Books, Data Visualization, Data Warehousing, Excel, PerformancePoint, SSAS, SSIS, Uncategorized

The One Book

I tend to get some variation of the following question as I present at SQL Saturdays and work with clients:

What is the one book I should read to gain a good understanding of this topic?

There are many great books out there on business intelligence, data warehousing, and the Microsoft BI stack.  Here is my list of those that had a significant impact on my learning and career or that I consider the current defining book on the subject.

Data Warehousing/Dimensional Modeling –  The Data Warehouse Toolkit by Ralph Kimball and Margy Ross (link is to the newest edition of the book) defines dimensional modeling, walks through many common data scenarios and explains recommended data modeling and ETL practices. If you are designing, building, or enhancing a dimensional data warehouse, please read this book.

Master Data ManagementMaster Data Management by David Loshin thoroughly explains the resources required, helps clarify goals, and discusses the challenges of implementing a master data management program in your organization. The book also discusses architecture options and provides a roadmap that you can adapt to your project. I actually did an independent study class based upon this book as part of my MBA. I would recommend it to anyone just getting into MDM as a great platform agnostic view of MDM.

Agile Data WarehousingAgile Data Warehousing Project Management: Business Intelligence Systems Using Scrum by Ralph Hughes is an enlightening read about applying the agile process to data warehousing by someone who understands both.  Use this book to help set expectations at the beginning of projects, estimate effort, decide what should be included in an iteration, and provide value early in your project.  It addresses DW enhancements as well as new DW projects.

SSISProfessional Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services contains great information whether you are just learning SSIS or you just need to understand the new features in 2012. It covers each task and data flow component, offers tips for performance tuning, and provides great examples.  If you haven’t moved up to SQL Server 2012 yet, you will want to learn about the project deployment model, environment variables, and project-level connection managers, which are all covered in this book.

SSAS TabularMicrosoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: The BISM Tabular Model by Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari, and Chris Webb
There aren’t that many books available on SSAS tabular models since it is fairly new. This one got me through a couple of projects as I learned tabular cubes and DAX.  You will read almost every page while building your first tabular cube.  Then you will return to find helpful tips on writing DAX calculations.

Data Visualization –  Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few (link is to the newest edition of the book)
This book is what got me interested in data visualization.  The way I design reports and dashboards changed after I read it. I was torn whether to go with this book or Show Me the Numbers, but I think Information Dashboard Design covers the main points of Show Me the Numbers that I most want people to understand (it was also the first of Few’s books that I read). Today’s technology enables us to make reports that are high on shiny and low on actionable information. I see two troubling trends: reports that are just wide tables with several hundred lines that no one can read at one time, and really shiny dashboards with lots of bells and whistles that make them look really cool. This book will tell you there is an appropriate time and place for tables and dashboards.  And while visual appeal is good, it should not be at the expense of effectively communicating the intended message of the information.

Up Next

I just picked up some books that look very promising and may cause me to update my list above:


Happy reading!

Microsoft Technologies, PerformancePoint

Dashboard designer launch error in SharePoint 2010

In case this ever happens to you…

If you access SharePoint and are prompted for your password and do not check the box to remember your password, you may not be able to launch Dashboard Designer.  If this happens, you may get the following error:

Below is a summary of the errors, details of these errors are listed later in the log.
* Activation of http://<server>/_layouts/ppsma/1033/designer.application?Operation=OpenWebsite&SiteCollection=http://<server>/sites/BICenter/&SiteLocation= resulted in exception. Following failure messages were detected:
+ Downloading http://<server>/_layouts/ppsma/1033/designer.application?Operation=OpenWebsite&SiteCollection=http://<server>/sites/BICenter/&SiteLocation= did not succeed.
+ The remote server returned an error: (401) Unauthorized.

To fix this, close your browser, go to the SharePoint site, enter your password and check the box to remember your password before continuing on.

I ran into this issue today and this thread on the MSDN forums helped me out.

PerformancePoint, SQL Saturday

I’m speaking at SQL Saturday #197

sqlsat197 speakerI’m excited to be speaking at SQL Saturday #197 in Omaha on April 6, 2013.  If you are in the Omaha area (or can get there), I would love for you to attend.  SQL Saturdays are a great opportunity for free training on my favorite technologies. I’m fairly new to speaking at SQL Saturdays (this will be my third time).  There will also be some great, more experienced speakers at SQL Saturday #197, including: Bill Pearson, Kevin Bowles, Chris Schmidt, Bill Fellows, Chris Shaw.

This time I have decided to switch things up and speak about Building Dashboards in PerformancePoint. Here’s the description:

PerformancePoint can be a useful tool for delivering a dashboard to users through SharePoint. The data visualizations for your dashboard can come from PerformancePoint, Excel Services, Reporting Services, or a web page. Understanding the features and limitations of these sources of data visualizations can help you create a dashboard that best meets your users’ needs.

I’m not sure about the future of PerformancePoint, but I have implemented several dashboards in PerformancePoint lately. As with any technology used for dashboard design, I think it’s important to understand the effects of our design decisions on the user experience and on ease of maintenance and enhancements.