Want to learn Analysis Services and not sure where to start? Here’s a helping hand!

Recently, someone asked me for a list of good books, sites and other resources for learning SSAS. Here are my thoughts!

  • You’re an absolute beginner. What do you do?
  • What in-person events can you attend?
  • So you’ve done all these, and want more Analysis Services. What next?  
  • My favourite SSAS sites! 

You’re an absolute beginner. What do you do?

Start with the Technet Tutorial. Follow it step-by-step. When you’re done, then do it again – but this time, don’t look at the site to do it! This will help you to see what areas didn’t ‘stick’ the first time.

Take a look at the Microsoft Free e-book collection. Yes, free! Go and take a look! See if anything there will help you.

Try the TechEd webinars. Here is a range of the top ones, from Dandy Weyn  

I’d recommend the Analysis Services team blog for a regular read. 

I’d also spend time on the Professional Association of SQL Server  (SQLPASS) website. If you’re not a member, it’s free to join, and you can access a wealth of material, from beginners to advanced, delivered by SQL Server experts around the globe – for FREE! How awesome is that?
For example, take a look at their Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter for webinars, downloads and more. Well worth a look!
If you can, I’d think about purchasing the DVDs from the SQLPass Summit. I have had some much value from these DVDs. In fact, I still listen to 2010 Summit sessions, as well as 2011. Therefore, I’ve had massive value from the Summit DVDs, making it a great investment. 

What in-person events can you attend?

Attend a local SQL Server User Group. These are usually organised by SQLPass volunteers, and you can probably find one near you!   

If you are in Europe, attend SQLBits. No excuses. It has to be done! The UK has a great SQL Server community and this is the longest-standing, largest free European SQL Server community conference. I love this conference – great people, great learning, great community spirit!

If you are in the US – or can travel to the US – go to SQLPass Summit. This is the pinnacle of SQL Server community events in the US, and I regard it as a huge honour to be picked to speak. Like SQLBits,  I love this conference – great people, great learning, great community spirit! Once you attend for your first time, you’ll go home and book up for your second visit next year. Seriously. It is *that* good. I’m travelling 5000 miles to attend – there’s dedication for you!

If you can’t afford to attend SQLPass Summit, but still want free (or nearly free!) in-person training, take a look at the SQLSaturday events that occur across the globe.  Most events are free, but some ask for a contribution towards lunch. In my opinion, this is a great investment of your time.

If you can make Orlando in December, think about attending SQL Live 360. This looks set to be an awesome conference. There are different streams, including SharePoint and Visual Studio. You can register here! 

So you’ve done all these, and want more Analysis Services. What next? 

Expert Cube Development with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services

This book is by Chris Webb, Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari. It’s very well written, and it is a great reference and guide from very experienced authors, who will help you to take your SSAS to a deeper level. It is full of practical advice, and will help you to deliver your SSAS cube more professionally.

This book is very detailed, and I’d put this at more the ‘expert’ level rather than the beginner. It’s a great reference for nuggets of information
My favourite SSAS sites:

Chris Webb‘s blog

Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari blog

 I hope that helps!





Mobile Business Intelligence Series: Part 1 – Mobilising Native SSRS

This is the first part in a series about implementing Mobile Business Intelligence. Interested readers may like to know that I’m presenting on this topic at a number of events, including SQLSaturday 162 in Cambridge, UK, and at SQLSaturday 170 in Munich, Germany. I also presented on this topic at SQLMidlands in July 2012, and also in SQLSaturday South Florida straight after TechEd North America 2012.

In this series, I will suggest different ways in which people can mobilise reports using a variety of technologies. If I am missing some from the list, please let me know! I should add that Copper Blue or myself are not affiliated or partnered with any of the organisations that  appear here. These are simply solutions to business problems that I’ve come across, and thought it might be useful to share here. 
One question is this: how can we mobilise standalone SSRS reports without SharePoint?  Here are some suggestions, which are dependent on your mobile device:

At the time of writing, Reporting Services isn’t viewable on an iPad in SharePoint 2010.  Issues that you might find include the following:

Native Mode Report Manager not fully functional
Some reported drop-down issues, for example, if you have more than 6 parameters. In this case, you might want to consider PowerPivot. I will look at this later on in the current series.
Vertical text does not render properly. In any case, are you sure that you need to use it?
Calendar control issues

How is it possible to view Reporting Services on an iPad? One option is to use MobiWeave, which displays SQL Server Reporting Services reports.  It’s possible to download an evaluation copy from the MobiWeave site. Here are the main features: 
  • Download and View Reporting Services Reports from multiple reporting servers
  • Supports SSRS in SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2008 R2, 2012
  • It also supports Azure SSRS in Native and Sharepoint modes with SSL
  • Parameters support – remember that this requires specific ways of interacting on the iPad
  • Interactive mode which supports Drill down and Drill through reports
  • Bookmarks and History will also work
As a Windows fan ( I can’t wait until I get my hands on a Surface!) I like Blue Granite Nitro. Blue Granite uses XML-formatted data to produce dashboards and reports. The XML data is generated using an application server, such as SQL Server Reporting Services. This tool is available from the Zune MarketPlace (how I love saying that!), and you can take a look here.

These solutions might be a good option for people who don’t have SharePoint but still want mobile business intelligence. 
Next up, we will look at the various options for mobile Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 Preview. I’m a SharePoint fan so it’s next up! I look forward to your comments.

Are SQLPass right to hold a Business Analytics conference?

Recently, the Professional Association of SQL Server announced that they were planning to hold a Business Analytics Conference in the spring of 2013. I read the announcement, and I’m super-excited about it for a number of reasons.
I’m happy that there is a demand for a subject which I’m passionate about, Business Analytics and Business Intelligence. If you’ve ever tried to get into some of the popular Business Intelligence sessions at SQLPass Summit, then you’ll know that sometimes you can’t get in the door since there’s no room. In other words, the Business Intelligence and Analytics sessions are just mobbed. I know that I’ve repeated Business Intelligence sessions at SQLBits and at TechEd Europe, since people want to know about Business Intelligence. Other people who’ve repeated sessions include Peter Myers, for example. For TechEd Europe, the Business Intelligence ‘Power Hour’ was one of the top sessions out of a whole gamut of IT-professional oriented topics.
I believe that PASS are responding to community demand for a Business Analytics event, and I’d personally welcome a ‘gathering’ of people who are excited about this subject as I am.
I believe in this Business Analytics event…. but then it became clear that there was a lot of genuine anger as well. Some seemed to say that SQLRally was chopped to make way for this Business Analytics event, and let’s be fair, some people are real SQLRally fans – myself included. Some even went as far as to argue that this was just a money-making machine since Business Intelligence is a popular topic, which I think is a really negative way to look at it.
All this stramash genuinely made me sad. I was in two minds whether to write this blog, and then I thought that I’ve the same right to express my opinion, and others are free to disagree or agree as they see fit.
I think that, if you want to make serious money, you’d be nuts to put on a SQL Server conference as a way to do it. If you look at the details of the Budget, we’re not talking millions of pounds. The profit is $100K, which will flow back into their reserves. You have to have money aside in order to set up events such as SQLPass Summit; for example the event venue will want security and paid up front; you’ll have to pay for other things such as advertising, marketing and the other things that will encourage people to participate.
All the ‘goody bags’ that people are eager to open: someone has got to pay for those. The meals that we all enjoy; the free beers that we expect; the events we expect to attend out-of-hours; the prizes, the raffles etc etc. As an audience, we have high expectations from these events. Have you heard people whinge about goody bags and food? See what I mean?


What I’d really like to see is PASS do something that doesn’t come with a ton of baggage. A clean start. Remember that a lot of these events and hard community work – and it is hard work, preparation and sweat – comes from volunteers. For example, some people, including myself! flew from here in London to Dallas to present at SQLRally – at our own expense, away from our families, and volunteered our time for our sqlfamily. It is my privilege to be flying out for SQLPass Summit in November 2012 in order to see my favourite SQLFamily members, old friends and new community members alike.
The volunteering doesn’t just end with the events: there are webinars and user groups and chapter meetings and online events.. the list goes on.
So, I’d like to say a huge Thank You to the volunteers who put on this massive effort for us, the sqlfamily, the sql server community. I think that I’d like to see more ‘thank you’ to the volunteers, and to PASS… and less politics. I’m hoping that this Business Analytics event will go ahead with a real community spirit in place, with people behind it. Remember that some of these attendees will be novices, who are looking to learn and share in the community. You could be sitting next to the next Brent Ozar or Kalen Delaney – who knows?
I think that people just need to be given a chance sometimes, and I wish the organisers and volunteers at PASS my very best wishes and thanks for all of their hard work in putting this event together for us, the sql family. As Mother Theresa said, Peace starts with a smile…. and this is a smile from me.

To summarise, I think that PASS are right to hold this event. The sheer numbers of BI people at events – not just SQLPass, but SQLBits and TechEd too – are testament to the fact that there is a real community need for a BI ‘gathering’.  I hope that you will start to become as super-excited as I am, and I hope to see you there!

PowerView and PowerPoint Interaction is not available offline

During my session at TechEd Europe, I was asked if Power View would still be interactive in PowerPoint, if the PowerPoint couldn’t connect to the Sharepoint source.

Unfortunately, this is not possible. We can look at the code inside the PowerPoint file by right-clicking on the Power View image, and selecting ‘View Code’.  We can see that there is a link to the Sharepoint PowerPivot Directory and also the Report Server. Here is my example below, and if you click on it, you will get my flickr larger version:
PowerView Silverlight

Alternative Hosting is being used in order to serve up Silverlight, which means that it needs to be able to point to the Sharepoint source in order to serve up the Power View report for interactivity. Since it is using Silverlight, it won’t be accessible on an iPad device.

I believe that this constraint has been put in place for security reasons; it is important to secure data and data visualisations, and it would make sense that Power View interactivity was restricted to where it could be best secured.

My TechEd Europe Speaking and Expo Sessions

I’m very excited to announce that I’m helping out during Microsoft Expo Hours at TechEd Europe, as well as speaking!  If you’d like to drop by and meet me for a chat about anything Business Intelligence or SQL Server related, then please come and find me in the Microsoft Expo Hall at the following times:

  • Tuesday 26th June: 11:30PM – 2:00PM
  • Tuesday 26th June: 5:45PM – 7.30PM
  • Wednesday 27th June: 12:00PM – 2:30PM
  • Friday 29th June: 11:30AM – 1:30PM

My focus will be on Breakthrough Insights using Data Visualisation.

I will be presenting on Business Intelligence and Data Visualisation at the following times:

Room G106 on Thu, Jun 28 10:15 AM11:30 AM

MSTechEd Follow Up References on Data Visualisation and Business Intelligence

Here are some follow-up references from my MSTechEd session this week:
Every Friday at 1pm EST – that’s 6pm for us here in the UK – Howard Dresner ( blog | twitter ) and the BIWisdom team use Twitter in order to chair a discussion on business intelligence topics.If you are interested in Business Intelligence, please feel free to join us!
Stephen Few References
Any book or article by Stephen Few, and in particular, I recommend ‘Now You See It‘ 
I suggest you also look at his blog: www.perceptualedge.com Once you look at his site, you’ll see why I recommend it. Great writing and smart thinking.
Edward Tufte References
Nathan Yau References

I love the Flowing Data site, and Nathan Yau’s book is entitled ‘Visualise This: The Flowing Data Guide to Design, Visualization and Statistics‘.

Howard Dresner’s Site

Howard Dresner‘s site contains a lot of information, and I recommend that you look at all of it. Excellent work! 

I suggested that you look at his study called ‘The Third Annual Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study’ and Howard Dresner has written about it here. I discuss this study at the beginning and I strongly recommend it for in-depth analysis, and sometimes surprising results!
I hope that this helps!

My TechEd Videos and Slides, plus my favourite session!

Thanks to all who attended my #MSTechEd session! The video and slides are now at the Channel9 site and you can see them here.

The TechEd material is fantastic and there are lots of good sessions to choose from. I’d like to point you in the direction of the Business Intelligence track at TechEd, and here is a sample of the great content to view:

The 12 Reasons to Love Microsoft SQL Server 2012 with Dandy Weyn, Sean Boon and Thomas La Rock
The Dirty Dozen: Windows PowerShell Scripts for the Busy DBA by Aaron Nelson
Building Self-Service BI Applications Using PowerPivot by Julie Strauss
and my personal favourite:
BISM: Multidimensional vs. Tabular with Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari

There are too many to list here, so please head over to Channel 9 and take a look!