My Top Five Data Warehouse Books

There is always something new to learn in Data Warehousing. I have several years experience working with data warehouses, and I can’t help by being surprised at the new things I keep picking up. Add to this the new features being introduced by recent releases of Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, and you see why it is really important to keep up to date with what is available.

This is all good and well. However, what if you are new to the whole area of Data Warehousing and want to pick up the subject in your own time? Well I own, have used, and can recommend five books.

In reverse order these are:

5. Data Warehousing: Using the Wal-Mart Model (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems).

This is an interesting book written by one of the architects of the Wal-Mart Data Warehouse. He describes his initial design and it’s subsequent phenomenal growth. A real eye opener and a useful guide in implementing warehouses.

4. The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit: With SQL Server 2005 and the Microsoft Business Intelligence Toolset. A useful book, particularly if you are working with or implementing solutions using SQL Server and Microsoft BI tools.

3. Mastering Data Warehouse Design: Relational and Dimensional Techniques.

This book provides a thorough grounding in Data Warehouse design. Slightly different principles to the Kimball design, but useful nonetheless.

2. The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit.

An excellent book written by Kimball et. al. Ideally suited to those that need to plan and manage a data warehouse project.

And finally, the grand-daddy of all Data Warehouse books, and a must for every Data Warehouse professional’s bookshelf:

1. The Data Warehouse Toolkit: The Complete Guide to Dimensional Modeling (Second Edition).

An excellent reference guide, particularly more so as scenarios are played out in various contexts – retail, insurance, etc. I have used this book several times and have found it incredibly useful. No surprise that I see this book on the desk at several client sites.

So there you have it. My Top 5 list of Data Warehouse books. Do you have a recommendation for a book? If so, let me know!

Final word on BOBJ Certifications

I’ve received a number of messages over the past few months from people requesting details about the BusinessObjects exams. Some have been as blatent as asking for exam questions and answers. I’ve always, and will continue to, delete those messages.

When you take these exams, you need to sign/agree to an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement). This basically means that you will not divulge the details of the exam you are about to take. I have worked particularly hard for this certification, having put in many hours of study and practice. I am not going to risk losing my certification by divulging exam questions or answers to anyone. So please, don’t ask.

At the end of the day, certifications demonstrate your level of competence in a particular subject matter. If you are honest with yourself and feel you are ready, by all means take the exam and feel proud of your achievement. If you feel you need to request exam questions and answers from people, then you are certainly not ready and will need to put in more effort. If you have confidence in your abilities, you do not need to be requesting questions and answers.

Consider this – if you have cheated and gained the certification, you run the risk of putting yourself into some very awkward situations with employers/clients when you are asked about a topic that you should know about.  Are you going to put yourself in that situation?

For those that are studying hard for the exams, credit to you, particularly if you are doing this without the benefit of a classroom or e-leanring course. Don’t worry if you fail the exam the first time around. It is not the end of the world. Take from it the fact that you have seen what the exam is like, and you can move forward and focus on those areas where your performance wasn’t up to scratch. Good luck to you!

Performance Point Server Exam

As a consultant working in the ever changing Business Intelligence arena, I have to keep up to date with the various Business Intelligence applications available on the market.

We are all familiar with the applications available from the big players like Business Objects and Cognos. We must not however lose sight of what the other players are doing. Microsoft is rapidly climbing the Business Intelligence tree and is building on it’s existing product suite through it’s purchase of ProClarity. Panorama recently announced it is working with Google to provide BI functionality to it’s Google Apps. I blogged about this in March 2008. And other companies like Tableau and Bizzantz offer exciting products in their own right.

I’ve helped a number of clients with their ProClarity solutions in the past, and with the release of Performance Point Server, I felt it would be worth becoming familiar with the product and getting certified.

For the past few months I’ve been studying and practicing for the Microsoft Performance Point Server exam – 70-556. I took the exam last week and passed.

This gives me the MCTS – Office Performance Point Server 2007, Applications certification:

MCTS

Performance Point Server introduces some of the technologies gained from their ProClarity acquisition and merges it with technology from their Business Scorecard Manager application.

Taken straight from the Microsoft website, “Microsoft Performance Management allows customers to monitor, analyze, and plan their business as well as drive alignment, accountability, and actionable insight across the entire organization.” Yes…well.

Performance Point Server is indeed a powerful analytical tool allowing you to generate meaningful information from the vast quantities of data available to most, if not all, organisations today.

For those considering taking this exam, there are a wealth of resources available. I have used ProClarity on a number of occasions in the past, and was familiar with some of it’s reporting functionality and back end configuration. However, I strongly recommend further reading to prepare you for this exam.

First off, I recommend two books. The first is The Rational Guide to Monitoring and Analyzing with Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. The second is The Rational Guide to Planning with Microsoft Office Performancepoint Server 2007.

Both books are straighforward and provide a good overview of Performance Point Server. Note that these books do not drill down into every detail of Performance Point Server, and none of the books covers every aspect of Performance Point Server individually. However, I don’t think this was the aim of the books. I believe their aim is to give a good overall understanding on some the aspects of the product, and I think they have succeeded.

You might find that there are still some gaps in your knowledge. You can fill these gaps by supplementing your reading with some of the additional resources I’ve listed further down.

Microsoft has three useful and important guides, available via TechNet:

PerformancePoint Server 2007 Planning & Architecture Guide

Deployment Guide for PerformancePoint Server 2007

PerformancePoint Server Operations Guide

Have a read of the useful Performance Point Server team blog. These are some very handy posts which will come in handy in the future.

Don’t forget to visit the Performance Point Server section of Technet. This has a wealth of information, including links to downloads, service packs, tutorials, documents and blogs.

Finally, although there isn’t an official Microsoft course, you must make use of the free learning courses available from Microsoft. These are 14 short modules which cover most aspects of the syllabus.

To prepare for this exam, I loaded the exam prep guide into Excel, and checked off every point as I covered it. I also downloaded the Performance Point Server 180-day trial to play around with. Use the AdventureWorksDW as your data source, and you should be able to create a few reasonable reports.

So there you have it. Enough information and resources to help you become familiar with Performance Point Server and with some study and practice, pass the 70-556 exam. Good luck!

UN Data available online

Looking for a source of data for product demos and the like?

The UN website has put a number of it’s databases online for general use. While you can only download 50k rows at a time, it is a useful source of meaningful data.

According to it’s terms of use, the data is available free of charge and may be copied freely, duplicated and further distributed provided that they are not put up for sale or otherwise commercially exploited and that UNdata is cited as the reference.

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Microsoft BI Conference 2008

Registration has opened for the second Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference.

This will be held in Seattle, WA on October 6-8.

With Microsoft rapidly climbing up the BI ladder, this should be an interesting conference.

Your favorite ‘Dim Bulb’ quotes

From the BOBJ Forum site, a list of ‘Dim Bulb’ quotes.

Business Objects conference – Germany 2008

The BusinessObjects/SAP SAPPHIRE conference in Germany finished last week.

I wasn’t able to attend, but I understand from colleagues that there were some very good presentations and useful information forthcoming about XI 3.0 and Publisher.

I’ll post some links to the presentations as soon as they become available.

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