Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Data View Web Part

I came across a web part for our dashboard development that makes access to SQL data a little easier. It’s from a company named Lightning Tools Ltd, and it’s the LT Data Viewer Web Part. Its claim to fame is not requiring SharePoint Designer to drop a table, view, or stored procedure on to a SharePoint site.

In the screenshot below, I’ve used the web part to display data from a stored procedure, showing recent batches run on our demo system. The web part has the ability to highlight values or whole rows based on expressions. In this case, I’ve highlighted batches whose duration has exceeded a predetermined limit. Makes it easy to quickly identify the outliers.

Of course, it would be really neat if I could just click on the Batch ID in the list and get access to a report or launch a tool like History Analysis…

Monday, August 17, 2009

SharePoint As An Automation Dashboard

We’ve been doing some heavy experimenting lately, exploiting SharePoint (specifically WSS 3.0) as a dashboard tool for DeltaV. And while we’re messing around with some 3rd party tools specifically developed for accessing real-time data, I also wanted to see what we could do using the out-of-the-box web parts.

SharePoint is SQL based, so it’s SQL aware, almost SQL friendly. And since DeltaV has lots of stuff stored away in SQL (batch data, Syncade data, alarms and events data), this seemed like a good place to start.

First thing though, you’ve got to have Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer. The good news, it’s now free from Microsoft (Bill Gates must have been feeling especially generous one day). Click here to follow the link to the download site. You’ll want to get a good book on Designer and SharePoint (I’m still looking for one).

The specific tool we’ve been experimenting with is the data view web part. So to get a summary of orders from Syncade, you create a data source into the DMI_EBR database, looking at the vOrders view:

Note how sorting and filtering are possible right within creating the data source. You can then check to make sure you’ve set everything up right by looking at the data:

Then it’s just a matter of dropping the data source on a SharePoint web page. You can even link one data view web part to another. For example, selecting a particular Syncade order in the upper web part populates the lower web part of all the work instructions executed during the order:

Is it really just that easy? No way – you’ll need to spend a lot of time with this, but the benefits are huge. Next post I’ll talk about other techniques for unlocking the hidden value of your data.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Prolific Comment

Our Site Services manager, Mark Moore, brought this to my attention and I thought it was such a prolific observation, not to mention one of my favorite topics for presentation, I’d share it here.

When a pharmaceutical company representative remarked “We’re awash with data, but we have no information”, Alison Smith of Aspen Technology she commented “this was a very apt statement. It applies to any environment in which technology has been deployed in the absence of an information design…”

Data to information, information to knowledge – a holistic approach to the application of S95 is key to keep all those thousands of terabytes of data from gathering electronic dust.