Friday, September 30, 2011

Data Models and Their Importance

Just this week I had a discussion with a client who is looking to hire a data modeler. We spoke about his project, the number of facts and dimensions, and what he was looking for in a data modeler. I felt compelled to add the following analogy:

"A data model is like the foundation of a house. Without a strong foundation, no amount of work or rework on the remainder will be correct, and it will frustrate you to failure, so get the foundation right the first time."

Unfortunately I know this all too well. I have been part of a few projects on the ETL side that had poor data models, either models that weren't completely thought through or models that weren't designed for the end solution. A data modeler needs to work very closely with the business/functional analysts to understand the data that will be stored in the model, and develop an enterprise model that can be easily maintained and expanded.

First, let's look at a typical data model. For this example, I'll use the star methodology. This is a simple fact table that contains surrogate keys that point to attributes in the dimensions. If you need to, review the difference between facts and dimensions here.

Our simple model is a grocery store. It has a date, customer, employee, and product dimension. It has a Sales fact table that lists each transaction.

This is a simple model but it carries a lot of information. The data modeler should be thinking ahead as to which dimensions should be added in the future for a sales fact table. There should also be thought as to which fact measures could be added in the future.

I've worked with clients who would design the exact model above and attempt to capture every possible fact and dimensional attribute the first release. DON'T try this! Just capture the majority of the dimensions which are needed to create a usable report, design the metrics (facts), and implement. Dimensions and facts can be easily added later if the tables are designed right, and this allows the IT department to deliver something quickly and get the business vested in the success of the project.

The synopsis, if you have made it this far, is to focus on building a solid data model from the start, containing relevant dimensions and needed facts to get the dimensional model up and running. Never, never, and I'll repeat never shortchange on your data model to get something out the door quicker.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 - A Year in the Making

Readers will recall that last year I was excited about getting the Windows Phone 7.5. I even recall Nov 8, 2010 when the phone first went on sale - I awoke in a Marriott in downtown Durham, NC, and after a hectic day made a trip to the AT&T store, only to find that they were sold out of the Samsung Focus which I had decided on. Patience was painful but worthwhile, as a black Friday sale at the local Microsoft store yielded a free-after-contract LG Quantum. It's been a full 10 months since that fateful day and I'm no less pleased with Windows Phone.

Yesterday I was able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5. This is the first phone I've owned in almost 10 years that I am completely happy with. The hardware is great (LG), and the camera is excellent. Matter of fact, I don't carry a camera anymore as this one takes excellent pictures. The ability to sync with Zune keeps my podcasts up to date and the phone functions as a de-facto iPod. Except that its' better. I haven't really noticed much with Mango yet except that the colors are more vibrant and texts/emails have a different style to them.

For those who are contemplating a business device but want to stay in the Windows ecosystem, I highly encourage you to check out a WP7 device. I have been asked about it multiple times in my travels and try to spend a few seconds showing the device in a positive light. I am also asked quite a bit about my Amazon Kindle. Did I mention the WP7 apps, there are plenty of apps for many items but I still prefer to use a mobile browser when possible.

Suffice it to say that I'm incredibly excited about Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and Windows Server 8. The combination O/S, phone, server, and tablet should be the perfect quad of devices. I'm not a Windows fanboy but it's hard to argue that any ecosystem is better in the dual, and often shared realms of business and pleasure.

I'd enjoy hearing any comments about the Windows Phone experiences you have.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is it 2011 or 2006?

It's been five years since I originally started this blog, so I decided it was time for a redesign. One of the plans is to move this over within the corporate webpage so the first task was to get the colors matched up. A second tasks was to "modify" the name. I elected to remove the quasi-curse word from the title, and while I believe "damn" is catchy and not overly offensive, the clientele is professional and it's important to retain the professional image.

One of my disappointments has been in the blog postings, mainly the quantity or lack thereof. It's just plain difficult to find the time to do a comprehensive writing, one that actually delivers value to the constituents. Well, here's my mea cupla. I'll try harder to write more often and also more quality postings. Business intelligence is such an interesting and dynamic field and there are many topics that I could write about which would deliver value to you, the readers.

If you have any comments about the new layout, please let me know.