Articles for the Month of August 2014

H.I.P.P.O or How decisions are made without data

Hippo with glasses  cartoonOne of the reasons that I enjoy working with data, and especially the new analytical models is because when you have lots of data, you can analyze it to make decisions which may go against many misconceived preconceptions. One of the data projects I worked on in the past, gathered all of the call center data from the phone switches and matched it against the number of payments received from the people who were called. When the results were analyzed, the business chose to make different decisions than they had in the past. Previously the call centers were evaluated by the number of calls made, not what happened when someone was called. As a result in the change of the evaluation methodology, some call centers were closed, some managers were promoted, and other managers were fired. Absent data, decisions are made which can be called into question.

Decisions made without Data are really H.I.P.P.O.

In absence of having any data, decisions are often made using the H.I.P.P.O method, which stands for HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion. When data is gathered and displayed in a transparent manner, the managers knew they were underperforming and knew the consequences and were highly motivated to improve. HR felt confident that the reasons for letting people go were not going to be challenged, so they felt free to act as well.

Data Removes Ambiguity in the Decision Process

There are many examples where providing accurate clear data removes the questions people have regarding decisions. One other example which comes to mind was the question regarding the selection of speakers at the upcoming PASS Summit. As a disclaimer, I did not submit, so I was not surprised when I was not selected. PASS released the speaker feedback providing the data people needed to understand the criteria for acceptance. Gathering data and developing systems to accurately display it isn’t just a task undertaken because people like the technology, it is the method where transparency and decision making can be undertaken. So next time you are asked to create a report think about what you are really doing. It’s not an exercise in SSRS, you are providing tools which allow decisions to be made based on facts, not HIPPOs.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

MSCA, Part 3 the final countdown, Exam 70-463


If you wait until 2 minutes into this 80s hair band song, you will get what comes to mind when I started studying for this test. I think I first heard it when I was introduced to the band Metal Rose last year, but I can’t find their cover of it. Anyway, this is the last exam of the series, the Data Warehouse one. This is the test that online all of the DBA types don’t like because you have to know about Building a Data Warehouse, SSIS, and ETL. Here’s a link to the

I thought this was the most fun. After all this is the BI exam, which is what I like to do and as an added bonus I thought the Microsoft training book was really good. If you are studying for the exam or interested in Data warehousing in SQL Server, I think it is a good read.

Is it worth it?

The question I get asked about certifications is: Are they worth it? I have been thinking about that and I the answer I have is, I don’t know. Personally, I find that if I have a reason to go learn something, I will. Studying for an exam provides a reason. The exam is like a bowling pin, it is a target to knock down. If I didn’t study for this test would I have become interested figuring out how to apply Master Data Management? Probably not, but that’s the sort of thing I got out of it. A test is just a reason to learn new things about SQL Server and the piece of paper and the logos, is an added bonus. I downloaded my Official Logos and Paper copy of the cert just to make it official. I even framed it.

The Process

I now have a process for how I can pass the tests, which involves me creating my own book in word, and studying it. This is the first time that I found the book to be the best source on the topic, so I just wrote down the pages that I thought I should study in my notes. This time I remembered to list all of the web pages that I copied so that anyone could see where the original text came from. I thought I’d share it, as I am feeling good about being done with this as cert. If you find it helpful, let me know.

Design and implement a data warehouse (11%)

Extract and transform data (23%)

Load data (27%)

Configure and deploy SSIS solutions (24%)

Build data quality solutions (15%)

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur