Recently, I attended a workshop with Microsoft called “Experience Center for BI”. It was a 2-day workshop focused on Business Intelligence (BI) using Microsoft’s products (i.e. Office, SharePoint, and SQL Server 2012), which was FREE of charge to their enterprise customers.
Why was I interested in attending this workshop?
Importance of business intelligence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_intelligence) – I have always enjoyed working with data and business intelligence helps put meaning into data. And once the data is understood, then hopefully it can help affect the decision making process of a company. Additionally, the return on investment (ROI) can be huge. Just imagine a business intelligence project saving or adding 10% to a company’s bottom line when they do hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of business.
Workshop style training – I am particularly fond of training where you get hands on experience. With this training, I would be able to explore Microsoft’s Business Intelligence Suite (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerbi/). This would not only satisfy my curiosity into these tools, but also help me to understand the tools used by the BI developers and provide better support.
What did I really enjoy about this event?
Microsoft’s vision of BI (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/)– The event promoted the idea of a progressive BI strategy, where it starts with self-service BI then moves to team BI and then finally to organizational BI.
- We started with everyone’s favorite tool, Excel, which has over 1 billion users, and saw how data could be extracted and cleansed using PowerQuery (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/introduction-to-microsoft-power-query-for-excel-HA104003940.aspx).
- Next, we turned to how we would handle data models in Excel using PowerPivot (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/power-pivot-add-in-HA101811050.aspx).
- Finally, we looked at some of the visualization tools, which included PowerView (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/power-view-explore-visualize-and-present-your-data-HA102835634.aspx) and PowerMaps.
- Additionally, we had labs that used Analysis Services (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb522607(v=sql.110).aspx) as the data modeling tool instead of PowerPivot. We also talked about the benefits and drawbacks of choosing between the tabular and dimensional model in Analysis Services.
- And of course, they discussed some of the newer developments in their BI offerings, such as Data Quality Services (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff877917(v=sql.110).aspx), Master Data Services (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee633763(v=sql.110).aspx), and their Analytics Platform System (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/analytics-platform-system/)
Cleared up misconceptions – To be honest, I had some misunderstandings about some of Microsoft’s BI tools (i.e. Power* tools). However, when I was actually using the tools, it became quite easy to understand which tools were used for different purposes.
I firmly believe that being able to test features out in a lab environment with experienced instructors is definitely worth the time involved, and that is why I like this type of training.