Dan English's BI Blog

Welcome to my random thoughts in regards to Business Intelligence, databases, and other technologies

“Hello Wisconsin” SQLSaturday Madison #287

Posted by denglishbi on March 19, 2014

The time is ticking and we are just a week and a half away from the SQLSaturday Madison event which kicks off on Friday, March 28 with three pre-conference events – SQLSaturday Madison #287 Pre-Cons Registration Now Open.  Then on Saturday the main event and the schedule is rockin’ with a jam packed day with presentations from the SQL community, MVPs, and MCMs – SQLSaturday Madison #287 Schedule.  Just to name a few there is Jonathan Kehayias, Joseph Sack, Lara Rubbelke, Paul Timmerman, Jason Strate, Jes Borland, Ted Krueger, Steve Jones, Brent Ozar, Kalen Delaney, and many more!sqlsat madison

I will be heading over to Madison Thursday and will be doing an all-day pre-con event Self-Service BI to the Max.  I am looking forward to going over the Power BI suite covering Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, and more.  As of right now there are still a few seats remaining, so if you are attending the event or are in the general area get signed up and join us:)

On Saturday I will be continuing the adventure and doing my talk on Delivering Self-Service BI with Power.

Delivering Self-Service BI with Power

In this session, we will discuss the enhancements and new features that are provided with Excel 2013 as Microsoft continues its roadmap with self-service BI. First we will go over the changes that have been made in Excel 2013, covering the new features. From there we will show how Power Pivot models can be used to integrate and load data to be used for analysis. Lastly, we will look at using Power View inside Excel to provide self-service reporting capabilities that are highly interactive.

So what are you waiting for, head over to the event site and checkout what is going on and follow the hashtag #sqlsatMadison – SQLSaturday Madison #287 event home.

Hope to see you there!

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Book Review: Microsoft Tabular Modeling Cookbook

Posted by denglishbi on February 21, 2014

There is a new Analysis Services (SSAS) Tabular book that is available to own and add to your library.  The book is written by Paul te Braak, who is a lead business intelligence consultant in Australia and is one of the developers on the DAX Studio project, and he has put together an outstanding cookbook.  When the book was released I was surprised and excited.  I was surprised because I did not know that Paul was working on this (he is the sole author, big kudos to Paul), and excited because I knew it was going to be a good one.  I had this one on my radar list of books to add to my collection; I am definitely a big fan of the Packt Publishing Cookbook series style of books. Microsoft Tabular Modeling CookbookWhat I like about the books is that they introduce a topic or situation and then go over the solution in a very simple and easy to understand format – Getting Ready, How to do it, How it Works, There’s more.  Paul adds a lot of great insights in this book in explaining how the solutions work as well as including a bunch of ‘Tips’ along the way as well.

Here is when I first became aware that the book was released last month and posted the O’Reilly media deal:


So when I was asked by the publisher this past month to provide a review of the book I was more than happy to say ‘yes’.

Paul does a great job on slowly working you into the Tabular modeling concepts and the only tool you need to get going is Excel and the Power Pivot add-in.  Paul’s examples use Excel workbooks and flat files for the most part, so that makes it really easy to get started and get your learn on.

What is amazing is that this book is just over 300 pages and it is loaded with great content that covers items such as how to use Power Pivot, hierarchies, drilldown, parent-child hierarchies (including how to hidememberif in DAX), smart measures, smart keys, programmatic access in Excel – cube functions and VBA, querying with DAX, Power View, and more!  Simply amazing, Paul does a fabulous job and this is a great intro book that progresses into advanced topics and has great examples, tips, and insights that are a big time value add.

Here is a outline of the chapters:

Chapter 1: Getting Started with Excel
Chapter 2: Importing Data
Chapter 3: Advanced Browsing Features
Chapter 4: Time Calculations and Date Functions
Chapter 5: Applied Modeling
Chapter 6: Programmatic Access via Excel
Chapter 7: Enterprise Design and Features
Chapter 8: Enterprise Management
Chapter 9: Querying the Tabular Model with DAX
Chapter 10: Visualizing Data with Power View

Book link – Microsoft Tabular Modeling Cookbook.

I would definitely rate this as a must have for anyone doing tabular SSAS development and give it 5 out of 5 stars – image

Awesome job Paul and thanks for writing the book and sharing!

Posted in Analysis Services | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

SQLSaturday Madison #287 Pre-Cons Registration Now Open

Posted by denglishbi on February 13, 2014

Just announced this week, there will be three amazing pre-con events on Friday, March 28 at the SQLSaturday event in Madison.  Registration is now open and seating is limited, so sign up while you still have the opportunity.

The pre-con events are an all-day event with a small group, lunch is provided, and there is a nominal fee of $100.  These pre-con events are a great way to really dive into a particular area and have a really up-and-close interactive experience with the instructors and fellow classmates.  I will be doing a self-service Power BI course that will cover Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View, and Power Maps all using Excel, very powerful and cool:)

Here is the list of three pre-cons:sqlsat madison

Virtualization for SQL Server DBA’s with David Klee

VMware vExpert and SQL Server performance expert David Klee leads this full-day, hands-on introduction to enabling and managing a virtualized SQL Server environment. The focus of the course is to help those new to virtualization and/or infrastructure concepts to become familiar with the concept and purposes of virtualization and how it can benefit them as data professionals. Participants will gain exposure to all layers of virtualization underneath SQL Server, from storage to hypervisor to the SQL Server instance, and will learn how to construct the entire stack with the focus on SQL Server performance.

Upon completion of this course, attendees will be able to:

  • Understand key virtualization and cloud concepts
  • Determine the optimal infrastructure configuration for best performance
  • Construct a SQL Server virtual machine template with best practices for agility and performance
  • Understand how and what stack metrics to benchmark and baseline to ensure proper objective performance measurement
  • Identify and remediate common virtualized SQL Server performance killers
  • Understand proper virtualized capacity management techniques for long term management

Attendees with the following experiences will benefit the most from this course:

  • Basic familiarity with the core components of a server
  • SQL Server installation and configuration
  • Exposure to SQL Server performance metric measurement and identification

A working set of the screens and configuration settings referenced in the session, together with the reference slides and documentation, will be provided to attendees, for prospective reference in working with virtualized SQL Server in their own environments.

Make Me a Tuning Believer w/Jes Borland & Ted Krueger

Are you an accidental DBA or developer that has been told to make a T-SQL query run faster? How many times have you heard complaints from the business about a report taking 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer to run? Have you found yourself lost in the mix of execution plan operations and indexing and scans?

Come to this class to build your query and execution plan tuning skills from beginning to end. We’ll focus on the everyday DBA’s and developer’s needs for tuning, and build up to more advanced methods which can be taken directly to work and bring immediate improvements in performance.

The workshop will show you skills and tools that revolve around what you will see most commonly in any business, such as:

  • The life cycle of a transaction
  • Preventing bad T-SQL coding practices
  • Reading an Execution Plan
  • Plan Cache and Monitoring
  • Execution Plan Tuning
  • Capturing bad execution plans that need to be tuned

You’ll also have plenty of time to ask your questions and get answers!

Self-Service BI to the Max with Dan English

Having the freedom and ability to easily explore and provide reporting and valuable insights within an organization has been a challenge for years. Well no more! The time to unlock and open up the doors to information is now. In this all-day pre-conference you will see that with the use of Excel you can be empowered to easily load and relate data, build business logic and calculations, enrich data with additional sources, and build highly visual and compelling reports.

We will explore Excel, Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Maps and show you how you can maximize the investment in the tools that Microsoft has provided. By the end of the day you will see how you will no longer be held back to waiting for a report request or being able to not ask the questions you have wanted to, take the next step and see what powers await you with Excel and unleash your data!

Don’t delay, to secure your spot register now!

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Minnesota Microsoft BI User Group 2014 Q1 Meeting–Feb 25

Posted by denglishbi on February 6, 2014

The next MN Microsoft Business Intelligence User Group is coming up on Tuesday, February 25. This meeting we will have two presentations starting out with a presentation on what the Data Scientist role is all about and then Mr. PowerPivotPro (b|t) will be in town to talk about…Power Pivot. Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed.image

MN Microsoft BI User Group 2014 Q1 Meeting

Sponsored by:


Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014image

Check In: 2:30 PM Event Time: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Location: Microsoft Technology Center – 3601 76th St W, Suite 600 Edina MN 55435 (in LOW 1, 2, and 3)

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)


  • 2:30-3:00 : Registration
  • 3:00-3:15 : Microsoft BI User Group Updates & Announcements
  • 3:15-4:15 : You are a Data Scientist when…
  • 4:15-4:30 : Break
  • 4:30-5:30 : Visualizing Your Data with Microsoft Power View
  • 5:30-6:00 : Social and Networking


Session 1: You are a Data Scientist when…

New job title dubbed the most interesting job of the century, is causing many of us to rewrite our resumes and reassess our skills.  What is a Data Scientist?  How have our roles changed? How will our roles change in the future?  This talk will examine the abilities, tools, and business acumen to be considered this emerging title.  Ideas will be shared on how to work with management to obtain this recognition and mentor a group of peers to share knowledge.


Cheryl Stepney has over 40 years of experience with working with data to form insights that have affected the IT industry.  Having worked for Oracle Corporation and Macromedia as start-up organizations, she has a unique perspective on using and visualizing data.  She also worked for Microsoft to evangelize SQL Server for a five state district and continues to consult in all aspects of the data lifecycle.

Session 2: Fact or Fiction:  The “Free Lunch” Promise of Power Pivot

Dramatically shortened lead times, drastically reduced costs, AND “same day” agility:  these are the promises of the “Self-Service BI” generation.  These sorts of claims naturally elicit a healthy amount of skepticism.  We are, after all, analytical people, and we’ve learned that there are no “free lunches.”

So – do tools like Power Pivot deliver what they promise, and if so, our natural next question is “ok, what’s the catch?”

You are right – there IS a secret missing from the marketing and hype.  But it probably is not what you are expecting, and it is simpler than you would ever guess.

Come see “Skeptic turned High Priest” and former Microsoft engineer Rob Collie “de-cloak” these mysteries with firsthand experiences and hands-on demos.  Regardless of your background, you will never view data the same way. 

Warning:  learning these secrets has been known to re-vitalize your career.

Speaker: Rob Collie, @PowerPivotPro, Author of DAX formulas for PowerPivot

One of the founding engineers behind PowerPivot at Microsoft during his 14-year career in Redmond and former CTO at Pivotstream, Rob Collie is one of the world’s foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and the revolutionary power of next-generation spreadsheet technology. His experience extends from software design and engineering through market strategy, and he is the author of the world’s #1-selling PowerPivot book.

Rob is currently in the process of launching a new software company in his areas of expertise, specifics to be announced later this spring. In the interim, he is advising and training organizations in their adoption of PowerPivot, using a complete-system approach that encompasses model and report design, collaboration with IT/DBA, server-based distribution, and cultural best practices.

BONUS: Get 5% on Rob Collie’s Online PowerPivot Training. At checkout use code MNBIUSR.

Link to purchase:  https://powerpivotpro.digitalchalk.com
20+ hours video on comprehensive Power Pivot 
Entertaining, easy-to-understand style 
Bonus e-book and guides
Concepts demystified via clear animations & examples
Designed for Excel people
Bulk discounts available for multiple attendees

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Voting is now live! Please vote for Power BI Contest

Posted by denglishbi on January 20, 2014

Voting is now open for the Power BI Contest, please go out and vote today!  You can vote from today, Jan 20, through next Thursday, Jan 30 (once per day).

If you go to my entry you can click below the video (big blue section that says ‘VOTE FOR THIS ENTRY’ between Previous and Next).

click here to vote


Don’t forget to vote once per day and appreciate any help you can do in sharing this with family, co-workers, and friends!

Thanks again for your support!

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IMDb Analysis with Microsoft Power BI

Posted by denglishbi on January 15, 2014

The Microsoft Power BI Contest entry submission ended today and this morning I worked on my video and got my entry posted.  For my entry I ended up going with the Top 250 rated movies on IMDb.  Last year when I was testing out “Data Explorer” (now called Power Query) I did a blog posting that highlighted this set of data along with some Power View reports here – Installing Data Explorer Preview Demo with IMDb Data

Since that post, which was back in March 2013, the data on the web page has changed (ratings of course, but the data available).  Like now the vote counts were not included in the table on the web page.  Also, I was using an external site to get some XML data to reference for additional information about the movies, well that changed to, so I did get to freshen up the demo a bit.  I also had to prepare some additional items for the Office 365, Power BI, Q&A, and I did setup a Windows 8 Power BI demo.

For our entries we were limited to only 10 minutes, so by no means are these going to be an end-to-end instruction guide.  I didn’t go into a deep analysis of the data, what I was trying to demonstrate was the ability to go from a basic web page of data to a fully decked out analysis tool.  I used Excel 2013, Power Query, Power Pivot, Pivot Charts and Tables, Power View, Office 365, Power BI, and the latest Q&A, so I was trying to show off as much as I could and stay within the timeframe provided.  I also had a demo to show off the Windows 8 Power BI app, but I wasn’t sure the Camtasia video capture software would capture the app demo since it was running on my desktop (will need to test that).

Here is the entry on Facebook (view in full screen to get better resolution – also turn the volume up) – IMDb Analysis with Microsoft Power BI.

PowerBI Facebook Demo

Action Item (please help and vote – Jan 20 thru 30)

Starting next week on Monday, January 20 the entries will be open for public voting.  I would appreciate all of the support you could provide (please vote, and pass it on to co-workers, family, relatives, family, etc.).  The voting will run through Thursday, January 30.  Then 10 out of the 61 entries will move on the semi-finals!  So I need all of the support you can provide.  Thanks so much!

Posted in Data Explorer, Power BI, Power Query | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Minnesota Microsoft BI User Group 2013 Q4 Meeting–Dec 3

Posted by denglishbi on November 26, 2013

The next MN Microsoft Business Intelligence User Group is coming up on Tuesday, December 3. This meeting we will have two presentations starting out with a presentation on BI in the Cloud with Azure Iaas and Power BI in Office 365 and then I will be presenting on Microsoft Power View. Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed.image

MN Microsoft BI User Group 2013 Q4 Meeting

Sponsored by:


Date: Tuesday, December 3, 2013image

Check In: 2:30 PM Event Time: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Location: Microsoft Technology Center – 3601 76th St W, Suite 600 Edina MN 55435 (in LOW 1, 2, and 3)

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)


  • 2:30-3:00 : Registration
  • 3:00-3:15 : Microsoft BI User Group Updates & Announcements
  • 3:15-4:15 : Extend BI to the Cloud with Azure and Office 365
  • 4:15-4:30 : Break
  • 4:30-5:30 : Visualizing Your Data with Microsoft Power View
  • 5:30-6:00 : Social and Networking


Session 1: Extend BI to the Cloud with Azure and Office 365

As mobile, social media, and data growth continue to fundamentally alter how companies operate, business leaders are beginning to look to the Cloud in order to achieve optimal performance while reducing costs. This presentation will show how you can extend and scale your BI infrastructure with simple set-ups and minimal maintenance using Microsoft Azure and Office 365. Demonstrations will include Azure IaaS, SharePoint and SQL Server; as well as the capabilities of Power BI with Office 365.


Chaitanya Khaladkar is a Solutions Architect with GNet Group. He has in-depth experience in developing architectures, and leading business productivity projects that span the entire Microsoft Business Productivity and Business Intelligence platform. Chaitanya has worked on several successful solution development projects to build rich web and collaborative applications on SharePoint since 2005.

Session 2: Visualizing Your Data with Microsoft Power View

This session will cover how Power View can be used to provide highly interactive reporting solutions. We will go over the requirements; the layout of the new report authoring and data exploration tool; cover the basics of report authoring, filtering, and slicing; and the more advanced charting options with scatter, maps, and drill down. Who knew analyzing data could be so fun! Come and find out more and see how it all works.


Dan English is a Microsoft SQL Server MVP and is the BI Practice Manager at SCS. He has been developing with Microsoft technologies since 1996, with a focus on data warehousing and business intelligence for the past eight years. Dan has screencasts and videos on Vimeo, is an avid blogger and regularly posts on Twitter. Dan is currently on the leadership team for the MN Microsoft BI user group. He is also coauthor of the book “Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power View.”

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Book Review: MDX with SSAS 2012 Cookbook

Posted by denglishbi on November 25, 2013

A couple of years back I reviewed a new book on the market related to MDX and Analysis Services, Book Review: MDX with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services Cookbook, and the book has now been updated to 2012.  The book was written by Microsoft SQL Server MVP Tomislav Piasevoli and Sherry Li. MDX with SSAS 2012 CookbookThe cookbook style of book is an outstanding reference book.  The book is full of solutions that tell you “how to do it”, “how it works”, and wait, “there’s more” (great value add and insights).

The book has been updated for the 2012 edition of SSAS and the examples have also been updated against the 2012 version of Adventure Works database.  The other difference from the 2008 R2 release of the book is that some of content has been broken up into a a couple of new chapters.

  • Chapter 1: Elementary MDX Techniques
  • Chapter 2: Working with Sets
  • Chapter 3: Working with Time
  • Chapter 4: Concise Reporting
  • Chapter 5: Navigation
  • Chapter 6: Business Analytics
  • Chapter 7: When MDX is Not Enough
  • Chapter 8: Advanced MDX Topics
  • Chapter 9: On the Edge

Book link – MDX with SSAS 2012 Cookbook. Amazon reviews link – Amazon Customer Reviews.

I would definitely rate this a must have for anyone doing multidimensional SSAS development and give it 5 out of 5 stars – image.

Posted in Analysis Services | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

TDWI Minneapolis Chapter Event: Intro to Hadoop and NoSQL – Dec 10

Posted by denglishbi on November 18, 2013

The next TDWI Minneapolis Chapter meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, December 10 and it will take place at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The meeting will feature Dr. Brad Rubin  and r. Saeed Rahimi and they will be talking about Hadoop as well as NoSQL.

http://tdwichapters.org/Minneapolis (or http://www.tdwimpls.org/)

Here are all of the details:

When: Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 8:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

Where:  St. Thomas University

McNeely Great Room – MCH100
University of St. Thomas
2115 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55105

Click here to register for the next upcoming event


8:00 – 8:30 a.m. – Networking and Registration
8:30 – 8:45 a.m. – Introduction and Chapter Business
8:45 – 9:30 a.m. – Introduction to Hadoop, Dr. Brad Rubin
9:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Break and Networking
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. – NoSQL: how Pig, Hive, and HBase integrate to perform Analytics, Dr. Saeed Rahimi
11:00 – 11:30 p.m. – Q&A – Discussion
11:30 – 12:45 p.m. – Closing Comments & Wrap-Up

Click here to register for the next upcoming event


"Hadoop & NoSQL"

Dr. Rubin and Dr. Rahimi will talk about these two technologies and several others that have gained traction in the industry to deal with the increasingly massive amounts of data and the desire to efficiently analyze them and turn them into information.  The technologies provide alternatives to traditional SQL-based relational databases and are better optimized for the fast-growing amount of unstructured and semi-structured data.

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PASSMN November 2013 Meeting

Posted by denglishbi on November 15, 2013

The next Minnesota SQL Server User Group meeting is on Tuesday, November 19. This month Mark Vaillancourt will be doing a presentation on the art of presenting.

Be sure to register so that your name badge will be available for you at the Microsoft Technology Center when you arrive.Minnesota SQL Server Users Group

The sponsor for this month’s meeting is Digineer.

Location: 3601 West 76th Street, Suite 600 Edina, MN 55437


  • 4:00-4:30 : Registration / Networking / Announcements
  • 4:30-4:45 : DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting by Mark Vaillancourt
  • 6:45-7:00 : Prizes / Giveaways

Please click here for meeting details and to RSVP for the event


DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

Abstract: Is there a great difference in the brain chemistry of someone fleeing a hungry mountain lion and someone presenting to a group of colleagues in a corporate board room? The answer is: NO. Over the past decade, a lot has been learned about the chemistry of the brain and why humans react the way we do to events in our environment. The concept of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is a compelling and growing concept that applies this knowledge in a set of learnable, improvable skills for leading human beings. While EQ is often applied to corporate leadership, the parallels to presenting are fantastic. This session will explain the basics of EQ and demonstrate how you can apply it to make your presentations better in the following areas: * Crafting better slide decks * Preparing yourself for presenting * Delivering your content * Dealing with the unexpected Understanding and practicing the concepts of EQ can make your presentations a better experience for everyone in the room–including you

About Mark: Mark Vaillancourt is an Information Management consultant for Digineer, a Microsoft partner based in Plymouth, MN. He has been working with SQL Server for 5 years and holds the MCITP – Business Intelligence Developer 2008 certification. With a background in Theater and Improvised Comedy, Mark makes sure that his presentations are both informative and fun.

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