11/28/2011

Documentation

Quick question, have you ever enjoyed writing documentation?

Sure anyone can take a few screen shots, throw down some sentences describing the screen, and presented that as documentation.

I know I've done that in the past.

Here's another question, do you document your code as you go?

I always do.  With my initials, description of what the code is doing and anything else that might be relevant.

Working for Florida Power company, the senior Visual Basic developer mentored us lowly coders with surprise code review.  If we did not have comments, he would dig into us until we wished we never became programmers.

One thing is for sure, he knew how to code.  He was a master programmer.  And I learned an enormous amount of coding practices from him including 'documenting the code as you go!'.

He also got me to become the Visual Source Safe admin which was a nice boost for a junior programmer at the time.

He also helped us get to go to VBITS - which was held in Orlando - where the expert Visual Basic programmers got together to discuss code, watch demo's, etc.

I found that I learned more from speaking to people between and during the sessions out in the halls than I learned from listening to the speakers.

One thing I'll never forget is the description of building a house, then the customer asks where the basement is.  That's a classic programming issue, especially in the world of Rapid Application Development which VB 4,5&6 was known for.

Anyway, always remember to sometimes document your code!

Business Knowledge

How important is 'Business Knowledge'?

Can you perform your job based solely on understanding the code.

I have always prided myself on never learning any biz logic I've ever worked for.

The Power Company, Medical Timekeeping, Credit Card Processing, Telecommunications, Banking Insurance, Healthcare and Government.

Sad fact but true.

For some reason I understand just enough to code the application and / or reports.

All the logic is in the code and some of its even documented.

This is probably the first job where I've had to learn the business - the School Board is quite complex.

Not only do I have to understand the logic to write reports, but sometimes one of my workers has business logic questions they ask me and I'm expected to know the answers.

Also, when speaking to the customer's it helps to know a little something about what they are talking about.

In summary,  Biz Knowledge is good to know, will help you keep your full time job during crunch time, although many people have done their job successfully without fully understanding all the intricacies behind an app/report.

So there you have it.

11/20/2011

SSRS - Side Item

If you look on the Indeed website and enter 'SSRS', several jobs pop up, however, almost none are for SSRS.

You have Sharepoint, DBA, Analyst, C# developer, Data Architect, ETL Developer.

What the heck is that all about?

Why is it that doing straight reporting in SSRS isn't a stand alone position?

If programming were a meal, SSRS is no longer the main course - it's a side item.

That just doesn't seem right.

11/19/2011

Consulting

Well, my part time job emailed me late Friday with an amendment to the original contract - they want to extend me to March 31, 2012.

That's good.

From the looks of it, they have 40+ SSRS reports to convert to the data warehouse tables instead of the raw data tables.

I imagine mapping out the new fields to take some time and estimating out each of the steps.

This go around they have me estimate all my work for the entire month.  Then it gets approved, then I do the work.

I submit my invoice beginning of the following month, which they have 10 days to approved.

Then they have 30 days from then to issue the check.

Whew, quite a long process.

But a check is a check, which is good as cash, which the bank is glad to deposit.

I worked for the same company all last year.

I had to stop when the School went on Summer school hours - 4 ten hour days - which I took the bus - which meant I couldn't get the necessary hours in -

They called me late September to do some more work which I gladly accepted.

I did a contract before that one, for an international company, which I found on Craigslist.

They paid quite low, but I got some good experience with SSRS and T-SQL consolidating 5 country databases into a single repository nightly.

Before that, I did a few websites for a tennis/golf club.

Before that I had a friend who owned a software company and I helped write some VB6 code which checked files in and out of Visual Source Safe through COM+ and DLLs.

Before that I did some ASP web development for a travel website.

Before that I did some volunteer work for a local computer club.

I guess I started my side biz in 2000, which is when I signed the paperwork with the attorney to have the name Bloom Consulting as Sole Proprietor and got a federal tax id.

Eventually, my goal would be to incorporate and do Independent Contracting full time.

And so we dream.

11/18/2011

What is it you do here

What is it you do here?

What value do you add to this organization?

Well, I'm responsible for the Reporting Services department consisting of two report developers.

We are basically a production line of report requests.

We receive incoming request via the ticketing system to fix bugs, create new reports as well as projects.

Our job is to find the most efficient way of extracting the data into a readable report on the web in Report Manager for consumption to the internal users within the School Board.

I meet with customer from time to time to discuss report requests.

I give status updates to my boss.

It's basically a good job with a lot of responsibility.

I did a recent search the other day and the salary range for this position in this area was about $25k higher than what I'm currently earning.

If it were not for my part time job, I would have to really assess what my future career plans are.

Hopefully, down the road, someone will have a need for a person with team lead skills, who knows how to create reports, in SSRS & Crystal Reports & Actuate, who can program in .net C# and VB as well as JAVA and Oracle.

I think I could earn more money in any one of these individual skill sets than what I'm currently earning.

I look back on my career and realize I have made some poor decisions regarding my career.

I will seek to rectify that going forward.

That's about it for now.

11/12/2011

Report Viewer BI Solution

In all the time I've worked with SSRS, I've never seen the report displayed on the web in ASPX.net embedded in Report Viewer.

Sure, I played around with the Report Viewer in c#.net and got the report to render locally as an .rdlc.

However, I stopped developing with it after I was blocked with sub-reports.

I was not able to render a report with 4 sub reports after researching the web.

This week, I saw a fully functioning BI solution developed in SSRS using embedded Report Viewer reports.

Actually, it was a great application with tons of graphs and hyperlinks.

Under the hood, the app was storing 'session' variables by passing the parameters from page to page, similar to 'session' web apps.

Also, you could drill down several layers and view graphs along the way along with detailed info.

When the user see's something that stands out, he/she can drill down further to see the most granular level of detail which comprises the scorecard at the higher level.

And that my friends, is what I think true BI is.

I never contemplated a BI solutions in SSRS without using cubes, which contained executive dashboards with fancy colors, with hyperlinks to drill down to the finest level and back up.

I was definitely impressed.

I want my D-A-T-A

With all the hype lately about Dashboards, Scorecards, Big Data, Non Structured Data, I continue to see a trend less talked about.

I still see customers that want nothing more than to 'see' their data.

That's it.

To be more specific, they already have access to their data. In bits and pieces. And it takes days/weeks to export and consolidate.

What they want is a pre-created report, bringing in all relevant information, viewable on the web, with changeable parameters, exportable to PDF or Excel.

That's it.

They are not even aware of all the hoopla surrounding the Business Intelligence world.

For these types of customers, being a one eyed person in the land of the blind is what it's all about.

If you can get them their data, they are ecstatic.

I think this scenario is typical in a lot of organizations - people just want the access to their data. For whatever reason.

In the 80's it was 'I want my MTV'.

In the 2010's, it's 'I want my D-A-T-A'.

Mountain Living