As a business intelligence practitioner or developer, it is always a critical success factor in your solutions to make sure that you are presenting the complex world of data engineering to your end users in a way that enables quick, easy and accurate analysis. In other words, compelling data visualizations can improve business decisions by making decision-makers more involved in data-driven decision processes.
An emerging data visualization in the BI world that is gaining traction is the Tag Cloud. Here is an example of a Tag Cloud that I created in just a few minutes using the Pentaho 4.8.2 Analyzer tool … Notice that I included a text dimension attribute (Model Name from Adventure Works DW) that is appropriate for a Tag Cloud visualization and I used dimensions for sales amount and unit quantity to affect the size and color aspects of the visualization. To me, I found this to be a very compelling and easy-to-understand method to quickly show the model names that had the biggest impact on Adventure Works sales revenue:
The data set that I used is the infamous Microsoft SQL Server Adventure Works Data Warehouse that I downloaded for free from Microsoft’s sponsored Codeplex community site here. To build a Tag Cloud for your dashboard or BI solution in Pentaho, make sure that you download the SQL Server JDBC driver if you are going to use SQL Server as a data source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/aa937724.aspx. In this demo, I used SQL Server 2012 Developer Edition and Adventure Works DW 2012 sample data warehouse data set.
You can get an evaluation copy of the Pentaho Business Analytics Suite from Pentaho.com and you can run this all from your laptop. The visualization tool that I used here runs all in your browser and will automatically generate a multiple-dimensional model from your database sources so that you can slice, dice and analyze your data without needing to get down into the cube development process.
When you get started in Pentaho, to reproduce the Tag Cloud, you will create a “New Analysis” report (uses the Pentaho Analyzer pivot tool) which I’ve demonstrated below with the follow-up dialog which is where you will point to the SQL Server database tables for Adventure Works:
After this point, Pentaho will generate a base model for MDX queries from Analyzer, so you can start building the report right away. Or, if you are like me, you will want to go into the model and modify the measures, dimensions, properties, etc. to customize the model for data types, formatting, etc.:
Before you can choose the Tag Cloud report design, you will need to download the plug-in and add it to your installation. This is all explained for you here. That is very simple and only takes a few minutes. After that is done, you will see the Tag Cloud appear in your report chart types list. Now you can drag the measures & dimensions that you need to color and size the values in your cloud. This is very good for string attributes in your dimensions and will display in the browser, so it is easy to include this report in a Pentaho or other dashboards.