Documenting MicroStrategy projects; four tips for unlocking your metadata

Four tips how to effectively use the business and technical metadata of MicroStrategy to leverage value across your company.

 

The importance of documentation of business and technical metadata grows as the amount of reporting platforms and their complexity increases. Documentation offers many advantages:

  • enhancing the quality of data in an enterprise,
  • providing an enterprise-wide picture of the analytical applications in the enterprise,
  • consolidating business terms,
  • providing a clearer presentation of reports for non-technical users.

Today I'm going to choose one of the more widely-used and popular reporting platforms, MicroStrategy, and give you four tips on using its business and technical metadata to leverage value across your company.

 

1) Project Documentation provided by MicroStrategy

Documenting a Microstrategy project can be less "painful" than programming the application if you use some of the supplied SDK's. A good place to start is to use the free tool "Project Documentation" that's provided by Microstrategy Itself. There's a very nice tutorial discussing this in Bryan's BI blog (here).

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to customise the output documentation, so the one you request is going to have to meet all of your requirements or you're stuck. It has no search functionality and getting the documentation piece by piece for each specific project takes a lot of time. Moreover, there's a lack of support for technical metadata, such as descriptions of table columns, physical tables etc.

 

2) MicroStrategy Metadata Browser

Another route to finding what you're looking for is to use the Metadata Browser. It's an open source project leveraging IS SDK and is used to browse the metadata of a project. It's written in Visual Basic and is available at this website (here). The disadvantage of this method is the "wildness" of its development (the latest version n. 3 can throw out some exceptions - most of them are discussed here), which was terminated in 2011.

 

3) MicroStrategy SDK

Microstrategy Software Development tools (SDK) is a "collection of programming tools, utilities, documentation, and libraries of functions or classes that are designed to allow users to customize and extend MicroStrategy products and to integrate them within other applications. The programming tools provided by the MicroStrategy SDK — including programming instructions, points of access, and guidelines for developers — allow programmers to enhance the operation of their software by customizing and embedding the robust functionality of the MicroStrategy BI platform" (source) and its a great way to build a highly customisable solution.

Microstrategy provides several SDKs, each one of them serves different needs (more details about all of them here). The two most suitable for our needs are - Web SDK and Intelligence Server SDK (IS SDK). Both of them have got advantages and disadvantages which I will try to describe below:

WEB SDK

Advantages

  • The application can be written in Java
  • Can be run on most OS's

Disadvantages

  • Very little technical metadata is reachable
  • Goes through a Web server (slower then IS)

IS SDK

Advantages

  • Business and technical metadata reachable
  • Direct access to Intelligence Server

Disadvantages

  • Application can be executed only on Windows
  • Component object model (COM) based SDK
  • Can be written only with COM supported languages (VB, C++, C# .. )
  • Application must have access to the dependent DLLs (Microstrategy Developer or MicroStrategy Runtime Environment must be installed)

The disadvantage with both of them is that some programming skills are needed and of course the fact that using SDK solves only the first half of the problem, getting metadata from the platform, and not the second half - presenting it in a suitable manner.

 

4) Semanta MicroStrategy Connector

Microstrategy connector is .NET based application using Intelligence Server SDK and was developed by Semanta. It consists of two functional units: the loader part and the web­builder part.

  • The Loader part connects to the MicroStrategy reporting platform, retrieves metadata and transfers it to a dedicated DB scheme.
  • The Web­builder part uses this saved data to create a web presentation, visualising the external data in Semanta's Encyclopaedia.

The result is a comprehensive and highly functional documentation system. With Encyclopaedia, you can let people ask for new reports or data, declare who owns the information and information sources, ask a question or ask for help and quite simply build a modern knowledge-base system where the business documentation of reports can meet the technical documentation of attributes, tables etc.


Screenshots from sample Microstrategy project