Jeff Pries

Business Intelligence, SQL Server, and other assorted IT miscellany

Category: BI (page 2 of 2)

SharePoint Saturday Roundup: Atlanta, GA

SharePoint Saturday – Atlanta, GA

SharePoint has a growing presence in the enterprise.  Once upon a time, the primary intersection between SharePoint and SQL was that SharePoint ran on a SQL back-end and as such required the care and feeding that you’d expect for a SQL server.

Today, things are changing and SharePoint is becoming a much bigger presence on the Business Intelligence side of SQL Server, with features like PowerPivot, Power View, and PerformancePoint becoming increasingly popular.

Having a free day and having never attended a SharePoint-centric event, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and attend the free SharePoint Saturday event hosted at the Georgia State University campus downtown.

For anybody not familiar with a SharePoint Saturday, it was organized in a similar manner to how SQL Saturday events are typically organized.  The morning started off with check-in and then a welcome/keynote, which I missed due to parking issues, then the day launched into sessions.  The event was comprised of five sessions and a lunch, which choices from eight different tracks.

As I am not currently deeply immersed in SharePoint — I built and administer our internal SharePoint 2010 Wiki platform and am currently setting up a new internal SharePoint BI platform to enhance our internal BI capabilities, I had a difficult time choosing sessions in each time slot.

One of the stranger presentations I attended was “Leveraging SharePoint to Survie the Zombie Apocalypse” by Patrick Hankey (B | T) and Ryan VanOsdol (B | T).  Their premise for this presentation was using SharePoint to coordinate resources in a zombie apocalypse situation.  I loved the unique premise of this presentation and only wished that they had somehow found a way to work live demos or mockups of the systems into the session.

The session I enjoyed most of the day was Kevin Grohoske’s (BT) “SharePoint BI — The Combined Power of PowerPivot and SharePoint.”  This is partly because, as a data professional, this topic was the most relevant to my day-to-day and additionally because I am currently really ramping up my PowerPivot skills for a few internal projects.  Kevin performed a ground-up build of a PowerPivot data model using data from the Windows Azure marketplace rather than using the typical picnic or car sales demos, which was great.  I learned a bit about the free datasets available in the Windows Azure Data Marketplace, including a DateStream for Time Intelligence.

Unfortunately, the last session of the day which I was looking forward to, “Self-Service Business Intelligence with SharePoint 2013” by Ivan Sanders (B | T) was cancelled, which was a bit of a letdown as it was one of only two BI focused topics at the event.

All in all, it was an interesting experience and the event was very well done. The vendor participation was great, and I saw a lot of familiar vendors from the SQL Saturdays I typically attend.  Thanks to the SharePoint Atlanta User group, volunteers, and vendors for all the hard work!

Vendor Row at SharePoint Saturday Atlanta at Georgia State University

Choosing the Right Chart Type

Choosing the Right Chart Type:  

On Monday night, I attended our monthly Atlanta Business Intelligence user group meeting.  The speaker this month was the amazing Jen Underwood  (B | T) presenting on the topic of Data Visualization Best Practices.

As anybody who is familiar with building the presentation layer for a set of data knows, choosing the right method to represent that data can be the most challenging and important part of the entire process.

Whenever I am designing a new report, I will list my requirements and brainstorm a list of what I want to convey with the report.  Once I’ve determined what message is to be conveyed, I’ll sketch out mock reports on paper until I’ve gone through a few iterations and gotten an idea of what I’m going to implement.

During the process of sketching out a mock report, the topic of deciding what types of charts to use comes up.  In Jen’s presentation on Data Visualization Best Practices, she pointed out a very handy resource — a chart of charts by Andrew Abela, to help determine which type of chart to use and when:

A great resource to print out and decorate your office wall!

Another great resource is the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods by Ralph Lengler and Martin J. Eppler which is an interactive resource which shows an example of each visualization method by hovering the mouse over the “element.”

There are many more great resources out there, including many by “the Moses of Data Visualization,” Stephen Few which I’ll cover in future posts.  Happy charting!

Jen Underwood presenting Data Visualization Best Practices at the Atlanta Business Intelligence April Users Group.

SQL Saturday Roundup: #215 – Jacksonville, FL

SQL Saturday #215 – Jacksonville, FL:  

I’d been looking forward to this event for a few months now and it had arrived at last — SQL Saturday Jacksonville!

Part of the reason I’d been looking forward to this event (in addition to the great lineup of speakers and sessions) is the pre-con session for which I attended:   “Building a SQL Server 2012 BI Platform” by Brian Knight (B | T) and Devin Knight (B | T).

Now, a day long session which goes through the entire SQL Server 2012 / Sharepoint 2013 Business Intelligence stack in a whirlwind is a great thing, but when its taught by both Brian and Devin Knight?  Sign me up!

The pre-conference session on Friday started with a discussion of source data — an OLTP data source.  From there, we covered the basics of data warehouse design and then dove into designing a traditional business intelligence solution — a data warehouse fed by an ETL process.  With our data in place, we followed a traditional BI approach and built a multi-dimensional SSAS cube.  To contrast, we also built a new SSAS tabular model based on a PowerPivot Excel workbook.  With our data models in place, we finished out the BI stack by exploring them with SSRS, PowerPivot, PerformancePoint, Power View, and a little bit of Geoflow.  An enormous amount of material, it was great going through the entire stack from start to finish with such knowledgeable teachers.

The next morning, after a quiet evening to rest my brain, the main SQL Saturday event was held on the University of North Florida campus.  The venue for the event provided ample space, with a couple of larger auditoriums as well as a number of standard classrooms.  The weather for the event was a sunny and beautiful spring Florida day — which was important as lunch (which was provided free for the event) as well as mid-session breaks were spent outside.

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A Day of Data Warehousing…and Pie!

A Day of Data Warehousing…and Pie!  

What better way to celebrate Pi day than by learning data warehousing fundamentals from two experts in the field?  I can’t think of one!

Audrey Hammonds (B | T) and Julie Smith (B | T) of DataChix.com very generously decided to host a standalone day long class on the subject of Data Warehousing.  As if getting to participate in a day of training for such a low price weren’t great enough, on top of all that they dedicated all proceeds from the class to The Cloverleaf School.

The event was modeled after a SQL Saturday pre-con, however, it was a standalone event not attached to a SQL Saturday.  Even without having a SQL Saturday to bring in the crowds, the attendance was great and far better than I expected!  Just about the right balance of having enough people to form a true class, but not too many people that you’re lost in a sea of faces.

The logistics of the event were very well organized.  The venue (the American Legion Post) was easy to find with easy parking.  Upon arriving, check-in was quick and easy and a nice breakfast was available.  The volunteers from The Cloverleaf School did a great job coordinating everything.

Audrey and Julie basically worked the scenario of a pie business with no infrastructure moving through the process of growth and implementing a data warehouse with regular ETL.  They essentially divided the material into two sections:  database concepts and data warehouse design (Audrey) and ETL/SSIS (Julie).  This format worked out well as a representation of what happens with job roles in the real world and they had great and entertaining banter between the two of them.  I particularly enjoyed Audrey’s exercise in data modeling.

For lunch, what would be more appropriate on Pi Day (3/14) than of course, Pizza Pie and various dessert pies?  They were a hit!

After lunch, we took a moment to pose for a group photo by the tank, because hey, there’s a tank, why not pose for a group photo on it?

All in all, I felt the class was a great experience and I was very happy with the time spent.  Not only was it for a great cause, but I got to meet some new people in the community and of course learned a lot.  While I’ve learned about the various components in a full BI system, this is one of the first resources that has done a good job of tying them together from start to finish and painting a complete picture.

As an organization that currently runs the majority of business functions from an OLTP database with SSRS pulling data directly from the OLTP database, I am very interested in learning how to properly design and implement a data warehouse, ETL data into it, and leverage the data in interesting ways with SSAS and the variety of other tools that can illuminate an OLAP data source (SSRS, PerformancePoint, Power View, etc).  Stay tuned for more as I kick off that adventure!

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