PASS Summit 2014… 10 Year Milestone!

November 1, 2014
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This year I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary of both attending and speaking at PASS Summit, and therefore it seems appropriate to mark this milestone with a reflection of what PASS Summit means to me. My ten years have not been consecutive. My very first Summit was in 2002. At the time, I worked for a boutique consulting firm in Seattle. I was encouraged by my manager to get engaged with the SQL community and submit a session to speak and… it happened! At the time, I knew no one. Or practically no one. I didn’t go to sessions, I didn’t participate in after hours events. I simply showed up for my session, I spoke, and… I got heckled!!! By none other than Dan Bulos, who has turned out to be a very dear friend. (I’ll save the point of dispute for another day as I can envision an entire blog post dedicated to the topic.) We still agree to disagree about the particular point of heckling, but we have been conference pals ever since and he even hired my daughter, Erika, away from me in 2012 (with my blessing). Dan happens to be presenting two sessions this year:

I have many sessions that I want to attend, but for Dan’s sessions…. I plan to be there front and center…and perhaps heckle (with love). It seems only fair.

Because I worked for a consulting firm back in 2002, I couldn’t plan on attending PASS Summit every year thereafter. It was only when I went independent in 2006 that I had my next opportunity to participate. I was incredibly honored to be selected to speak that year and have continued to be honored to speak every year since then. But more importantly, I became engaged with the community. I attended other people’s sessions. I talked to people at coffee breaks and lunch. I went to after hours events. I met people. (You would probably be shocked to know that I was incredibly shy once upon a time and this “breaking out” was a very big deal for me!) The circle of people that I knew grew exponentially. So much so that every passing year becomes a greater challenge to spend time with everyone that I have come to know over the years. But it’s a challenge I embrace!

I have been to many technical conferences in my career, but none compare to the experiences I’ve had since I began participating at PASS Summit. Whether you’re a speaker or an attendee, your experience will be enhanced exponentially by participating. First timer? No problem! This community welcomes you and wants you to have a positive experience. How cool is that? All you have to do is engage with other people. Smile. Ask a question. Offer up something from your experience when you hear people discussing a problem. The interpersonal exchanges at PASS Summit enhance the value of session attendance. And who knows… you might even make a life-long friend. There’s a reason we refer to our friends from PASS Summit as #sqlfamily.

 

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Introducing the 2014 BI Immersion Experience

January 30, 2014
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In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be in Tampa, FL to launch the new BI Immersion experience. I’ve been teaching this class for several years, adding in elements relevant to the latest releases of SQL Server and Office that relate to BI along the way. Students have always been able to follow along with demos and I’ve even had students drive the demos in front of class as I talk them through the steps. But I thought it was time to shake things up a bit and add in another component for some added hands-on experience.

The addition of a hands-on portion of the class means some of the topics we used to cover in class are gone – like installation and configuration of BI components. I used the feedback from prior classes to determine what should go and what should stay. The result is still a great comprehensive class that teaches you everything you need to know about working with the Microsoft BI stack.

And of course, if you have questions about the things I left out, all you have to do is ask! Another benefit of attending BI Immersion is that we get to hang out and talk over lunch and during some of the evening networking activities.

What’s in the class?

A lot. Your brain will be full by the end of the week. I promise.

We start with an overview of relational data warehousing and then move into using Integration Services to populate a staging environment and a data warehouse. We’ll talk about maintaining and tuning packages. Then we build a cube using Analysis Services to consume that data warehouse and learn how to tune the performance of cubes, for both processing and querying. We’ll also review the differences between multidimensional and tabular models in Analysis Services and learn the basics about the languages that each model uses, MDX and DAX. We wrap up the week with a review of presentation layer tools: Reporting Services, Excel, and Power BI.

You can find the complete agenda HERE.

Why should you go?

You will learn a lot of things about Microsoft BI. Not just features and functions, but how to get started on a new project, how to pick the right technology for your solution, and how to avoid the perils and pitfalls that certain approaches can create. I’ve been working with Microsoft BI for a very long time (since 2000) and have helped clients in all kinds of industries build BI solutions that work. I haven’t learned how to perform the Vulcan Mind Meld yet, but this class is the next best thing!

But that’s just my opinion. What have past students said about the class?

  • Relational Data Warehousing/SSIS

I’ve been in and out of BI since 1999 and a surprising amount of this seemed new.

Loved the interactive modeling exercise!

Relational Data Warehousing/SSIS

  • SSAS

It finally made sense to me.

  • MDX

This was all new and gave me a great starting point. Thx!

I had basic understanding of MDX before going to this class. The light bulb came on after Stacia explained the key of MDX.

  • SSRS / Excel / PowerPivot

Great coverage of BI presentation layer at an understandable level.

  • Overall Class

A lot of info to hold in my brain.

Best class so far on BI. I learned so much more here than [from a competitor].

Great tips and tricks. Like the pragmatic/common sense/non-marketing approach.

Very informative and relative to the real world.

BI is a huge topic and Stacia does an excellent job hitting every major area…I would highly recommend this class. The first training session I’ve attended that took full advantage of my time away from the office. This was money well spent.

Any presenter can teach someone how to use a tool, but how best to use that tool to interact with the business in order to have a successful implementation that you’re confident business can adopt is what set this apart.

How can you sign up?

There’s still time to sign up for the Tampa class which runs Monday to Friday, February 10-14. All you have to do is click HERE.

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From Reporting Services Rookie to Rockstar

October 7, 2013
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One week from today, I will be conducting a pre-conference workshop at PASS Summit 2013, “From Reporting Services Rookie to Rockstar.”

The official abstract provides a brief description of the workshop:

Join this introduction to SQL Server Reporting Services, designed specifically for report developers who have no prior experience with the product, and learn how to use the development tools effectively, how to present and enhance data in a report, and how to create dynamic reports. Even if you have some experience with Reporting Services, this session will explore aspects that aren’t intuitive or well-documented, helping you expand your skills and make the most of this powerful reporting tool.

In a jam-packed day of discussions and demonstrations focused on SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services and later, you’ll learn:

• How to approach the report development process
• How to manage key components of a report project: data sources, datasets, report items, and data regions
• How to use a tablix effectively to design the layout of data with creative groupings
• How to use expressions to display data or change the appearance and behavior of a report in practical ways
• How to use report parameters with and without query parameters
• How to use data visualization features to enhance the communication of information
• How to add interactivity to reports
• How to work with pagination and rendering features to manage page layout
• And more!

Want to know more specifically what topics we’ll be covering? Here’s a breakdown of the workshop:

Report Planning
Knowing Your Audience
Reviewing Report Options
Developing Standards

Basic Report Development
Data Sources
Datasets
Report Items
Data Regions

Tablix Concepts
Tablix Data Regions
Tablix Cell Content
Cell Scope
Grouping on Rows and Columns
Static Columns
Adjacent Groups
Expressions
Expression Usage
Placeholders
Global Collections
Expression Editor
Expression Examples
Built-in Fields
Aggregate Functions
Variables

Parameters
Report Parameter Usage
Report Parameter Properties
Report Parameter Filters
Linked Reports
Subreports and Drillthrough Reports
Parameters in Expressions
Query Parameters
Cascading Parameters

Data Visualization
Charts
Data Bars
Sparklines
Gauges
Indicators
Spatial Data Types
Points, Lines, and Polygons
Map Wizard

Interactivity
Report Layout

  • Interactive Sort
  • Fixed Headers
  • Tooltips
  • Visibility

Navigation Aids

  • Document Map
  • Actions
  • Embedded HTML

Pagination
Rendering
Page Structure
Page Breaks

I hope this additional information helps you decide whether this workshop is right for you. If so, I look forward to seeing you in Charlotte next week!

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On Reaching the Summit – PASS Summit 2013 That Is

August 27, 2013
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[Note: This is repost from May 22, 2013, due to technical issues on this blog.]

Each year I participate in a variety of public events, including conferences, user groups, SQL Saturdays, and webinars of all kinds. (This year, indeed next week, I’m going to an event that is part of a cruise – SQLCruise!) Through these events, I am able to meet and interact with people from all over the world and I feel very privileged to have these opportunities. The one event that started it all for me was PASS Summit, an annual gathering of SQL Server professionals from all over the world. My first year of attendance was 2002, I believe, and I knew no one. Well, maybe one person…who heckled me at my one and only presentation there. Some friend… :) Fast forward to the present, I can hardly walk 50 feet without running into someone I know. It’s gone from just another event to a family reunion…A SQLFamily reunion!

In fact, last year, I had a reunion with Scott Cameron, author of SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services Step by Step. He and I built our first data warehouse together, back in 1999. We’ve come a long way since then, working together at two other companies meanwhile, before we eventually parting company when I started Data Inspirations back in 2006. But fortunately our paths cross from time to time.

Summit 2012

In most years, “Summit” (as my peers commonly refer to it) is held in Seattle to facilitate the inclusion of Microsoft personnel, but from time to time Summit strays from the homebase. This year, PASS Summit 2013 will be held in Charlotte, NC. I was delighted to receive an email last week that announced not only had I been selected to speak, but that I would presenting a preconference session, a spotlight session, and a regular session!

Two out of the three of these sessions focus on Reporting Services. In case, you missed it – I totally revamped my prior Reporting Services books with a new release available May 1, 2013, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services (catchy name, eh?) and have encapsulated key topics from that book into workshop and presentation formats.

SSRS2012

My third session – the spotlight – focuses on some techniques I developed and applied during a recent client engagement. There are a few frameworks out there for developing packages and Analysis Services databases that we explored, and wound up adapting to better suit the needs of the project. Furthermore, the challenge of the project was to efficiently reproduce the results for a multi-tenant business intelligence solution. And thus began my journey into BIML. This session is about possibilities and lessons learned that I am so looking forward to sharing!

Something (or Two or Three Things…) to Talk About at PASS Summit 2013

For the curious, here’s an overview of my Summit 2013 sessions.

From Reporting Services Rookie to Rockstar – Full Day Preconference Session

Join this introduction to SQL Server Reporting Services, designed specifically for report developers who have no prior experience with the product, and learn how to use the development tools effectively, how to present and enhance data in a report, and how to create dynamic reports. Even if you have some experience with Reporting Services, this session will explore aspects that aren’t intuitive or well-documented, helping you expand your skills and make the most of this powerful reporting tool. In a jam-packed day of discussions and demonstrations focused on SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services and later, you’ll learn:

  • How to approach the report development process
  • How to manage key components of a report project: data sources, datasets, report items, and data regions
  • How to use a tablix effectively to design the layout of data with creative groupings
  • How to use expressions to display data or change the appearance and behavior of a report in practical ways
  • How to use report parameters with and without query parameters
  • How to use data visualization features to enhance the communication of information
  • How to add interactivity to reports
  • How to work with pagination and rendering features to manage page layout
  • And more!

Planning Your Report Design – Regular Session

SQL Server Reporting Services provides a lot of flexibility in report design, which can be overwhelming at first. You can spend a lot of time trying out different approaches to report design before you discover that a feature that users need most conflicts with the features you’ve been implementing. With some advance planning, you can decide which features are most important for your current project and be more productive throughout the report development process. In this session, you’ll learn how to approach the report design process, including assessing your audience, reviewing your layout options, and implementing standards.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Automating Your BI Framework – Spotlight Session

Quite frankly, some aspects of building out a business intelligence solution are tedious. As you cycle through iterations of your star schema, you’ll find that even a simple data type change in the data warehouse requires you to make corresponding changes to staging tables, SSIS packages, and SSAS multidimensional or tabular models that take a considerable amount of time to implement. But there’s a better, faster way! In this session, we’ll explore lessons from a project that required implementation of a framework to easily generate BI objects based on reusable patterns. We’ll walk through the decision points in the framework design, review the implementation steps, and see demonstrations of how easily you can make iterative changes to your BI solution’s design by using reusable design patterns. Whether you simply want to accelerate change management or reproduce objects in bulk on demand, this session will give you practical tips for automating these processes.

Come Join Me!

Summit is always an experience to remember, and it just keeps getting better! I hope you can make it, and if you do, I really hope you stop me in the hallway, in the lunch line, at an afterparty, anywhere – and say hi!

 

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One Database to Rule Them All? Not Yet…

May 13, 2013
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The holy grail these days seems to be to get all the data into a unifying database – with relational and NoSQL camps each trying to come out the winner. Meanwhile, you’ve got data to gather, manage, and analyze, and that typically means you’ve got to use different types of storage. To get the most of the presentation layer tools in the Microsoft BI stack when data sources include cubes, PowerPivot workbooks, and data mining models, you can’t rely solely on your T-SQL skills. To produce high-performing reports and analytical tools, you’ll need to use other query languages like MDX, DAX, or DMX.

It can be a bit daunting to get started with these other languages, especially when your T-SQL mindset keeps getting in the way. Never fear. I’m here to help! There’s still time to register for my SQLSaturday #220 Preconference Workshop, Languages of BI, this week in Atlanta on Friday, May 17.

In my workshop, you’ll learn which languages each presentation layer tool supports and the basic syntax used by each language. You’ll also learn how take advantage of query builder tools to help you produce queries until you’ve developed the proficiency to create more complex queries on your own. In addition, you’ll learn how to work with expressions to add calculations to cubes and PowerPivot workbook, and how to use expressions to customize the appearance of reports, scorecards, and dashboards.

And if you come out to the workshop, you might as well stay for SQLSaturday, too. This will be my second year for this event in Atlanta, and I’m looking forward to seeing longtime friends in the SQL community and making some new ones. There are a whopping 11 tracks on the schedule, with 3 devoted to BI topics. I’ll be presenting Troubleshooting MDX Query Performance, which is a nice complement to the Friday workshop. Hope to see you there!

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