Pragmatic Works SSRS Master Class Review

A little while back, the boys from Pragmatic Works (www.pragmaticworks.com) came up to Boston for their “Master” level training series on SSRS. I attended the class, and wanted to share my experience so other interested people can get a preview of what to expect from taking a PW class.

History…

So, up front, I want to be honest about the fact that I am somewhat biased about the training services provided by PW due to my own past experiences in taking their classes. They have a plethora of offerings in relation to the SQL Server Stack and Data topics. I have attended several of their virtual and on-site classes in the past, and am always pleased with the course material, humorous injections, and interesting nuggets they always provide.

Content…

Ok, now that the free paid advertisement is over, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the class.  Taught by Devin Knight (@knight_devin) and Mike Davis (@MikeDavisSQL), the focus of the class was to look at some of the deeper components of how to really expand the capabilities of SSRS beyond the “canned” options and features.  One thing I really like about the presentation style of the courses, beyond the humor, is the fact that they will talk about best practices, give demonstrations and examples of them, then follow-up with tips and tricks to get around some of the nuances of the technology being taught.  This particular course focused on several areas of particular interest to me, and some others that don’t apply to my situation, so they were just good for informational purposes.  The areas within SSRS covered were:

    • Good Report Design
    • Custom Code
    • Reporting from Cubes
    • Utilizing Reports
    • Subscriptions
    • IDEs
    • Configuration and Security

As well as a section on Power View.

Takeaways…

Overall, I thought the delivery of the class and the ability of the presenters to break up the material in order to keep it interesting was very good.  Devin and Mike clearly know their stuff, and very obviously love doing it as well as sharing their insight and the various “Microsoftisms” that can occur.  Below is a bit of detail on what worked and didn’t work as well for me about the class specifically.

Good stuff:

  • The examples used about displaying the numbers in such a way that they become more readable by highlighting numbers falling in certain ranges, or more specifically, in-report KPIs, were very helpful.
  • Getting into some of the deeper security and configuration topics offered some different techniques on establishing better security alternatives.
  • The modules on linking and mapping within reports were good to have in this course, as those areas have provided some headaches to myself and my peers in the past.

Neutral stuff:

  • Personally, I don’t do a whole lot with SSAS and Cubes, as most of my work surrounds SSIS and SSRS, but there were some interesting nuggets revealed and “ah ha” moments, as this appears to be somewhat of a tricky subject.

Not as useful stuff:

  • Given the class is at the “Master” level, I’m not sure an entire module and lab needed to be dedicated to Good Report Design.  My assumption is that the majority of the people in the class were there because they have a fair amount of experience in delivering reports, and they were looking for ways to better extend them.  Maybe instead of a module, using poor report design as a “pop quiz” throughout presenting in order to break up the monotony and add some humor.
  • I found the preparation materials for the class to be lacking a bit.  Many of the students in the class (I believe there were around 75 of us) did not have their environment setup correctly on the first day so Mike and Devin spent much of the day running from person to person to make sure the configuration was correct.  I especially remember this being the case for the SSAS and Cube sections.

Conclusion…

I’ve been a big fan of Pragmatic Works products and training for a while now and recommend them to anyone that is looking to brush up on their SQL skills, or might have a need for their suite of tools.  I found this class to be helpful and was able to use some of the topics covered almost immediately after taking the class.

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