Finally took my ITIL foundation test and passed it (33/40 correct). I’m really excited that I was able to succeed in passing it with a fairly good score. I’ve already been using the concepts of ITIL in my daily work, so this will solidify my application.

When I finally saw this, I was elated!


Looking forward to my future endeavors on the ITIL path.

Thanks for reading – TG

SSIS Excel destination: Templates!

If you have a report that always outputs to an Excel Destination, here’s a trick my team uses to always export the output the same way each time. We use an excel template to keep the output uniform.

  • Run the output SQL first to get the data.
  • copy/paste the output to Excel.
  • Save the file with a generic, but related name. We keep our templates in a separate directory for safekeeping.

template_dir * directory

template_example * filename

  • Remove data, but keep headers.


  • Create 2 variables in SSIS
    • srcFile (source file / template)
    • dstFile (destination file, using expression for datestamp)
  • In the beginning of your SSIS package, use a filesystask and use the two previously created variables.
    • filesysvars
    • What this step does is copy your template with headers to a new file location with a unique name (based on datestamp).
  • In the Excel Destination step, create an expression in the properties.
    • exceldstexpr.PNG
    • This will write your output from your run into the unique file that was just created, without modifying the original template.

Using this technique, you can use the template over and over again without having to manipulate the output data after the fact.




It’s been a while. Recently, my responsibilities at work tripled. This didn’t leave too much time to record any fun IT thoughts. I took a lot of notes though. More to come!

Visual Cron / Last Day of Month

The one scheduling software I work with is Visual Cron. This is a pretty good platform for organizing and timing the execution of different processes.

A new problem presented itself recently: Passing a specific date to a Windows batch file. For this particular program, the date had to be ‘last day of the month’ in which the program was running. Whether you’re going to try and find this date by SQL or Application functions, it’s not an easy task.

Visual cron allows you to create a custom date function, which I made use of to get the last day of this month. In order to obtain this value, the math basically states “Get the first day of next month, then subtract a day”.

In Visual Cron, create a User defined Variable [ LastDayofMonth ].


The value for the variable is as follows:


Using a day in November 2015 as an example:

  • This formats the date to YYYY-MM-DD (as needed by the batch file).
  • yyyy-mm-01 automatically sets to the first day of the current month [ 2015-11-01 ].
  • In order to get the first of next month, use a DATEADD of one month [ 2015-12-01 ].
  • DATEADD -1 day from that and you get the last day of this month [ 2015-11-30 ].

Now, use that variable in a scheduled process:


In Visual Cron, as a part of the execute process flow, the variable (now converted to viscron-ese) is encapsulated by single-quotes to format the value that is needed in the bat file.

For testing, the .bat file is as follows:

echo %1>> lstdaymthvar.txt

After the process is run, the result is shown:


I’m sure I can enhance the variable code, but for now, it works. 🙂

SSIS Variables

For a number of projects I work on, I make use of Microsoft’s Integration Services (SSIS) solution to run some queries and drop output into a formatted Excel file for our various end users. I’ve only been using SSIS for a little under a year, so I know there’s lots to learn.

One trick I’ve found to be very handy is the use of Variables in the the packages.  Specifically for this post, I’m focusing on using the expression to make the variable dynamic and using that value to output a file and change the name.

After starting the project, create a variable, making sure that the scope is for the package.

Click the ellipses next to the line you want to create an expression for to bring up the Expression Builder.

In the Expression text box, use the location of the output file (local or network) and concatenate with a date to keep it fairly unique.

!!! One important item to note is that if your package works across the network, you will need to be wary of the escape character. When building the expression, you’ll need to double-up on the ‘\’ for each one used. For example, if you’re output directory is \output, the package will interpret it as “\o”. That’s bit me a few times before I figured out to use “\\output”. See the pic above to see what I mean.

Once you’ve decided on the value for the expression, click ‘OK’ and then the variable will use whatever the calculated value is.

In SSIS, I’ve typically used this for naming the products of the ‘Excel Output’ task [I will detail that in another post]. The variable can be used in the “File System Task” object as the ‘Destination Variable’ or ‘Source Variable’

If the path ever needs to change, you only have to update the variable.