Centralizing and Sharing
A Review of a Personalized, Company-Wide
Business Intelligence Portal
Technical White Paper
Published: May 2007
Business Benefits of Office SharePoint Server 2007 and myBI......................................7
Centralizing Access to Business-Critical Information 8
Reducing the Number of Business Intelligence Applications 9
Reducing Development, Maintenance, and Support Costs 10
Streamlining Everyday Business Activities 10
Connecting People with Information 11
Sharing Business Data While Maintaining the Security of Information 12
Enhancing Partner Relationships 12
Architecture of the myBI Portal..........................................................................................14
User Interface Portal Design 14
Report Publishing Architecture 15
Core Infrastructure Design 15
Global Infrastructure Design 16
Prototype, Sandbox, and Staging Environments 18
Information Work Scenarios...............................................................................................19
Power Users 19
End Users 20
Ad Hoc Reporting 21
Sharing of Reports 22
Onboarding to the myBI Portal...........................................................................................24
Onboarding Roles and Responsibilities 24
Onboarding Process 24
For More Information...........................................................................................................31
Situation EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Microsoft IT maintains a complex
reporting environment with a In early 2007, Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stuart Scott charged the IT leadership team at
substantial number of server-based Microsoft to adopt an internal portal solution based on Microsoft® Office SharePoint®
business intelligence systems. The Server 2007 for centralizing and sharing business intelligence tools and information across
multiple analysis systems, data
repositories, intelligence gathering
the entire organization. This is the myBI portal, developed and maintained by the Business
methods, and reporting methods that Intelligence Center of Excellence (BI COE) within the Microsoft Information Technology
Microsoft business units employ (Microsoft IT) group. This centrally hosted, customizable portal integrates with a large
introduce business and technical
number of Microsoft business intelligence tools and products, including an internal tool called
challenges. These challenges include
multiple business intelligence silos, the myBI report catalog, Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, ProClarity
non-uniform reports, and complicated Analytics, Microsoft Office Excel® 2007, Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 Reporting Services,
permission schemes for data sharing. and SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services.
The myBI portal gives Microsoft employees and decision makers a single, personalized
To help Microsoft business units
location to access standard and ad hoc reports, scorecards, and other business intelligence
make better and faster decisions,
Microsoft IT developed a custom components. These components were previously scattered across various locations, were
solution, the myBI portal, based on difficult to manage, and introduced security challenges. The myBI portal enables business
Microsoft products and technologies. units within Microsoft to streamline reporting and decision-making processes and share
The myBI portal enables Microsoft
business units to exploit the potential business intelligence across the company in a more secure and efficient way. It also enables
of the Microsoft business intelligence close collaboration with business partners and vendors that work with Microsoft on strategic
solutions more fully, more securely, and business-critical projects worldwide.
and in closer collaboration with
partners and vendors.
Note: The myBI solution is not an externally available product for customers. It is an example
Benefits of how Microsoft IT uses various Microsoft business intelligence products to deliver an
• Centralized access to business- enterprise business intelligence capability.
• Reduced number of business This technical white paper features the myBI portal as the context to discuss how Microsoft IT
uses Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft business intelligence products to help
• Reduced development,
maintenance, and support costs business units within Microsoft to make better and faster decisions. Although myBI is an
• Streamlined business processes internal Microsoft solution, the underlying technologies and products are publicly available to
• Ability to provide the right people customers who want to achieve similar results. These results include improving business
with the right information insight, accelerating shared business processes, and connecting people with business-critical
• Ability to share business data information in one central location through a standardized user interface that users can
while helping to protect sensitive
customize according to personal preferences.
• Enhanced partner relationships This paper contains information for technical decision makers who are considering or
Products & Technologies planning to implement business intelligence portals based Office SharePoint Server 2007.
• Microsoft Office SharePoint This paper assumes that the audience is already familiar with the concepts of Microsoft
Server 2007 Windows® Server® 2003, the Active Directory® directory service, and the Microsoft suite of
• Microsoft Office Business business intelligence products. A high-level understanding of the features and technologies
Scorecard Manager 2005
included in Office SharePoint Server 2007 is also helpful. Detailed product information is
• ProClarity Analytics
available on the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server home page at http://office.microsoft.com/
• Microsoft SQL Server 2005
Reporting Services en-us/sharepointserver/FX100492001033.aspx.
• Microsoft SQL Server 2005
Analysis Services Note: For security reasons, the sample names of organizations and other internal resources
• Microsoft Office Excel 2007 mentioned in this paper do not represent real resource names used within Microsoft and are
for illustration purposes only.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 3
A Gartner survey of 1,400 CIOs conducted in 2006 revealed that IT organizations are
increasingly focusing on business intelligence to deliver value-driven services and solutions
to their companies. Business intelligence revolves around the practice of capturing and
analyzing business data to monitor business drivers, gain greater insight into performance
and budgeting, and accelerate better-informed strategic and tactical decisions at all
organizational levels. Connecting employees and decision makers with the right information
that is relevant to their specific needs is a key prerogative for IT organizations that want to
contribute to business performance. However, delivering effective solutions that provide
convenient, security-enhanced access to metrics, key performance indicators, scorecards,
and other business data has proven difficult.
Like other IT organizations, Microsoft IT maintains a complex reporting environment with a
substantial number of server-based business intelligence systems. These systems assemble
and process information from a variety of data sources, such as the enterprise resource
planning (ERP) system, the customer relationship management (CRM) solution, and a variety
of departmental data warehouses. To display the information, Microsoft employees and
decision makers use Office Excel 2007, SQL Server Reporting Services, ProClarity, Office
Business Scorecard Manager 2005, and other Microsoft Office system applications. Excel
has long been a favorite tool of Microsoft managers for analyzing multidimensional data and
gaining business insight.
Important business intelligence systems that Microsoft IT maintains in the corporate
production environment include:
• Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enables business units to deploy interactive business
intelligence portals. The myBI portal is based on Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Individual business units also use Office SharePoint Server to deploy departmental
• myBI report catalog An internal Microsoft solution to give business units an
enterprise-wide directory of business reports that exist in the corporate production
environment. The myBI report catalog includes more than 3,000 reports and relies on
Web service components to give Microsoft employees access to report-generating
• ProClarity Analytics A data analysis solution that expands the capabilities of SQL
Server 2005–based business intelligence tools through query and analysis features,
dashboards, scorecards, and data visualization tools.
• SQL Server Analysis Services Provides a unified and integrated view of business
data for traditional reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), key performance
indicator (KPI) scorecards, and data mining.
• SQL Server Reporting Services Enables business units to create, manage, and
deliver both traditional, paper-oriented reports and interactive, Web-based reports.
• Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005 Provides a server-based business
intelligence platform to create and use scorecards and KPIs that help business units
measure achievements based on established objectives and business plans.
• Office PerformancePoint™ Server 2007 (beta) Provides scorecards, dashboards,
and management reports to monitor, understand, and act on challenges and issues that
affect the performance of business units.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 4
Figure 1 illustrates the distributed and diverse nature of the business intelligence landscape
Applications Internet Explorer Office System
myBI Report Catalog SharePoint Server
Office BSM ProClarity Analytics Reporting Services
ERP, CRM, Data Warehouses, Content Databases, Analysis Services
Figure 1. Business Intelligence Landscape at Microsoft
To help the business units throughout the company gain maximum benefit from the collection
of business intelligence systems and reporting tools within the corporate production
environment, Microsoft started BI COE in the beginning of 2006. One of the first steps that BI
COE performed was to analyze the existing business intelligence landscape at Microsoft in
order to identify existing solutions that could help the BI COE team. Two important solutions
that BI COE decided to use were the myBI report catalog and the myBI portal.
The Admin IT team within Microsoft IT developed the report catalog to give Microsoft
employees a central repository to locate global reports quickly and conveniently. The myBI
portal, on the other hand, was a solution that the Services IT team within Microsoft IT
developed based on the report catalog. The myBI portal extended the reach of the myBI
report catalog across the Microsoft IT organization by providing a central integration point for
global reports, scorecards, key performance indicators, multidimensional analytics, and other
Services IT deployed the first version of myBI in April 2006. Shortly thereafter, reorganization
took place to integrate the Admin IT and Services IT Platform teams into the BI COE team to
combine resources and coordinate development efforts. The original customer of myBI was
Services IT, yet due to the success of myBI, BI COE now provides support to all business
units within Microsoft that want to use these business intelligence solutions.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 5
BUSINESS BENEFITS OF OFFICE SHAREPOINT SERVER 2007 AND MYBI
The most important factors that drive the success of myBI at Microsoft are business benefits,
support of upper management, and proper business-specific prototypes, demonstrations, and
presentations. Examples of achieved business benefits are reduced costs associated with
maintaining and supporting business intelligence solutions across the company; increased
consistency, reliability, and scalability; and convenient sharing of business reports through a
central intranet location. Support of upper management, on the other hand, helps to
emphasize the strategic significance of the myBI initiative to all business units.
Technical factors might prevent business units from moving to the myBI portal, such as
inconsistent data sources, inconsistent capabilities, and missing data warehouses.
Substantial cleanup of data and infrastructure optimizations might be necessary before a
business unit can successfully complete the onboarding process. In these cases,
management support helps to ensure that the business units recognize the importance of the
myBI initiative and implement the required organizational changes. To further help business
units recognize the benefits and advantages of the myBI portal, BI COE invested time and
effort into prototyping and product presentations, from the beginning. Showing the right
demonstrations to the right people is crucial to get proper funding at each step, one business
unit at a time.
Based on Office SharePoint Server 2007, the myBI portal provides business units with the
following benefits and advantages:
• Centralized access to business-critical information Individual business intelligence
solutions make finding the right information at the right time difficult. With myBI, all
reporting solutions, including the latest spreadsheets, reports, and KPIs, are readily
available in a central place. Microsoft executives, managers, employees, partners, and
vendors with intranet or extranet access can go to one URL to assemble and display
business information from disparate sources for all metrics, reports, and other business
• Reduced number of business intelligence applications Centralization of reporting
solutions based on Office SharePoint Server 2007 and myBI is the basis for Microsoft to
coordinate development processes, share business intelligence effectively across
organizational boundaries, eliminate duplicated efforts, and achieve a high level of
consistency across all reporting solutions.
• Reduced development, maintenance, and support costs The myBI portal uses
components from the stack of Microsoft business intelligence products, reducing the
need for business units to develop shadow applications. With a single code base, myBI
significantly reduces implementation cycles and the need to maintain and support
isolated business intelligence environments.
• Streamlined everyday business activities Improving reporting processes is a key to
streamlining everyday business activities. Business units that still rely on manual
processes to communicate business information within the department, across the
company, and to upper management can use the myBI portal to replace these
processes with more-efficient, automated reporting solutions that are available 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. Centralized reporting solutions not only reduce overhead and
costs, but also increase the consistency, reliability, and scalability of the reporting
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 6
environment and deliver business intelligence more efficiently. Business units then can
make better-informed decisions and more proactively respond to important events.
• Ability to connect people with information The user interface of myBI is intuitive, is
easy to navigate, and supports personalization. For example, users can organize favorite
reports, perform ad hoc analysis, and customize and reuse report views. Office
SharePoint Server 2007 also includes an Enterprise Search Center to find business
documents and data quickly in order to accelerate decision-making processes based on
the latest information and facts.
• Broad sharing of business data while maintaining information security The myBI
portal provides online access to data and analytics while helping to secure information
through access-based security and authentication. There is no need to log on to multiple
applications. The myBI portal identifies each user based on the Windows account and
shows only those reports that the user can access.
• Enhanced partner relationships The myBI portal enables Microsoft business units to
strengthen their relationships with business partners and vendors by sharing business
intelligence solutions and information to drive better joint decisions. Partners and
vendors with an extranet account can access the myBI portal over encrypted Hypertext
Transfer Protocol (HTTP) connections.
Centralizing Access to Business-Critical Information
Centralizing access to business-critical information is an ongoing effort at Microsoft. In
general, business units are accustomed to developing their own isolated reporting tools,
which are rarely designed to integrate with solutions of other groups. Incompatible databases
and custom data warehouses exist across the entire corporate production environment, often
insufficiently maintained and outdated. Inevitably, the lack of consistent data and common
report definitions results in multiple versions of the same information, impedes strategic
decision-making processes, and increases business risks.
Microsoft IT developed the original reporting solution to give the finance, sales, marketing,
and human resources departments a central location to publish, share, and access business
reports, views, and metrics based on predefined business rules. The original solution
exploited Microsoft Office Excel 2003 functionality and required the installation of custom
add-ins on each client workstation. A basic Web interface was also available to provide
access to reports based on SQL Server Reporting Services.
What started as a basic Web interface for myBI, BI COE expanded to include the entire suite
of Microsoft business intelligence solutions. The foundational technology is Office SharePoint
Server 2007, which enabled BI COE to establish a hosted, integrated, security-enhanced,
and configurable business intelligence portal. The portal provides a continuum of reporting
and business intelligence capabilities where business units can expose the right information
to the right users in the right format.
Figure 2 shows the business intelligence solutions that BI COE consolidated onto myBI.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 7
myBI Business Logic
SQL Server 2005
. Reporting Services
ProClarity Analytics Server
myBI Report Catalog Client
and Web Services
rm Business Scorecard Manager
Business Data Catalog Data Metadata
Figure 2. Centralizing business intelligence and reporting tools
It is important to note that BI COE does not host the data of the various business units. BI
COE maintains centrally the server software, reporting solutions, and associated metadata
and catalog databases for all business units that use the myBI portal. The myBI portal
consolidates the user interface and business logic to provide a single point of access to all
business intelligence and reporting tools without forcing BI COE into a data-provider role.
Maintaining the data for all Microsoft business units across the entire company would overtax
current BI COE capacities.
Reducing the Number of Business Intelligence Applications
In the absence of a consolidated business intelligence infrastructure, business units must
establish and maintain their own reporting environments. A typical approach is to install the
required server software on workstation-level computers. Another, more formal approach is
to send the Infrastructure Management team within Microsoft IT a request to purchase a
utility server by using the designated budget of the business unit and have it installed in a
data center. In this case, the Data Center Operations team maintains the hardware and
operating system, yet the reporting environment is still the responsibility of the business unit.
As more business units begin to rely on business intelligence tools, application silos
accumulate, the footprint of underutilized servers in the data centers increases, the
complexity of the environment grows, and the overhead associated with maintaining and
supporting redundant reporting environments multiplies.
Consolidating the business intelligence infrastructure helps Microsoft IT to avoid unnecessary
investments in information technology. The business units still maintain their data
warehouses and develop reports, yet it is no longer necessary to host and maintain the
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 8
business logic on departmental utility servers inside or outside data centers. Business units
do not need to wait up to 60 days until their utility servers are purchased and installed.
Furthermore, in addition to standard and ad hoc departmental solutions, business units can
use enterprise-wide management reports that consolidate data from multiple departments.
This facilitates executive-level reporting and strategic reviews. It is also straightforward for
business units to share intelligence with partners and vendors in a security-enhanced
manner. The myBI solution places all reports and analysis tools in an integrated portal that is
readily available and personalized for each user.
Reducing Development, Maintenance, and Support Costs
The myBI portal is a strategic solution for Microsoft IT to control the complexity of the global
reporting environment and maximize the return on investment in server systems. Moreover,
BI COE actively helps business units to lower development, maintenance, and support costs.
For example, reusing existing business intelligence solutions by sharing reports on the myBI
portal is an effective way to reduce individual development costs.
It is important to emphasize that myBI is not just a technical solution to a business problem.
The myBI subject matter experts (SMEs) give business units training and support to help
users exploit the capabilities and features of Microsoft business intelligence products more
fully, target the right users with the right reports, and shorten development cycles. For
example, a power user familiar with Office Excel reporting capabilities might find assistance
and support very helpful when working with decomposition trees, performance maps, or
perspective views in ProClarity Analytics. With assistance and support from BI COE, power
users who create reports within their business units can unlock the full spectrum of distinct
capabilities that the stack of Microsoft business intelligence solutions entails.
Streamlining Everyday Business Activities
Prior to the BI COE initiative, business units had to find answers to their reporting needs
individually. Reporting solutions varied widely in sophistication and complexity. These
solutions often relied on manual processes, which are time-consuming, unreliable, and do not
The America Operations Centre (AOC) Commercial Business Intelligence team is a good
example. The AOC Commercial Business Intelligence team supports the North America and
South America operations centers, specifically the commercial licensing business, which
represents US $12 billion in yearly revenues. The mission of the AOC Commercial Business
Intelligence team is to empower clients, through business intelligence and data mining
activities, to make informed decisions and drive strategic initiatives.
Before onboarding to myBI, the AOC Commercial Business Intelligence team used Office
Excel files posted on internal SharePoint sites, and in some cases Office Web Components
on custom Microsoft ASP.NET solutions, to share business information. Exporting the data
from the AOC Commercial Business Intelligence data warehouse was a manual and labor-
intensive process, which proved unstable and unreliable. Additionally, these reports provided
the data in raw format. Making the information valuable and useful for reviews took a
substantial amount of time.
Onboarding to myBI enabled the AOC Commercial Business Intelligence team to centralize
and automate its existing business reports and develop new reports based on ProClarity
Analytics, Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, and SQL Server 2005 Reporting
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 9
Services. Today, the AOC Commercial Business Intelligence team provides an entire
spectrum of reporting solutions to support the commercial licensing business, including
Operations Excellence Reporting (daily Flash reports, scorecards, month-end close
reporting), Readiness Reporting (ad hoc reporting for detailed analysis), and Revenue
Now that the AOC Commercial Business Intelligence team uses myBI, efficiency and
productivity have increased because finding the required information to drive strategic
initiatives and improve business processes takes less time. A preliminary survey showed that
the automated reporting solutions save 60–90 employee hours per month across all AOC
Commercial Business Intelligence clients. Furthermore, the team anticipates that new
reporting solutions will help save field sales teams an additional 50 hours per month. There
are also direct financial gains associated with the new reporting solutions. The new solutions
enable the field sales teams in the United States to capture an additional $60 million in
Connecting People with Information
Centrally maintaining and sharing reports, metrics, scorecards, and KPIs is one aspect of
communicating business information across the company. Another is to share helpful
documentation and training guides, answers to frequently asked questions, announcements
about upcoming events, contact information, and useful links to other content that exists
elsewhere in the corporate production environment. To cover these additional communication
needs, BI COE provides business units with document libraries and custom application
pages on the myBI portal.
Power users within each business unit can then modify the application page according to
departmental needs by using standard Office SharePoint Server Web Parts, without the
involvement of BI COE. For example, a business unit can add announcements, provide help
and contact information, and include a short description of the reports and their purpose.
Figure 3 displays the main user interface of the myBI portal, which BI COE implemented
based on a custom Office SharePoint Server master page. An important design objective
was to keep the user interface straightforward for convenient navigation. Accordingly, there
are only two primary navigation controls, Communities and Reports, which provide access
to the application pages (Communities tab) and published business reports (Reports tab).
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 10
Figure 3. The myBI home page
When a user visits the myBI portal, the user interface shows the Communities tab, and it
lists on separate tabs all custom application pages that the current user has permissions to
read. This is particularly useful for managers and other users associated with multiple
business units because their Communities tab provides instant access to announcements
and information from all of these groups.
Note: One important reason for BI COE to choose Office SharePoint Server 2007 as the
underlying platform for myBI was that Office SharePoint Server standardizes the user
interface that business units can use to create document libraries and customize their
application pages. Office SharePoint Server provides the necessary level of security, and BI
COE did not need to develop additional customization tools.
Sharing Business Data While Maintaining the Security of
One of the most effective strategies to increase security is to place all resources in a heavily
fortified location designed to limit the attack surface, concentrate defense mechanisms, and
enforce security best practices and auditing. Providing security for business information is
difficult if shadow applications and application silos are widely distributed across the
corporate production environment. The reason is simply that there are too many diverse
ways to share information, too many security vulnerabilities, and too few security experts to
protect each business intelligence island. Reducing the number of shadow applications and
application silos by concentrating business intelligence on a centralized, security-enhanced,
and reliably maintained platform is a key to sharing business data while helping to keep
Enhancing Partner Relationships
Microsoft business units share information with more than 30,000 business partners and
vendors every day. In fact, currently, approximately 30 percent of myBI users are partners
and vendors. For example, the Microsoft customer service works closely with vendors that
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 11
operate the Microsoft contact centers around the world. Customer care agents within the
contact centers use Microsoft software to access customer account information and other
data as necessary to respond to customer requests or resolve business problems, regardless
of the sales channel that the customers use. These contact centers continuously need
access to business reports that show their current performance levels.
Microsoft IT maintains a global extranet environment, separate from the corporate network, to
give external entities access to resources and facilitate collaboration. Microsoft staff can
access the extranet from the corporate network, but partners and vendors with extranet
accounts cannot access internal resources in the corporate production environment. This
separation is necessary for security reasons, yet it also hinders business units from sharing
reports, metrics, key performance indicators, and scorecards.
The myBI infrastructure spans both the corporate network and the extranet, for efficient
sharing of business intelligence with partners and vendors. For example, myBI enabled the
customer service team to streamline business activities and lower organizational overhead by
reducing manual reporting processes. The customer service team created data cubes by
using SQL Server Analysis Services and ProClarity reports based on these cubes for OLAP,
and then deployed the resulting reporting solutions through myBI. Now that the customer
service team uses myBI, contact centers enjoy convenient and security-enhanced access to
business reports. At the same time, the customer service team lowered costs, increased the
reliability of the reporting process, and increased scalability.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 12
ARCHITECTURE OF THE MYBI PORTAL
The BI COE team designed the myBI solution as a user interface portal. This means that the
myBI portal provides the front end for accessing business intelligence solutions maintained
outside Office SharePoint Server, such as in ProClarity Analytics, SQL Server 2005
Reporting Services, and Office Business Scorecard Manager/PerformancePoint Server.
User Interface Portal Design
Figure 4 illustrates the user interface design. Users who visit the portal site and switch to the
Reports tab reach an Office SharePoint Server Web page with two IFRAME-based Web
Parts that display the myBI report catalog to the left and the selected reports to the right.
Whenever the user changes the report selection in the catalog pane and clicks Load
In this way, the myBI portal appears as one integrated solution, although the user is actually
working with a variety of Microsoft business intelligence systems hosted on the myBI server
Figure 4. The myBI user interface portal
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 13
Report Publishing Architecture
One of the advantages of the myBI portal design is that BI COE did not need to develop
separate tools to create and publish reports. Analysts and power users within each individual
business unit can continue to use ProClarity Desktop, Report Designer and Report Builder in
SQL Server Reporting Services, and Business Scorecard Builder in Office Business
Scorecard Manager to develop reporting solutions, as indicated in Figure 5. The only
additional requirement is to publish the reports in the myBI report catalog so that users can
select them on the Reports tab in the myBI user interface. For historical reasons, Microsoft
IT hosts the administrative components of the myBI report catalog on separate servers on the
corporate network. All other server components run on the same application server farm.
... Report Designer myBI
Desktop Report Builder Builder Catalog
ProClarity SQL Reporting Office BSM
Server Server Server Admin
Metadata Databases Catalog Database
Figure 5. The myBI report publishing architecture
Core Infrastructure Design
Figure 6 illustrates the design of the myBI infrastructure. The main servers that host the
portal and the Microsoft business intelligence solutions reside on the extranet to support
internal users within the corporate production environment in addition to partners and
vendors with extranet accounts. Internal users can access these front-end systems by
specifying in the myBI URL in Windows Internet Explorer®. External users must use an
externally facing myBI Web address.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 14
Business Data Business Data
Figure 6. The myBI core infrastructure design
In addition to the main servers on the extranet, a second farm of application servers exists on
the corporate network. These servers are available for internal use only because extranet
users do not have access. Essentially, the internal application servers run the same Microsoft
business intelligence stack as do the main servers on the extranet. The only exception is the
myBI report catalog. Deploying the catalog client on the internal application servers was not
necessary because the catalog pane in the user interface always uses the main servers on
To provide fault tolerance and load balancing in the core myBI infrastructure, BI COE uses
Windows Network Load Balancing for the front-end application servers. The database
systems on the back end rely on SQL Server 2005 high-availability features, such as failover
clustering or database mirroring. BI COE uses failover clustering for the catalog and
The technologies that business units use to ensure high availability for the actual business
data is not under control of BI COE and varies widely. It depends on the importance of the
data and the choice of the business unit. For example, one team uses failover clustering to
ensure high availability for customer systems deployed on the extranet.
Global Infrastructure Design
The core infrastructure design reflects the architecture that BI COE uses in the Puget Sound
area to support Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA and the business units in North and
South America. Additional data centers with myBI application server farms are located in
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 15
Dublin, Singapore, and Tokyo. These regional deployments follow the core design, yet with
fewer servers and without the myBI report catalog.
The entire infrastructure relies on a single instance of myBI metadata. BI COE deployed
myBI metadata centrally to avoid administrative overhead and latency issues associated with
SQL Server data replication in a decentralized environment. The corporate network operates
reliably and provides sufficient bandwidth to achieve acceptable response times in all
geographic locations of the company, making a centralized myBI metadata deployment
Figure 7 shows how BI COE deployed myBI at a global scale. Although all users work with
the same instance of the myBI report catalog, the reports can reside on an application server
in any location.
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
155 Mbps or faster.
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
Figure 7. The myBI global infrastructure design
Deploying the application servers regionally provided BI COE with the following advantages:
• Better reporting performance Server-based reporting solutions can place significant
load on the application server. By deploying reporting solutions on regional application
servers, BI COE effectively distributes the load while providing faster access to the
reports to users in the same geographic region.
• Ability of business units to maintain their reports locally Maintaining reports on
application servers that are close to the business units facilitates development processes
because it avoids latencies and other issues that can occur when reports are saved over
wide area network (WAN) connections.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 16
• Ability of application servers to access data warehouses locally A number of
factors influence the performance of a reporting solution, including WAN latency issues.
By deploying the application servers close to the data warehouses of the business units,
BI COE can ensure that the performance of the reporting solutions does not diminish
when the business units complete the onboarding to myBI.
Prototype, Sandbox, and Staging Environments
A sound strategy for business intelligence consolidation must address the needs of end users
and power users alike. End users need convenient access to reports, whereas analysts and
power users, who create the reports, have additional requirements. To verify functionality,
performance, and reliability, analysts and power users must perform integration testing and
user acceptance testing prior to the final step of publishing new reports on the company-wide
myBI portal. To accommodate these testing needs, BI COE integrated the following types of
lab environments into the myBI infrastructure:
• Prototype environment This environment enables business units to prototype reports
during the initial evaluation of myBI, which is part of the onboarding process. This
environment essentially consists of a single server that hosts all necessary software
components and databases. Business units can publish their own existing reports or
sample reports provided by BI COE to see how reporting solutions work on the myBI
• Sandbox environment The purpose of the sandbox environment is to facilitate
integration testing. This environment consists of a single computer running SQL
Server 2005 Analysis Services and two application servers in a load-balanced cluster to
simulate the architecture of the production environment closely. Business units and test
teams can use the sandbox environment to test the initial integration of reporting
solutions with myBI, including functionality and reliability.
• Staging environment This environment is for final user acceptance testing before
going live with new reports on the myBI portal. At this point, the reporting solution has
passed integration testing, yet the actual users of the reports still need to confirm that the
solution meets their acceptance criteria. The staging systems mirror the production
environment in both the corporate network and the extranet, to provide access to the
reporting solutions to corporate users and extranet users.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 17
INFORMATION WORK SCENARIOS
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the myBI solution is its straightforwardness in
meeting the needs of power users, end users, and managers. Power users work with familiar
tools to create and publish reports that are then immediately available across the company to
all end users who have access permissions. End users can simply view reports or optionally
customize reports. Managers can share reports with employees, partners, and vendors
without having to depend on BI COE.
To illustrate the ease of use, note that the procedure to display reports, metrics, key
performance indicators, and scorecards in myBI requires only four steps:
1. Go to myBI.
2. Switch to the Reports tab.
3. Select the desired reports and scorecards in the catalog pane.
4. Click Load Reports button.
Note: In this procedure, the user can eliminate steps 3 and 4 by specifying default reports,
which appear automatically in the reports pane. It might seem insignificant, but having the
most important business information readily available with just one mouse click is a key
feature for busy managers at Microsoft.
BI COE defined the Power Users role on the myBI portal to give business units more control
over their resources. Power users are corporate users who develop reports and perform
other tasks on the myBI portal, such as customizing Office SharePoint Server application
pages for business units.
The process of creating and publishing reporting solutions is similar for all business
1. Independent of myBI, the power user works with ProClarity Desktop, Business
Scorecard Builder, Report Builder, or Report Designer to create the report by using the
desired data source and saves the report definition on the local computer.
2. The power user publishes the report to an appropriate application server in the myBI
infrastructure. Now that the report is available on the application server, the power user
can view the report in Windows Internet Explorer by specifying the report URL. Viewing
the report is a quick way to verify that the previous publishing process ended
3. There is one more step before end users can see the report in the myBI report catalog:
registering the report URL by using the myBI Catalog Admin client, as illustrated in
Figure 8. Power users can specify report attributes that enable searching and
categorization for end users, such as report owner, geographic region, and report type.
Power users can specify access permissions for a folder or an individual report.
Following the click on the Publish command, the report is immediately available on the myBI
portal. A quick check in Internet Explorer gives the power user the confidence that this
process finished successfully. Figure 8 shows an example using ProClarity Desktop.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 18
Figure 8. Publishing a ProClarity report on the myBI portal
End users see all their reports in the myBI report catalog. They can browse through the folder
list or search for reports based on categories and metadata, such as report type, department
name, and geographical information. For example, an executive manager can search for
scorecards across all business units of a specific geographical region and have these
scorecards displayed under each other. Of course, it is also possible to open each report
separately. In either case, displaying reports from any location is easy because all reports are
centrally available in myBI.
Figure 9 shows two ProClarity reports in the same browser window. However, the end user
can also select different types of reports because the reports pane is not application specific
and works simultaneously across all business intelligence solutions available on the myBI
portal. The end user selects the desired reports in the catalog pane, clicks Load Reports,
and the reports pane shows the business information side by side in the same browser
window for convenient analysis and comparison. The user can minimize and maximize
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 19
Figure 9. Specifying multiple default reports in myBI
The myBI report catalog also supports customization so that users do not need to search for
their favorite reports each time they go to myBI.
The most important features to personalize the myBI user interface are:
• Default reports As illustrated earlier in Figure 9, the user can right-click any report and
then click Set as Default Report. Default reports have the suffix (Default) to indicate
that the reports pane loads these reports automatically when the user displays the
• Favorites Because more than 3,000 reports are available, myBI gives users a feature
to narrow down the listed reports. One common way is to add preferred reports to a
Favorites folder. To accomplish this step in the myBI report catalog, the user only needs
to right-click the desired report and then click Add to Favorites. The report then appears
as an individual item in the Favorites folder.
• Saved filters End users with a large number of reports might find additional filtering
capabilities helpful. On the Advanced Filter tab, the user can define and save filter
settings similar to a template. Then, the user can apply the filter on the General tab to
list only those reports in the folders that meet the filtering criteria. In addition, the user
can have multiple predefined filters and specify one as the default view on the General
tab. This feature is particularly useful for managers that work with varying types of
reports during different periods, such as financial reports at the end of the fiscal year.
Ad Hoc Reporting
The customization features that the myBI user interface displays in the reports pane depend
on the business intelligence software that renders the report. For example, ProClarity
Analytics enables the user to drill down into specific questions and save the current view
directly on the application server as ProClarity My Views, as illustrated in Figure 10.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 20
Figure 10. Saving an ad hoc report in ProClarity Analytics
End users can also add external reports to their favorites. Another option that end users can
use to perform ad hoc reporting is the export of report views to Office Excel.
Sharing of Reports
Another important feature of the myBI report catalog enables myBI users to share individual
reports directly with other myBI users. The prerequisite is that the all users have the required
access permissions to the myBI portal.
Figure 11 illustrates how report sharing works on the myBI portal.
Figure 11. Sharing business reports on the myBI platform
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 21
In the example depicted in Figure 11, the manager performs the following steps to share a
report with three employees:
1. The manager creates a group under a special folder called Groups and grants the
employees access permissions.
2. The manager right-clicks the desired report and then clicks Add to Groups to add the
report to the group in order to share it with these employees.
3. The employees can see the report in the catalog pane and select it to analyze business
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 22
ONBOARDING TO THE MYBI PORTAL
For BI COE, myBI onboarding refers to the process of transitioning business units from
isolated business intelligence islands to the myBI infrastructure. In this transition, business
units must receive a clear path to move to the myBI Portal, including clearly defined roles and
responsibilities. With every myBI release, the myBI team reviews the onboarding process to
ensure that it remains in line with business requirements and executive direction.
Onboarding Roles and Responsibilities
Several teams must work together to migrate the reporting solutions of a business unit to the
myBI portal. On the side of the business unit, the Business IT team develops and tests
reporting solutions. On the side of BI COE, the myBI Platform team and the myBI Production
Support team share responsibilities. Responsibilities of the myBI SME include managing all
aspects of the onboarding process, evangelizing the process, training customers, and
prototyping for customers. The myBI SME works very closely with the Business IT team and
reports progress to a product manager in the business unit, who assumes the responsibility
of defining business requirements and provides feedback during integration and user
Figure 12 illustrates the myBI onboarding phases. The process starts with a business unit
that maintains its own departmental data warehouses, application servers, and reporting
solutions. The process ends with the myBI team hosting the reporting solutions on the myBI
application servers. Only the business data remains within the environment of the business
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 23
Rollout . .
. . Business Data
User Extranet Intranet
Testing . .
Catalog and . . Business Data
Catalog and . Business Data
Getting Prototype Server . Business Data
myBI Business Unit
Figure 12. The myBI onboarding process
The preferred approach to transition a business unit from an isolated business intelligence
environment to the global myBI infrastructure includes the following phases:
1. Getting started When the CIO charged Microsoft IT to adopt the myBI solution across
the entire IT organization, an executive memo informed all Business IT units within
Microsoft IT about the strategic nature and importance of the myBI solution. This memo
also included where to find more information about myBI. For example, business units
can attend presentations and demonstrations that myBI SMEs provide. Business units
can also go directly to the myBI site for hands-on experience and to access online
To initiate the onboarding process, the business unit must fill out an onboarding
questionnaire based on a Microsoft Office InfoPath® 2007 form. This questionnaire gives
the myBI team details about the current business intelligence tools and data, the
estimated number of power users and end users, the primary contacts who will work with
the myBI team during the onboarding process, and the desired onboarding timeline. The
myBI team maintains this information in an onboarding database to track status and
manage capacities. Among other things, the gathered information helps the myBI team
to estimate onboarding requirements, including hosting and support aspects. Business
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 24
units and the myBI team collaborate to determine how existing solutions and data
warehouses can best be integrated with myBI to accommodate the requirements of the
business unit and provide necessary support.
2. Prototyping The prototyping phase begins when a business unit agrees to onboard to
myBI. The goal of this phase is to assess technical requirements and help the business
unit plan for the future. Following the successful completion of prototypes, the business
unit must fill out an onboarding document that describes in detail the required
configuration needed to deploy the business unit's reports based on its data sources
within the myBI infrastructure. System accounts and security settings for data
warehouses are examples of such configuration information. The business unit must
also specify the user accounts or security groups of end users and power users who
need access permissions on the myBI portal.
3. Integration testing The myBI sandbox environment is an integrated test environment,
maintained and supported by the myBI team. Business units can use their own
environment for developing and testing purposes. After development and test teams
approve the reports and data as part of the Microsoft IT software development life cycle
(SDLC) process, the business unit can start integration testing in the myBI sandbox
environment. More specifically, the business unit uses the myBI sandbox environment to
verify that the reports work on the myBI portal. If there are any issues, the myBI SME
involves the developers and testers from the myBI team to find a solution. The myBI
team also provides regular training sessions, Help documentation, and sample scripts to
the core set of power users who develop and publish reports on the myBI portal.
After each onboarding phase, the myBI team tracks the onboarding status to prepare for
the next round. At this point, the most important information to obtain from the business
unit is confirmation that the integration tests finished successfully and according to
4. User acceptance testing Following successful system integration, the business unit
and the myBI team are ready to start the user acceptance phase. For this purpose, the
myBI team provides a staging environment, hosted in the data center and supported by
the Data Center Operations and myBI Production Support teams. This is a much higher
level of support than is available in the sandbox environment. This is an important aspect
because user acceptance testing involves the power users creating the reports and the
end users confirming that the reports meet their requirements.
During the process of user acceptance testing, end users must confirm that their reports
work as expected on the myBI portal. The myBI team keeps track of the formal approval
in the onboarding document.
5. Production rollout The production rollout essentially follows the same process used to
deploy the solutions in the staging environment. Based on the procedures, verified
during integration and user acceptance testing, the myBI Production Support team
ensures that the myBI application servers can access the business data sources over an
encrypted connection, configures access for extranet users, and grants general myBI
access permissions to power users and end users. The business unit can subsequently
refine these permission settings. The business unit can then deploy its approved
reporting solutions and communicate to the end users that the reports are live on the
myBI portal. Again, the myBI team keeps track of progress and coordinates further
services with the myBI Production Support team.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 25
Centralizing business intelligence across a large and multinational company, such as
Microsoft, is a complex organizational and technological challenge. It requires a reliable
business intelligence infrastructure, scalable business solutions, executive support, clear
communication, tremendous coordination, and sound project planning. Although Microsoft is
a unique environment, other IT organizations that want to implement solutions similar to myBI
might find the following general best practices useful:
• Get executive support Changing the business intelligence landscape of a company
can be a challenge for individuals and business units alike because it disrupts
established business processes in favor of new procedures and technologies. One of the
most important issues to realize is that this effort is primarily about process improvement
and operational innovation and not about technology. Even on grounds of compelling
business benefits, transforming business processes at a company-wide scale cannot
succeed without executive involvement, approval, and active support.
• Provide demonstrations, presentations, and guidance from the beginning Another
important element is compelling product demonstrations and presentations that clearly
show the benefits and advantages of the business intelligence solution. It is important to
use visually attractive prototypes and presentations based on realistic business
scenarios. For example, the myBI team spent almost three months with three developers
on this effort. The initial prototype helped the myBI team get the necessary funding. The
prototype work continues with every new feature and release to win more business units
for myBI and maintain the support of upper management. The myBI team also created
several small training and demonstration videos, which in conjunction with Microsoft
Office Live Meeting sessions and on-site presentations help myBI SMEs promote myBI
across the enterprise. Prototype work, demonstrations, presentations, training, and
continuous support are keys to ensure a very high level of customer satisfaction.
• Become a process leader When business processes change, business units need a
clear understanding of the motivation behind the changes and precise directions. The
onboarding process must happen in a predictable way even if certain aspects do not go
as planned during system integration and user acceptance phases. Developing change
management processes based on established frameworks, such as the Microsoft
Solutions Framework, is vital to move business units in a logical order of events to the
new environment. It is also important to define key roles and responsibilities, implement
clear communication paths, and report progress to business units frequently. It is
necessary to document the onboarding processes and to keep these documents up to
• Involve the customer and maintain project documentation To complement the
onboarding processes, it is important to integrate members of the business units actively
into the design process as stakeholders and members of steering committees, document
expectations, business requirements, and priorities, and to obtain support for changes.
The Microsoft IT SDLC involves business units at all key stages during the project life
cycle. Accordingly, the myBI team collaborates with the business units to define the right
scope based on prioritized requirements, reviews the design and obtains regular
feedback to ensure that the delivered solutions are relevant and useful, and maintains
requirement documents and technical specifications that clarify expectations and details
about myBI functionality.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 26
• Set realistic goals This is a basic concept, but it is a tricky task in a global project that
delivers results to managers and executives in all positions and locations of the
company. Starting with a small and basic solution that delivers immediate results is often
better than developing a deluxe version that tries to solve all the problems at once.
Adding features and capabilities based on user feedback over time and avoiding
excessive customizations are keys to success. It is important to start with a solution that
meets general business needs and implement a feedback process to convert
customization requests into feature requests that are useful for all users.
• Focus on security and scalability from the beginning This should be a best practice
in any software development project, and it is vital for a solution that provides access to
sensitive business information. Designing for security means that the solution works
based on the principle of least privilege, validates all user input, provides fault tolerance,
and responds in a managed way to system exceptions and other critical states.
Designing for scalability means that the solution can accommodate any number of users
through additional server hardware if necessary.
• Plan for sufficient project resources The company-wide deployment of a centralized
business intelligence environment poses software integration challenges. Individual
software packages do not integrate seamlessly. For example, ProClarity Analytics and
SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services differ in terms of security features, terminology,
and architecture. Bringing these products together onto a unified business intelligence
platform takes effort, knowledge, and skills. Providing the required resources in terms of
time, money, and people is a key to success.
• Provide training and support Business units need a substantial amount of assistance
during the onboarding process. Providing training, technical documentation, and support
to power users and end users is critical to the success of the onboarding process. Users
need to understand the advantages of the new environment and the benefits of learning
how to use new business intelligence tools. The better the training, Help system, and
technical documentation included in the solution, the lower the support requirements and
operational costs after a business unit has accomplished the onboarding process.
• Help business units target the right users with the right types of reports The
capabilities that the full stack of Microsoft business intelligence products provides might
initially overwhelm business units that complete the onboarding process. Different
business intelligence tools cover different needs. Business units must receive expert
advice regarding the typical use of reporting solutions. For example, standard reports
based on SQL Server Reporting Services might be useful for a different user base than
the Office Business Scorecard Manager scorecards.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 27
Centralizing business intelligence in a company-wide infrastructure based on Office
SharePoint Server 2007, Office Excel 2007, Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, Office
PerformancePoint Server 2007, ProClarity Analytics, SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services,
and SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services can help IT organizations to deliver value-driven
services and to contribute to business performance. Business benefits range from lower
operational costs and streamlined business processes through higher productivity of mission-
critical employees and decision makers and closer collaboration with partners and vendors.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides the foundation to implement a reliable, scalable, and
security-enhanced infrastructure that provides centralized access to business data from
disparate sources. This foundation facilitates broad sharing of business information while
helping to protect sensitive data. An Office SharePoint Server portal can also provide access
to additional information. For example, departmental document libraries and custom
application pages can share helpful documentation, announcements about upcoming events,
contact information, and useful links to other content.
Microsoft IT's decision to use Office SharePoint Server 2007 for business intelligence
consolidation was strategic. Office SharePoint Server enabled Microsoft IT to establish a
hosted, integrated, security-enhanced, and configurable myBI infrastructure. This
infrastructure provides a continuum of reporting and business intelligence capabilities where
business units can give the right information to the right users in the right format. The myBI
solution expands the reach of the myBI report catalog and an internal line-of-business
application, and it includes the entire suite of Microsoft business intelligence software.
The core of the myBI infrastructure is a user interface portal that provides seamless access
to reporting tools and data across the company. BI COE maintains this portal in addition to
the application servers, reporting solutions, and associated metadata and catalog databases
for all business units that use the myBI portal. The individual business units remain in control
of their databases and data warehouses. To support partners and vendors in addition to
corporate users, BI COE deployed the application servers on the Microsoft extranet and on
the corporate network.
To help business units transition from isolated business intelligence silos to the myBI
platform, BI COE provides a comprehensive lab environment. This environment consists of
demonstration systems, sandbox environments, and staging environments that mirror the
configuration of the production environment closely. Business units can use these test
systems to evaluate myBI according to their business requirements. They can also perform
integration testing and user acceptance testing according to the Microsoft IT SDLC. To help
power users and end users unlock the full potential of Microsoft business intelligence
solutions on the myBI platform, BI COE provides assistance, training, and production
One of the advantages of the myBI portal is that analysts and power users within each
individual business unit can continue to use ProClarity Desktop, Report Designer, Report
Builder, and Business Scorecard Builder to develop reports. Meanwhile, end users can share
standard and ad hoc reports, scorecards, and other business intelligence tools in a single,
personalized location with other users without having to involve IT staff or complex
administrative tools. On the myBI platform, managers and employees can find their favorite
business reports with a single mouse click and display multiple reports side by side for
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 28
convenient comparison. The myBI portal connects employees and decision makers with the
right information that is relevant to their specific needs. It enables the company to transform
business insight into decisions and actions more rapidly and maintain its competitiveness.
Centralizing and Sharing Business Intelligence by Using a Portal Page 29