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16 January 2018

T-SQL Training for Government IT System Upgrade

Data Analysts at a Government establishment required the ability to respond rapidly to ad-hoc requests for information, including parliamentary questions. To this end, a new Data retrieval application was required with access to information in multiple locations.

Situation

A major upgrade to one of the client's IT system was delivered in Nov 2017 by a third party supplier. This provides a public web front-end and secure database back-end on Microsoft SQL Server. The legacy reporting platform based on SAP Business Objects, was replaced with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

Problems

The Data Analysts were accustomed to obtaining ad-hoc information by just pointing and clicking in Business Objects, and therefore needed training in both T-SQL (the language of SQL Server) and the new complex data model created by the third party development team. In addition, owing to numerous last minute design changes carried out under a tight schedule, some of the new SSRS reports needed de-snagging.

In order to familiarise the Data Analysts with the new data model, it was stipulated by the client that they should be trained in T-SQL directly on the new database, however this presented its own challenges, in terms of restricted access to sensitive data, owing to security rules. This increased the educational challenge, given that most trainees were completely new to relational databases.

Solution

Tried and tested training material was presented, using simple examples to illustrate each concept clearly. The trainer then helped trainees identify a suitable subset of less sensitive database objects to practice writing database queries on to verify that they had understood each topic.

The trainer first demonstrated report writing using Report Builder so trainees could be confident that reporting services would serve their needs. Once that was established they each practised adapting existing reports from Sharepoint Services and applied datasets created from queries they had previously tested in SQL Server Management Studio.

Once the training was over, some of the new trainees found themselves very much in the ‘deep end’ with no experienced person on site to consult when complex problems arose. JBI’s trainer was then dispatched for 2-3 days per week to provide consultancy and to nurture trainee skills. After a few weeks a difficult situation came under control, as the trainees confidence grew and their users received the prompt information they had come to expect.

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