12/24/2011

data = energy

Have you ever wondered what data is exactly?

What if data = energy?

Data flows in and out of the database.

Data, when stored in the database is 'Potential' energy.

It's up to the report writer to release this 'Kinetic' energy back into the universe.

I suppose data can not be created nor destroyed, it just changes location, or shifts.

So think about all the bundles of energy stored in those Terabyte database.

Just sitting there, stored energy, waiting to be consumed/released.

Kind of a 'powerful' concept, yes?

12/22/2011

SQL Community

SQL Saturday #62 - January 2011 - Tampa -

Pre-con B: End-to-End Business Intelligence
Presenter: Stacia Misner

Although I've programmed in SQL Server for close to a decade, this was the first opportunity to get introduced to the SQL community.

Attending that free conference, I was introduced to many SQL people from around the country. 

Attending Stacia Misner's pre conference, I learned how much there is to learn in the Microsoft BI stack. 

I starting attending the Tampa Bay SQL Server BI User Group.

And have been to the SQL-Saturday in Orlando and again in Tampa since.

The people in the SQL community are really awesome.

They are on Twitter, LinkedIn and there always seems to be a free webinar going on.

The community really opens themselves up and takes pride in dispersing information on a regular basis.

The amount of literature on the web and demos and tutorials and blogs is quite incredible.

I've programmed in Crystal Reports since 1996 and let me tell you, at that time there basically was zero information on getting started.  I had to learn from scratch with no community.

Then onto VB, .net, Java, Oracle and now back to Microsoft BI full time.

I'd say the community has helped me to become a better programmer, to advance my skill set and increase my career opportunities.

It's nothing like I've ever seen.  Smart people willing to share what they know.

I'm glad I found the SQL Community.

12/18/2011

2011 Personal Achievements

2011 Personal Achievements:

2011 was a good year.

I switched jobs in January.

The position I accepted actually turned out to be a Supervisor position, who knew?

I adapted nicely to the new role.

I'm fully immersed in Microsoft SSRS.

I attended 3 SQL Saturdays.

Met a bunch of new people.

And learned a lot of new Advanced BI concepts.


What are my goals for 2012?

I'd like to be working actively in Microsoft Advanced BI.

I'd like my salary to rise to match my skill set.

I'd like to be swimming in our new in ground pool.

I'd like to take at least one vacation to the Georgia Mountains, possibly two.

I'd like to continue working my part time contracts.

I'd like to continue to learn new skills.

I'd like to meet new people in the IT field.

I'd like to stay healthy, play some tennis and eat healthy.

I'd like to bring closure to things that went wrong earlier in life.

It's never too late for a new start.

And so it goes!

12/14/2011

Social Media - Twitter

Social Media - Twitter is the next best thing since sliced bread.

The reason for it's popularity, in my opinion, is three fold.

Networking: The ability to communicate with a vast number of people and find people of similar interest in a matter of seconds is truly remarkable.  By connecting on Twitter, you can follow the tweets and reply, re-tweet, view their attached URL / pics and not only network but learn in the process.

Information Dissemination: the use of hash tags allows your Tweet to go across the planet instantaneously.  Image in the power behind that.  This phenomenon was virtually impossible just a few years ago.  Imagine what will be available in a few more years.

Problem Solving: Recently I commented on Twitter about Bright House messing up my bill and charging me a $5 fee.  Someone from Bright House immediately contacted me, backed out the $5 fee, and then I was able to ask questions about product and actually upgraded my account.  The days of IVR automation hell may be over with the quickness and responsiveness of the future customer service.

The main thing I hear from the people who don't 'get it' is 'why do I want to tell the world what I'm eating for lunch'?

Twitter is much more powerful than that.

It's the new 'community'.

Team Lead Role

What does a Team Lead do every day?

Well, for one thing, the role of a Team Lead is diverse.

The main responsibility is to keep up with the incoming report request queue.

By that, one must utilize the resources available to complete the reports in a timely manor.

The main source of reports comes from the Ticketing System.

There are also email requests from various people/departments.

The Manager or CIO can assign reports or Directors from various departments

The state can request reports.

There are ongoing project that require reports.

So there are a variety of ways a report can get requested.

When a report gets requested outside the ticketing system, the Team Lead usually enters a ticket request and assigns it.

So there is a lot of communication outside the IT department.

With a variety of different customers.

Most communication is done via email, some phone calls and the usual amount of face to face meetings.

There is also the administration functions that must be handled.

Workers sometime call in sick, or late for work so signatures are required on time sheets every two weeks.

Approving vacation is also required by verifying the necessary staff is available.

Then there's the Annual Performance Evaluations.

One more thing that should be mentioned is giving 'positive feedback' to workers whenever they do a good job.

I like to commend people for doing a good job, especially to the higher ups.

Which makes them feel good and enforces the type of behavior that's expected.

Also, when work is not up to par, there are mentoring sessions.

Which leads into training.

And I'm a firm believer that a worker must have the necessary tools to do their jobs.

And, in my case, writing reports is also expected.

I tend to take some of the more complex reports, some reports that can be done quickly or when a report requester is high up in the food chain.

The key is to determine the workers skill set and assign the work appropriately.

The stronger developers get the more complex reports and vice verse.

We also have Team Lead meetings with our Manager where we discuss current projects, up coming projects, and a variety of other topics within the department.

There is a lot of responsibility in being a Team Lead.

It's not a bad position, as long as you still get to write code.

The one thing I find interesting is seeing the work environment from the other side.

No longer do I have the luxury of complaining how bad things are.

Now I'm responsible for getting the job done with the resources available.

And so it goes!

12/11/2011

SSIS Package to Excel Dynamic File Name

Well, on my part time job, I was requested to create an SSIS package to dynamically create a TEXT file with the file name to include the date run.

Sure enough, I did this.

Then the user changed the export file type from Text to Excel.

I thought this was a no brainer.

Until I got into the guts of the code.

I found this link as an example:

http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sqlintegrationservices/thread/bda433aa-c8f8-47c9-9e56-efd20b8354ac

It ran in development and all was well.

Until the next day, the package would not compile.

Why?  Because the file was not already created with the next day's date.

So I read and re-read the article above and it just didn't make sense.

Until, poof, I figured it out.

You have to create the Execute SQL Script at the beginning of the package, referencing the Excel Destination, in order to create the spreadsheet in advance.

I then deleted all the Excel files used in testing, re-ran the package, and sure enough the new Excel file with correct file name appears.

And so it goes!

12/08/2011

Reporting Career

So what is it that I do for a living, I do 'Reporting'.

I have 15+ years experience in 'Reporting'.

And a year as Supervisor / Team Lead.

A lot of it was Crystal Reports, some Actuate, some Jasper, and finally Microsoft SSRS.

I used to program in VB, then .net.

Then some Java & JSP.

However, that was a few years ago and I don't write any .net / Java at this time.

And I don't work with SharePoint.

I'm not a DBA.

I don't really do Business Intelligence with OLAP or Data Warehousing.

I just do Reports.

And I like it.

Some call it 'Simple' or 'Easy'.

Most developers shy away from such lowly aspirations.

I guess the way things are now a days, its getting difficult to find jobs that do 'just reporting'.

Everyone wants you to do something else as your main job and also expect you to know reporting in addition.

Like I've been saying for years, there is a 'Huge' demand for getting the data out of the database, into a report, to be consumed by the customer.

This role may not win the award for most glamorous, most highly paid or Rock Star material, but it's a niche that's been the majority of my career.

And I'm proud of it!

12/03/2011

IT Job Titles


What's the difference between Software Engineer III, Software Developer, Programmer Specialist, Principle Developer, Lead Developer, Application Developer, Business Process Engineer, Senior Software Engineer/Developer/Specialist, etc. etc. etc.

You get the point.

Seems like some standardization is in order.

I have no idea who does what, the differences / similarities, skill level, job functions, etc.

How did IT Job Descriptions get so fragmented.

One company has one naming convention, another company has completely different one.

Who's driving this bus?  Or is it a free for all?

When I watch baseball, I know what a '3rd baseman' does.  I know what the position entails, what skills are required, where on the field the position is, etc.

I have no idea what a Software Engineer III does.

And I think that's a problem.

What do you think?

Proof is in the Reports

You can create an application that meets the customers expectation and still have a failed project.

Because, as most of us in IT know, reporting is the last thought of every project.

So by the time the Reporting Department is handed a list of reports to create, that's when the potential design flaws appear.

Let's say you have to tie the application data to another data source / database.

Yet the app developers did not think through their design when creating the database to allow it to interact with other data.

So there's no 'direct link' between systems.

And that is what we call a 'design failure'.

Who created it?  The project manager, the business analyst, the developers, the users, the entire team.

Why, because they did not include the reporting department in their analysis.

Well guess what, the application is already in production

A little late to be redesigning tables, do you think?

Well, in our case, we have to meet State mandated reporting requirements.

So what does that mean, that means the software vendor needs to modify their application, ASAP.

So in a sense, the reporting department is little bit like QA.

If the biz rules don't jive with reporting, the app ain't gonna fly.

Because now the software needs modification.

Which takes time and money.

I really think Reporting should be included in a lot of application design meetings so these things don't happen downstream when time is limited.

It's always easier to do things right the first time.

And there you have it.

Get Sh#t Done!