This is the first part which published at the last! I previously published 7 posts for the series of “I’m New to BI, Where to Start?”. However I got some feedback from audience that are not coming from the world of Database, and they are not familiar with relational database structure, primary keys, foreign keys, constraints, indexes, T-SQL…. So I felt the requirement for a preliminary post that links to some references to have better understanding of prerequisites to starting BI. Business Intelligence is the art of fetching information to support decisions based on the story behind the data. With this definition the first and foremost prerequisite is to understand data and how to work with it.
Database Design Concepts
Database is a word that needs no definition. However you might be new to the concept of RDBMS or relational databases. Relational database is an efficient way of storing data which helps data integrity and consistency specially for four important actions with the data called CRUD: Create, Retrieve, Update, and Delete. This way of storing data works with tables as representatives of each entity, such as Student, Course, Accounts, and etc. There are columns and rows in each table. Columns are representative of attributes of the entity. For Accounts entity, attributes can be Account Name, Account Number, Account phone number, and etc. each row in the table will be a member of that entity. For example each row in the Account table will be an account. As each entity has it’s own table then the relationship between entities represented as relationship between tables. each account has a type, each account might be related to a project, and etc.
If I want to write about principles of database design, lines and posts won’t be enough. You have to read books to understand database design concepts right. some of the design principles in transactional databases might be different from dimensional modelling and data warehouse design (such as normalization). However having and understanding of RDBMS, relationships, Primary keys, Foreign Keys, Indexes, Constraints, and etc are essential prerequisites before getting to the world of BI and Data Warehouse.
There are fortunately heaps of good books and materials for database design concepts, I just mention few of them here for you as a reference.
I don’t say that this is the best book for database design, as there are many good books on this topic in the market. I just mentioned this book here as an example of good book with good explanation of database design in RDBMS world.
SQL is different from SQL Server. SQL is a language to query data, and SQL Server is Microsoft data services product. SQL is a global language and common between all database vendors. you can write SQL statements to query data from DB2, Oracles, SQL Server, or any other relational databases. SQL first appeared in academic papers on 1970, and then commercialized for the first time in 1986. From that time there has been some versions for this language, the latest version of SQL is SQL:2011. Database vendors are usually up-to-date with their support of the latest SQL version. in addition to that each database vendor has it’s own functions as complementary to the SQL for ease of writing queries for developers.
Book that I mention below is only one of the hundred good SQL books, and worth reading it will give you great understanding of SQL language with many examples. I’ve learned SQL with help of this book (and also some other books), and I highly recommend it. the book that I’ve read was the first edition of this, but after years, now third version of it is available.
Now you are ready to start BI
After good understanding of prerequisites, you will be ready to start the world of BI. in next 7 posts I’ve explained different components of Business Intelligence with Microsoft technologies. Read them carefully, and follow the recommended videos, books and other references. In a nutshell, BI is not something that you start today and you be an expert next week! you have to live with it, it is magic world I say, if you love to get to that world, you will enjoy it. Like any other professions in the world you never should stop or pause learning in this field. Even if you are experienced and feel expert in this field still you have to study new technologies, best practices, and tips and techniques for solving special challenges. If you are new to BI, don’t be afraid with the amount of references that I’ve mentioned you have to study and learn in this field. Like every other business you won’t learn everything at the first step, you will learn them gradually, make sure that you always look back at what you’ve learned and improve it.
Here are next 7 steps for you to start BI:
Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 1: Fundamentals, Data Warehouse and ETL
Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 2: Modelling with BISM
Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 3: Data Governance
Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 4: Data Visualization