One of the things I'd heard again and again on the message boards and in articles around LightSwitch was that its lack of reporting options out of the box was a big drawback. While this had some validity in LightSwitch 2011 (although I always felt it was overstated, but whatever), with the introduction of oData in v2 of the product, this should have put to rest the idea that you couldn't do offer a number of reporting options to end-users in conjunction with a LightSwitch application. Because now you could leverage PowerPivot in Excel, which is a free download for Excel 2010 and is baked into Excel 2013 by simply checking a box. I'm not even going to go into all the different options for reporting you have with PowerPivot, because they are too numerous to mention (a GREAT resource for PowerPivot is available here, by the way - http://www.powerpivotpro.com/). Also, Microsoft just (wisely) added Power View into its Excel 2013 product, which adds drag and drop dashboarding capabilities into Excel with no programming required. It has some limitations, sure, but it's a fantastic complement to PowerPivot and really helps round out Excel as a BI powerhouse that almost every business user is very familiar and comfortable with and already has on their PC.
"But what about for the iPad?" you ask. Well, I won't get into the fact that Sharepoint 2013 allows you to run PowerPivot reports on the iPad, and I'll not get into all of the cool new SAP mobile solutions for business intelligence (in this post I won't anyway). Instead, I want to bring your attention to an app that is a bit of a "hidden gem" currently sitting on the iTunes store for anyone to purchase for $29.99. It's called ReportPlus, and it's made by Infragistics, who may be known to many developers out there for their strong set of development tools (except for their VERY mediocre LightSwitch suite, which pales in comparison to the far superior Studio for LightSwitch control suite from ComponentOne). ReportPlus allows anyone to pick a dashboard template, take one or multiple data sources (including oData from a LightSwitch app of course), and then create your dashboard directly on the iPad by simply dragging and dropping your data. So how easy is it? Let me walk you through it -
1. First, start the app and select a template by tapping on it
2. Add a data source to use for your dashboard - you can see how many options you have to do this from the menu of data sources it supports
We're going to use the Northwind oData Feed for the demo. Once selected, you'll see the different tables/queries that have been exposed in the feed. You can then drag and drop your selection(s) into one of the boxes in the dashboard template
Let's do a sample with the Category_Sales_for_1997 data by dragging it into the first window and bring up our dashboard creator -
Look at the number of charting and table layouts available to use! How about I do a simple pie chart with this dataset - wonder how long this will take. Oh wait, the answer is two seconds since I can just tap the pie chart symbol to do that.
So I'm going to do a little cleanup here by changing the title, getting rid of the grid, etc. So after a minute, I have the following -
I then proceeded to complete a quick sample dashboard in under 5 minutes that looked like this
This was almost too easy to put together, and I can set how often I want it to go back and fetch live data (among a myriad of other options I have to shape my data). Obviously I want to show it off to my co-workers now. So how can I do that? Simple, I can click on the arrow if I wanted to quickly send it via e-mail as a snapshot -
But, you also have the ability to send the dashboard you created either as a template someone else with ReportPlus can reuse/modify, or even export it right to a PowerPoint file that you can open in any number of other programs -
Here's how it looks in Quickoffice (which is so annoying to have to use as someone who loves Office 2013 like I do)
And before you ask, yes, you can get rid of all the annoying ReportPlus logos in the presentation (no offense Infragistics, but you should really have the option to export it without the logo in the paid app).
This is a VERY simplistic example of what you can do with this app - the first time I saw this app demonstrated to me I was blown away by the potential it represented. It has more features then you can shake a stick at, is simple to use, and gives a whole new group of users the power to create really slick mobile dashboards with no coding or PC required. And Infragistics also has an Enterprise Solution available if you're looking to have even more control on what features you allow your users to leverage, branding, etc.
ReportPlus is a great companion to LightSwitch in Visual Studio 2012 - it showcases how LightSwitch and its ability to expose data via oData can make mobile reporting a snap. Highly recommended.