The previous three chapters showed how to build the foundation of a complete BI solution, including a data warehouse, ETL process, and Analysis Services database. These are really the basic building blocks that we use as the basis for the rest of this book, which covers the other areas that you need to understand to start building valuable BI solutions. From now on, each chapter covers a specific solution for a single customer from end to end to demonstrate one specific aspect of BI in detail.
Extending the Manufacturing Solution
We have shown you in detail how to build a complete solution to a very small part of the total manufacturing picture: shipments. Real-world solutions could be extended into whole new business areas to analyze the manufacturing process itself, or the performance of the manufacturer's suppliers. Inventory management and optimizing the balances of products on hand is another area that could provide significant business value. Whatever area that is chosen should lead to another small iteration of our BI development process, with carefully defined objectives leading to a new release.
Accessing the Information
We have looked at how to build a cube in this chapter, but we glossed over how users would access the information by simply referring to client tools such as Excel. A complete BI solution must supply information to users in whatever ways are most suitable for them, including Excel or other "slice-and-dice" client tools, but also other mechanisms such as web-based reporting or dashboards that show summary information and support drilldown for more details. Chapter 9, "Scorecards," describes the approach to provide complete access to the information in your databases.
Using BI Development Studio in Online Mode
In this chapter, we used BI Development Studio in project mode, meaning that we worked on a set of project files that were stored on the developer's workstation, and then we selected Deploy to update the definitions on the corresponding Analysis Services database on the server. BI Development Studio can also be used in online mode, by connecting directly to a live Analysis Services database.
You can access a database in online mode by selecting File, Open, Analysis Services Database, and then specifying the server and database name. Any changes that you make are immediately saved to the database. Be cautious not to mix project mode and online mode, however, because you could easily overwrite any changes you made in online mode by deploying a project.