I recently attended the Microsoft’s DevConnections Conference. As a database developer, my focus was on sessions dealing with the business intelligence and data warehousing technologies that ship with Microsoft SQL Server.
The concepts of data warehousing is something I have been researching for the past year; I believe it’s a concept that can assist organizations in making better decisions about their business. The sessions I attended covered all of Microsoft’s data warehousing tools – from tools that help you develop a data warehouse to tools that help deliver business intelligence to key decision makers.
There were a few sessions that stuck with me the most. The first two – “Why Data Warehousing Projects Fail” and “Avoiding Common Analysis Services Mistakes” – provided guidelines on how to design a data warehouse solution and avoid common mistakes. The other session focused on delivering business intelligence to the end user and addressed how to create a digital dashboard with the reporting tools that are a part of Microsoft SQL Server.
The session on why data warehousing projects fail, focused on some of the common mistakes made when planning a new data warehousing project. The key concept from this session is to keep the users of the data warehouse involved from the beginning to the end of the project. This leads to a business intelligence solution that will provide the most impact to an organization, and prevent the solution from becoming a large set of data that collects dust in a server room.
The session on avoiding common mistakes made with Analysis Services took the next step and provided key design guidelines that a data warehouse developer should follow. It covered many best practices for developing the data warehouse that are commonly overlooked. One of the largest issues data warehouse developers have is when data is reported that contain unrelated dimensions and their reports end up with numbers that do not make sense. The solution is actually simple, but it is hidden amongst a large set of other settings that rarely get changed, causing it to get overlooked.
The session on creating a digital dashboard with SQL Server was fascinating. Going into this session, I thought I knew a lot about Microsoft Reporting Services and the tools available to generate reports, but I quickly found out how wrong I was. The session covered the graphic charting tools that currently ship with Reporting Services, as well as what’s coming in the future. It also addressed the basics on how to use the charting tools and how to put them together to create an informative, attractive dashboard that allows users to perform actions within the report and drill into more detailed data to assist with decision making.
During the session on reporting, I was introduced to a tool I was unaware of: Microsoft’s Report Builder. The report building tool is a much simpler Office-like interface. With very little training, a non-technical person can create attractive, complex reports. This tool also allows you to build templates and consistent reports across your organization.
The best part about the sessions I attended on data warehousing is the fact Microsoft is dedicated and really focusing on enhancing their suite of data warehousing tools. This dedication and focus makes me even more excited about data warehousing.