Introduction to Excel Services

January 12, 2007

Excel Services is a Microsoft Office SharePoint technology that makes it simple to use, share, secure, and manage Microsoft Office Excel 2007 workbooks (.xslx, xslb) as interactive reports in a consistent way throughout the enterprise.

There are three basic components to Excel Services that interact with each other and together form the overall structural design of Excel Services;

 Excel Calculation Services (ECS) is the “engine” of Excel Services that loads the workbook, calculates in full fidelity with Microsoft Office Excel 2007, refreshes external data, and maintains sessions.

 Excel Web Access (EWA) is a Web Part that displays and enables interaction with the Microsoft Office Excel workbook in a browser by using Dynamic Hierarchical Tag Markup Language (DHTML) and JavaScript without the need for downloading ActiveX controls on your client computer, and can be connected to other Web Parts on dashboards and other Web Part Pages.

 Excel Web Services (EWS) is a Web service hosted in Microsoft Office SharePoint Services that provides several methods that a developer can use as an application programming interface (API) to build custom applications based on the Excel workbook.

Because Excel Services is a component of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, you can also take advantage of many SharePoint technology features such as, controlling, securing, and managing access to spreadsheets, server-based performance, and ability to scale well when users are added.

So where does this start to get fruity? Well the answer is as always when we start to look at some deployment scenarios to mkae this thing real.

Of course, there are countless ways that you can use Excel Services, but the following is a representative list of scenarios and examples to help you better understand how you might use Excel Services.

Business intelligence dashboards  An executive committee has access to several company dashboards that act as an up-to-date financial scoreboard for the company. To continuously assess company performance, the main dashboard summarizes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as sales goals, target revenues, and profit margins, on a monthly basis. Additional dashboards summarize market news to help analyze financial risk for current and new projects, and to display charts of critical financial data to help evaluate different investment portfolios.

Retail store decision-making tool  A retail chain summarizes critical point-of-sales data on a weekly basis and shares it with suppliers, financial analysts, and regional managers. Reports include current items below inventory, top 20 selling items by sales categories, important seasonal data, and transaction counts by each store.

And for me the most interesting scenario and where the richest vein of IP protection is concerned;

Proprietary financial analysis calculation model  A large financial institution has researched and developed a pricing model that is private intellectual property. The results of the formula need to be shared with some investment managers, but the formula that is used to calculate the pricing model must be secure and never be publicly revealed. This pricing model is extremely complex and takes a long time to calculate. Every night, the pricing model report is calculated and created on a fast server, saved to a trusted location, and displayed on a Web Part Page, but only to those who have appropriate permission.

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