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Kimball University Dimensional Modeling Training

2012 December 26
by Brian Mitchell

I can count on one hand the books I have in both Physical and Digital format. The Bible, Don Delillo’s Underworld, and all of Ralph Kimball’s books. Specifically, both my copies of The Data Warehouse Toolkit are severely marked up and dog-eared. When it comes to data warehouse modeling, no book comes close to providing as much useable material as this tomb. So I was wondering exactly what more I could learn by attending the Kimball University course. Could I really understand Fact and Dimensional tables any better than I already did by reading Kimball Material regularly over the last ten years? Yes, evidently I could. A couple weeks ago, I attended Kimball’s Dimensional Modeling in Depth class in San Diego, CA and am very glad I did.

The course took place over four days, the first two taught by Margy Ross and the second two taught by Ralph Kimball. They both did an excellent job at teaching the fundamentals of dimensional modeling and then getting into more esoteric cases as the week went on. Below you will see the high level course agenda from their website. Don’t let this fool you, there are a lot of details included in between the lines.

Course Overview                                      

Day 1
Dimensional Modeling Fundamentals
Retail Sales Case Study
Order Management Design Workshop

Day 2

Inventory Case Study

Billing Design Review Exercise

Slowly Changing Dimensions

Credit Card Design Workshop

Insurance Case Study

Day 3
Financial Applications, General Ledger, and Budgeting Value Chain
Retail Bank Account Tracking Workshop
ETL Backroom Dimensional Designs

Day 4

Customer Behavior Patterns and Modeling Challenges

Real Time Tracking


At the end of the week, I felt like I went from understanding Dimensional Modeling from the Kimball perspective to it being a deeper ingrained part of my DNA. By that, I mean that I now understand that there really isn’t ONE way to do things but often times you can do something correctly a couple different techniques. The key is understanding the fundamentals and living with the modeling choices you make. Before, I would see two choices and wonder which one is correct. Now I understand that sometimes both can be right. There were multiple lab and group exercises that really brought this to light.

One technique I’ve never given much thought to but was referred to quite a bit during the class was simultaneous Type 1/Type 2 Slowly Changing Dimensions. In this case you want to show all history in terms of current profiles while at the same time maintain history using the correct historical profiles. This comes in handy there are multiple applications in the customer environment that want to report on the data differently.

As for the accommodations, I have no complaints. The training took place at the San Diego Bayfront Hilton. Breakfast and Lunch were included as part of the training tuition and were generally pretty good. When we arrived, there was a Kimball University engraved black portfolio. Does anyone use these obtrusive writing pads anymore? I have a whole pile of portfolios I’ve received over the last few years from different events. I do everything in OneNote and don’t have much use for them. I probably should have just given it back. Also included are two books from the Kimball Library. You can choose between hard copy and kindle editions of any of their currently published books. I choose a hard copy of The Kimball Group Reader and a Kindle edition of The Data Warehouse ETL Toolkit. I already have a copy of The Kimball Group Reader, but it will be a great gift to the right person.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to get more deeply engaged in dimensional modeling and learn from the best.

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