Kimball and Big Data

The final post in a 3 part blog over at IPL about where Kimball fits into Big Data. Spoiler: it isn’t one or the other. Find out more here

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Kimball and Analytics

The second part of a quick tour of how relevant Kimball is now. A quick look at analytics- where conformed dimensions are a useful part of your analytics toolkit. Kimball and analytics

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How relevant is Kimball nowadays?

Here’s the first in a three part blog looking at how relevant Kimball is, now we have Big Data, analytics and self service BI. Data is big right now, and people are always looking to the shiny new technology or approach. Do tried and tested data warehousing and dimensional modelling approaches have a place in this fast moving world? I start to take a look here

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why your IT department should care about Power BI

Over at the IPL blog, I’ve written about how your IT department should be intimately involved with self-service BI initiatives and products, like Microsoft’s Power BI. Self-service BI, whilst being BI by the users and for the users, can really fly when assisted by your experts from the IT department. And it makes their life easier too. Take a look here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Nine gotchas of self-service BI

Here’s a blog I put together about getting self service BI right. Many organisations find it tricky finding the right place for self service BI and Data Discovery tools like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, and through various projects I’ve noticed where people often go wrong. These are all things for people to bear in mind as they consider the introduction of data discovery tools- so they can do it right.
The nine biggest pitfalls of self-service BI- and how to avoid them

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Microsoft buys Datazen

It has long been levelled at Microsoft’s BI offering that it doesn’t really have a ‘Mobile story’. This has gradually started to change- but third party offerings like Datazen and Roambi have been the only way people have been able to make use of their Microsoft investments in a mobile way. Yesterday, Microsoft announced they have acquired Datazen, the cross platform mobile BI vendor.

This is pretty good news for Microsoft customers. While the Power BI product gathers momementum, with its own mobile offering, it is very much a cloud solution. Datazen is currently positioned as Mobile BI for people with on-premises BI resources. So now Microsoft have a relatively complimentary offering- Datazen is going to cater for your mobile BI if you’re someone with Analysis Services, for instance.
From this good starting point, I’d expect Microsoft to further integrate the offerings as time goes on. It seems like a sensible purchase for them.

The good news is that current SQL Server Enterprise customers can download and start using the Datazen server product today.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Other writing

Here’s a list of (some of the) other writing I’ve been involved in- more to keep a record for my own benefit than for anything else. I’ll keep it up to date as I go on.

How relevant is Kimball in a world of self service BI, Big Data and analytics? Post 1
Post 2 and Post 3

Why your IT department should care about Power BI

BI for the masses

9 pitfalls of self Service BI

Unlock benefits by boosting decision making

Fundamentals of Information Management

Data Integration

Evidence-based Decisions

Microsoft BI

Information Exploitation and BI


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Setting up Power BI Preview for MSDN developers when own email address does not work

Update- our IT department have now got this working internally, so we no longer need the workaround below.

Power BI is currently in preview, and has just been made available worldwide. Many developers have been champing at the bit to get their hands on it. If you’re anything like me, with an MSDN subscription and things on the go in Azure, you might have experienced a couple of problems getting up and running. Here are the problems I had, and a workaround that has allowed me to continue my Power BI journey!

Note: Power BI is moving very quickly, so I fully expect these tips to be out of date very soon.

Problem: When I went to and typed in my work email address, it said that it couldn’t sign me up, as my IT department had disabled access to Power BI. Now, I know that our IT department wouldn’t do this. I asked them, and they confirmed this- and couldn’t find anything wrong at their end. Perhaps we have an odd mix of Office 365 and Azure- and with me as a developer who has an allocated MSDN license, I have my own subscription area plus access to other Azure directories. So perhaps this is causing the issue I was seeing.

Lots of ‘trying stuff out’ ensued- and finally I hit on something that has seemed to work.

Short version:

  • Use MSDN Azure subscription to create Azure Active Directory
  • Create new user in new Azure Active Directory
  • Log in with new user and change password
  • Use new user to sign up/sign in to

Longer, waffly version:

In my own MSDN Azure subscription, I created a new Azure Active Directory, and created a new user, something like

Using the admin email that was sent relating to the creation of the new user, I followed the link and signed in as that new user.

This didn’t work at first- It remembered my main azure login and wouldn’t let me log in as the new user. To fix this, I had to click the … next to my main login and ‘forget’ the login. I closed the page, followed the link from the email again and it worked.

It made me change my password as a first time login, then took me to my Azure page.  It correctly said there was no Azure subscription for this login. Fine… So now for Power BI. Signing in for Power BI for this new user worked, and I could finally access the new Power BI goodness.

To summarise, this workaround has allowed me to create a user login that works for Power BI, that I can use to try out the Preview. Your results may vary!

Posted in Solutions | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Power Map April update- signs Microsoft are listening

Power Map April update- signs Microsoft are listening

Many people have been confused and disappointed with Microsoft’s recent BI strategy, or at least regarding licensing and availability of the various parts of Power BI. It started with PowerPivot (now Power Pivot, of course): a free plug in for Excel 2010, it was more integrated into Excel 2013 but only in certain SKUs and subscriptions, reducing uptake of what could still be a game changer for Microsoft. Eventually Microsoft threw people a bit of a bone in including it in Excel ‘standalone’.

We’ve now grown accustomed to the new strategy, whereby various elements of Power BI available in Excel were available only in top notch versions- Office Professional Plus, or Office 365 ProPlus if you’re on a streaming Office 365 subscription, and the aforementioned Excel standalone.

Then came the announcement that Power Map, one of the jazzy new features of Power BI, would only be part of Office 365 ProPlus- not Professional Plus or standalone. This was really odd, since all the other parts (Power Pivot, Power View and Power Query) were fairly consistently available. This was a new level of exclusivity, and a disappointing one at that. The versions we’d been trying out were going to expire by the summer too!

Thankfully, Microsoft have listened and have changed their mind (kind of): with the April update of Power Map they have also announced that the versions we’ve been working with won’t in fact expire- you’ll be able to download another non-expiring version soon. Although it sounds like great news, it appears it will still only be a preview, unsupported version.

However, the next version of Excel will incorporate a properly supported version. Why they can’t make a properly supported addin available to Professional Plus and Excel standalone users now, I don’t know, but maybe the reasons are technical and down to not wanting to support two diverging versions of a plugin- it is perhaps hard to keep track of all the different versions.

I think they should have gone further, but this is a useful compromise and a step in the right direction for Microsoft.

Next, all they need to do is to put in place a decent solution for developers (MSDN subscribers and otherwise) to get hold of versions of Office that incorporate the latest Power BI stack, including access to the online Power BI for Office 365. At the moment all you can do is get a short trial of Power BI for Office 365, for example. We need to be able to access the latest parts of Power BI, in the cloud and in Excel, to do our jobs, supporting businesses to make the most of the tools. Power BI has some powerful features, like the M language, and optimising Power Pivot models to make the most of Q & A, that may be complex for many users and so Microsoft really needs to support its loyal developers and consultants to help gain Power BI traction in the industry.

April update announcement:


Posted in News, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Power BI announced for Office 365

At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Power BI has been announced: Microsoft’s solution for cloud-based BI. It is for subscription-based Office 365 only, with Excel as the main authoring tool and SharePoint Online for collaboration. Also announced are iOS and Windows 8 mobile BI apps, HTML5 access rather than Silverlight, natural language search, and even new names for some recent innovations (Power Maps is the new Geoflow, for example).

Some thoughts:

– This is a big shift away from SQL Server-based BI to Office-based BI

– This is Cloud First- but more than that, it is Cloud Only, which could be a real kick in the teeth for organisations who are on-premises only. With there already being concerns about the previously free functionality of PowerPivot now being only in premium Office SKUs, and the suggestions that Microsoft are missing an open goal to eat up the market for the likes of Tableau and Qlikview, I’m hoping that Microsoft will allow Power BI to be accessible widely and for a reasonable price.

– Finally with the mobile! I really look forward to Power View for iPad.

As usual Chris Webb has compiled the best starting point for links and opinion on this announcement:


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments