9/30/2012

IPhone doesn't read .XLS files via Email anymore

With the recent release of the IPhone, the BI team immediately got complains from the top execs.

The Excel reports sent through SSRS email subscription are no longer visible, throwing an error.

So my bosses boss called me into his office to show me the problem.

I said I'd fix it.

Turns how, he's correct, IPhone does not support pre Excel 2007, so the .XLS format is not readable.

So being month end, and quarter end, I felt the pressure to get it working.

I tried HTML, MHTML and CSV and none of those were not acceptable.

We tried converting the .XLS to .XLSX and that worked, except SSRS 2008 R2 only sends .XLS files.

So upgrading to SSRS 2012 was really not an option, due to limited time.

So next we tried PDF, and that seemed to work fine.

So I sent the reports out, no good.

They were not displaying all the necessary data required.

So the top boss stopped over, I had to leave a meeting early, and gather specs for the new reports.

So I got the report working, sent out in PDF, good to go.

Except they also wanted some other data added, at 4:30 on Friday, and I usually leave at 5pm.

So I quickly grabbed code from another report, created a UNION statement, shoved into SSRS and presto, new report had everything they wanted, basically a sub-set of the data in a Pivot table (Matrix).

Report went out at 6pm, then 9pm.  No word.

Then today, Sunday, got feedback that the Exec's are now happy.

Another win for the BI department.

Only problem now is the other 100 reports that get sent out in .XLS format.

I really think we should upgrade to 2012 once and for all.

That will also solve the other complains of Excel files can't handle more than 68k rows.

And so it goes~!

Power Pivot Issue Connecting via Mac

Well, since I now support the Power Pivot and access and rights and permissions, I got sent a curve ball.

One of the top execs needs access to the Power Pivot, which works find on his machine, when connected through SharePoint.

However, he's the only one in the company on a Mac, and for some reason he couldn't connect.

So I was able to negotiate an hour on his machine and re installed all the software with no luck.

It was only when he mentioned the Mac wasn't connected to the domain that a flash went off.

So I got the IT department to connect his Parallels to the Domain and we got a new error message, progress.

So the problem now was not able to refresh a data connection when not going through SharePoint.

So we tried enabling the Connection data source and sure enough, presto, we got connection to the data source.

So that was a big win for the BI team.

Exec's don't want to hear complaints, they want solutions.

And there you have it.

9/29/2012

SQL Saturday in Orlando

Today I attended the SQL Saturday in Orlando

I left 6:30 am after fueling up on Starbucks coffee

Arrived 8:30am in Orlando

Attended Kevin Klines presentation, full house, standing room only.

Great presentation.

Then took a break between session.

Next attended Stacia Misner's excellent Data Visualization for SSRS presentation.  Good content,  deliver,  audience participation.  Learned a lot!  Got a chance to reminisce afterwords.

Next up lunch, sat with some people from Orlando, little bit of conversation.

Got a chance to speak withSQLGator Ed Watson, he presented later in the day at 3pm.

Next up, great presentation on Tabular Model, learned quite a bit.  Didn't know you could set the Memory setting to point to the transactional data.

I had to head back home after that as I have plans with the MRS.

Overall, great presentations, good food and a fun day out.

9/27/2012

Solve the Biggest Problem for the Biggest Boss

I think I may have mentioned this in the past.

I said when I get to a new work environment, I figure out who is the real boss, the person who runs the show, find their biggest problem and solve it.

So at my new job, I found the person in charge.  And I got a report request indirectly to enhance one of the existing reports.

Basically it shows sales over time by month and quarter, displays remaining days in the month and quarter.

My task was to add YTD figures and show how far off each sales person is from their target, and then by group and then grand total.

So I worked with the lower level Manager on the specs.  Problem was the report ran in just over 7 hours.  So my first task was to streamline it.  I got it down to 15 minutes without using indexes.

So now I had a workable report to begin the modifications which I did in a day or two.  Then some bug fixes from users and then released to production.  That's all I heard on that report.

Then today, I got to interact with the top exec and I was told how marvelous that report was and they had been waiting over two years for the report changes.

So that was good and I said we can do the same to all the international reports, not just the US version.

At least they know who I am now.

New IPhone Causes Excel Bug

So today I finally got to meet our CTO.

My boss came looking for me, said there was an issue with some of the reports.

So we went to the bosses, bosses office and I got introduced.

Said all the execs got new IPhones, which causes some of the emailed SSRS reports to stop working.

I asked him to forward me the reports that did not work.

So when I got back to my desk, I viewed the reports in question on my IPhone which is not the latest phone.

Sure enough it worked as expected.  Turns out its only an issue on the new IPhone just released last week.

So we saved the .xls files, which did not open, as an .xlsx file and sure enough it opened.

Here's the thing SSRS 2008 R2 only exports to .xls files.

So we could upgrade our SSRS server to 2012 and solve the problem.

Except they need these reports for month / quarter end so there's not enough time.

So I tried every single export option feature, CSV, HTML, MHTML, etc. with no luck.

Until I tried the PDF and it worked.

Except it chopped all the pages in multiple pages.

So I spent some time condensing the report into a single report.

Emailed it out they liked it problem solved.

Scheduled the report to run 3pm, 6pm and 9pm and the bosses seem to be happy.

Now if you check the Apple websites, they do not have a fix for the known bug.

Excel is not backwards compatible on the new IPhone and can't read .xls files generated pre 2007.

We also discussed trying to find a downloadable free app from the app store.  Suppose we could try that if need be.  Except that's a lousy work a round if you ask me.

Anyway, that's my story for today.

9/26/2012

Deploying Code to Production

There's an interesting aspect to being a computer programmer.

And that's the release of your work into the production environment.

You kind of have to hold your breath while moving the code.

Because while in production, you don't want to touch anything or change anything you're not supposed to.

Production is a sacred place.  You must perform your changes with care.

I know for me, when I deploy code to prod, my attention level increases, my focus is more determined, I think more methodical, and I document my steps and take screen shots along the way.  And I backup my code at the same time in case a rollback is required.

I know some shops have specialized people to deploy code as the division must be defined and restricted.  However, in my experience this does not correlate with improved deployments, it actually causes more problems to be honest.  The guy moving the code doesn't understand the technology and often fumbles the files or forgets a setting or to change a config file or something.  Then the users complain of issues, and the guy is pointing fingers at the developer that the code must be wrong and you're in the manager's office explaining how you screwed up.  Meanwhile the production server is completely off limits to developers so you have to troubleshoot the issue through the deployment manager who is impatient and has 1000 other things to be working on.  Then by some miracle when nobody's looking the program mysteriously starts working and nobody knows how it happened.  That's my experience anyway.

So now that I had that tangent flow of thought, I take deployments seriously, as should you.

And there you have it!

Personality Match Job Description

Working for the County a few years ago, they had us take classes periodically which were required and if you didn't take enough classes, it showed up on your review and could cost you part of your raise, except they did not give raises 4 out of the 5 years I worked there.

So I took this one class, where you take a test.  Questions were designed to identify your personality type.

After they scored my test the guy pulled me aside and asked if I liked working for the g0vt.

"I said it was okay, it paid the bills, why?"

He said my score indicates that I would feel caged in working in such stringent environments and I would actually be better off working in a place that allowed more freedom.

Interesting.  I think I kept the score results somewhere I should probably look for them to refresh.

However, now that I look back at it, the rules enforced were designed for a reason.  And most of the people accepted the rules and worked within their boundaries.  I bumped my head a lot on the rules and  was told directly and indirectly to slow down.

I'll never forget what happened one time.  They were reorganizing the cubicles, all the time, and there were three garbage pales lined up for the longest time.  So I decided to move them a few feet over, and then brought one back to my desk because I didn't have one.  I got called into the managers office and asked why I moved them, and subsequently, had to return the pale and put all three back in their original position.  Nice!

So there you have it, some people have personalities that fit their jobs, others don't.  I feel my current position aligns nicely with my free form thinking, ability to be myself, to be creative and be a strong producer.

And there you have it.

Descriptive Data Is What's Needed

When you look at raw data, it looks like a jumbled mess.

In addition, it looks so stale.

Just a bunch of text gobbled together.

I was trying to think of what it lacks.

Substance.  As in descriptive adjectives.

For example, when you look at a flower what stands out?

The color, the shadows, the texture, the aroma, the touch, etc.

All attributes that can be synthesized by the 5 senses.

They are open for interpretation.

So a flower expert can look at a particular flower and go into great details about it.

Species, blooming schedules, related plant species, and a slew of adjectives to describe it.

Now take data.  To the average person, the data looks like a jumbled mess.

Because they don't know what they are looking at because there's no descriptive features to look for.

An expert would know what context to interpret the data, how it relates to other data, what patterns to look for, the anomalies, etc.

He or she knows the descriptive adjectives that the casual bystander does not.

So I say what we are lacking is descriptive data.  Similar to an XML document.  The data is self described by the other data contained within the doc.

So you could pass this descriptive data around to any user anywhere anytime and they could describe the data same as everyone else.

Where the source derived from.  When the data was captured.  By whom.  What does it infer.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

That's the biggest problem I see when we talk about data, lack of description.

What are your thoughts - am I off the mark here or is this a giant hole in the data infrastructure?

9/22/2012

Third Quarter Update 2012

It's been an amazing year thus far.

First off we changed from the credit union to a bank.  Sure everyone says how great credit unions are but the long distance thing became a hassle over time, depositing checks through the mail.  One time they deposited my check to someone else's account and made me do the research to prove their mistake.  So after being a member since 1986, I switched to a bank.  I prefer the custom service of walking into a branch and having them know my name.  Personalized service goes a long way.

We made some good purchases this year.  We were a one car family for over a year, carpooling and taking the bus to work.  So I got myself a new used car off Cr@igslist and it turns out to be a good car.  We bought a new A/C for the house, even though the old one wasn't broken.  We got an in ground pool as well as a pool heater for the winter time.  We solved our plumbing issues finally with the water dripping through the ceiling, turns out some bad plumbers installed toilet wrong and we had to have the vents cleaned out.  We had the fences in the back yard replaced to be in compliance with the pool inspection.  And we got the leak fixed where the roof was not done correctly, it was under warranty.  And we had some fans installed in all the rooms as well as some touch up work on the walls.  And then we had a drainage issue after the pool was installed so the handyman put a drain running from the back yard to the front.

I got a new job this year.  I kept telling myself I was underpaid, but when I got a 30% bump in pay, that seemed to prove it.  I enjoyed my time as reporting supervisor but prefer to work as a hands on programmer / report writer.  The new job is working out good, close to home, nice people, software industry so there's lots of smart people.  And my part time job got re-extended for another 6 months so that should keep me busy at night for a while longer.

We rented a cabin in April in the N. Georgia mountains and we have another vacation planned end of October, same cabin.  We can't wait for some cooler weather as this Summer in Florida was a hot one. However, we also can't wait to try out the new pool heater.

The year has been exhausting.  However, we have fortified our position on the home front to some degree and made good progress on the professional front.  Three more months to close out the year and we do it all over again.  I'm eagerly awaiting December 21 as that's the key date to watch predicted by the Mayans as the end of the calendar.  Doomsday?  I don't think so.  I think it's similar to how the earth revolves around the sun, each year we return to the place of origin.  Same thing with the Solar System, we are returning to our point of origin and we be nicely aligned in the Universe.  We are fortunate to be alive during this day and age as its going to be a magnificent time with the higher vibrational energies.

Change is good.  It's inevitable.  Might as well hang on for the ride instead of trying to keep things the same.  Educate the mind.  Exercise.  Eat healthy.  Get enough sleep.  That's my advice.

Keep it real!

9/21/2012

Power Pivot Issue Solutions

One of my current responsabilities is to get people up and running on Power Pivot / Tabular Model connections via SharePoint.

And let me tell you, every machine is different, no two problems similar.

So I'd like to document some of the fixes I've see so far.


1.       Do you have Office 2010 installed?  If not, please load it.

2.       When you open MS Excel, do you see a tab named “Power Pivot”? 
1.       Can also Go to File à Options à Add-Ins à Here you can view if the PowerPivot for Excel is loaded à

2.      

3.       If not, we’ll need to download the Power Pivot Add-In from the web.

4.       First we'll need to know if you have Excel 32 bit or 64 bit.
Go to Excel à File à Help à



You can download PowerPivot here:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29074

Choose accordingly.

 
1.       Choose ENU\x64\PowerPivot_for_Excel_amd64.msi if you have 64-bit

2.       Choose ENU\x86\PowerPivot_for_Excel_x86.msi if you have 32-bit.

3.       Click Download, then run and install.

4.       You may get an error message asking to install .Net Framework  4.0 or Visual Studio 2010 Tools for Office Runtime à http://www.bradleyschacht.com/sql-server-2012-powerpivot-for-excel-prerequisites-error/
 
5.       If you are not located in the physical United States, you’ll need to modify your computer’s local.
Need to go control panel find à
1.       Once set can change setting back and never have to change it again.
2.       You may also get an error message for .net 4.0:


1.       Will need to install this à http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=17851

Lastly there are some Analysis Server files that need to get downloaded and installed as well à http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29065

1.       Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012 Analysis Management Objects

2.       Microsoft® Analysis Services OLE DB Provider for Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

Analysis Management Objects (AMO) is a .NET Framework object model that enables software developers to create client-side applications to manage and administer Analysis Services objects.

X86 Package(SQL_AS_AMO.msi)


 

X64 Package(SQL_AS_AMO.msi)


You may get an error that you need to install Microsoft Silverlight à http://www.microsoft.com/getsilverlight/Get-Started/Install/Default.aspx
And here's some issues troubleshooting Mac --> Power Pivot issues:








9/20/2012

Being of Service

I've been spending a good proportion of each work day on the phone.

And talking with a lot of senior executives.

Helping them get up to speed on Power Pivot and Tabular Model.

"We are used to getting CSV files, why can't we continue with that?"

Because Microsoft's direction is to centralize the dissemination of data through SharePoint.

And it's Business Intelligence Department's responsibility to provide data sets which are cleansed, data governanced, consolidated and timely.

And they can be accessed through Power View or Power Pivot.  And we'd prefer they use Tabular Model, because it runs in full blown Analysis Services and the refreshes are not dependent if the users have the file open.

We provide the time measurements and all the data they can consume and they can do Self Service BI all day long if they choose.  To scan the data, look for patterns and mold their business and processes accordingly.

Most of the executives however see the significance of data and the underlying power it provides.

I like to get them set up and overall tutorial and they catch on fast and are off and running.

Sure we still get data requests for reports in traditional SSRS and I handle those requests too, as well as bug fixes to the existing reports.  To work in BI nowadays, you have to wear a lot of hats, including the go between for Business Users and the Data / IT.

I really like to be of service so it's a good role for me.

It's still going to take time for me to understand what the data represents and all the business rules and such, but that goes with the territory.

And so it goes!

9/19/2012

Electronic Audit Trail

The total information act is about collecting every piece of electronic data on you and me.

It's all captured in a super data center.

And I imagine they've devised a way to score people based on characteristics.

Similar to a credit FICA score.

So maybe its a good idea to throw them off track.

You know, visit sites that you'd normally not visit.

Butterfly collector's sites.  Pacifist Society sites.

Keep 'em guessing, that's my theory.

Even if you've got nothing to hide, just know this, there're agency's that track your every move and know more about you than you do.

Mobile BI the Easy Way

Sure we have mobile BI, just dial x6306 from any telephone and you will reach the Business Intelligence hotline, which will gladly run your report and email you the results, in Excel or PDF.

 Who said Mobile BI was difficult?

Yes this i s a joke...

Power Pivot Created from Tabular Model Connection

Today I experimented with Power Pivot.

So I opened an existing Tabular Model Universal Data Source to my desktop.

Opened the file by double clicking on it.

Which spawned a version of Excel 2010.

From there the PivotTable Field List appeared on the right hand side.

There you have the ability to Click the fields you would like to see.

Or drag the field to the area below: Report Filter, Column Labels, Row Labels or Values.



Data instantly appears on the spreadsheet in a Pivot Table.

You can continue to add more fields as necessary.

Then clicked on PivotTable Tools --> Options --> Move Pivot Table which allow the table to be arranged elsewhere on the spreadsheet.

Then clicked on Insert Slicer and select the fields, values the report should display by default.


Then adjusted the Pivot Table and Slicers to appear on the report neatly.

Then hid the PivotTable Field List.

Saved the workbook and good to go.

9/15/2012

Programmers who took a few years off

One thing that surprises me is programming over time.

I know people who were great programmers 10 years ago.

They got out of it for a few years.

Now they think they can't program any more.

That's the furthest thing from the truth.

Just because you took a few years off, you could be back up to speed in less than a month.

Some things don't change over time.

And picking up where you left off should not be feared.

I would encourage those who got out of IT for whatever reason to jump back in.

There's an IT programming shortage going on right now.

And Programming is only going to increase in demand.

If I had a kid in college I'd advise them to study programming.

And learn how things work.

And problem solving.

There will never be a sufficient supply of problem solvers.

Problem creates, they'll be here forever too!

9/14/2012

Empower Your Workers If You Want Superstars

Free to be you and me.

Being comfortable.

That's the secret to finding enjoyment.

In your job or in life.

So when your company allows you the freedom to arrive and leave as you feel, provided you get you 8 hours.

And when you can wear t-shirt, shorts and baseball cap.

And when they provide coffee and espressos.

And they take you to lunch on Thursdays.

How can you not perform at your best?

It's inherent in the system.

Give the workers the freedom to produce.

And they produce.

They strive to do good work.

Because they have the freedom to be great workers.

When you apply rigid rules, strict authoritarian atmosphere, people will go out of their way to become the best slackers they can be.

I've seen it first hand.

Don't trust your workers, they'll give you reason not to trust them.

Empower your workers and everyone becomes a superstar!

Interpreting the Data is Key

Writing reports is a skill.

And being able to gather the specs, find the data, write the query, create the report, release the repor to the consumer, that's the name of the game.

However, there's another step that we've forgotten.

Interpreting the data.  That's the piece, at least for me, I've been skipping over.

I always relsease the reports to the experts, since they know the business rules better than anyone.

Let them figure out the trends.

However, I now believe that to be a great data person, you also need to be able to tell the user what the patterns are, what they should be looking at, point out the trends, the missing pieces, the holes in the data.

This is not a requirement to be a report writer.

But if you want to have a competetive edge and be the go to person in your org, it's a skill to learn and become good at.

Learn the data!  Interpret the data!  Be the data!

Dive into the Data

Working with data is a thinking man's game.

You can't be one of those people who sticks to the surface level.

You need to be willing to submerge yourself into the great depths of the unknown.

And swim for your life until you reach safety.

Now, I'm not saying this all has to be done immediately.

Trick is to take baby steps, slow and easy.

Gain some confidence.  Get some motivation.

And soon you'll be swimming in the shark infested waters without any fear!

So take the plunge!

Dive into the data!

9/13/2012

We Don't Have Clean Data

I have an SSIS package.

It's a nice package.

Has two containers, each container produces a single text file.

So I finished coding the changes a few months ago.

And packaged the files up for the client to test.

And their people were on vacation.

So we waited.

Files failed.  Said the file lengths were off.

Hmm.  They don't seem off to me.  QA lady agreed.

So we sent them back.

Failed.

Records already exist in their test system.

Hmmm.  Let me modify the Reference number to higher range which would not be in their system.

Package files, sent over, their people are again on vacation.

Failed.  Again.

The inserts went in fine but the updates failed, records don't exist in their system.

Hmmm.  Modified the Updates to retain their existing number.

Sent files, again.

Failed.  Data does not match what's expected.

Hmmm.  I only modified field lengths, none of the business logic changed.

So I responded back, as best I could, without showing signs of frustration, that we have specific requirements which we must package the data, which we learned from trial and error, and the data was are sending is not clean, in the fact that all the data we're sending already exists on the client database, so we have to fake it out.  In addition, because we don't have clean data, I'm manually deleteing records for the sole purpose of creating data, which otherwise would not exist, because we have no data that conforms to the required standards.

And the business analyst says, "Can the contractor produce a file that works?".

Hmmm.  This is getting to be too much.

Report Cleanup

Yesterday, I was tasked with a projet to clean up an existing report.

First task was to move the report to a new database which I did.

Second step was to point one of the query databases to a new database, done.

Third, I was supposed to streamline the report because it took 3 hours to run.

After initial review of the stored procedure I studied the WHILE LOOP for a few minutes.

They could easily reproduce the same logic by adding a few lines of code, stripping out the While loop so I dug into the code and applied the changes.

I was shocked when the data returned in 2:30 minutes.  After verifying the data, everything looked good.

So we moved to production and the SQL Agent job executed the Stored Procedure as expected and the report looked good.

However, this only satifies the first request.  The second request is to modify the existing functionality in addition add some more queries to the report.

So on to the next tasks.

Goal is to move forward and upward.

And so it goes!

9/12/2012

Maintenance Programmers

Well I've been keeping tabs on Big Data for a while now.

And ventured into some of it's basic underling working.

However, I have not had a chance to work with it yet.

I've been focusing more on reporting and advanced business intelligence lately.

Today I heard the work MongoDB, not the first time though.

And it looks like there may be some MongoDB floating around soon.

Not that I'll get to develop any, yet.

The way things work, R&D finds the new technology, figures it out, implements it, then throws it over the wall to be supported.

So I'll sit tight until that happens.  And at that time, we'll have an expert to show me the ropes.

MongoDB handles tons of data and can distributively process that huge volume across multiple computers.  The queries are fast.

I'll have to do some research in the meantime, but I'll be ready when it comes my way.

Like I said before, the majority of programmers like to learn the new technology, write some hacked code and then move on to the latest technology.  And while they're moving on, I'll support that code in production, do bug fixes, enhancements, maintenance, etc.

You can earn a descent living by doing maintenance coding, there's even a niche for it.

And I'd classify myself as a maintenance coder, always have been.  It takes skill to inherit someone else's code figure out what they were smoking when they wrote it, and somehow keep it going, until it gets rewritten by another contractor.

Everything comes in time, to those who are patient.

And there you have it.

Make Your Time Count

People crave money.  They work hard for it.  They dream about it.  And sometimes they get it.

However, let us stop to think about what's more valuable than money.

Time.

Because once it's gone you can't get it back.

You can lose all your money and then find it again.

But time lost can never be made up.

How we spend out time is important.

We need to be sure that we spend out time wisely.

We exchange our time during the weekday at our jobs in return for money from the customer (not our employer).

And then we are given time on the weekend to spend.

So if the majority of our time is at the office or sleeping, shouldn't we really find a job we enjoy.

Something we have a passion for.

Otherwise we are just wasting our time here on this planet.

Exchanging our time for money, and more importantly, not enjoying the time spent to earn that money.

Once you realize that time is priceless, more valuable than gold, more than expensive cars or houses or planes or businesses, you realize that how you spend your time counts.

Because when you're on your deathbed, and someone offers you wealth or more time, which you gonna choose?

9/09/2012

Best time to schedule Meetings

Meetings are a fact of life.

There's always a meeting to go to.

I find that in the IT workforce, there are rules to when meetings are preferred.

It's probably best not to schedule a meeting first thing Monday morning.  Or that afternoon either.  Everybody's recovering from the weekend.

And Friday afternoons are not the best time either, everyone's getting revved up for the weekend.

Lunch time is usually off limits too.

So your best best is Tuesday or Thursday and then Wednesday.

Except not at 7 or 8am or 4 or 5pm.

So there you have it.  When scheduling a meeting think first before you send the invite out.

That is if you want people awake and ability to actively participate in your meeting.

And be sure to follow up the meeting with brief summary MOU to document was discussed and by whom.

So that way in a month when Jim Bob says, "you never said that", well, here's the meeting when it was said by whom, touche!

Troubleshooting the wrong problem

I was tasked with getting a user setup to view the advanced business intelligence reports this week.

So I Team Viewed into his PC, after the Help Desk installed all the necessary Power Pivot pre-requisites.

And the user said the one report didn't work.

So I went to work remotely while he attended a meeting.

First I verified permissions were set on the SQL-Server Analysis Roles.

Then verified correct permissions on SharePoint.  Sure enough all reports were vievable.

So I clicked on a report, sure enough it did not load in the browser.  So I downloaded the .odc Outlook Data Connection and was able to view it in Excel.  So that tells me the correct files are loaded.

Next I double clicked the .odc file and nothing happened.  Aha!  The file type .odc is not associated with the Microsoft Excel app.  So I right clicked the file, said 'open with' pointed to the hard drive location for Excel and sure enough, Excel launched.  Next loaded in the browser everything worked!  Yeah!

So I informed the user to run the report again.  Same error.  What the ?  Sure enough I was troubleshooting the wrong report.  So once I figured that out, his user id got assigned permissions to the .bism tabular model file and he was good to go.

So the lesson learned here, you can be the best troubleshooting person in the world, but if you're solving the wrong problem, customer will not be satisfied.

Turns out the customer had more than one problem, he just hadn't gotten to the point to know that yet.

And there you have it!

Over Think Processes

We tend to be process oriented.

Streamline order of events, remove the human interaction, automate whenever possible.

So working as a Team Lead for the past year and a half, I like to add processes, especially when things go wrong to an existing process.

So this past week, the month rolled over and the process to automate some of the month end stuff failed.

I immediately went to work to look for ways to automate everything.

After much analysis and reworking of the some of the code, we decided to scrap the automation.

Why?  Because the process was sufficient as is.  The problem that occurred was a one time anomaly which should never happen again because the culprit system is being deactivated after last month.

So there's no reason to change things, in this case.

And avoid CHANGE for the sake of change.  Sometimes things are okay as is.

And there you have it.

9/07/2012

Fluent in Data Speak

Are you fluent in data speak?

Do you like to sift through the data looking for nuggets of gold?  Insights?  Patterns?  Discoveries?

You should be.

And so should all Executives.  They should speak the company lingo when it comes to their data.

They should be able to rattle off numbers.  And those numbers should match everyone else's.

They should be able to talk about when they logged into the self service data utility and what they found interesting.  How they were baffled by such and such and do you have any explanations as to why.

They should be able to watch the data over time and watch the patterns.

And then take action to better the ecosystem.

Executives can no longer hide behind old school mantra of print the reports and place on my desk.

They need to take a proactive approach to understanding the data through self service if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

And they should not be afraid of asking for training or asking for assistance from the lowly BI team.  They are there to help and assist in any way, shape or form.

This includes the CEOs.  They should be digging through the data as well so they can be informed and perhaps even drive the business through data culture / ecosystem.

Mandate that all executives are fluent in data speak lingo.  And reward those who follow suit.  Make it fun!

Make it so!

9/06/2012

Witnessed Jr Level Programmer Transform

I've recently witnessed someone with barely any SQL skills grow leaps and bounds within a two week period.

Not only did they learn a great deal about SQL, then migrate that into an SSRS report, but then, elevate that data into Power Pivot with Slicers and the whole nine yards.

He saw the potential of SQL to get the data he needed.  Then saw the limitations of SSRS for the users with too many rows.  Then taught himself Power Pivot in a single day.  What a transformation.

It's was quite an amazing sight to witness.

Quite a transformation!

Tarzan in the Data Wild

With the downturn in the economy, lack of financial resources brings out the worst in people.

Yet in times of plenty people are upbeat and positive.

So that asks the questions, are people generous and compassionate by nature or is it a learned trait.

I would say that if you took a baby, homo sapien, and raised it clear of any other humans, how would that baby develop?

Would it take on animalistic characteristics, savage and brutal or would it be refined and dignified as the top aristocracy?

Would it have an agile thought inquisitive mind or would it have a mush mind leaning towards immediate gratification and simple pleasures?

Would it be artistic or analytical or both?

Personally, I think it would be dual brained, strong on both the right and left.  Our society pushes us towards one or the other, they usually beat the art side out of you by the time you get to kindergarden.

They require conformity, which means you must obey to the social norms of that society, which is survival at all costs, the bully gets to lead and you must fall in line at every step of the way.

We are taught obedience, which is contrary to artistic freedom.  Those with analytical minds rise to the top of certain industry's while everyone else takes a medium difficulty job and that's that.

So our baby in quarantine, how will he end up?  I don't think he'll be driving a Porshe reading the Wall Street newspaper.  And I don't think he'll be swinging from the vines either.

In between, with well developed artistic curiosity with strong problem solving skills with the ability to survive in his adaptative world.

What's your thoughts?

9/05/2012

Office Supplies

When you're at work and you need a new pen, where do you go?

You go to the supply room.

And you forage for what you need.

Paper clips, stapeler, white out, note pads.

Where else can you go in life and just take what you need?

Some places lock everything down air tight.

Must request supplies through some gatekeeper.

I once worked at a place where supplies started to disappear.

I'm talking about rolls of paper towels and such.

Never did figure out where that stuff went.

Oh well.

Anyhoo, I'm off to the supply room for a new pen.

Wonder what color they'll have to choose from.

JB - out!

Won't be in the Office Today

Have you ever called in sick?

What excuse did you use?

I'm not feeling well.  Upset stomache.  Vomitting.  Headache.  Fever.  Nausious.

How about, my dogs sick, my kids sick, my car won't start, kids are home from school today.

My air conditioner broke, the repair man will be at the house, kid has a doctors appointment.

The list has no bounds.

You don't think people are creative, try managing people and listening to the excuses they come up with to avoid coming to the office to work.

That's what I'm talking about.

Banking Technology is Great

One place where technology has come to fruition is the Banking industry.

Wow.

You can do all your banking on your home computer.

Move money around, check your balances, pay your bills.

All secure too.

Not only that you can view your accounts through your mobile device.

On the go, anwhere, anytime.

Even while on vacation.

And it gets better.

You can now deposit small checks via your Smart Phone.

Just sign your check, log on, enter the check amount, take pictures front and back, and your money is in the account.

Which means less bank employees, less paper, increased revenue for the financial institution.

Either way you slice it, technology has improved service.

And you can take that to the bank.

Seating Arrangements

Where do you sit where you work?

Are you close to the exit?

Do you have a window view?

I once worked as a consultant they stuck me in the middle of the call center - couldn't concentrate for 2 seconds.

Now I sit near the back of the building, we don't get much traffic to be honest.

My last job had a window office, except I shared it with someone.  The level of noise was almost unbearable.

One time I worked for a company where everyone worked in a giant hallway, the cubes were very short, so if you looked across the room from one side, you could literally see everyone in the company.  They used to stand up called it 'gophering'.

I worked for a small company, located above a machine shop.  There was no elevator.

Working for the County, our office was in a converted jail.  So if you believe in Karma, at one point in time there was a prison person sitting exactly where I was working, who knows what else went on there.

I guess that there are unlimited number of seating arrangements you could work in.

Or you could work from home in your jammies!

9/04/2012

Business Intelligence Teams Are Intelligent

Business Intelligence teams are diverse.

They range in skills sets.

From Chiefs to Seniors to Mid Level to Entry Level.

You have people who are highly technical.

To people just learning SQL.

You have people with great Business knowledge.

And you have people with Accounting expertise.

You have people with VM experience, Source Control, Databases, Networking, Hardware, Security, etc.

Some people enjoy the documetation side.

While others prefer new development and throw it over the wall to support.

I would say the intelligence of an Business Intelligence team is fairly high.

It's kind of a specialized segement of IT.

"There are a greater proportion of odd balls per capital than any other department".  This statistic was made up on the spot and for entertainment value only.

IBM in the 1970s

My father worked for IBM in Poughkeepsie NY.

Growing up it seemed every family had someone working for IBM.

What I remember about growing up in Poughkeepsie was the IBM Watson Country Club.

We spent a lot of summer's there as well as weekends.

My father played handball at the courts while my brother and I would wander around doing kids things.

They had a bowling ally, full basketball courts, golf course, multiple ball fields, playground, you name it they had it.

On the 4th of July they would have fireworks.

I played on their baseball team / league, went to summer camp, played golf and tennis.

Growing up you take this for granted.

I have yet to find an employer who offered such amenities and don't think I ever will.

Back in the 1970's working for IBM, you had a job for life, assuming you didn't steal or drink on the job, I suppose.

Man, to think about having a single employer for life.

Can't even imagine it.

http://www.miscellanynews.com/2.1577/ibm-not-fulfilling-its-responsibility-to-poughkeepsie-1.2526619

Nice to Have - Positions

We tend to think of IT as a well oiled machine that makes things happen.

And IT has many people to fill the roles and do the work.

Yet from my perspective some positions are "nice to have's".

As in not mandatory.

Take you Project Manager.  I've only worked in 2 positions in 20 years where we had the luxury of a full time PM.

How about Quality Assurance Analyst.  Same thing.  If your company can afford them they can save you time and effort by releasing quality code.  However, bugs still get through.

Next is the Business Analyst.  Sure they are nice to have, the go-between from the User and the Programmer, because we all know Programmers have no communications skills.  Well, not anymore.

Yeah, I'd say these three positions are all nice to have, but not required.

And the list could grow.  DBA's getting outsourced to the Cloud, teams of developers going offshore, entire Accounting departments now done in India, the list goes on and on.

For those of us in IT, we should count our blessings.

And avoid becoming 'nice to have'.

New AC

We just had a new Air Conditioner installed.

Was it broken?

Nope.

So why would you replace something that wasn't broken?

First of all, Florida is just a few degrees cooler than the sun.

And as you may or not be aware, everyone's a/c goes out in the Summer time.

And when that happens, you are at the mercy of the a/c company.

Whatever they say, just do it, get us some cool air!

In addition, when the a/c does go out, it usually floods the house and costs a lot in damages.

So once again, we replaced out a/c when it wasn't broken.

So we shopped around, got some quotes and decided on a reputable dealer.

Our a/c was 18 years old. 

And after the guy removed it, said it lived a good life but didn't have many years left.

Some people said to me, take that money you were going to use to replace the a/c and put it in a 5 year CD.  You can earn interest and prolong the inevitable.

Well, that doesn't do it for me.  Earning 0.0012 percent while tying up the money for 5 years seems like a dumb thing to do.  And what if they a/c brakes before then, early termination fee of the CD.  Plus damages to the house.  Plus being at the mercy of the a/c company.

Lesson learned, problems are easier to fix before they happen.

And there you have it!

Long Weekend

The Labor Day weekend has come and gone.

Hope you had a good one!

I enjoyed some good downtime.

For the most part.

I got some good hours in at the part time job.

Nothing too strenuous.

We had a pool party with some of the neighbors, some good cheeseburgers!

Now back at work.

Hoping to pick up where left off last Friday.

Working on some SSRS reports for an internal customer.

Should be a good week!

9/01/2012

I do not know

I do not know what I would like to do for a living.

I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

I leave that up to the universe.

To do what is best at any given time.

I will not force the issue.

I will allow life to expand.

What I'm doing now I did not do before.

What I'll be doing in the future I may not be doing now.

I did banking.  I did programming.  I did reporting.  I did archaeology.  I did tennis.

What shall I do tomorrow?

The universe already knows.

Just waiting for me to realize and fulfill my unique destiny.

You can not force it.

Get Sh#t Done!