On Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015, I had the privilege of speaking for Pragmatic Works. For the month of March, they are highlighting Women in Tech and have the whole month lined up with female speakers on each Tuesday and Thursday. I was the first in the line up for the month and it ended up being my largest audience to date. There were 419 people listening in. I even saw some comments about there being others who couldn’t make it. Wow
Thanks to everyone who came to listen to my session. While I couldn’t hear anyone, I enjoyed reading the questions and comments that were sent to me afterwards, and let me tell you there were quite a few. Below you can find the answers to SECOND HALF of the questions that were asked. The first half of the questions can be found here.
1. How do you make the report to see test database or production db or development db?
This is done by changing the data source properties. Say I have a database server called Monkey. I would create a shared data source called Monkey that each of the reports would share. On the Development SSRS Server, I would have the Monkey data source point to the development database. On the QA server, I would have the Monkey data source point to the QA database. And on the Production server, I would have the Monkey data source point to the production database. Each time the report is loaded into the new environment, it would automatically point to the correct database server.
If you are in a situation, where environments have to share a SSRS report manager (and I’m sorry if you are in that situation), then I would create a separate parent folder for each environment. For instance a parent folder called Development and a parent folder called QA. In each of these parent folders, I would create a folder for all your shared data sources for that environment. Each parent folder would have its own copy of the report and its own shared data source called Monkey pointing to the correct database.
2. When copyrighting, does your company need to be registered with the copyright office?
The answer to this question should come from your legal department. Through my experience, the answer is no. Copyright laws are different than patent laws. When I was an artist, the fact I made the artwork first, meant I owned the copyright. Even in another country.
3. Query for getting reports that have not been run.
SELECT c.ItemID ,c.Path ,c.Name FROM ReportServer.dbo.Catalog AS c LEFT JOIN [ReportServer].[dbo].[ExecutionLog3] AS e ON c.[Path] = e.ItemPath WHERE e.ItemPath IS NULL AND Path NOT LIKE '/Decommisioned Reports%' --Ignore folders I don't care about. AND c.Type NOT IN (1, 5, 8) -- Ignore Folders, Data Sources, and Data Sets ORDER BY c.Path ,c.Name
4. How did you add the template file in Visual studio?
For SSRS 2012, I put the RDL, RSD, and RDS files in the following directory: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\IDE\PrivateAssemblies\ ProjectItems\ReportProject. The directory will be different for 2008 and 2014.
5. What if a company doesn’t have any procedure for gathering requirements and creating/keeping documentation?
This puts you in the driver position. I would suggest meeting with your manager to discuss the benefits of having requirements documentation and a standard way of maintaining the documentation. I would then outline a plan for starting on this new path. I would start with new reports, and slowly add in existing reports as they get modified.
|Awesome quote from one of the attendees:
I ask “what the decision is going to be taken with the data from the report”
6. How do you know the width to fit on landscape and portrait nicely?
I like half inch margins. So I subtract the two half inch margins from the width of the landscape or portrait paper. That becomes the width of the base report. I also set the half inch margins in the Margin property of the Report.
7. Could you show an example of a Tracking Number?
Sure! If I were using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my reports, I would number all my reports starting with 1000. (Why 1000? I like starting with 4 digits. No other reason.) If I were using a product like Team Foundation Server (TFS), then I would have each report represented by a work item. In either case, say the report named National Sales Revenue was represented by the number 1500. 1500 would always represent the report National Sales Revenue.
The first time this report is successfully published to production, it would be given a “release number” of 00. So the tracking number would look like 01500.00. After modifications were made to the report and republished to production, it would get a new release number of 01. The new tracking number would look like 01500.01.
In the location where I store all my documents for my reports, the report National Sales Revenue, will be stored under the number 01500. I usually add the name of the report to the folder name so that it looks something like 01500 – National Sales Revenue. This allows for two things. One, you can create the folder before you have a permanent title. (The temporary folder name would just be 01500.) Two, if the title changes later for some reason, you don’t lose the documentation location. It’s still under 01500.
8. What methodology do you use to create the Tracking Number or is it automatically generated from TFS?
When I’m using TFS, it is automatically generated for me. TFS uses a single sequential string of numbers across all the work item types (task, bug, custom work item, etc.), so you may have a report with number 1500, and then the next report will be number 1583. I do put a leading zero or two in front of the number so that when it goes two 5 digits, my folders are still in the correct order.
9. How do you put in the watermark?
a. Click on the base report.
b. Go to the properties window.
c. Click and open the BackgroundImage property.
d. Set the BackgroundRepeat property to repeat.
e. Set the MIMEType property to the correct format.
f. If you are using an Embedded image, set the following properties.
i. Source = Embedded
ii. Value = iif(First(Fields!EnvironmentID.Value, “GetReportStandards”) <3,”DRAFT”,””)
g. If you are using an image from the database, set the following properties.
i. Source = Database
ii. Value =iif(First(Fields!EnvironmentID.Value, “GetReportStandards”) <3,First(Fields!Draft.Value, “GetReportStandards”),””)
h. If you are using an image from a server location, set the following properties.
i. Source = External
ii. Value =iif(First(Fields!EnvironmentID.Value, “GetReportStandards”) <3,”location of your image”,””)
10. If a report is setup as a subscription, how can I tell if the subscribers are actually using/accessing the report?
This is an excellent question. The ReportServer Database will tell us which reports were executed through a subscription, but it cannot tell us if they were used. I have some ideas on ways to still capture the information, but they would require research and extra layers of complexity. If you want to hear about these ideas, send me an email.
|Awesome idea from one of the attendees:
Maybe we should add a “pixel tag” to the report so that hits a web server which can track access.
11. This is not the question you are looking for. Move along. Move along.
12. Is there any way to handle the row hight dynamically in Excel output where include the merged cells? (Can grow does work with merged cells)
I don’t know a definitive answer to this question, but my inclination is to say no. Dynamically changing row height/width outside of the auto grow properties, is usually not possible. I have found ways around this by providing multiple layouts of columns/rows and hiding the ones I don’t want.
13. How can you use a business glossary to develop your label and be consistent across reports?
This question is a big one. The simple answer, is you need buy in from the business to make it happen and discipline from the entire team to make it successful. I would suggest you look into the topics for Data Governance, Business Semantics glossary, and Conceptual Data Modeling. These areas are what would help create and drive the business glossary from the very beginning, so that by the time you are ready to create a report, the terms already exist.
If you can’t get buy in yet, or ever, then I would suggest creating your own business glossary. Excel would work and is easily searchable. Make sure it is stored where your whole team can update it and use it.
14. Any major changes to SSRS 2014?
No. You can see the changes from version to version here. Just select the version you want to look at from the “other versions” drop down at the top of the article.
15. Can you tell what format they placed it in? PDf Excel
The Format Field in the ExecutionLog3 view will give you that information. Here is an example looking at the rendered format of a subscription.
SELECT ItemPath ,UserName ,RequestType ,[Format] ,ItemAction ,TimeStart ,TimeEnd FROM ReportServer.dbo.ExecutionLog3 WHERE RequestType = 'subscription' AND ItemAction = 'Render'
16. How long did it take you to build this framework?
It took me a couple of years. I started by tracking down all the reports and entering them in an Excel spreadsheet. My manager wanted a more permanent solution that could be shared with others, so I was given time to create a custom Report Work Item in TFS. I then moved the whole catalog there and decommissioned the Excel based catalog.
For the requirements and design document, I slowly saw a pattern of questions that I kept asking, so I designed a requirements document and tweaked it over time.
For my report templates, I looked at existing reports. I took the consistent layouts I found, filled in some things I felt were missing like showing the parameters, and created the templates. They stayed pretty consistent over the years.
17. Is there a way to find out the limit of data export to Excel? We used to have reports which we can view, but time out when exporting to Excel. The limit is per size of other Excel or number of rows?
The limit will be how long it takes to do the export. There is a time limit and it if the export is not accomplished in that time frame, then it will time out. This can be changed with settings in the Report Manager. As far as the amount of data Excel can take, I would Google that, since different versions have different limits.
18. What’s better to use stored procedure or embedded SQL query and how to determine that?
This is an excellent question. This is also a highly debatable discussion, so this is my stance on the topic.
I prefer stored procedures for the following reasons:
- Stored procedures are easier to modify when they need to be optimized. It is easier to track down a stored procedure in the cache plan than an inline SQL Statement in a report. You also only need to deploy the updated stored procedure back to production, not the report.
- Dynamic queries are more likely to be classified as an “Adhoc query” by SQL Server. Depending how your SQL Server properties are set, the Execution Plan may never be kept in the cache, which means you will always have the overhead of creating the best Execution Plan.
- On the reverse, if your SQL Server properties are set to handle Adhoc queries, then you can cause unnecessary bloating in your cache plan since every embedded query with different parameter values will be seen as a different query. That is not true of Stored Procedures….unless they have dynamic SQL inside them.
19. Would you recommend some sort of standards for Data Source Names?
I’m in favor of standards for everything. It satisfies my OCD needs. I keep all my data sources in one folder called either “Data Sources” or “DataSources”, depending if you like spaces in names. For the names, my data source names are the same name as the database they represent. If you have multiple databases with the same name in your production environment, then I would suggest adding the server name to the data source name. You want the Data Source names to represent what they are pointing to.
Name data sets the same way. I use the name of the stored procedure as the name of the data set. If you have the same stored procedure name in different Schemas, then I would include the Schema name in the data set name.
20. How to deploy the SSRS reports using TFS auto build?
I haven’t had the pleasure of using this feature. I unfortunately had to write a deployment document so that the report(s) could be deployed manually.
21. Can you mention the bug again with 2008 R2 with concatenated fields in excel prints?
Sure. In the footer of the report, I had a single textbox that had multiple fields in it. When the report was exported as an Excel document, the textbox was created in the footer of the Excel document, but the font size had been increased to 72 PT font. This bug did not occur on all of our servers.
22. All these best practices are good. I would like to see some more of practical on how to create hierarchies and links and other stuff, maybe in next webinar.
Please, please, please email me what you would like to see in sessions. I am always looking for ideas.
I have an example of a way to handle a hierarchy in my other Pragmatic Works session called: Scalable SSRS Reports Achieved Through the Powerful Tablix.
You can look at my recorded presentations page to see a list of presentations that have been recorded.
You can also look on my 2015 Speaking Engagements to see where I will be speaking or hope to be speaking this year.
23. No Russian Thank you?
Thanks for all the fish
Thanks go out to everyone who attended the presentation and for the patience of those who waited two weeks for me to answer the second half of the questions.