Creating Your Own Narratives

Documentation for Arria NLG’s Add-in for MicroStrategy Desktop


This documentation is organized as follows:

Creating a custom narrative

  1. Open the sample MicroStrategy dashboard and find Arria’s custom visual
  2. Add a narrative to describe the visuals
  3. Create a project in Arria NLG Studio
  4. Modify the Studio project
  5. Publish the Studio project
  6. Link your published Studio project to your MicroStrategy dashboard

Using mapping scripts

Optimizing the narrative to handle filters

Contextualizing the narrative

Going further

Other documentation for Arria’s add-in to MicroStrategy



Creating a Custom Narrative

This guide explains how to get and use Arria NLG’s add-in for MicroStrategy Desktop.

You’ll begin by downloading a sample MicroStrategy dashboard, with Arria’s custom visual included. After that, you’ll provide some information about your data and the kind of things you would like to say about it in a narrative.

Using Arria’s custom visual, you’ll add a narrative widget to the report. Then, using NLG Studio, you’ll create a very simple NLG project, which you’ll publish to the cloud. Then, you’ll link the published Studio project to the narrative widget to bring its NLG into the report.

By moving through the steps of creating a very simple NLG project, you’ll get a glimpse of the amazing things you can do when you extend MicroStrategy with Arria’s NLG technology.

Audience: BI analysts, BI developers


Import Arria’s custom visual into a sample MicroStrategy dashboard

1. Download this sample MicroStrategy dashboard (.MSTR file).
2. In MicroStrategy Desktop, open the dashboard.
3. Close the Contents panel, the Filter panel, and the Format panel.
4. At the top center of the screen, click the Insert Visualization button to add a visualization.

5. Drag the new visualization to the left of the charts. (You may need to then drag the bottom chart below the top one in order to give the new visualization the entire left side of the dashboard.)

6. In the Custom panel, click the plus-sign icon, and select Import Visualization.

7. In the Import Visualization dialog, find and open the .ZIP file containing the Arria add-in. (Don’t extract the contents; just find the .ZIP and click Open.
8. Make sure the new visualization you inserted in Step 4 is selected, not either of the charts. (If you have a chart selected during the next step, the chart will be overwritten.)
9. In the Custom panel, click the Arria custom visual to bring it into Visualization 1.



Add a narrative to describe the visuals

1. In the Arria widget (custom visual), click Create Custom Narrative.
2. With the Datasets panel open, and the Editor panel open, add the following attributes and metrics to the dashboard:

  • To the Attributes section, drag Product, Segment, and Year.
  • To the Metrics section, drag Profit and Sales.

Now that you’ve selected the data you’re working with in MicroStrategy, you’re ready to bring that specific set of data into NLG Studio.

3. In the Arria widget, make sure the Simple/Advanced toggle is set to Simple.
4. Make sure the Studio Project Type is set to Describe a JSON Object. (This is because the NLG Studio starter project you are going to download is a JSON-type Studio project. If the Studio project you associate with your dashboard is based on CSV data, you would choose Describe a Table here.)
5. In the View Dataset in JSON section, at the top right, click the download icon to download the data.

6. In the dialog, click Copy to Clipboard and then Close.

7. In your browser, paste the URL you just copied to download the data file.
8. Check your machine’s Download folder for the file called data.json. In the next section, you’ll import this into the BI Starter project in NLG Studio.


Create a project in Arria NLG Studio

You are going to create a very simple sample project in NLG Studio in order to get a basic understanding of how you can use NLG Studio to augment your analytics. (For instructions that show how to create a more elaborate narrative, see the NLG Studio documentation.)

1. Download the BI Starter project for NLG Studio. The BI Starter project contains some helper functions that you’ll see as sub-scripts under the Main script in the Compose view. These helper functions are user-defined functions created specifically for working with BI data.
2. Check your machine’s Download folder for the file called and extract the contents to find the JSON file inside.
3. Log in to NLG Studio.
4. In NLG Studio, in your dashboard, click the Import a Project icon to import the BI Starter Project JSON file.

5. In the NLG Studio dashboard, click the starter project to open it.

Note: In the future, this project may become your starting point for all your BI projects created in NLG Studio. So if you like, you can rename the project to something generic. Or, you might want to give it a name that matches the name of the corresponding .MSTR file. To change the project’s name, just click in the name at the top left of the screen.

You’ll see the data that comes with the starter project. When you’re ready to modify this starter project, you’re going to replace this data with the data from your field selections in MicroStrategy.

6. In the left navigation ribbon, click Compose to access the Compose editor.

In the editor, you’ll see the contents of the Main script, which is empty aside from a reference to a ReadMe sub-script. This ReadMe describes the BI data format used in MicroStrategy integration projects, and it provides information about the helper functions in the project. The helper functions appear as a list of sub-scripts under the Main script. You can click on the sub-scripts to see their contents (the user-defined helper functions).

7. Make sure you’re in the Main script, then at the top right of the screen, click Preview. Read the ReadMe information.



Modify the Studio project

You are going to compose a piece of narrative describing the total sales and total profit for the selected period. To generate the text for that, you’ll add some code in the Compose editor. But first, you need to import the data set that is specific to the fields you have selected in MicroStrategy: Product, Segment, Year, Profit, Sales.

1. In the left navigation ribbon, click Data to go to the Data view.
2. At the top right of the screen, click the import icon to bring in the file called data.json from your Downloads folder.

3. Click Compose to go to the Compose view.
4. Click Main to begin editing the Main script.
5. Remove the text that is already there ([[ReadMe]]).
6. Copy/paste the following:

For the [[inflectNoun('year',len(getUniqueValues(data,'Year')))]] [[getUniqueValues(data,'Year')]], the total sales were [[formatCurrency(columnAggregate(data,'Sales','sum'),'USD','#.00','')]] and the total profit was [[formatCurrency(abs(columnAggregate(data,'Profit','sum')),'USD','#.00','')]].

7. In the top right of the screen, click Preview.
Your previewed output should look like this:

Now add another piece of narrative. You’ll add a sentence reporting on the sectors that contributed the most and least profit. As an exercise, you’ll create some in-script variables that you’ll use to replace some of your existing code.

8. In Main, replace the existing script with the following:








if (currency !=null){For the [[inflectNoun('year',len(years))]] [[years]], the total sales were [[formatCurrency(totalSales,currency,'#.00','')]] and the total [[direction(totalProfitLoss ,'profit','loss' )]] was [[formatCurrency(abs(totalProfitLoss),currency,'#.00','')]]. The [[printKey(topSegmentbyProfit)]] segment reported the most [[direction(topSegmentbyProfit[1], 'profit','loss')]]: [[formatCurrency(abs(printValue(topSegmentbyProfit)),currency,'0.##','')]].}]]

9. Click Preview.
Your previewed output should look like this:

10. Now add another sentence to your narrative, this time reporting on the loss made in some segments. Compose this sentence in a new script. In the Compose view, click the Add New Script button.

11. At the bottom of the list of scripts, rename the NewScript to DescribeContrast. Hover the mouse over the script name till you see the ellipsis, then click this and select Rename.  Enter DescribeContrast to overwrite NewScript.

12. In this new sub-script, copy/paste the following:

#define DescribeContrast(category,currency)[[salesForSegment=columnAggregate(filterOn(data,'Segment','==',category[0]),'Sales','sum');

if (category[1]<0){Even though the [[category[0]]] segment posted [[formatCurrency(salesForSegment,currency,'0.##','')]] sales, it reported a loss of [[formatCurrency(abs(category[1]),currency,'0.##','')]].}]]

In order to call the new sub-script, you need a new variable that represents the segment with the lowest profit (or highest loss). You can create an in-script variable in Main to do this.

13. Go back to the Main script and overwrite what you have there with the following code (which contains the new variable bottomSegmentbyProfit and the call to the new sub-script DescribeContrast):









if (currency !=null){For the [[inflectNoun('year',len(years))]] [[years]], the total sales were [[formatCurrency(totalSales,currency,'#.00','')]] and the total [[direction(totalProfitLoss ,'profit','loss' )]] was [[formatCurrency(abs(totalProfitLoss),currency,'#.00','')]]. The [[printKey(topSegmentbyProfit)]] segment reported the most [[direction(topSegmentbyProfit[1], 'profit','loss')]]: [[formatCurrency(abs(printValue(topSegmentbyProfit)),currency,'0.##','')]]. [[DescribeContrast(bottomSegmentByProfit,currency)]]}]]

14. Click Preview.
You should see the following:



Publish the Studio project

1. In NLG Studio, in your BI Starter Project, click Publish in the left navigation ribbon.
2. In the Publish view, under Run Project, click the Publish button.
3. At the Congratulations! message, click the copy icon to copy the URL to your clipboard.

4. Paste the URL to a notepad.
5. Under Run Project, click API.
6. Scroll down, then click the Generate API Key button.
7. Make note of the API key generated. (Again, you can click the copy icon to copy the API key to your clipboard. Paste it to a notepad.)



Link your published Studio project to your MicroStrategy dashboard

1. In the first empty field in the widget, enter the NLG Studio project URL (the URL you made note of after publishing the project).
2. In the second empty field, paste in your API key.

3.  Click the Generate Text button.

4. Open the Filter panel and make a different year selection to see how this changes the narrative.

NOTE: You can also click around on different pieces of the charts to see how the narrative responds. To select multiple bars at the same time, use CTRL+Click. But before you try this, make sure you have selected the narrative visual as a target for each of the charts.

5. (Optional) You can copy the narrative for pasting elsewhere (e.g. into Microsoft PowerPoint or Word) by clicking the copy icon in the top right of the widget.



Using Mapping Scripts

With Arria’s add-in, you can add custom JavaScript to modify the input data set — right inside the narrative widget. You do this in the Edit Mapping Script section.

About the Methods Used:

getData(): This method returns the underlying JSON data (the data you see in the View Dataset in JSON section).
addMetaData(appSpecificData,key,value);: This method appends a key-value pair into the metadata object of the dataset (appSpecificData).
setData(appSpecificData): This method sets the appSpecificData variable (the transformed data object). After using this method, the transformed data object is available for download and posting to the NLG service URL.

You can add some metadata to the input JSON data object var data=getData(); as shown in this example:

var data=getData();

Note: In the above script, we add the "currency" : "GBP" key-value pair as metadata. However, with addMetaData, you can add any key-value pairs that you want to pass to the Studio project, for example a threshold as shown here:

var data=getData();

To try out a custom mapping script:
1. Copy the above script and paste it in the Edit Mapping Script section of the narrative widget.

2. In the View Dataset in JSON section, at the top right, click the download icon to download the data. This time you’ll get the sample data again, but with your customization. If you examine the downloaded data, you’ll see the additional information: ("metadata":{"currency":"GBP"})

3. Click Open with Studio and then copy/paste the URL into your browser to open your BI Starter project.

4. Now assign the currency metadata to a variable called currency. You can do this easily as an in-script variable.
a. Replace the first line of the current Main script with the following:


To see the results:
1. In order to preview, you first need to import the modified sample data into the Studio project. (This is the data you modified using the custom mapping JavaScript.)
a. In the left navigation ribbon, click Data to go to the Data view.
b. At the top right of the screen, click the Import new sample data icon.
c. Browse, or drag and drop, to import the modified data file from your Downloads folder.
d. Click Continue.
In the Data view, you should see the new "currency": "GBP" metadata.

2. Click Preview.

3. Now publish the Studio project. The URL endpoint and the API key remain the same, so you don’t need to update anything more in the configuration window of the Arria custom visual in your MicroStrategy dashboard.
4. Go back to MicroStrategy. Refresh the narrative (click Generate Text in the Arria widget).

You should see the currencies expressed in sterling (£) instead of dollars (US$).


Optimizing the Narrative to Handle Filters

At this point, in your MicroStrategy dashboard, if you click on a single sector within a graph, the narrative still describes the sector with the most profit or loss. But this information is redundant because the selected data represents only a single sector.

To see an example of this redundancy, try this:
1. In the top graph, Ctrl-click to select all the bars in the Government segment like this:

2. Now check out how the narrative changes.

Do you see the second sentence? It’s reporting on the greatest profit by segment, which happens to be the Government segment. But because we’ve selected only the Government segment, we’re already getting the profit figure for that segment in the first sentence. We don’t need the second sentence. The next exercise will show you how to filter that out.

Note: By removing that second sentence, we are removing only one redundancy. The narrative could be further optimized. But we’ll leave that for another time.

So, focusing on one fix here, you can filter out that redundant sentence — the sentence describing the segment with the most profit or loss — when there is only one segment selected.

To filter out the sentence when it is irrelevant:
1. In NLG Studio, in your BI Starter project, locate the following sentence in your Main script:

The [[printKey(topSegmentbyProfit)]] segment reported the most [[direction(topSegmentbyProfit[1], 'profit','loss')]] of [[formatCurrency(printValue(topSegmentbyProfit),currency,'0.##')]].

2. Add the following if statement surrounding the sentence (include the curly brackets and replace <above script> with the sentence above):

[[if (len(profitLossbySegments)>1){ <above script> }]]

Note: If you preview the narrative at this point, you’ll notice that the sentence still appears in the narrative within NLG Studio. This is because Studio is working with the data it currently has, not the data that comes from the selection of only the Government segment in MicroStrategy. To see that this redundant sentence has been removed, you need to re-publish the Studio project and then go back to MicroStrategy.

4. Publish the Studio project again.
Now, in MicroStrategy, you should see that the redundant sentence does not appear in the narrative when you select the Government segment.

Contextualizing the Narrative

To make the narrative more responsive to selection events within visuals, we’re going to add a prepositional phrase to the first sentence, so we can describe narrowed-down selections in segments. Currently, the first sentence states For the years <years>, the total sales were <sales total> and the total loss was <loss total>. To report on narrowed-down selections, we’re going to add the new phrase after For the years <years>: in the segment <segment name>. An example sentence would look like this (new phrase in bold):

For the years 2013 and 2014, in the segment Enterprise, the total sales were £2.61MM and the total loss was £31.10K.

1. First, create a new sub-script called SegmentPhrase:

#define SegmentPhrase()[[
if (len(segment)<=2) {in the [[inflectNoun('segment',len(getUniqueValues(data,'Segment')))]] [[getUniqueValues(data,'Segment')]],}

2. In the Main script, find the year phrase ( [[if (currency!=null){ For the [[inflectNoun('year',len(years))]] [[years]], ...}), and add a call to the new sub-script after the comma. The call to the sub-script is shown in bold here:

[[if (currency!=null){ For the [[inflectNoun('year',len(years))]] [[years]], [[SegmentPhrase()]] the total sales were ...}

3. Preview the output. You won’t see the new phrase because it only shows up with narrowed-down selections, but as long as you don’t get any errors, the code will work.

4. Publish the project, and try it out in MicroStrategy Desktop. Below is what you should now see, with all products in the Government segment selected:



Going Further

Familiarize yourself with the existing NLG Studio code and try out the Getting Started tutorials. Once you are confident, try to produce the following sentence to add to your starter project narrative. The added sentence describes the sectors having the highest and lowest profitability, for example:

The most profitable segment is Channel Partners (73%) and the lowest is Enterprise (-3%).

If you need help, here is the code for the new sub-script (Profitability):

#define Profitability() [[
profitabilityBySegments=sort(map(sales,x->(x[0], percentage(filter(profit,y->y[0]==x[0])[0][1],x[1],0,true))), (p,q)->p[1]<=q[1]?1:-1); highestProfitable=profitabilityBySegments[0]; lowestProfitable=profitabilityBySegments[len(profitabilityBySegments)-1]; if (len(profitabilityBySegments)>1){The most profitable segment is [[highestProfitable[0]]] ([[highestProfitable[1]]]%) and the least is [[lowestProfitable[0]]] ([[lowestProfitable[1]]]%).}]]

Here is the call to the new sub-script, which you can place at the end of the paragraph in your Main script:


Other documentation for Arria’s add-in to MicroStrategy

For more information, see:

Configuring narratives

Extending narratives

Arria’s showcase dashboard for MicroStrategy