Book Review: Monitoring and Analyzing with Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007

Tim Kent already reviewed this book last month after polishing it off over a weekend.  Tim liked the book and gave a positive review.  However, I felt that it is difficult to gauge how good the book is as, to be fair, Tim is hardly a newbie when it comes to PPS Monitoring and Analytics.

I’ve focused my PPS time on the planning element and normally throw the M&A elements over Tims fence so I’ve not spent as much time with Monitoring and Analytics as I should have.  Tim has got wise and has installed a new, higher fence, therefore, I thought it was about time I put the book to the ‘newbie’ test.

It’s my first Rational Guide and I really like the concept.  The guides are limited to 250 pages so they have to be concise and to the point.  I like the ‘pocket’ size, the formatting and layout that I presume is consistent across all Rational Guides.

Considering the book is penned by two authors, I couldn’t tell.  The writing style is clear and consistent and pitched at the same level throughout the book.  The detail is very well written with forward and backward references to other parts of the book to seamlessly link everything together.

The book is split into 5 parts, Introduction, Installation and Config, The Elements, Implementation and Management and finally Extras which at first I thought was just an index and an advert for the other related Rational Guides – wow, thanks, you shouldn’t have – but as it happens, on the very last page is information on how to register your book to obtain more information such as extra chapters and samples that the authors, Nick Barclay and Adrian Downes, could not squeeze into the already packed 250 pages.  One perhaps obvious casualty of the page limit is ProClarity, in the words of the authors, “It is beyond the scope of this book to detail the functionality available in the ProClarity product suite..”.

The introduction covers a lot of ground; Performance Management, BI and the Microsoft BI Stack and PerformancePoint Server 2007 itself.  A whopping 20 pages of intro which does eat into the 250 page limit – I’m not sure whether the scope of the intro was specified by the Rational Guide editors or the authors wanted to widen the audience but I’m not convinced it needed all of it at the expense of product related material.  It will be interesting to see how much of it is re-used in the PerformancePoint Planning companion book.

The main body of the book follows a ‘theory and practice’ type approach.  Firstly explaining, in detail, each subject or feature, following up with a step-by-step tutorial to implement what you’ve just learnt.  Each chapter and section tends to build on the previous one so it’s worth reading from front to back rather than darting around chapters of interest and this is largely down to the nature of the product rather than any conscious decision I’m sure.  All in all, for me, this approach works; not only do I gain some background insight and theory behind the product, I also gain some touchy-feely experience that you can’t glean from just reading alone.

If you are a newbie wanting a book to smooth out the learning curve to get you up to speed quickly and easily, with not only the product but with the theory behind the product too, this book, in my opinion, is it.  It can’t take you to guru status but it provides a solid framework to provide the initial stepping stone.  To sum up, rather than spend half of the 4-day, ~£1000, Microsoft Partner PPS course learning about Monitoring and Analytics, take a couple of days off, buy this book and use it on a VPC image of the MS BI Stack – I bet you’ll learn more!