7/25/2011

BI predict the future?

Business Intelligence is great!  It's the next best thing in IT.

You can look at the data and identify:

Who?  What?  Where?  When?  How?

For example, in baseball, individual players are on a team, each team plays other teams, on a specific date, in a specific stadium, etc.

We capture all the details as they happen:

We can then create reports to identify all the statistics, in a rear view fashion.

Who played who, when, was the pitcher a righty or lefty, what was the score, who stole bases, how many pitches per inning, etc.

Let's say one report goes to the Owner, one to the general manager, one to the playing manager, one to the scouting agent, one to the players.

The higher up the chain, the less details are provided.

The owner probably wants to see just the rolled up data where the scouting agent wants to see all the guts and details.

They each view the reports to get a snapshot of the past.

And we could create reports that show data over time, to look for trends.

However, we can only report "the past".

You can not create reports to predict future events.

Who is going to play in the World Series?
How many games will it go?
What will the scores be
Who will win?
Over the next 5 years?

You can only "guess" the answer to these questions.

And why can't you predict?

Because there are forces beyond your control that are not on the report.

One of the players gets injured.
One gets traded.
One goes into a batting slump.
One player goes on a 50 game hitting streak.
The owner sells the team.
Etc, etc, etc.

Thus, the question of "why" can only be answered in hindsight.

Why did this team win and not the other?
Why did this pitcher success and this one not.
Why did this team generate more revenue and not this team?

BI reporting can be used as a barometer to get a pulse at the moment.
BI reporting can be used like a microscope to get down to the finest gradual.
BI reporting can be used as a historian to look at the past.
BI reporting can be used by a detective to look for clues and patterns.

Business Intelligence is a tool to report on the past.
It does not predict the future because it lacks a human element and does not include every possible factor.

And that is both strength and weakness of BI.

Past results are not indicative of future behavior.
If it could predict the future, we could create BI reports for the Stock Market and make a fortune.

7/21/2011

Providing Solutions

In today's world of BI it's all about "providing solutions".

This week I met with several of my customers.

For one group, we went over every single report in production for their SSRS Folder.  We reviewed the parameters, the data, the reason for the report, whether the report was obsolete, bug fixes and enhancements.

Then I opened the door and invited them to think of new reports they would like to help better manage their business.

Met with another customer.  Likewise,we reviewed the list of 25 reports in their queue, went over the recent ones and mapped out the next reports to be created.

Met with another new customer who had her 4 reports in Crystal Reports, but because they no longer work in Window 7 without the plug-in, we are porting them to SSRS.  I had to explain about 10 times that only the reports are changing, which will be transparent to her users, and the legacy ASP app will not be changing.  I expect to explain this again and again until it actually goes live and she can see for herself.  That's just the way it is.

I met with another customer where the teacher transcript report went live 2 weeks ago.  We just received a ticket that we left out a good portion of user.  So we need to scramble to get the data imported and available for use.  This is a data issue, not a report functionality issue but the report is wrong so the Reporting Team is tasked (dumped) with getting it corrected.

And another customer who found 10 different ways which could cause my existing report to be incorrect because of the funky business rules.  I met with the 5 super users and we went over several possible solutions until the best (least obvious) solution appeared.

The basic idea is that there are rarely two customer alike.  And there are rarely two issues alike.  However the common thread is that the users will always find bugs/issues and the role of the BI team is to provide working solutions in a timely manor while juggling every single customer. 

Because each customer thinks their issue is most important, its sometimes tough to please everyone.

The other thing to point out is how important the role of BI report developer is to an organization.  Once a user gets the taste of seeing their data, the flood gates will open.  I encourage my users to ask for new report requests.  We are there to create reports for them.  So they can better manage the business.  We are a service provider.  Our goal should be to provide the best product/report.

I've been creating reports for users for over a decade and a half.  Not once has a users said to me, "Thanks, we have enough reports.  We don't need any more."

Every department in every organization can use reports.  The potential to provide solutions is overwhelming!!

7/13/2011

Just SSRS

Seems like SSRS as a stand alone position is far and few between.

You need to have:

SSRS and DBA
SSRS and SSAS
SSRS and ETL
SSRS and C#
SSRS and Sharepoint
SSRS and Team Lead

I guess that's a wake up call. 

As often as technology changes, it's not easy to stay diversified and deep in all aspects.

Need to pick your bag of tricks and hope for the best.

7/10/2011

Data

Data is king.  People are finally starting to realize.


Way back, during my early days of IT, I wrote reports in Crystal Reports.  I knew very few people who were doing strictly reports.

Most people wanted the glamorous ASP with VB DLL's to create fancy front ends, middle tier business layers, and back end data layers.

And I was the lowly reporting guy.  Which didn't pay much.

I hung in there.  As I saw the value of the data.  You could always hire a top programmer, from anywhere, to write a program to get data into the database.  As some point, someone high up in the food chain needed to see the data.

My customers were always the Directors, VPs, Owners, Manager, Supervisors.  They all came to me to find out the pulse of their business.

There is value in that.  When you know the business, know the database, can provide that information really quick, you will have a job.

And now for the good news.  This job, which I've been focusing on for the past 15 years, is finally seeing the light of day.  It is in high demand.  And it pays well.

I still believe in the simplicity of reporting.  It has grown in complexity with cubes and multi-dimension and such.

But the bottom line is to get the data in its raw form, wrap business rules around it, in order to provide that information to the key users/stake holders, in a timely manor, to get a pulse of the business and plan for the future.

That ain't going anywhere soon.

Mountain Living