Book Review – Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel 2010

0020.pp.png-550x0I dare to predict that in a few years after SQL 11 ships, there will be two kinds of BI professionals – those who know the Business Intelligence Semantic Model and those who will learn it soon. By the way, the same applies to SharePoint. What can you do to start on the path and prepare while waiting for BISM? Learn PowerPivot, of course, which is one of the three technologies that are powered by VertiPaq – the new column-oriented in-memory store. This is where the book PowerPivot for Excel 2010 can help. It’s written by Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari, whose names should be familiar for those of you who have been following Microsoft BI for a while. Both authors are respected experts who have contributed a lot to the community. Stationed in Italy, they run the SQLBI website and share their knowledge via their blog and publications.

This is the second book that I’ve read about PowerPivot – after Professional Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint, which I reviewed in this blog. What I liked about this book is its deep coverage of Data Analysis Expressions (DAX). I specifically enjoyed the following chapters:

Chapter 6: Evaluation Context and CALCULATE – Provides a deep coverage of how DAX measures work. Although DAX is meant to be simpler than MDX, expressions can get complex and this chapter will help you understand how DAX works behind the hood.

Chapter 7: Date Calculations in DAX – Time calculations, such as YTD, QTD, are an important requirement for most BI projects. This chapter goes into details to explain how to implement them and provide workarounds for PowerPivot limitations.

Chapter 9: PowerPivot DAX Patterns – If you wonder whether PowerPivot can do this and that, read this chapter. It demonstrates advanced concepts ranging from ratio, percent of total, standard deviation, ranking over measures, Pareto computations, and more.

Chapter 10: PowerPivot Data Model Patterns – Another gem for addressing popular BI needs, such as banding, courier simulation, and many-to-many relationships.

Although not big in size (370 pages), you will find this book rich in patterns and solutions. What impressed me is that the authors put a great effort to cover not only the PowerPivot basics but to leave no stone unturned when the tool lacks in features. The authors discuss a requirement, approach it from different angles, and provide several implementation approaches. Thus, this book will benefit both beginners and advanced users. An indispensible resource for learning PowerPivot and giving a head start on BISM!