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GPO avatar image
GPO asked

What programming languages should a MS BI specialist know?

My job has slowly been evolving from data analyst/report writer type work into more of a BI specialist role over time. The vast bulk of the "programming" that I do is TSQL with small bits of VB script, powershell and even VBA in rare cases. Obviously I can use SSAS (to some extent), SSRS, and SSIS. What other programming languages do BI specialists need to be on top of? I've heard that BIML, R and C# (eg for CLR) can be useful. It seems that SharePoint development is also a BI flavor of the month. I'm worried though, that breadth of knowledge can come at the expense of depth. I also believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
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Phil Factor avatar image
Phil Factor answered
So much depends on the sort of BI role you want to get into. DAX and MDX will help a lot with the SQL Server/Microsoft ecosystem, but if you are getting into more of the Data Science end then R and Python are valuable tools. R by itself is quite dry but there are so many useful add-ins now. Read [anything on Simple-Talk by Sergei Dumnov][1] to get a flavour of the simple things you can do with R in combination with SQL Server and ASP.NET MVC. [1]: https://www.simple-talk.com/author/sergei-dumnov/
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"...the sort of BI role..." Yeah. Even establishing that is a quandary when you're a tiny unit (reporting off dbs from approx 30 different vendors) in a mid-sized organisation, with big aspirations. You can end up Jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none). For example, the CEO came to the door the other day and said, quite out of the blue "We now need all our activity monitoring reports to integrate Shewhart Control Charting". The idea itself is fine, but... sigh. I think we need to get our skills up in the ETL area first and foremost. I get the feeling that the people who really make say SSIS or BIML hum are able to leverage things like C#.
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Grant Fritchey avatar image
Grant Fritchey answered
It seriously depends on what you're doing as BI specialist. Saying that brings to mind people working with cubes which means you need to learn MDX. If your work is primarily around data loading, then T-SQL, PowerShell, VBScript, SSIS, BIML. If you're working in SSRS, T-SQL is all I can think of.
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Even in SSRS only you can create script modules so vb or c# might still be useful!
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It's funny isn't it, that just 10 years ago "BI" was considered to be a highly specialized stream. Now the term has become so vague or broad as to elicit the response "What KIND of BI are you talking about?"
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Yeah, I think the term, along with so many terms, has become very overloaded. Oh well, what are you going to do.
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