Highly recommended! Barclay and Downs have written a fine and very accessible book, which fulfills the Rational Guide promise - not of being technical bibles, but of being straightforward learning guides - in this case, to a user-friendly yet sophisticated business intelligence / performance management front-end development platform. Although the book does not intend to teach any BI back-end development, it provides just enough context so that readers without those skills will move forward without difficulty. On that note, the book also does a reasonable job of mapping PPS's not-completely-consistent terminology with that of its ideal back-end, SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services.
Part I -- Introduction: The authors begin by convincingly introducing Performance Management as a strategic business challenge and an emerging discipline. They describe how PerformancePoint Server (PPS) 2007 delivers on that challenge and then correctly emphasize that multi-dimensional (business intelligence) underlying data architecture is an optimum foundation upon which to fully leverage PPS and build a Performance Dashboard that satisfies users.
Part II -- Elements: Separate chapters are dedicated respectively to Data Sources, Indicators (visual icons), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Scorecards, Reports, and Dashboards. Each chapter effectively combines a series of clear, succinct explanations of concepts and best practices followed by thoughtful step-by-step practice. Chapter 5 on Data Sources is an illuminating start, introducing how easily data from multiple sources can be integrated, with subsequent chapters reinforce it. Chapter 7 on KPI's is strong, with careful attention to theory and configuration of KPI target metrics, leaf, non-leaf and objective-KPIs, and thresholds. It also offers a simple workaround to a known glitch with multiple targets per KPI. Chapter 8 on Scorecards demonstrates the ease of Scorecard creation from solid KPI's and illustrates the payoff from good KPI naming. Chapter 9 on Reports adequately introduces, among other items, Analytic Charts and Grids (think next-gen pivot tables and pivot charts), Trend Analysis Charts (handy data mining time-series analyses), and what looks like a revolution in performance process-visualization, Visio Strategy Maps. Although I would have enjoyed an intro to Excel Services in Office SharePoint Server 2007 as an alternative BI front-end, it is, admittedly, a separate product. For help with ProClarity, which is included in PPS licensing, you need to buy a ProClarity book. Chapter 10 on Dashboard elements themselves is also effective, and the following sections -- on pages, zones, filters, display condition links, filter links, time intelligence and simply time-period specification (STPS) language -- are notably effective because, as elsewhere, the authors inform the reader just enough, then moving adeptly through a step-by-step practice sections that, as elsewhere, drive home the knowledge. Although the book provides adequate references to where multidimensional expressions (MDX) will afford more sophisticated features (eg. custom KPI data-mapping, custom reports and grids, filter link formulae), it, of course, does not presume to try to build readers' MDX skills.
Part III - Implementation and Mgmt: Chapters 11 and 12, respectively on Deploying to SharePoint and Security, briefly cover just the basics. Importantly, as a welcome enhancement from "Business Scorecard Manager" (predecessor product), PPS Dashboards are deployed to SharePoint (or other portals) as already integrated solutions needing little additional configuration.
Bonus -- The bonus materials, available via web to registered readers, are all worth downloading. Bonus Chapter Two - Designing an Effective Performance Management Solution, should be required reading for most or all project stakeholders. Bonus Chapter Three - (KPI) Scoring, addresses, importantly, how child KPI's rollup to parent KPI's, especially in the context of the preferred threshold banding method, "Band by normalized value of Actual/Target".
Prepare your PC -- Perhaps the best way to deploy the entire platform to readers' PC's for learning and even light-development purposes is -- in light of the sheer amount of required software -- to download the following items from Microsoft.com: (1) Virtual PC 2007; and (2) BI-VPC 5.1, which includes PPS, MOSS, SQL Server 2005 Dev and much more. Lastly and importantly, I discourage readers' from attempting to use BI-VPC on a PC with under 2GB RAM. 2GB is slow but works. 4GB works well.