Category Archives: Data Management

Selected data modeling best practices

Recently I was in a conversation about data modeling standards. I confess that I’m not really the standards type.  I understand the value of standards and especially how important it is to follow them so others can interpret and use work products. It is just that I prefer to focus on understanding of the principles behind the standards. In general, it seems to me that following standards is trivial for someone who understand the principles, but impossible for someone who doesn’t. But there doesn’t seem to be general understanding of data modeling principles. Continue reading

No silver business intelligence bullets, but still a bright upside

When Tom Petty sang, “Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out” he wasn’t referring to business intelligence (BI) reporting but he might have been. Current generation reporting engines, AKA data visualization or data discovery tools, market their products with statements like these, emphasizing quick development and ease of use:

  • “The democratization of data is here. In minutes, create an interactive viz (sic) and embed it in your website. Anyone can do it— and it’s free.” (Tableau Products Page)
  • “Easy yet sophisticated report design empowers your employees to design professional and telling reports in minutes not days” (Windward)

I like these tools, and I do believe that they can provide a leaner, more productive, and more informative approach to BI reporting than some more mature products.  However, none is a silver bullet for all data integration and reporting woes. Continue reading

Why is your reporting project late?

In my experience, some BI projects ultimately finish as a success, but exceed budget and schedule targets and fall short of functional goals along the way. On projects like this, somewhere in the midst of report development, things get sticky and tasks fall behind schedule as the team runs into unexpected complexities. Continue reading

Big Data opportunities and NoSQL challenges

As a relational database professional I couldn’t help but feel like something would be lost with the emergence of the new Big Data/NoSQL database management systems (DBMS). After about two years of buzz around the topic, I’m really excited about the emerging possibilities. However, I’m pretty sure we’ll miss the relational model’s strengths in requirements definition and conceptual design. Continue reading

The data quality challenge, in pictures

Data quality in most large organizations is commonly known to be rather lacking.  Most would argue that things haven’t gotten much better since this 2007 Accenture study found that “Managers Say the Majority of Information Obtained for Their Work Is Useless”. To some, quotes like that are shocking, but if you think about how information is processed in most Fortune 1000 sized organizations it is surprising that data available to managers is as good as it is. These slides have been useful in my efforts to explain the persistence of data quality problems in large organizations. Continue reading

A QlikView QuickStart: first steps for learning QlikView desktop

QlikTech’s QlikView reporting and analysis tool is among a new class of Business Intelligence (BI) software tools. As Ben Harden reported in a recent blog post, BI vendors like SAP, Microsoft, and IBM have traditionally sold “to the IT enterprise, but companies like QlikTech and Tableau are targeting the business and bypassing IT. Their tools are quicker to stand up, more intuitive and don’t need the configuration, support, and hardware that the bigger players require.”

A Quick Overview

At first look QlikView is fairly accessible to those experienced with BI tools. A “.qvw” QlikView file contains three classes of user-facing components: a script-based data integration language that runs when the user requests a “reload”, a data modeling component that looks deceptively like a relational data modeling tool, and a familiar array of data visualizations: graphics, charts, lists, etc.

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The gnarly, subtle-seeming data quality question

I’ve posted a couple of articles at my company’s blog site that reflect my view on data quality efforts:

  • Yes, there is a business case for improving data quality, and I’ve got real business value examples. If you look for real money where you anecdotally know there are data quality problems, you’ll likely find it in high costs of data correction and rework, and savings related to business process improvements that reliable data enables.
  • There are distinct things an organization can do to reap benefits of improved data management and data quality.  (1) Get started in the first place, (2) find the tangible benefits, (3) cross the departmental silos that exist in every large organization, and (4) promote sound data management practices.

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Get an early start for on-time data modeling

I’m a data modeler, so I enjoyed Jonathon Geiger’s recent article entitled “Why Does Data Modeling Take So Long”.  But why does he say it like it’s a bad thing?

Mr. Geiger’s bottom line is exactly right: “Most of the time spent developing data models is consumed developing or clarifying the requirements and business rules and ensuring that the data structure can be populated by the existing data sources.”  On the projects he describes, no one took time before modeling to determine available data sources and identify business entities of interest, relationships among them, and attributes that describe them before database design started, so the data modeler had to do it.

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Thoughts after agile training: strengthening values, reducing the cost of honesty, and growing apps

I recently completed ScrumMaster training ably presented by Lyssa Adkins. Throughout the two-day class we appreciated Lyssa’s Zen-like, enabling, style. If her name is familiar, it’s because Ms. Adkins is the author of the book Coaching Agile Teams, one of the leading texts on the subject.

I’ve participated on agile projects, but so far only in a piggish/chickenish role, once in a three-week stint as a consulting architect and twice as the project manager serving as interface to the non-agile organization.

To me Ms. Adkins rocks at making students very introspective and critical of their past project experiences.  These lessons stand out:

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Health care data security: how bad is it?

It is really bad, according to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute (available here with registration). The white paper, entitled Health Data at Risk in Development: A Call for Data Masking, presents the results of a survey of 492 health care IT professionals on their companies’ practices regarding use of live personal health care data in application testing.

It makes a scary read.  Here are the lowlights: Continue reading