PowerPivot error: unable to upgrade the Data Model in this workbook

Upon opening a PowerPivot in Excel 2013 workbook, I get the following message:

unable to upgrade the Data Model in this workbook. The error occurred while upgrading PowerPivot workbook. The data model has reverted to the previous version

The PowerPivot model was created in Excel 2013. The machine is 64-bit and the model was created here and hasn’t been moved.
It was working fine yesterday, and the only real change was the addition of a password in order to secure the file.

The error message in details is here:

Error Message:

Element not found. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x8002802B (TYPE_E_ELEMENTNOTFOUND))

Call Stack:

   at Microsoft.Office.PowerPivot.ExcelAddIn.INativeEntryPoint.BeginUpgradeASPPModel(String workbookName)
   at Microsoft.Office.PowerPivot.ExcelAddIn.InProcServer.LoadSandboxAfterConnection(String errorCache)



I resolved this issue by:
running the ‘PowerPivot in Sharepoint 2013 Configuration’.
I also removed the password from the file. To move it around, I will have to use other methods of encrypting the file.  For customer data, I use diskGenie iStorage portable encrypted hard drives and USBs, rather than the plethora of USBs I tend to pick up for free from events.

After running the Wizard and removing the password, I could open up the PowerPivot model just fine.

Hope that helps.

Up and coming PASS BA Sessions, and Data Visualisation and Microsoft Workshops

If you’re here looking for precon notes, I will be posting these up in the next few weeks after I’ve finished my precons at SQLSaturday Denmark, Databasedays Switzerland and SQLBits in Nottingham, UK. So please keep checking back, or email me at jen.stirrup@copperblueconsulting.com 

I’m delighted and proud to be presenting at the PASS Business Analytics Conference this week, in Chicago, Illinios, on 11th and 12th April. 

I love SQLPass Summit, and it is one of the highlights of my year. The Business Analytics conference is happening for the first time, and I can’t wait to meet the new #SQLFamily – or should that be #PASSBAFamily – that I will meet! I’m already making arrangements to meet fellow BA and Twitterati ‘in person’, which is one of my personal favourite things to do! See you there!

I’m pleased and proud to be presenting a preconference training in the Denmark in April 19th at the Microsoft Offices in Hellerup, Denmark, and a workshop in Pfaffikon, Switzerland.

With respect to Denmark, in case you’re not familiar, SQLSaturday events are often accompanied by one-day, very reasonably priced community training days.  This means that attendees get a deep-dive training day on a specialised subject on the Friday Preconference training day, as well as being able to attend the range  of sessions on the main SQLSaturday event.

The precon I’m delivering is an in-depth day, which is aimed at Business Intelligence specialists who focus on front-end reporting. We will be looking at some of the ‘new toys’ in the SQL Server 2012 toolbox, as well as having a fresh look at old favourites such as SQL Server Reporting Services.

Our data source is the Tabular Model.  I’m seeing more traction of the Tabular model at customer sites, but not everyone has had the chance to play with it yet. Therefore, I thought it worthwhile to use the Tabular model as a data source, in order to expose its usefulness to a wider audience. 
To register for the Denmark event, please click here
I’m holding a Data Visualisation workshop in Switzerland on 17th April.  

If you want to conduct advanced, business-oriented Business Intelligence analysis in SQL Server 2012, then it is essential to understand data visualisation. This session is aimed at developers who want to make informed data visualisation decisions about reporting, with supporting cognitive psychology theory where relevant.
The takeaways will focus on:
  • Introduction: Finding patterns in the data.
  • Further Data Visualisations: learn about visualisations that are perhaps not so well-known. This includes Stephen Few’s bullet charts and Tufte’s Sparklines in SSRS.
  • Multivariate data: We will cover the complexities of displaying multivariate data since is potentially more complex by visualisations. For example, we will look at Tufte’s “small multiples” in Power View and in Reporting Services.
  • Putting it all together: Considerations for Dashboards. This workshop aims to deliver a breadth of data visualisation knowledge, underpinned by cognitive psychology theory to provide deeper understanding.

To register for DatabaseDays, please go to http://www.databasedays.com/:

Last but not least, I’m holding a preconference training day at SQLBits in Nottingham, United Kingdom, on Thursday 2nd May. SQLBits is one of my favourite events, and I’m very glad to be going back to my roots after having been far travelled this year so far!
If you’d like to register for the SQLBits precon, the Training Day link is here. I hope to see you there! 

PowerPivot and Excel 2013 Overview Slides

Here are the slides for my recent presentation that I did recently, which was organised by Dell. Unfortunately, for some reason the recording didn’t turn out properly. However, the slides are available here for download:


Any questions, please do get in touch. I will try to arrange another webinar in the future, so that I can share the information in a timezone that suits people better. I’ll advertise when that will be.

Many thanks to Richard for his help in organising this event.

SQLPass Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter References and Slides

Thank you to everyone who attended my SQLPass Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter webinar! I have lots of questions to follow up, from both during and after the event. Please watch this space for more responses to questions over the next few days, and I will try to ensure that I answer every question. The slides are at the bottom of this blog post.

I’ve provided references below to some of the Data Visualisation people and material that I mentioned today. I hope that these are useful to you.

Ben Schneiderman – Ben’s Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design is an interesting read. In the presentation, I refer to one of Schneiderman’s essays, “The Eyes have it.” The guideline is summarise -> zoom and filter -> details-on-demand, and is known as the ‘Visual Information-Seeking Mantra’. 

Stephen Few – Stephen has written a number of books, which you can find at his site – there is a wealth of information there! If you’re a fan of data visualisation, then you should consider his blog, Perceptual Edge, a must-read. In particular, I’d like to shout out the following books:

Malcolm Gladwell – Malcolm has a great deal of interesting things to say on a whole range of topics, and I’m never going to be able to introduce him properly. 

Hans Rosling – What I love about Rosling’s work, is that he highlights health and social factors, poverty and health. This is data visualisation in action, to help people in poor circumstances – the sort of people who cannot always read what is written about them. He promotes a ‘fact-based’ world view on these issues. The YouTube video of Rosling’s data visualisation is below, which was made by BBC4. 

I should add that I’m not in any way associated with this video – but I get asked about it a lot, so I’ve embedded it here from YouTube. 

Here are the slides from today. I look forward to your comments, and I will answer the remaining questions in due course.


Sharepoint and PowerPivot: Connections fail to refresh in SQL Server 2008 Denali CTP3

Sharepoint requires a range of troubleshooting skills because it can involve the integration of various applications, which are necessarily resting on the application stack. I have the deepest respect for SharePoint specialists since i know that the troubleshooting skills can cut across applications and an understanding of the ‘glue’ that welds SharePoint together. Take, for example, the issue which I found recently whilst importing a PowerPivot into SharePoint. Everything looked absolutely fine: the PowerPivot loaded nicely into the PowerPivot gallery, and I could see my Excel spreadsheets too. The black and lime-green SharePoint theme was carried on throughout the Excel workbooks, and the whole thing was looking great. The Excel slicers were highly customised to match the SharePoint theming and customer branding, and the whole pieces, put together, looked fresh.

The PowerPivot was created on a Windows 2008 R2 Server 64 bit machine, which directly accessed the underlying SQL Server 2008 R2 database source. It is roughly 1.8Gb in size, which is just under the 2Gb limit for SharePoint files. I uploaded the PowerPivot from the original machine to the PowerPivot gallery as normal, on the target machine.

The issue came, however, when the user tried to filter the Excel spreadsheets or use the slicers in the Excel Services workbook, based on the PowerPivot. Even though the Excel workbook was part of the file uploaded to Sharepoint, the filters would not refresh. The file was uploaded with ‘All’ so it was not the case that any data had been filtered.  When a filter item was selected, the Excel spreadsheet froze, and then produced the following error message: 

Unable to refresh data for a data connection in the workbook. Try again or contact your system administrator. The following connections failed to refresh: PowerPivot Data

This issue is covered by MSDN here. However, none of their resolutions worked for me. The way I resolved this issue was as follows:

My resolution: I recreated a new Excel workbook, which used the PowerPivot as the source. The issue was due to the fact that I had developed the PowerPivot on one machine, and then moved it to another. Otherwise, the initial PowerPivot worked fine, and a new test PowerPivot on the subsequent machine worked fine too. The second machine did not have access to the source data since the PowerPivot was generated from a static data source, so it did not actually need to be refreshed. 

The MSDN suggested resolutions were as follows:

Scenario 1: The cause might be that a domain controller is not available to validate the user identity – this was a test VM that was a full administrator, and this wouldn’t explain why it worked for a PowerPivot that was ‘home grown’ on the server, and not a PowerPivot that had been moved.

Scenario 2: Differing versions of PowerPivot. I was very careful to ensure that the versions of PowerPivot were identical across machines

Scenario 3: IIS Reset in Sharepoint might work; no, I did try.

In the end, it was just easier and quicker to recreate the Excel workbook. The PowerPivot was otherwise unharmed during its movement from one server to another. I could see that the ‘PowerPivot data’ connection, when it was cracked open, pointed to a file that didn’t exist on the target machine. To make sure everything ran smoothly, it was easier just to recreate the Excel workbook in a completely new Excel workbook, which then worked perfectly.

These scenarios show the multi-disciplinary elements of troubleshooting Sharepoint and PowerPivot, since it involved aspects of Sharepoint such as IIS, Windows Claims authentication, and so on. Despite this, the end result of using Sharepoint and PowerPivot together was an great solution and if you haven’t tried it out yet, I suggest that you think about installing a Sharepoint and MS Business Intelligence Virtual Machine and try it out for yourself! Here is a link which might help you to build a VM for yourself.

Hope that helps someone else! 

SQLUniversity: PowerPivot, Tableau and Jedi Knights

This blog will show an overview of how I mobilised PowerPivot using Tableau. I’ve previously given this session at SQLBits, NEBytes Microsoft Technology User Group, and SQLServerDays in Belgium but thought it would also be useful to supply the files for you. The steps are very simple since I intended to show the end-to-end solution simply as a proof of concept, as follows:

  • creation of a PowerPivot which mashed up UK Census data with geographical data
  • creation of the report in Tableau
  • deployed to Tableau Public for consumption by mobile devices such as the iPad
The example was deliberately kept simple in order to prove the concept of PowerPivot being mobilised. 
The data sample involved mashing up two sources:
  • Jedi Knight census, data, which can be downloaded from here This is a basic file but the final PowerPivot can be downloaded from a link later on in this article
  • Geonames offer an excellent free download service, which you can access here
The Jedi Knight data, along with the geographical data, were joined using the outcode of the postcode data. If you need more definitions of the UK postcode system, I’ve previously blogged about this here.  
Essentially, a very simple RELATED formula was used in order to look up the latitude and longitude from the UKGeography table, and put it into the Jedi Knights data, and produce the necessary data in a simple Excel table. The formula looks like this:
Once these very simple formula were put in place, it was time to load the data into Tableau.
Tableau can take both PowerPivot and Excel data – which driver to use?  I used version 6 of Tableau. Whilst this version of Tableau does see the PowerPivot correctly as an Analysis Services cube, it does not always read the date as a ‘date’ type, but instead as an attribute. There is a forum posting on the Tableau website which tells you how to fix this issue, which involves changing the date so it appears as a measure, which means it can then be used for trends and so on. 
However, I wasn’t comfortable with this solution because I like dates to be in date format. I’ve also run into this issue at customer site, where the customer wanted to use SSAS as a source and Tableau as the presentation layer. They were data-warehouse savvy and didn’t like the ‘measures approach’ fix. 
On customer site, I got around it instead by using the Excel data source, and importing all of the PowerPivot columns into an Excel 2010 sheet. By doing it in this way, date formats were preserved. In this example, I didn’t have date format so it didn’t matter – but this is a useful tip for the future if you are using PowerPivot with Tableau. The final data, in an Excel PowerPivot, can be obtained in zip format here or if you can’t access it, please email me at jenstirrup [at] jenstirrup [dot] com.
Once the data was accessible by Tableau, I used the Tableau Desktop version to upload the data into Tableau’s memory. I did this so that I could eventually upload the Tableau workbook to Tableau Public. The instructions to save to Tableau Public are given here
Once the data was in Tableau Public, I just needed to access the data using the Safari browser on the iPad. In case you are interested, the demos are publically accessible and you can access the final result by clicking on the hyperlinks below.
I hope that’s been a useful overview of PowerPivot, and the ease of which it was mobilised. This blog forms a use case of how it might be useful to use PowerPivot, since I think that people sometimes need examples of how PowerPivot can benefit them. In this case, the clear benefit of PowerPivot is to provide an easy way of mashing up different data sources.
I look forward to your comments and thank you for sticking with me for the PowerPivot SQLUniversity discussions!