Introducing PerformancePoint Services 2013

Greetings, everyone. It has certainly been a big few weeks for us here on the Office team. The Office Next blog was released, and it's overflowing with great information. Plus, information about the integration throughout Office BI, and how people experience data, is spectacular. Each day that I read customer feedback about the team's accomplishments for the 2013 release preview, the more I learn about how many things our customers love about it. But I also learn about the things that we still need to do (and I'm working diligently on those). In this post, I want to talk about our improvements to PerformancePoint Services in 2013.

First, however, this is a good opportunity to address the speculation, confusion, and misinformation around our PerformancePoint investments the past few years. To clarify this confusion, let me confirm that PerformancePoint will continue to be Microsoft’s solution for creating interactive, context-driven dashboards with balanced scorecards, key performance indicators, analytic reports, and filters. It will continue to be an integral part of Microsoft’s Business Intelligence offering, which I encourage you to review by downloading and trying the SharePoint Server 2013 Preview and SQL Server 2012 SP1, CTP3.

Over the coming months, we will detail the new PerformancePoint features and talk about how they work. But for now, here is an overview of what you can expect to see. You'll notice from this list that PerformancePoint continues to be a pillar in the OfficeBI stack.

1. Themes

PerformancePoint now respects SharePoint's new theming capabilities. This was a lot of work for the team, and it took up the majority of our time. SharePoint cut the number of CSS files on the server by the order of hundreds, and we had to make sure that dashboards continued to look great. You can see that the background images from the theme actually bleed through the elements on your dashboard!

Theming in PPS 2013

2. Filter Enhancements

We made a number of enhancements to PerformancePoint filters too. Here are some of the things we made better. You can now

  • show sub selections in tree filters by bolding each parent in the hierarchy.
  • dynamically size the tree filter height based on the number of visible items in the tree.
  • select different tree filter actions by
    • selecting all
    • clearing all
    • resetting to default
    • selecting children
    • getting all filter items (when 5,000 limit is reached)
  • create a filter based off a measure
  • see significant performance improvements

3. Filter Search

Related to all of the general filter enhancements that we made, we also implemented the ability to search amongst filter members. This has been at, or near, the top of the customer request list for a long time, and we wanted to make sure that we implemented it for the 2013 release. With filter search, you can now

  • search within single- and multi-select tree filters
  • search Analysis Services/PowerPivot data sources
  • search Member Selection, MDX Query, and Named Set filters

We will post more in-depth discussion about filter search, but for now, I wanted to mention that this was added to the product for 2013.

4. EffectiveUsername

This is a feature that both PerformancePoint and Excel Services implemented as a way to save the IT admin from having to set up Kerberos constrained delegation in order to use per-user authentication (applause!). When you check this option on the PerformancePoint service application settings page, you tell PerformancePoint to add the EffectiveUsername property to the connection string that it passes to analysis services (AS). The value of that property is the username of the individual user making the call. When AS sees the value, it returns the results of the query, security-trimmed to that user. The following screen shot shows the context of the feature on PerformancePoint's service application settings page.

5. Custom Target Applications from Secure Store

Along the same lines as the EffectiveUsername feature, we also added the ability for you to specify any secure store target application when defining your data source in dashboard designer. If you want to, you can use the one auto-generated when you provision the service, but you don't have to anymore. This was big for customers who created target applications for Excel Services, but could not use those same target apps for PerformancePoint. Now you can provide users with a number of different target applications, each with different credential sets that map correctly to the authorization allowed by the back-end data source.

Oh, and did I mention that you can specify this option for the entire service as well?

6. BI Center

We changed up the BI Center site to make it easier to use and to highlight some of the dashboard components that have become so important with information workers. Those include PowerPivot and Excel Services. We really tried to reduce the complexity of the ppssample.aspx (BI Center from 2010) page in order to make it straightforward and simple.

In case you were wondering, you can still get to the familiar ppssample.aspx page that you may be used to from the 2010 product (Site Contents --> Pages), but that page is no longer the primary way in which users launch dashboard designer (which brings me to the next feature).

7. Dashboard Designer in the Ribbon

 PerformancePoint is now more deeply integrated into SharePoint than ever been before.

Clicking on the Dashboard Designer button launches the click-once application (yes, dashboard designer is still a click-once application). The appearance of the PerformancePoint ribbon tab is based on content type. So it appears in document libraries where the "Web Part Page" content type is present, and it appears in lists where any of the PerformancePoint content types have been added. This whole feature is great because now you can launch the designer without having to navigate to the old, BI Center landing page. 

8. Server-Side Migration

This is probably the biggest feature in the list. And it really warrants its own discussion because this is a fairly complex feature. Look for a post on it in the coming weeks. But we have created a server-side dashboard migration feature that allows you to move any or all of your PerformancePoint content from one site or server to another site or server. Since PerformancePoint is primarily an enterprise dashboard service, this addresses the common complaint that there was no good way for enterprise customers to satisfy their dev --> test --> prod migration scenarios. All that has now changed. From the SharePoint ribbon, granted you have the right permissions, you can package up your content (data sources too) and migrate it to any other place in the farm.

So there you have it. We have done a lot of work in this release, and I understand that we still have a lot to do in order to address many of the the issues that customers currently face.

Again, download the SharePoint preview, and dig in. I'm excited to hear your feedback.

Kevin Donovan
Program Manager, OfficeBI