As a follow up to some recent feedback (actually a question) here is some more in depth information on becoming proficient in the Microsoft Data Warehousing/Business Intelligence stack.
Get the terms straight
Business Intelligence or BI is an umbrella term for various business processes, tools, and methodologies which support improved organizational decision making. Data Warehousing (and thus data warehouses) on the other hand are organizational repositories designed to facilitate highly scalable reporting & analytics. DW and BI go together like PB & J (ah the good ol' days). So is Data Warehousing synonymous with BI...NO! Data Warehousing is a common solution (due to its many advantages) implemented to enable BI in an organization....so when you see DW/BI you will now understand that a) DW/BI doesn’t mean they represent the same thing and b) that DW and BI merely complement each other very well thus the term's existence.
Now, understand before ever cracking open a BI book (or scouring the web all day for free information, who would do such a thing?) that REPORTING <> BI. The BI industry is plagued with terminology problems! So, DW <> BI and Reporting <> BI. And like DW, Reporting is merely one component of the larger field of BI.
Personal Microsoft Business Intelligence Professional Learning Plan
Understand before I dive into this that the words to follow are from a DW/BI architect/engineer and not a fulltime trainer. Actually, I wrote a seperate post on the pros/cons of fulltime trainers prior on this blog here. So with that disclaimer out of the way here are the topics in chronological order I would propose to anyone wishing to learn how to implement DW/BI systems on the Microsoft platform.
- Foundations (some of these topics overlap to various degrees)
- Data Warehousing (DW) Fundamentals (Normalized DW Vs Denormalized DW)
- Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) Fundamentals
- Dimensional Modeling Fundamentals
- OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP) Fundamentals
- Data Mining Fundamentals (I have more to learn here as well...in fact most do)
- Brief History of DSS (decision support systems) *You could argue you don't need this knowledge and in so far as getting the "job done" you don't.
- DW/BI Methodologies
- Kimball (www.kimballgroup.com) is pretty much the defacto standard for HOW to build an enterprise data warehouse on the Microsoft Platform. I personally have not read others work but do know of them and by all means use what ever methodology fits you and your DW/BI projects best.
- Microsoft DW/BI Tools (now to the technology)
- SQL Server 2005 (including Analysis/Reporting/Integration Services)
- Microsoft Office 2007 Suite (namely SharePoint, PerformancePoint & Excel)
Best "WWW Stops" (in no particular order)
What you see is what you get
So thats my list (and best "stops") for now. Those of you new to the Microsoft platform may laugh that there are only a handful of products to learn but be forewarned that both SQL Server and the Office products are VERY LARGE offerings. SharePoint & SQL Server in particular can (and often do) fill bookshelves worth of valuable content.
I hope that helps everyone out there who is considering learning more and/or making a career in the MSFT DW/BI space. There is a lot to learn, however you will find that having a solid background in databases (and a bit of programming) goes a long way in learning the actual tools. It also seems to be true according to the TDWI (www.tdwi.org) that most DW/BI Professionals in general (not just those using the Microsoft platform) have lived a "past life" in another part of IT (usually dev/dba). Most people do not go directly into the field of DW/BI (which I personally 100% support)!