Summer News 2019

It’s been quiet here. No new blog post since end of 2017. Let me share with you what happend so far and what’s coming next.

One of the reasons I had no time for blogging were my various customer projects. Whereas SAP BusinessObjects was my world till 2017, in 2018 I definitely moved into the Microsoft BI world more and more. I had the pleasure to work with much of the cool stuff around Power BI, SSAS Tabular, SSRS and various Azure services. Besides that I further pushed WhereScape data warehouse automation in our customer projects.

2018 was an intensive year in my company IT-Logix too. I had to jump in as an ad interim COO last summer and run operations for eight months – besides my role as the Chief Knowledge Officer and my regular project work. In April 2019 I finally could handover all my management activites and stepped back from the executive committee after more than ten years. On the other hand I was elected into the board of directors. This new role goes along much better with my continued interest in exciting projects, developing new fields of businesses and sharing knowledge with the community.

Community is key – my concern in 2019 is to invest in the next generation of BI and analytics folks. Therefore I’m investing myself into building up the Swiss branch of TDWI Young Guns. The Young Guns community serves as a networking platform between students, young professionals and more experienced people – all sharing a common interest in data and what you can do with it. After a successful first barcamp back in May there are some promising upcoming events you shoudn’t miss if you’re around Switzerland in September and October. Subscribe to the Young Guns mailing list or join us on LinkedIn to learn more about the details.

I also continued my conceptual work with an updated version of my requirments framework IBIREF including practical guidance of how to write and slice BI specific user stories. In addition, I worked on a new model around different (or better: growing) tshirt sizes for your BI architecture. The basic concept will be published in TDWI’s BI-SPEKTRUM by end of August – you’ll find a copy here too. So stay tuned.

19.07.01. Event MAKE BI ITX (390)

A glimpse at my presentation about T-Shirt Sizes for your BI architecture

Covering the same topic, I had the pleasure to give a keynote together with Ronald Damhof during the MAKE BI confernence beginning of July. I’ll give a similar presentation during BOAK and TDWI Schweiz confernce this autumn, unfortunately without Ronald. In addition, I’ll share some of my (disciplined) agile project experience during DADay 2019, a virtual conference organised by the Disciplined Agile Consortium.

Finally I have many ideas for further blog posts. Bear with me that I’ll find some time to write them down.

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My life as a BI consultant: Update Spring 2017

Spring 2017 in Provence (France)


Obviously I hadn’t time to write much on my blog during the last nine months. Let me share with you what topics kept me busy:

For the upcoming months I’ll be visiting and speaking at various events:

  • IBCS Annual Conference Barcelona: June 2nd, Discussion of the next version of the International Business Communication Standards.
  • TDWI 2017 Munich: June 26-28, Half-day workshop about practical gathering of requirements for a dashboard.
  • MAKEBI 2017 Zurich: July 3rd, I’ll be presenting a new keynote around alternatives to traditional estimation practices
  • BOAK 2017 Zurich: September 12th, same as with MAKEBI, I’ll be presenting a new keynote around alternatives to traditional estimation practices
  • WhereScape Test Drive / AgileBI introduction Zurich: September 13th: During this practical half-day workshop you learn hands-on how to use a DWH automation tool and you’ll get an introduction to the basics of Agile BI.
  • My personal highlight of today, I’ll be speaking during Agile Testing Days 2017: I’ll do a 2.5 hours workshop regarding the introduction of Agile BI in a sustainable way.

It would be a pleasure to meet you during one of these events – in case you’ll join, send me a little heads-up!

Last but not least, let me mention the Scrum Breakfast Club which I’m visting on a regular basis. We gather once a month using the OpenSpace format to discuss practical issue all around the application of agile methods in all kind of projects incl. Business Intelligence and Datawarehousing. The Club has chapters in Zurich, Bern as well as in Milan and Lisbon.

Steps towards more agility in BI projects

“We now do Agile BI too” – such statements we hear often during conferences and while discussing with customers and prospects. But can you really do agility in Business Intelligence (BI) and data warehouse (DWH) project directly? Is it sufficent to introdouce bi-weekly iterations and let your employees read the Agile BI Memorandum [BiM]? At least in my own experience this doesn’t work in a sustainable way. In this post I’ll try to show basic root cause relations which finally lead to the desired agility.

DWHAutomation

If at the end of the day we want more agility, the first step towards it is “professionalism”. Neither an agile project management model nor an agile BI toolset is a replacement for “the good people” in project and operation teams. “Good” in this context means, that the people who work in the development and operation of a BI solution are masters in what they do, review their own work critically and don’t do any beginner’s mistakes.

Yet, professionalism alone isn’t enough to reach agility in the end. The reason for this is that different experts often apply different standards. Hence the next step is the standardization of the design and and development procedures. Hereby the goal is to use common standads for the design and development of BI solutions. Not only within one team, but ideally all over team and project boundaries within the same organization. An important aid for this are design patterns, e.g. for data modeling, the design and development of ETL processes as well as of information products (like reports, dashboards etc.).

Standardization again is a prerequisite for the next and I’d say the most important step towards more agility: The automation of as many process steps as possible in the development and operation of a BI solution. Automation is a key element – “Agile Analytics” author Ken Collier dedicateds even multiple chapters to this topic [Col12]. Because only if we reach an high degree of automation we can work with short iterations in a sustainable way. Sustainable means, that short iterations don’t lead to an increase in technical depts (cf. [War92] and [Fow03]). Without automation, e.g. in the areas of testing, this isn’t achievable in reality.

Now we are close to the actual goal, more agility. If one can release new and changed features to UAT e.g. every two weeks, these can be released to production in the same manner if needed. And this – the fast and frequent enhancement of features in your BI solutions is what sponsors and end users perceive as “agility”.

(this blog was originally posted in German here)

Event hints:

Literature:

[BiM] Memorandum for Agile Business Intelligence: http://www.tdwi.eu/wissen/agile-bi/memorandum/

[Col12] Collier Ken: Agile Analytics, Addison-Wesley, 2012

[War92] Cunningham Ward: The WyCash Portfolio Management System, http://c2.com/doc/oopsla92.html, 1992

[Fow03] Fowler Martin: Technical Debt, http://martinfowler.com/bliki/TechnicalDebt.html, 2003