Excellent. Every bit as good as the co-authors' companion book, "The Rational Guide to... M&A w/ PPS. This learning guide's effectiveness is especially noteworthy in light of the completely new Performance Management (PM) sophistication that the PPS Planning Module unleashes on Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) developers of all experience levels and, of course, the essential clarity with which this guide introduces it. Although future books will, we hope, delve deeper into specific topics (especially Integration and Business Rules), this one sets a high standard with succinct, authoritative explanations and thoughtful skill-building exercises in every major functional area. As a side-note, this book showcases to experienced performance management technologists just how much sophistication and value Microsoft has introduced into the performance management product marketplace.
PART I - INTRODUCTION: The authors begin by introducing the roles that planning and budgeting processes have been intended to play in the business environment, describing how traditional business processes and technologies have inherently limited their real-world effectiveness in terms of the tasks effecting employee workflow, data accuracy, security, and ease of use, and then explaining how each of those tasks is optimized as planning and budgeting roles integrate into a business intelligence information framework. Armed with this high level perspective, readers are mostly prepared to learn how to actually accomplish this, albeit in ways unexpected by most traditional MS BI developers. Specifically, we will now be building automatically recurring write-back mechanisms so that planning, forecasting and budgetting workflows will write-back data to data marts and, by extension, cubes. We will also be incorporating more types of data sources, not as an unfortunate alternative to good ETL, but on a planned, best-case basis as performance management work-flows require. Lastly, we will be highly leveraging Analysis Services' unary operators and account dimensions.
Before jumping into the "how to do it" section, I caution readers, and especially experienced MS Analysis Services 2005 OLAP developers, that, in light of the new PM requirements just described, PPS Planning will have you building both relational and OLAP objects in ways that are ...let's just say "unique". You might not have done it exactly this way for a traditional UDM MOLAP cube. Although your careful exploration of these unique SQL Server objects is encouraged, I suggest that you delay at least some of it until after you well-understand what PPS Planning is accomplishing. Fortunately, PPS Planning automates the vast majority of those nuances, such that readers, whether developers or power-user analysts, can quickly get productive.
PART II - INSTALLATION AND CONFIGURATION: In addition installation, this section introduces readers to the Planning Administration Console (PAC), wherein PPS Planning applications, model sites, role-based security and data sources are initially configured, and introduces Planning Business Modeler (PBM), wherein most of the subsequent work is completed. Notably, applications created in PPS Planning are instantiated as SQL Server 2005 relational databases, and Planning Model Sites become Analysis Services 2005 OLAP databases with completely-built cubes. As a side-bar, readers are advised, beginning at this point in the text, to take care to document usernames, roles and passwords as entered in this section and to pay extra close attention throughout the book to always login to Planning Business Modeler or the Excel Add-In with the username specified in each specific exercise.
PART III - SOLUTION DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION: Here, we dive deeper. Explanations, followed by respective exercises, covering the creation of dimensions, member sets, business models, model subsites, model security are aptly covered. Although Chapter 9, "Integrating Business Data" -- which will be the least accessible for non-SQL-heads -- provides a balanced coverage of the complex topic so that readers can progress by (carefully) following the cookbook, SQL/ETL pro's will want to decide when (not if) to dive deeper into learn this (by starting with product help files) and learn exactly how it relates to traditional ETL, which it does not replace. Analysts -- prepare for initial bewilderment. Chapter 10, "Defining Business Rules", takes the complimentary approach, without losing stride with excessive business-side detail (and thus losing the interest of ETL-oriented readers), it move readers through the simple use of business model properties, rules and rule sets. Specifically, the configuration of these business rules are close to a culmination of everything learned so far in that, in text examples, they orchestrate the relationship of data "actuals" to "budgets" and "forecasts" within models and thereby govern how budget forecasts and "what-if" analyses are smoothly integrated into a performance dashboard and/or written back into the data mart and OLAP cube without jeopardizing the sacrosanct "actuals" data. Without a doubt, it feels like a very slick way to avoid ever having to say to your DBA, "Well, we've completed our what-if analyses and thanks for the added permissions, but ehhr... we can't seem to find the actual data anymore. But you backed it up, right?" Relax, `cause it won't happen here. Of note, this chapter very briefly introduces "PerformancePoint Expression Language" (PEL), which is an MDX (multi-dimensional expression) short-hand just for PPS Planning. Although additional PEL detail would have been interesting, it would also have slowed the overall pace of learning. Again, see product help files.
The book's last written topic, in Chapter 11, is "Using the PerformancePoint Add-in for Excel". It introduces readers to PPS Planning Forms (and by extension, read-only Reports ) that performance-management users will ultimately use to assign, contribute, review, edit and approve workflow tasks associated with budgeting, forecasting and "what-if" analyses. As before, the book provides an effective, self-contained introduction which showcases some of Excel 2007's new-found sophistication, but which readers will subsequently want to build upon. As elsewhere, it's essential reading and mercifully succinct (unlike this review, I'll admit).
FOUR BONUS CHAPTERS: Although not reviewed here, they are each substantial, virtually essential, and are respectively entitled "Implementing Process Management", "Consolidating Data with Associations", "Operational and Management Reporting", and "Closing the Performance Management Loop". Conveniently, and along with all required databases and code samples, they are available online at no charge.
PREPARATION: As with the authors' "Rational ...PPS M&A" book, the best way to deploy the entire platform to readers' PC's, for learning or light-development is to download the following from Microsoft: (A) Virtual PC 2007; and (B) BI-VPC V 5.1+, which includes tons of software, including PPS 2007, MOSS 2007, SQL Server 2005 Dev Edition. Lastly, I recommend 4 GB of RAM on the machine, and strongly discourage readers' from trying to use the BI-VPC with under 2GB RAM.
For all of the above reasons, this book is highly recommended!