Derek Comingore Blog

Derek Comingore's Microsoft Business Intelligence Blog

So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro


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./o:p

Get the terms straight/o:p

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. /o:p

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./o:p

Personal Microsoft Business Intelligence Professional Learning Plan/o:p

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./o:p

  • Foundations (some of these topics overlap to various degrees)/o:p
    • Data Warehousing (DW) Fundamentals (Normalized DW Vs Denormalized DW)/o:p
    • Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) Fundamentals/o:p
    • Dimensional Modeling Fundamentals/o:p
    • OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP) Fundamentals/o:p
    • Data Mining Fundamentals (I have more to learn here as well…in fact most do)/o:p
    • 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. /o:p
  • DW/BI Methodologies/o:p
    • Kimball ( 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./o:p
  • Microsoft DW/BI Tools (now to the technology)/o:p
    • SQL Server 2005 (including Analysis/Reporting/Integration Services)/o:p
    • Microsoft Office 2007 Suite (namely SharePoint, PerformancePoint & Excel)/o:p

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./o:p

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 ( 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)!

Legacy Comments

re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
That was a very good intro and lot of good links.

Thanks Derek.

Derek Comingore
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
My pleasure

Rich Meyer
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
I noticed that you site Kimball as the "defacto" standard on how to build an EDW. Are you familiar w/Inmon? What about the more recent methodologies that incorporate the two original schools of DW design? Citing the Kimball methodology as "defacto" does a grave disservice to the evolutionary history of DW design philosophy.

Derek Comingore
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
Hi Rich,

Point taken, however note that I do mention that other methodolgoies exist...but I will tell you that in the "real world" Microsoft DW Design/Methodology = Kimball.

Best Wishes

re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
Thanks for the links, Derek! I'm very new to BI but have some experience with some of the tools (I've worked with SSIS and DTS before it, and I've passed the 70-431 exam). I have a goal of passing both the 70-445 and 70-446 exams this year, and have already ordered the Self-Paced Study Guide for the 445 exam. Do you have any recommendations for how best to prepare for them?

Derek Comingore
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
Hi Steve...everyone has their own methods of learning. Me personally have found that the Microsoft Press Training Kits are very good as well as the official preparation guides such as:

I will say that be sure you understand:
1) The various Data Mining Algorithms and the business purposes they are used for.
2) Understand the various SSAS dimension types (they is more than just the regular relationship type)
3) Understand transactions, package restarts, and checkpoints

Roger Miller
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro

I am inheriting a team of bi pros. Im on the sales side, and I need to learn how to speak intelligently enough about it to sell it and transfer info from the clients to the team. Where should I start?

Derek Comingore
re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
Hi Roger

I would start by reviewing the content at these links I have provided below:

Hope this Helps!

re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
Hi ,

I am working as SQL DBA.i want to learn BI from where i need to start and how to start learning BI

re: So you want to be a Microsoft DW/BI Pro
At last, someone comes up with the "right" asenwr!