Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 1


Business Intelligence is hot topics still after years of first appearance of the world in the job market. Term changed many times; Data Warehouse, Business Intelligence, Data Analysis, and Cloud BI…. BI related jobs are still high paid jobs in the market. Demand for BI is pretty high, and number of BI professionals is not that high. So it creates a niche market section for high demand jobs with high salaries. On the other hand BI is not something out of the blue for DBAs, Database Developers, Software Developers, and many IT professionals. Most of software developers build reports and analysis elements on their everyday activities. However that experience in report writing and analysis isn’t that much helpful for them if they want to step into BI jobs. For getting into BI market, you don’t only need experience in report writing, but you also need conceptual and architectural points of BI and DW systems, understanding components of BI, and learning tools of it.

In this post I want to explain steps to learn BI, So you be able to prepare yourself for this high demand market. This learning path is not only for job finding purpose, because if I wanted to do that I would only post “BI interview questions and answers”, and that sometimes would be enough to pass recruitment path. I’m writing this walk-through as I’ve found it in many years that this is the best path to learn BI, and it will lead you to whatever ends; if you want to be a BI professional, or Architect, or Consultant. I should mention this walk-through is for Microsoft BI career path, however some steps are generic such as BI Fundamentals.

1- First Step: Learning BI Fundamentals

So let’s put our feet together and start; the very first step is to understand BI fundamentals, understanding an overview of components of BI system. When you are new to BI, it would be overkill if you just start with ETL and dive deep into it. You have to learn first what is ETL for? what is purpose of it? and what are steps before and after it? What is the life cycle of a BI system? and heaps of fundamental questions. Unfortunately number of generic resources for this fundamental is really low, but good news is that there are some technology oriented editions of resources for this step. As this post is focusing on Microsoft BI, so I recommend a book that is based on Microsoft technologies, so you start getting to know tools better.

Book: Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Business intelligence Development; Beginner’s Guide

As its name explains; this is a Beginner’s guide. This book has a simple but efficient flow, it starts from Data warehouse design with some basics and principle concepts of designing data warehouse and dimensional modelling. The rest of book also has chapters for each individual component of Microsoft BI. The very first chapter gives you an understanding of BI system architecture, and its components, then in other chapters each component discussed individually. Components discussed in this book only mentioned at beginner stage, at the end of each chapter some resources (books, videos, URLs) introduced for reading more deep about the topic.

I don’t want to use this blog post to promote my own book, Actually any other book that be beginner Business Intelligence guide would be beneficial as starting point. The main point here is that this very first book shouldn’t give you any deep dive technical information. this book/resource should give you a basic but overall picture of a BI/DW system, and take the first step of introducing BI to you, so you be able to start deep dive into each topic individually later.

Screenshot below from this book illustrates main components of BI system;


2- Data Warehouse Design / Dimensional Modelling

Core of each BI system is the Data Warehouse, so the most important step in designing the BI system usually is Data Warehouse Design, which called Dimensional Modelling at some stage. This step is technology independent, and it explains design principles of Data Warehouse so it serve the purpose of the BI system. Don’t overlook take this step by start working on other sections. A bad designed data warehouse can affect the whole system performance. a good designed data warehouse is the main building block of your BI system. My experience with this part is that unfortunately most of BI professionals are week in dimensional modelling, they feel requirement of good data warehouse design when they are in a middle of live big data warehouse project and they feel really bad performance BI system because of bad design. So my recommendation to you is to spend time on this step, you will get lots of value out of it later on.

There are two main methodologies for designing data warehouse, named by inventors of it; Kimball, and Inmon. Fortunately each of these methodologies has a very good reference book. (These are reference books, that you should have always in your bookshelf to be able to refer to it easily):

Book: The Data Warehouse Toolkit (Kimball)


Book: Building the Data Warehouse (Inmon)



3- Extract, Transform, and Load : ETL

Extracting, and Transforming data, and loading it into the destination called as ETL. Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services is one of the most powerful ETL tools in the market, with help of BIDS (Business Intelligence Development Studio) or SSDT (SQL Server Data Tools) you can generate complex ETL scenarios and implement it in an efficient way. ETL itself is a complex concept. When you work with large databases or data sets, extracting data or transforming it should be separated into different layers. There is a good book by Kimball group explaining the ETL concepts which is worth to read through:

Book: The Data Warehouse ETL Toolkit (Kimball)


You also would require good skill of SSIS, which heaps of SSIS books and materials are available to help. Here are two examples:

Book: Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services: An Expert Cookbook

SSIS Tutorial Videos:


There are many SSIS tutorial videos with real world examples for free in above link.


In next blog posts I’ll explain about other resources and steps required for starting BI.


Related Posts:

Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 0: Prerequisites

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

Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 5: Power BI

Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 6: Data Mining

Walk-through Steps: I’m New to BI, Where to Start? – Part 7: Azure




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Reza Rad
Trainer, Consultant, Mentor
Reza Rad is a Microsoft Regional Director, an Author, Trainer, Speaker and Consultant. He has a BSc in Computer engineering; he has more than 20 years’ experience in data analysis, BI, databases, programming, and development mostly on Microsoft technologies. He is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP for 12 continuous years (from 2011 till now) for his dedication in Microsoft BI. Reza is an active blogger and co-founder of RADACAD. Reza is also co-founder and co-organizer of Difinity conference in New Zealand, Power BI Summit, and Data Insight Summit.
Reza is author of more than 14 books on Microsoft Business Intelligence, most of these books are published under Power BI category. Among these are books such as Power BI DAX Simplified, Pro Power BI Architecture, Power BI from Rookie to Rock Star, Power Query books series, Row-Level Security in Power BI and etc.
He is an International Speaker in Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft Business Applications Summit, Data Insight Summit, PASS Summit, SQL Saturday and SQL user groups. And He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer.
Reza’s passion is to help you find the best data solution, he is Data enthusiast.
His articles on different aspects of technologies, especially on MS BI, can be found on his blog: https://radacad.com/blog.

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