with no server side code and very little script.
  • Inline parameters in the report body with any layout using input elements and script
  • Scrollable data regions, allowing more flexible layout options
  • What-if calculations
  • Highlighting elements or rows on mouse over
  • Using CSS to style your report
  • Embed dynamic HTML5 into your report anywhere
  • Include a mini application or view with an Iframe
  • Add buttons, radio button, check boxes, dates controls, multi-line textareas and much more anywhere in your report
  • Much much more…

Combining the powerful data processing and layout capabilities of SSRS with new layout elements and client side script makes choosing to use SSRS in your applications and BI solutions easy.

Mobile Reporting with SSRS made possible without redesigning your reports

One of the key issues facing BI professionals and application developers is delivering consumable and actionable data to every device in today’s multiscreen world. Many applications are building mobile targeted or mobile friendly experiences, but when it comes to reporting, small screens are a big challenge. The biggest of these challenges is how to maintain context of the data on a 10 inch or worse on a 4 inch screen? Add to that needing to maintain interactivity so the users can drill and sort their data on these small screens. There just isn’t enough space to easily see the necessary dimensions to accurately understand the data.

One solution is to build special purpose reports for each device size and limit the amount of data based on the device. This solution works well except that it requires a lot of work to design, build and maintain because you now need to build and update at least 3 times as many reports. It also limits the usefulness of the reports because they can only show summary or limited details. So maybe you only do this for a select few reports. This also works, for a little while, but this list will continue to grow as users and managers want more information at their fingertips.

What is really needed is an automatic solution that will reformat any report and optimize it for any screen size. With this approach you only need to design, build and maintain one report and all of your users can get their actionable data on any device. At Forerunner Software we have solved this for you with our Patent Pending technology that will reformat any SSRS report and optimize it for any device size. We can do this because unlike the SSRS Report Viewer the Forerunner Mobilizer Report Viewer is a true HTML5 control that renders the report on the client. Combining the power of SSRS and HTML5 provides an ideal user experience with a fast, responsive solution on any device.

Many of you who have built special purpose reports to solve this may be skeptical. It takes a lot of work to convert a report to work on a small device, without losing any data or interactivity. Forerunner customers are amazed at how easy and powerful it is. The secret is a deep understanding of SSRS and sophisticated reformat engine that runs on the client. The benefit of doing this on the client is not only do you know the device size, it also enables the format engine to quickly reformat when the orientation changes without going back to the server, allowing the user to see more columns or more rows depending on the report.

So how does it all work you ask? Because of the power and potential complexity of SSRS reports the reformat engine is a multi-phase process.

First, all of the report elements that are not visible on the screen are moved to the left. Since SSRS elements are hierarchical they are moved from the outside in, keeping the formatting as much as possible. This means if you have a tablix or rectangle they are moved first, then only if the elements are still not visible will they also be moves left until all elements are visible.

Second, the engine restructures all tablices and hides all of the columns that are not visible in an expandable new row section under each row. In this way all of the data is available with the most important data visible by default. To determine the most important data the report designer can prioritize the columns to tell the engine in which order to hide columns. Where it get really complicated is determining what data is headers and what is data. With the combination of the report definition, and report designer hints it is possible to make any report work great on any device.

What’s even better is even though the elements and columns are moving they still maintain all of their interactivity. If a drilldown or sort column is hidden ,then each new expandable row section has the ability to drilldown or resort the data. If you are still unconvinced try it out for FREE on your own reports with the Mobilizer free trial.

Jason Carlson
Founder & Chief Forerunner
www.forerunnersw.com

Analytics and Reporting have less overlap than you think

Throughout my career I have talked to a lot of companies looking at BI tools and vendors and asking if they should consolidate on a single solution for reporting and analytics.  They don’t necessary say it this way, usually it is “should we have a single BI tool”, but in the end the big question is analytics vs reporting.  The theory, and what many BI tool vendors will tell you, is that there would be less training, less maintenance, better insight and lower costs with one tool.  Most companies I see that go down this path either were not successful or did not see the results they were hoping for.

The reason is that the high-end analytical tools that the sophisticated data power users want and need are overkill and in most cases confusing to everyone else who just needs reports.  Even the word “report” is ambiguous, I cannot tell you how many times we debated the word “report” inside Microsoft.  For the sake of this discussion I will define a report as flexible layout of information with limited interactivity and a View as a powerful experience that enables the user to slice, dice and reform the data.

Forerunner Software

Forerunner Software


Most users simply need a report with the data presented to them in a familiar format; so that they can make a decision or take an action.  They do not have the training, time, or inclination to use more sophisticated Views.  On the other hand the sophisticated user needs powerful, intuitive tools to discover new insights.  Then validate and test them before incorporating them into practice.  This is also one of the risks with a single tool approach.  Unless you have the discipline, experience and training it can be hard to know if the insights you think you have found are real.  Making decisions based on flawed analysis can be devastating in any part of your business.

Of course one of the biggest factors is cost.  The high-end tool vendors want to sell their tools per user, and since they are so powerful they also want a premium.  They will sell them at volume discounts to make it seem like it is a great deal, just look at the power all of your users will have access to at a fraction of the cost  They will show you how easy their tools are and try to show you that anyone can use them.  I will tell you that is not the case.  I have been to many different companies and most employees have a hard enough time getting everything they need to do done without spending more time on powerful and potentially confusing data tools.  Some people will try to tell you that Excel is the solution, everyone can use Excel right?  If only that was the case, all you have to do is watch and listen to someone who gets a spreadsheet from a Excel power user and glaze over with all of the columns and formulas.

But everyone needs access to data.  I have worked with nurses, teachers, truck drivers, billers, admins, writers, you name it; they all need information from various systems to do their job well.  More and more these users are not at a desk with a computer.  The work place has expanded outside the office and is moving faster with many new and powerful devices.  If you have used Uber, been in a hospital or a classroom you know this is true.  Devices are everywhere and most of the users are used to a consumer experience.

Just as the powerful Views are not great for many users, reports and reporting tools are not great for the data power users.  Most reporting tools focus on data presentation and delivery, while analytic tools focus on data discovery and visualization.  There are fewer power users and they should have the best and most sophisticated tools to help your company compete and win.  They should not be limited by tools that try to do it all, this is where best of breed and higher cost is fully justified.  Once a new insight is verified it is usually very little work to turn this into a report.  In my experience over 90% of the effort in building a report is knowing what you want it to say and how to get the data.

So what is the right answer?  In my experience the companies who are having the most success are using both reporting and analysis tools that are optimized for each workload.  They can be from the same vendor or different vendors, but they provide each user base with the data they need and the power they can use.  The company can spend a premium on the power users because there are less of them and have a broad based reporting solution that allows everyone to get the data they need.

Jason Carlson
Founder & Chief Forerunner
www.forerunnersw.com

The Modern Mobile BI Boom

The concept of modern, mobile BI has undoubtedly crystallized with the advent of smartphones, tablets and phablets. It’s no surprise users now demand access to the same level of sophistication to which they are accustomed via computer screens on their consumption devices of choice.

Shortly after the exciting PASS Summit, Forerunner Software continues in it’s vital mission to help organizations create mobile BI strategies and unleash SSRS to different departments and first time end users who need cost effective access to sales and operational data.

“Any technology vendor can claim to offer innovative products and groundbreaking technology, but only a select few such as Forerunner can truly impact end users productivity anywhere, anytime, on any device,” states Forerunner Founder Jason Carlson.

While most BI visual front ends still use technology not supported by mobile browsers (Silverlight, Flash, etc.) and smaller screens have to accommodate the same amount of information, Mobilizer 3.0 is capable of delivering visually compelling, interactive, easy-to-use dashboards and reports to business executives and workers wherever they are.

With a patent pending respondent UI, Mobilizer 3.0 automatically resizes and aligns to the left on mobile devices and end user subscriptions to emailed reports can now be had in two clicks. Mobilizer supports all Reporting Services functionality and therefore you can design your reports any way you want— taking full advantage of the power of SSRS, with no additional development, training or security protocols required.

What Forerunner Software’s Mobilizer 3.0 isn’t? It’s not an advanced analytics tool that costs millions of dollars or even thousands per user. Mobilizer is licensed the same as SQL Server, per core, so there are no per user charges and with every production license purchased test and development and included for free. Boom.

We know mobile BI using SSRS is on your list (we checked it twice)

You’ve certainly written many reports using SSRS. Now you wonder why there is no quick and painless way to make all of your existing reports available via all browsers and devices. The good news is—–there actually is!

Yes, all of the prolific iPhones, Androids, Tablets, Macs and Windows devices carried around can now be used for accessing reports and our patent pending technology automatically optimizes the UI to work beautifully on all screen sizes.

Jason Carlson, the original architect of SSRS, has developed a product that’s been on your wish list for quite some time (we know–we checked). Unlike other mobile BI solutions, Mobilizer has no per user charges and includes developer and test licenses at no additional cost with the purchase of a production license.

Now is the time to check off your list and we’re confident Mobilizer will be a great solution for you by leveraging your existing skills and investment in SSRS to deliver true mobile reporting for everyone.

A Bright Idea Brought to you by Forerunner Software

Microsoft’s SQL Server Reporting Services (SRSS) has a full set of tools and services that help you manage reports. Noticeably lacking, however, is the ease of use and the ability to generate reports on the fly via any device or browser. The Report Viewer control does not support MVC applications and is still an HTML4 WebForms control. Today HTML5, MVC and mobile are must haves.

SSRS, while very powerful, simply does not support modern devices such as iPhones and Androids or browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Users want to be able to generate their reports through an easy point and click or touch and swipe features and are demanding modern applications that support all devices and work fluidly without reloading the entire page.

Mobilizer is fully tested on all browsers and devices and powered by a set of HTML5 jQuery widgets and server code that easily embeds SSRS reports into your modern application. Mobilizer also includes a complete standalone end user application that needs no additional development.

Forerunner Software Founder Jason Carlson utilizes his experience in leading teams at Amazon and Microsoft to provide innovative offerings. His development philosophy is driven by the needs of business users and Forerunner Software proudly provides the most robust, multiplatform data integration and presentation capabilities as possible for corporations and ISVs.
Simple to setup, Mobilizer is easy to manage and allows you to take immediate control of your company’s mobile world. Download your free trial today or contact us at Sales@Forerunnersw.com.

Anyone Can Make a Real Time Decision Faster than a Frog Can Snap a Fly

Sure, but based on what? SWAG? (And no, not the kind of Stuff We All Get at trade shows—–the other kind of scientific SWAG.)

As research firm Forrester continues to write about agile business intelligence (BI), wherein organizations of all sizes are revamping their data management environments for agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to address ever-changing customer expectations, it’s become clear that faster is not the same as more agile.

However, speed does matter. According to Forrester, individuals within organizations just starting their journey to evaluate and adapt BI technologies like in-memory, cloud, mobile, and big data are already behind the times because their peers and competitors are currently reaping multiple business benefits by running the latest and greatest technologies available.

One of our customers initially chose our unique Mobilizer to unlock SSRS for a specific business unit which really needed true mobile reporting, for instance, and informed us what’s most appealing about Mobilizer is the ability to not have an app in order to make this happen for their BYOD and browser agnostic policies. In this particular case, they focused on improving the ability of their organization to change direction proactively and respond to changes in their environment.

Forrester believes that 2015 will serve as an inflection point where companies that successfully harness technology advantageously will create clear competitive separation from those that do not.

Forerunner Software had a Fantastic Week at PASS 2014

Fresh off record-breaking attendance and its biggest program ever with 5,900 registrations from 56 countries, PASS Summit 2014 last week brought the world’s largest SQL Server and business intelligence conference back to Seattle for learning and connecting and is slated to return again to Seattle next year in October of 2015.

Our Forerunner Software team members and Director of Development, Jon Totton, personally provided live, interactive demonstrations of our unique Mobilizer which transforms SSRS for true mobile reporting across all devices and browsers. Most interesting to our audience at PASS proved, in part, to be not only that Mobilizer supports all reporting functionality of SSRS for viewing reports, but also Mobilizer’s hierarchical tree view for cascading parameters—probably the most requested improvement to SSRS parameters since 2005. Mobilizer’s named parameters sets (which can be saved per report or per user) also resonated loudly with PASS attendees, as did our auto complete filtering on long list parameters. Not to mention that since Mobilizer does not require an ActiveX Control it solves the common printing problem faced by many.

Based not very far away from Seattle in Redmond, WA, back at Forerunner Software HQ we witnessed the Twitter feed exploding via the #summit14 and #sqlpass hashtags and connected via online interaction, thanks to the bloggers and tweeters broadcasting live updates from the daily sessions and PASStv, which made it’s debut at PASS Summit in just 2012 and now what would we do without it?

All in all a fantastic week at PASS last week and, as our Forerunner Director of Development Jon Totton states, “Already I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us at PASS Summit next fall.”

Want to Extend Your Workspace Outside the Office and Turn Mobile Mayhem into Magic? Meet Mobilizer by Forerunner Software.

Recently, Ventana Research CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark Smith suggested that mobile BI technology can substantially improve an organization’s communication and collaboration, but noted that the keys to an effective BI deployment center on making the technology as accessible, usable and adaptable as possible. Their research on next-generation business intelligence found that usability is the most important evaluation criteria for BI technology, outpacing functionality by 49% and manageability by 47%.

Mobilizer is built from the ground up for you by the original architect of SQL Server Reporting Services to completely optimize your end user experience of SSRS for true mobile BI reporting. With a patent pending resonant UI which automatically recognizes the size of your device of choice—be it a laptap, tablet, phone or phamblet–Mobilizer offers unique usability and allows you to have a significantly better end user experience.

There is no doubt we need smarter business intelligence solutions designed not just for analysts, but for all business roles and those who need to access and use BI information. The increasing adoption of browser agnostic policies and bring your own device (BYOD) has empowered workers to have a say in the technology they use to perform their jobs and, in regard to Technology Adoption Trends, a 2014 IT Report states that, on average, IT Pros support 92 smartphones and 38 tablets across their organizations.

Mobilizer supports all Reporting Services functionality for viewing reports so you can design your reports any way you want and view them across all devices (as noted) and browsers—IE, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Now, suddenly you have the simplicity you need to achieve success with a mobile BI implementation and, if you desire to hand out candy to tiny ghosts and goblins with smart phone in hand, then so be it.

As the recent Ventana Research survey found, while costly comprehensive high end data visualization solutions can add value, they should not come at the expense of usability as employees are more likely to ignore technology they can’t figure out—an expensive mistake to make indeed. Simple BI strategies are the best way to get everyone on board—or off board, if you so desire. Where ever, whenever and whichever device or browser you choose to use—Forerunner Software’s Mobilizer turns mobile mayhem into magic. Download your free 30 day trial today to test on your own reports at www.forerunnersoftware.com.

Mobile BI investments and the ROI of Better Decision Making

Want a unique challenge? Try justifying the value of mobile business intelligence (BI) investments. Both analysts and end users alike agree there is no straightforward ROI equation and that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the ROI of better decision making.

Benefits of mobile BI projects are too often “soft” or intangible, as compared to other IT systems that replace manual processes or expensive headcount. While there may be some ROI metrics that support a business case, BI projects require executive sponsorship and visionaries within an organization with extreme collaboration between IT and the various lines of business.

Noting the difficulty of justifying BI’s price tag as an IT overhead cost, Gartner points to the need for IT to work with business users to figure out the business value of a BI application. At Forerunner Software our customers often look to their business users to justify the value of their mobile BI projects. They look to both hard and soft measures, such as where mobile BI deployments will either reduce costs or increase productivity, agility, and sales for competitive advantage. They ask questions such as, “How many clients will this new Mobilizer help us gain and retain?” and “How can we cost effectively improve visibility and accountability?”

Even without hard metrics, the soft benefits that executives and employees appreciate are the intangible benefits mobile BI brings of strategic value, better, more informed and faster decision making and more productive users.

We invite you to get in touch with us to learn how we can help you modernize your mobile BI initiative with Mobilizer. Better yet, download your free 30 day trial of Mobilizer at www.forerunnersw.com today to unlock the power of SSRS across all of your devices and browsers.