Editorials, PowerBI, SharePoint / BI, SSRS

How People Use Data, Is Changing Fundamental Tools

There is a great post by Haroon Choudry on LinkedIn, talking about whether SSRS’s days are numbered.

In particular, is the use of PowerBI overshadowing the need for SSRS – and where do the respective data tools live, and where are they headed? These are clearly very different tools, and clearly very different applications.

Or are they?

It’s interesting that so many people are in this “quick information” phase of using the information we have in our SQL Servers. I can’t tell you the last time I *didn’t* hear that we should just share the TLDR version of a report or findings or trending or whatever.

There are entire corporations now built up around this, of course, from Microsoft to the others mentioned in the post and many more. But the key thing is that people are expecting more of the reporting tools – more in terms of visualization that can be more easily and readily ingested. SSRS is a great tool for those paginated reports that have historically been the basis of decision-making. But now, people are looking first for the summary information and then the ability to drill down interactively and see the results, see the basis for those results, and in many cases, do what-if tinkering with different aspects of the data.

This is great for PowerBI – and the BI stack of pulling this information together and making it useful. But it does have implications for both tool selection and for the dreaded “technological debt” that so many systems face. The debt of older systems and solutions being the underpinning of new approaches, of new requirements for information.

I think it’s critical that you be aware of the tools underlying your systems, including SSRS and other analysis and reporting and manipulation tools. Those tools may prove to be something that will need attention sooner, rather than later, as people change from reviewing a report or something else offline, to expecting first and foremost to get their information from tools that use the “a picture is worth 1000 words” approach and make it more straightforward to digest the data.

Here’s a link to that post about SSRS. Take a look and see what you think.

Keep in mind that not using tools may be grounds for a review, too, of the installed applications and tools for your systems. In many cases, when people install SQL Server, Reporting Services and other tools come along for the ride out of habit. Traditionally, that habit was a good thing, it meant more complete installations that supported the expectations of the user base.

But, if you have tools that are morphing into other tools, or other uses, etc., it’s important to make sure you don’t have the applications and access points still connected to your SQL Server. It offers up yet another attack surface area, potentially. It can be worth shutting down that potential if you don’t have a need (or perhaps it’s specific servers that need it, others that do not).

What do you see on your own solution requirements? Are you seeing SSRS supplementing PowerBI, or what types of solutions are users needing?

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