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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is CSO of Linchpin People and SQLPeople, an SSIS Trainer, Consultant, and developer; a Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) developer; SQL Server database and data warehouse developer, community mentor, engineer, and farmer. He is a co-author of SQL Server 2012 Integration Services Design Patterns. His background includes web application architecture and development, VB, and ASP. Andy loves the SQL Server Community!
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  • PASS Board Elections 2013

    It’s election time again for the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). We have a week to discover what we can about the candidates and vote. I do not believe one week is enough time for this. That’s one reason why I’m sharing who I will be voting for and why. I encourage everyone to do as much research as you can and vote for the candidates you believe will represent the things you believe will help PASS move forward and best serve the SQL Server Community.

    Allen Kinsel

    Allen has served on the Board. Before that, he led the PASS Summit Selection Committee for some years. Allen has a good sense of the inner workings of the PASS Board. He brings extensive experience with the SQL Server Community, as well. I think both are important, and that’s why I’m voting for Allen.

    Tim Ford

    I’ve known Tim for a while and he’s good people. Tim cares about the SQL Server Community and demonstrates his caring by volunteering many hours to community events.

    Both Allen and Tim have experienced disappointments in and with PASS and the SQL Server Community. Allen was on the Board and was not re-elected. Tim ran previously for the Board and, if memory serves, was eliminated by the Nomination Committee.

    Returning to the fray after experiencing disappointment says something (to me) about character and gumption.

    The other US candidates – Amy Lewis and Ami Levin – bring strong talents to the candidate pool. I had to pick some folks which meant not picking others.

    The Other Seat

    There are three seats available and I’ve only mentioned two candidates. One seat is going to someone from the US, another to someone from EMEA, the third seat is up for grabs for anyone. I’ve decided who I will vote for in the US and up-for-grabs seats. I haven’t yet made up my mind about the EMEA candidate, but I see strength in all: Neil Hambly, Jen Stirrup, and Richard Douglas.


  • On the Demise of the MCM Certification

    Recently, Microsoft decided to retire some expert-level certifications. Among them, the highest SQL Server certification: the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM).

    There are several good posts on the topic, most notably:

    Most indications point to economic drivers for the decision. The number of people who had achieved this level of certification was lower than anticipated.

    I don’t think Microsoft counted the total cost of this decision (if economics was the true driver for the decision). In fact, I think they got the economics wrong. Why? Having a difficult-to-achieve certification increases the value of the certification by simple supply and demand. The existence of MCM’s was therefore valuable – if only as a goal to achieve. Scarcity was part of the value.

    What value do MCM’s bring to Microsoft? They bring assurance to the customer base that there are skilled folks in the marketplace – professionals that can solve the problems they may encounter as their data scales and their needs evolve. More than certified individuals. Certified Masters. Does one have to be an MCM to solve customer issues? No. But there was that extra measure of assurance informed by the fact that some had achieved success on that lab portion of the exam; that they had successfully worked out enough tricky SQL Server issues – in a controlled test environment – that they could be awarded the title MCM.

    If Microsoft was expecting to make money off of administering exams or training or anything (other than selling software or software services) then this goal was misplaced, in my opinion.

    Certification is not a profit center. Certification is insurance.

    One doesn’t purchase insurance to earn money; the primary driver for purchasing insurance is “in case something bad happens.”  For a large sector of technology purchasers, I believe no new MCMs means less insurance. Microsoft claims they are going to replace the MCM with something “better” – does this mean something that more adequately meets their economic goals? What about the goals of the customers?

    Finally, killing the MCM program has created justified fear in the SQL Server Community. If Microsoft will kill the flagship certification, are any certifications safe from future elimination?


  • Presenting A Day of SSIS 2012 (Precon) at SQL Saturday Dallas

    I am honored to present a day-long preconference before SQL Saturday 255 (Dallas) entitled A Day of SSIS 2012.

    Please register here. I’m excited to visit the Dallas area! Here’s some information about the precon – I hope to see you there!

    Training Description

    A Day of SSIS was developed by Andy Leonard to train technology professionals in the fine art of using SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to build data integration and Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) solutions.

    The training is focused around lectures and emphasizes a practical approach.

    Target Audience

    The target audience for this training is database professionals, application developers, and business intelligence practitioners interested in acquiring or expanding their existing SSIS skill set.


    No experience with SQL Server or SQL Server Integration Services is required before attending this training.

    It is helpful (but not required) that students possess some knowledge of and experience with relational databases. SQL Server knowledge / experience will be more helpful than experience and knowledge with other technologies.

    Training Objectives

    At the conclusion of the training, attendees will have been exposed to:

    • Using SSIS to develop data integration solutions.
    • Using SSIS to load a database table.
    • Troubleshooting real-world SSIS Data Flow Task errors.
    • Deploying SSIS Solutions.
    • Managing, monitoring, and administering SSIS in the enterprise.

    Training Summary

    Lesson 0: Introduction

    • Training overview, expectations, and introductions.

    Lesson 1: Creating Your First SSIS 2012 package

    • Introduction to SQL Server Data Tools. Visual Studio tips and tricks, menu contents and locations.

    Lesson 2: Introduction to the Data Flow Task

    • Introduction to the Data Flow Task. Connection Manager and Data Flow Task basics - source and destination adapters.

    Lesson 3: The Control Flow

    • Containers, Precedence, and Work flow.
    • Transactions, restart-ability, and blocking.

    Lesson 4: Loop Containers

    • Using Sequence, For Loop, and Foreach Loop Containers.

    Lesson 5: Event Handlers, Logging, and Configurations

    • The OnError and OnInformation event handlers.
    • Using SSIS 2012’s built-in Catalog logging facility to capture package execution details and statistics.
    • Using built-in package configurations to externalize variable values.
    • Using SSIS 2012 Parameters and Environments.

    Lesson 6: Security, Deployment, and Execution

    • SSIS 2012 Package deployment options and security implications.
    • SSIS Catalog Execution options.

    Lesson 7: Hacking the SSIS 2012 Catalog

    • Understand the SSIS 2012 Catalog design.
    • Extending the SSIS 212 Catalog.

    Lesson 8: Enterprise Execution Patterns

    • Leveraging the SSIS 2012 Catalog and the Parent-Child design pattern to build a metadata-driven SSIS execution engine.
    • Extending SSIS with Custom Tasks
    • Data integration dashboards: One approach to data integration management.


  • Presenting SSIS Design Patterns PostCon at SQLConnections!

    I am honored to be delivering a day-long post-conference workshop at SQLConnections, focusing on SSIS Design Patterns.

    I’m also delivering sessions on:

    This year’s DevConnections conference includes an awesome array of presenters. If you’ve never attended DevConnections, it features presenters from several IT disciplines. The pace of the conference is also relaxed with plenty of time between sessions. I like DevConnections a lot.

    Register here!


  • Using Biml as an SSIS Design Patterns Engine – Level 4 of the Stairway to Biml

    Using Biml as an SSIS Design Patterns Engine – Level 4 of the Stairway to Biml is now live at SQL Server Central. If you want to learn more about Biml, consider attending the 2013 Biml Workshop 15 Oct 2013 in Charlotte, NC.



  • It’s About Delivering Value, Stupid

    James Carville coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 US Presidential campaign. I’m not fond of the “stupid” part. But I have also never successfully advised a governor to become President of the United States by unseating an incumbent President who enjoyed a 90% approval rating earlier in his presidency.

    I am fond of delivering value. In fact, that’s a major tenet of Linchpin People’s culture: Deliver Value.

    It’s Raining Value

    There’s value in the cloud. How Microsoft helped this bar figure out that vodka was costing it a fortune is an interesting article for many reasons. It’s a good case study highlighting some interesting technology, and that’s reason enough for you to take a few minutes and read the article.

    For technology professionals, though, there’s an important lesson here: Do not describe your career in terms of an application (or even a technology), describe your career in terms of your value proposition to the organization. My friend Buck Woody (blog | @buckwoody) has written extensively on this topic. Buck’s series on how the cloud changes different jobs in our industry (How Does the Cloud Change a ______ Job?) is a must-read for data and IT professionals, in my opinion. In other articles, Buck recommends changing how we describe ourselves, calling ourselves “data professionals” instead of “database professionals.” It’s more than just semantics, it’s really about describing our value to others – particularly the others who impact our salaries.

    Watering vs. Flooding

    It is not good enough to simply identify value, one must apply identified value.

    And, it is not enough to simply apply identified value, one must apply the identified value with a proper and profitable response.

    The value raining from the cloud can wash away organizational gains as easily as it can foster and improve them. An example is found in the How Microsoft helped this bar figure out that vodka was costing it a fortune article:

    To give the bar staff an incentive to be more accurate, the owner set up a private server to monitor their activities in secret; the bartenders who consistently poured 1.5 ounces every time would get to keep their jobs, the others would be fired.

    No! that’s not what the article says at all! It really says:

    To give the bar staff an incentive to be more accurate, the owner set up a competition; the bartender who got the closest to consistently pouring 1.5 ounces every time would win a trip to Hawaii. Everyone had access to Power BI -- in the browser or using a Windows 8 tablet app -- so they could see how they were doing, and how the competition was stacking up.

    “Wait, what? Win a trip to Hawaii?!” Yep. I can hear you thinking, “Why would the owner spring for a trip to Hawaii as the reward?” The answer is found a few sentences later. The competition worked and “the bar is getting closer to clawing back $2,500 a month in revenue.” I checked and a trip to Hawaii for two can cost about $5,000 for hotel and airfare. Throw in expenses for a few outings and it can easily reach $7,500 or more. Let’s say the bar owner covers that amount – $7,500. That’s three months of the improved bottom line (at $2,500 per month). After the three months, the owner pockets the additional profit. That’s pretty good business – everyone wins.


    Properly applying insights from business intelligence is at least as important as identifying insights in the first place. That’s one way to deliver value.


  • Building an Incremental Load Package – Level 3

    Building an Incremental Load Package – Level 3 of the Stairway to Biml is now live at SQL Server Central. If you want to learn more about Biml, consider attending the 2013 Biml Workshop 15 Oct 2013 in Charlotte, NC.



  • Biml Basics–Level 2 of the Stairway to Biml

  • This Isn’t Hard: Allow Spouses to Attend Conferences

    There was a bit of a hubbub at Tech Ed 2013 North America. It began with generalized disorganization, escalated when site security escorted Greg Young’s (blog | @gregyoung) wife from the building, and ended with him cancelling his presentations at both the North American and European conferences.

    Greg’s post has generated some responses, but – according to him – nothing from Microsoft. That’s disappointing. Greg and his wife deserve an apology.

    Why Not?

    The best conferences I’ve attended (I’m looking at you, SQLBits and DevLink) don’t have a problem with family members attending. And other awesome events like SQLConnections encourage spouses to attend peripheral events – at no extra charge. Somehow, with their lower budgets and tighter fire marshal requirements in smaller spaces, they manage to allow spouses and/or children to attend; while conferences with literally million-plus-dollar budgets (I’m looking at you Tech Ed and PASS) do not.

    Why not?

    Are the event organizers worried the spouses are going to ruin the event for the other geeks? Are the seven-plus-figure budgets of the organizers not sufficient to cover a handful of family-member attendees? Are the planners unable to plan for an extra handful of people on the premises? Are the event organizers worried people are going to get married in order to cheat the organizers out of a couple thousand dollars? I mean, exactly what is the problem with a few other people attending?

    People are attending the event. The last time I purchased event insurance for Richmond Code Camp the insurance cost a couple hundred dollars and insured all the people on the premises at the time. The family members are people. They’re covered. So it’s not insurance.

    Event organizers can plan for this. Add a checkbox to the online registration form, just in case the organizers are worried about the event being overrun by significant others (I hope the excuse isn’t this lame).

    Speakers have families (is this news?). Some speakers travel a lot, doing interesting work, which is kind of why the conference selected them to speak in the first place. If the conference doesn’t pay the speaker to present, and many do not, why in the world will they not allow a spouse to step into a room to take a few pictures? Or watch someone they care about do what they love? Or experience the honor of presenting at a major conference with their partner?

    This is solvable. Let them in. For free. Limit their access to their family member’s presentation if you must. But let them in. This isn’t hard.

  • Announcing the SQL Server Central Stairway to Biml!

    What is Biml? - Level 1 is live at SQL Server Central! I’m really excited about this series of articles because I believe Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) is the future of business intelligence.

    Linchpin People has been using Biml to deliver value to our data integration customers and we are eager to share ways you can leverage Biml to change the way you deliver SSIS solutions.

    If you want to seriously accelerate your Biml skills, join Varigence and Linchpin People for the day-long 2013 BimlScript Workshop in Charlotte North Carolina on Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013! We’re going to have great food, awesome fun, and show you how to use Biml’s game-changing technology to deliver value to your enterprise. Register today and take advantage of the early-bird special rate!

    I hope to see you there!


  • Free Webinar: PCI Compliance with Andy Warren 17 Jul at 12:00 PM EDT!

    Join Andy Warren and me for an hour-long presentation on PCI Security Wednesday, 17 Jul at noon!.

    Register today!


  • On Codes of Conduct

    I have mixed emotions about codes of conduct. I respect the right of any organization – public or private, for-profit or not – to create, maintain, and enforce codes of conduct. At the same time, I find the need for such standards depressing… especially in professional organizations.

    I am and have been a member of professional organizations that have a code of conduct. I was a Microsoft MVP for five years and I am currently a member of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). Both have codes of conduct (Microsoft, PASS). Both codes of conduct include an “Or Else” section. At the time of this writing, Microsoft’s section reads:

    Enforcement Process

    Microsoft reserves the right to remove any participant from the MVP Award Program for violating this Code of Conduct. In the event of a violation, the MVP Global Program Manager and MVP Lead aligned with the individual will review the situation. The final determination on whether to remove a person from the Program is made on a case-by-case basis. When an MVP is removed from the program, we retire the remaining benefits and his/her access to Microsoft resources.

    A the time of this writing, PASS’s section reads:


    If a participant violates this Anti-Harassment Policy, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expelling the offender from the conference. No refunds will be granted to attendees expelled from the Summit due to violations of this policy.

    If you are being harassed, witness harassment, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by their “Headquarters” shirts and are trained to respond appropriately.

    An Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) made up of the Executive Manager and three members of the Board of Directors designated by the President will be authorized to take action in response to an incident or behavior that violates the Anti-Harassment Policy.

    For more information about incident reporting and review, please see the Anti-Harrassment Policy Process [sic]. If you have any questions about the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy, please contact PASS Governance.

    If you follow the Anti-Harrassment Policy Process link at the time of this writing, the document contains the following section:

    Incident Review

    After being notified of a reported violation the AHRC [Anti-Harassment Review Committee] will make a reasonable effort to convene as soon as possible. The AHRC will make reasonable efforts to speak with all principals. No action will be taken until the AHRC has made a reasonable effort to speak with the person accused of violating the anit-harassment policy. The accused person will be offered the opportunity to review the allegations and respond to the AHRC

    I want to be clear about something: I have little tolerance for harassment. I support a person’s right to express themselves. I put on a uniform and swore to protect those rights for citizens of the US in my younger years. The uniform no longer fits, but I still rally to support the right of an individual to express themselves (even when I personally disagree with what they are expressing… but I digress…). That said, I believe my – and everyone’s – rights end when they encroach on the rights of another.

    Both policies do a fair job responding to the concerns of the offended. I like that PASS’s policy involves communicating with the accused alleged offender. A major tenet of the US justice system is the right of the accused to face their accuser. That right has been modified in edge cases – sometimes understandably so, sometimes not – but the idea that the accused has an opportunity to respond to the charges against them is fundamental. It makes sense, too. If you were accused of something you would want someone in authority to hear your side of the story before rendering a decision, wouldn’t you? I would.

    And herein lies my concern: I see something akin to due process for the allegedly offending individual accused in the PASS code of conduct, but I do not see it in the Microsoft MVP code of conduct.

    So my question is this: If a Microsoft MVP is accused of violating the code of conduct and the accusation is of a subjective nature (“no disrespectful behavior”, for example – not something objective like “no NDA violations”), is the allegedly offending MVP asked for their side of the story? I see that the MVP Global Program Manager and the allegedly offending MVP’s Microsoft MVP Lead review the situation. I also see the decision on whether to remove an MVP is made on a case-by-case basis. I don’t see any provision for input from the allegedly offending individual MVP. So… does it happen? Are they asked for their side of the story?

    This isn’t my only concern.

    I worry about statutes of limitations. I happen to know both of these codes of conduct were reactionary; they were written to prevent future behavior based on past incidents. How far back do they apply? They don’t say. So if it comes to light that a member of one of these groups committed an atrocious breach some years ago, what recourse – if any – does the offended have?

    Conversely, I worry about ex post facto, as well. The MVP Code currently states:

    7. Stay abreast of the Codes of Conduct. Microsoft reserves the right to amend or change the Code of Conduct at any time without notice. You agree to periodically review this document ( to ensure you are doing your part.

    My concern is in regards to the timing of such changes and their application. Can Microsoft take offense at something (a blog post asking questions about their code of conduct, hypothetically), update the code of conduct, and then apply enforcement retroactively?

    I worry about uniform application of codes of conduct. For example, if one person behaves in a way that gets them removed from a PASS Summit or kicked out of the MVP program and another person – who happens to be better connected to leadership in PASS or Microsoft – behaves in precisely the same way, and one is removed and the other is not; that’s a concern.

    I can list more concerns but this post is long enough. My concerns are not with the existence of codes of conduct in professional organizations; they lie with upholding, applying, and enforcing said codes of conduct.

    Not surprisingly, I think part of the solution is more transparency. Microsoft, PASS, and other professional organizations can take a cue from the way media reports about crimes: the names of those involved and many details of the accusation can be kept confidential. Informing the public is optional. Informing the membership is vital, I believe. Transparency works against back-room deals and shadiness due to an individual’s “connectedness” to leadership. It helps ensure uniform application of the rules to everyone. And knowing there is something akin to due process makes everyone feel better about the existence of a code of conduct.


  • Welcome to Linchpin People, Tim Mitchell!

    I am honored to welcome Tim Mitchell (blog | @Tim_Mitchell) to Linchpin People!

    Tim brings years of experience consulting  with SQL Server, Integration Services, and Business Intelligence to our growing organization. I am overjoyed to be able to work with my friend!

    Rather than babble on about Linchpin People (using words like "synergy" and "world class"), I direct you to Tim's awesome remarks on his transition, and end with a simple "w00t!"


  • Step 13 of the Stairway to Integration Services is Live!

  • Security and SSIS Recording Now Available!

    Brian Kelley (blog | @kbriankelley) delivered an awesome and at times scary - no offense, Grant Fritchey (blog | @GFritchey) - presentation today on Security and SSIS. The recording is now available here.



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