On March 9, 2013, SQLSaturday #187 came to Richmond VA at the University of Richmond. SQLSaturday is a community event, supported by the Professional Association for SQL Server, which provides free training for SQL Server and business intelligence professionals. With a great line up of speakers, sponsors, and volunteers from all over, it was a well-run, educational, and enjoyable event.

CapTech sponsored the event as a Gold sponsor and talked to a variety of professionals from the Richmond and surrounding areas. CapTech also provided three speakers to share their knowledge on reporting, business intelligence, and data quality. Finally, CapTech had many of their consultants attend to participate in the conversation and enhance their education. Some of the sessions attended are highlighted below by our attendees.

Dashboards...How To Choose Which MSBI Tool, presented by Melissa Coates

There are many options available in the Microsoft BI stack, so choosing the tool that will best suit your needs can be a tough decision. There are many factors to consider. Who are the end users? How quickly do they need to have access to information? How will implementing this solution help grow the business? Melissa walked through the pros and cons of implementing SSRS, PowerPivot, Power View, PerformancePoint, Report Builder and Excel. Each of these tools has a variety of features that can be applied to help solve business problems and monitor operational processes. The data discovery and visualization options available in the new Power View tool were impressive. There are a lot of options to make reporting much more interactive and fun for end users. Charts and graphs are great, but decomposition trees and play axes provide even more capability. In the new world of "big data" it will be necessary to quickly deploy BI solutions, to a mixed end user population, to analyze data from a variety of sources. Business users are becoming much more data savvy and the Microsoft BI stack offers many options that all work very well together. Implementing one, or many, of their solutions in your organization will help maintain the ultimate reporting goal of a single version of the truth.

Upgrading to SSIS 2012, presented by Paul Rizza

I decided to attend a discussion of the benefits of upgrading to Integration Services 2012, seeing as I'm currently having that very debate on one of my projects. The session was taught by a SQL Server pro, and I really learned a lot of valuable information. We covered a wide range of topics, including changes to the front-end development environment, new SSIS package components, and most exciting of all, the ability to ease the pains of deployment using project-wide configuration manager variables. Additionally, since there were only a handful of us in the room, we were able to cover a lot of material, but were also allowed to slow down when we needed to delve deeper into the topic of deployments. I came out of the session with a much better understanding of what SSIS 2012 has to offer and am now able to intelligently discuss an upgrade with my colleagues.

Database Contention Issues, presented by Karen Lopez

When thinking about database design, many might think that picking the table names, the primary keys for your tables or the data type for each column is just the basics. It is something that everyone that works with databases knows how to do, so it might be tempting to jump into the fun part of designing databases and talk with your team about the data you will be receiving, how to normalize or not normalize your tables, what indices to create, how to maximize the performance of searches/inserts/deletes based on the purpose of the database. After all, everyone knows how to name a table, right? Well, if you had been at Karen Lopez's session at SQLSaturday, you would have been surprised to see not only how many different opinions every person in the session had, but how opposite they were at some times. What I learned is, do not ever take anything for granted. What seems right for you might not be for the rest of your team, and no matter how rushed a project is, you should always take the time to go over these questions with your team a reach a consensus for the sake of consistency and easy of querying. If you skip these questions and don't establish standards early on, you might end up with a database that is difficult to maintain and query.