The new release of BI Publisher 188.8.131.52 has a very nice new feature for those of you wanting to build reports on top of the BI Server data model. In previous releases you would need to either write the logical sql yourself or build an Answer request and copy the SQL from the Advanced tab and paste it into the BIP data modeler.
With the new release comes the ability to create reports without the need for a data model at all. You have the option when creating a new report to use a subject area directly.
Once you have selected the subject area you are interested in you can decide on whether to continue into the wizard to help you build the layout. Or to strike out on your own and build the layout yourself.
If you go for the latter and load up the layout editor, you get to see all of the data items you would see in the Answers builder in the data tree. Its then a case of dragging and dropping the columns into the layout, just as you would normally with a sample data source.
Once you are back to the report editor, the final step is to add some parameters.
This is a little different to a conventional BIP report. There is no data model definition per se i.e the logical SQL is not stored but rather, the columns you added to the layout and the subject area(s) you pulled them from. Yes' you can go across subject areas, but you need to know if its going to make sense or even work before you add more. You add more subject areas click on the subject area name where the data model name normally resides. You'll then get a shuttle dialog that lets you add more subject areas. You can then add columns in the layout builder.
Getting back to the parameters, on the report editor page, click the Parameters link (top right.) This will open the parameters dialog.
You can add parameters and set how they will be displayed; whether folks can select all; do they see check boxes, a drop box or text box; whether other parameters should be limited by the choice made for this box. Everything you get with a regular BIP parameter.
Finally, the report rendered with the parameters.
If you have a need to build a more highly formatted report on the BI Server data then this is definitely the way to go. This approach really does open up BIP reporting to business users. No need to write SQL, just pick the columns you want and format them in a simple to use interface.
Before you ask, you can not build report layouts in MSWord or Excel for this type of data source, not yet anyhoo :0)