Friday, October 30, 2009

Update on the Data Modeling Tool

One of our clients was testing Toad Data Modeler to see if it would suffice as a replacement for CA ERWin to construct a dimensional model - the verdict is in, and it's "No." Toad Data Modeler does regular ER diagrams not not a dimensional model. Looks like CA ERWin is going to be the tool of choice for this client as well as many of our other clients.

Speaking of Toad for SQL Server, I'm not convinced there is a need for the product as SSMS is such a great tool. Microsoft really is sitting in a sweet spot right now by providing SSMS with the SQL Server license. Toad for Oracle is a necessity with the Oracle products.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's a Great time to be in BI

Yes it is, a great time for BI. Why is this? BI saves customers money, customers spend a little money in a BI application or dashboard but save a lot more with intelligent data and all the good things that come with it.

We just brought on a great person to fill the Marketing Services Consultant position at Durable Impact. Stay tuned for a blog introduction of this person and keep your eyes posted, we're soon going to be looking for at least five more SQL/BI Developers. Contact us on our webpage if you want to be notified when the positions open. It's always helpful to include a short paragraph or two about yourself and what interests you, so we have a good relationship from the beginning.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Website Moderators

Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation today at SQL Saturday. It was a great crowd and I enjoyed it immensely.

I am looking for one or possibly two website administrators. The position entails spending 1-2 hours per week working thedamndata forums. Your responsibilities will be to approve new users and posts, create postings, and remove inappropriate content. Again, this should only take one or two hours per week. The DI staff is doing it right now but it's keeping us busy dealing with spam bots, porn operators, and illegal prescription peddlers who continually wreck havoc on the website.

This is an unpaid position, but as compensation for your time, you will receive a one-time $100 gift card to the retailer of your choice. We may provide other perks from time to time, but the primary reason we want someone is for their passion to speak and write about data and spend a few minutes assisting the website as required.

Please email me using the contact us form at www.durableimpact.com if you are interested.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Data Modeling Tools

Most software apps have a very strong following and drive strong opinions from the users, taking for instance Windows vs. Mac. Those who use Windows often don't understand Mac, and those who use Mac despise Windows. Data modeling is one tool where I haven't found this type of approach, almost everyone I've talked to either uses ERWin or has heard good things about it.

I was working with a client this week who needs to get a data modeling tool. I've recently been working with some clients who have their own version of data modeling using Microsoft Visio and powerpoint slides, but this really isn't a good substitute for a true dimensional modeling tool. I've used ERWin in the past at a few clients and it's a great tool, allows one to reverse engineer the database, or better, to create a new model, creating the DDL for the model, and then versioning it for source control. The one problem with ERWin is that is isn't cheap, thus many look to Visio. Visio is a good tool in it's own right, but it's not a true data model tool yet. I suspect this is the direction that Microsoft is trying to go in and maybe with Visio 2010 it will meet that goal.

One tool I was made aware of is Toad Data Modeler. Toad products are made by Quest Software, and I've been working with Toad for Oracle since the beginning. I'm very pleased with the Toad database products, and have already recommended to this client that they buy Toad for DB2, which they have done. I downloaded a version of Toad Data Modeler and my first take of the tool is that it's going to work great for what we need to do, and it's at a very attractive price point as well.

I always stress to clients that they have a printed data model, typically where the developers can see it and visualize the relations between the tables in the model.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sales and Making Sales

My friend Andy had a blog posting last week about sales guys in the software field. Selling is always an interesting part of running a business and most likely the part that causes the most headaches, but without sales there is nothing else.

I'm typically distrustful of most commission-based sales where I'm the consumer. This is true for auto sales or buying suits. I bought a suit last week at a major mall-based retailer and I asked the guy (after purchasing, bad on my part) if it was quality. He went to say something and then stopped, smiling and saying "everything we sell is quality". It's blanket statements like that that make me second-guess my purchase.

I've stopped attending many industry events and meetings because they have turned into sales affairs. I attended one industry event where, of the approximately 60 attendees, at least 30 were sales guys hunting for leads and 20 were unemployed guys looking for work. The other 10 were people like me just trying to learn more about the product and maybe meeting a person or two in the process. I also wrote back in April about getting kicked out of an Oracle event that was a "briefing" but truly was a sales pitch. I've found a much different experience at true community events (like SQL Saturday), and while there is always the element of selling involved, it's not excessive. I have received a few unwanted emails from being on mailing lists coming out of these events, but that's more the exception than the norm. I hope that as SQL Saturday events grow they continue to stay true to their roots.

This brings me to a conversation I had with a client recently. Selling consulting services is kind of like dating, sometimes it's smooth and sometimes it's not, sometimes there is a return phone call and sometime there is not. One of my major disappointments when first getting into this business is the amount of sales leads that seem very hot and then turn cold. It does come with the territory and one has to learn not to take it personally. Anyways, the client I was talking to described to me his process of choosing a company to perform the work. He spoke about other firms which had presented and how things had went with them. What it came down to, in his mind, was trust. I'm pretty plain-spoken which has it's strengths and weaknesses, but it worked in this case that this client believed what we (my partners and I) said, and our straight talk gave them a great sense of comfort. I can relate to that, as I stated earlier, I'm pretty reluctant when listening to sales pitches and always trying to understand all the angles of the discussion. It was pleasing to hear that at the end of the day, the time-honored traditions of honesty and integrity were able to overcome bigger names and slicker salesmen.



Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Bumpy Flight

What was your first thought when you read the title "A bumpy flight"? Were you confused, trying to figure out if I was talking about the economy? Or did you think I was talking (as I do) in analogies?

I was talking about both, and a true bumpy flight.

In reality, I just returned from Dallas on this flight. The 2 hour flight was quite bumpy the entire way, so much that the flight attendants were told to sit down multiple times and barely completed the meal services before landing. I find myself to be a fickle flier and the slightest bumps make me a little nervous, not really because of safety concerns, but I always think the next round of bumps will lead to one of those massive bumps we see on CNN causing multiple injuries. Thankfully we didn't twist a tail and I'm here to tell you about the time this past week that I used the "bumpy flight" analogy.

We just started working with a large client on a data warehouse project. I will talk more about that later, but suffice it to say most would have heard of the name. A partner and I spent the past week working with the client on data discovery and trying to get them set up for the project. A critical part of the project is setting appropriate expectations. This company has never had a data warehouse before, so it's a "greenfield" development project. This is the best kind, from my opinion, because we get to do things right the first time. A majority of our projects to date have involved enhancing or repairing someone else's work so this is a welcome change as a different kind of challenge. Part of my duties this week were to work with senior management (CFO and Director level) to get an idea of what they wanted from the project and try to answer any questions they had about the process. I really enjoy working with management and listening to their concerns, that is true consulting at it's best.

I had a great meeting with the chief product engineer. Part of answering the business questions requires a deep understanding of the business. This person had a lot of great comments and thoughts and our scheduled thirty minute meeting quickly turned into a great two hour discussion. Being a good engineer, he was very interested in risk factors for the project and wanted to know what risk mitigation plans I had prepared. It's true that starting any project risks missing a key requirement and the best way to mitigate that risk is to keep the business users as closely involved with the process as possible. He was satisfied with that answer and as a follow up comment I used an analogy that brings us to the title of this posting. I explained to him that a new data warehouse project will have it's growing pains and to expect them, I told them that "it's similar to a flight from Dallas to Tampa where it's bumpy the whole time. There will be times that we all wonder why the air isn't smooth and there will be bumps along the way but the safety of the aircraft is never in question and we have complete confidence we will arrive safely at our destination."

I love analogies, especially when they come true.