Should a BI developer need to learn SQL(or not)?
These invigorating questions would pass through your mind if you are into Business Intelligence, either you are interested or inclined to explore one? It would indeed be puzzling if you are asked to perform some queries with SQL from users to look at the data integrity which acts like adding more flare to it.
If you are going through a similar situation or if you are planning to pursue your career as a BI developer, sooner or later you will encounter a situation alike leaving you with a baffled mind.
Get on a smile, you aren’t alone. Many including me passionately cherry-picked BI and I was indeed inspired by the impact of visuals and storytelling capability of BI tools and the value it could provide to an organization to come up with data-driven strategies.
Who wouldn’t get fascinated with storytelling both interactive and visuals?? But the real story starts only when you want to build it. And that build should engage, provide solutions, with futuristic stratagems.
Looks arduous, but when I started working in an organization, initially it might look like a toilsome job, but as you brush it, things fall into place like a perfect combing with a blend of querying with SQL. What seems demanding from outside turns to be yielding from within.
I vouch, it’s essential to have basic to intermediate skill to be able to write SQL queries initially even if you can discount yourself from building a database.
The majority of the organizations store their data either on their own server available on-premises or a third-party server that is on the cloud.
Anyone can take a good guess that when we speak of cloud – we can think of Google cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, etc, or use a hybrid method too depending on the nature of data, accessibility, and confidentiality. In the mainstream of our work, it involves fetching data from any of the mentioned set up which would be obviously a relational database to a BI tool to provide insights with.
If required how would we check the data integrity or backtrack it to check if we have fetched all the data we need? Yes, a simple count of the number of rows in a key field query in SQL could show you light and provide you with profound insights.
Most of the organizations would deploy either an ERP, EAM, CRM, or even an issue tracker tools, such as SAP, Infor, Salesforce, Jira, etc. which is expected to store the collected information from the UI and continue to store the data as well. Yet again, the relational database schema is used here, sometimes expending APIs to embed the data into its database.
How do we understand the schema to build a better model in a BI tool? It’s favorable to know SQL so that you understand the relational model and start to extract and build your BI model.
If you are fortunate enough to start delivering at an organization where there are resources to model and have dedicated resource to develop the front end, Kudos! you are lucky enough not to dig too much into the world of SQL knowledge as the data architecting is done by an independent party.
Eventually, there are very few organizations that can afford this model.
Demand is more for multiskilled hands and minds as many companies are looking out for technically hybrid people who can do both data engineering and produce good visualization to showcase it as well.
Thereon, if you get some grueling work on data modeling and visualization, like the one which I received, your career would be more scalable, cost-effective & optimal resource from an organizational perspective as you ascend as a wholesome package of a skilled Business intelligence architect.
Great, we agree to the fact that SQL adds value, but in what degree of comprehension should I target at?
BI developers aren’t expected to be database architects. Hence understanding the complete design and build a database is not awaited. But I opine that a transitional level of knowledge in querying would help immensely to understand the schema and bring in the right proportion of required data irrespective of any BI tool one uses.
While we agree to learn, as life gives us many options, there are a lot of flavors to assimilate & learn SQL as well like MS SQL, MYSQL, Oracle PL SQL , PostgreSQL etc.
With no second thoughts, it’s an easily acquirable knowledge and a powerful arrow in your quiver. All the SQL flavors follow ANSI/ISO standard most of the commands are written in a similar manner hence easy to adapt any flavors with ease, if you learn one can easily be extended to another. Just like learning how to drive a car can enable us to drive anywhere in the world. It is all about driving skills, if you have one, you can adapt to any environment.
To put it into a nutshell, if you want to be in demand & supersede, learn standard SQL querying and be equipped with data modeling knowledge which would enormously benefit you in understanding and presenting the right set of data for visualization irrespective of you working with any of the data management system or any BI tool.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Data and Business enthusiast with over 13 years of experience, an accomplished Business development guy who fell in love with data and switched the career as a Business intelligence developer, now helping companies to explore the story within the data as a consultant BI architect in Europe and sharing the knowledge by teaching. A Microsoft Certified Trainer and Analyst and a Qlik certified data architect.