Category Archives: Uncategorized

Agile Business Intelligence Architecture

I used to regularly write a blog over at based on my experiences with a number of topics at Microsoft. Since moving to BNP Paribas I haven’t had much to say publically beyond posting a few photos and I’d like to change that.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been practising agile business intelligence in my role as a solution architect. My team work on user stories from a prioritised backlog in two week iterations, practise test driven development, continuous integration and are beginning to look at acceptance test driven development.

Even with all these techniques it is still very difficult to be truly agile with business intelligence solutions –interrelated requirements, complex database schemas, poor agile tool support and the skill set of most business intelligence developers are all forces trying to turn your project back towards the waterfall dark side.

All the time there is an ever louder call from the business for instant answers to their business questions.

So I’ve begun  to wonder, how agile can you get? Can you create traditional and modern business intelligence solutions using the same agile processes that normal software teams use? Can solution architecture be lean and risk driven?

I’m influenced by quite a varied set of development jobs – broadcast and media at Sony, telecoms and call centres at Exony, all sorts at Microsoft and now banking. I’ve learned that clean code, good domain modelling and testing is the only way to be successful.

Obviously I can’t talk about my day job as I’m bound by employee confidentiality but I do want  to try out some ideas in a public arena where I can get feedback. I’m going to make up a set of requirements for a completely different industry to banking – healthcare; which I’ll setup in a future article.

So comments always welcome as are suggestions for future posts and I look forward to publishing some useful content.

RJR Consulting Web Site Design

RJR Consulting ThumbnailOver the past few weeks I’ve been working on a web site for my cousin. This was a ground up redesign of his company web to replace the old SEO unfriendly Flash site.

Normally as the developer I only get someone else’s completed design; I just do the implementation but I wanted to see if any of my recent photography and image editing skills were transferable.

The site was first designed in Illustrator/Photoshop with a fair number of round trips to agree the final design. Implementation was done in Expression Web using HTML, CSS and some JQuery for interactivity. There are no anywhere on the site; it is a pure CSS layout. I also used Expression Web “Dynamic Web Templates” for the master page layout as the server where it is now hosted does not support .NET.

Some things I’ve learned from doing this:

  • jQuery makes life easy and Glimmer makes it even easier
  • IE8 standards support is fantastic but way to many still use IE6/7 to use it
  • You need to have an idea of what is possible in HTML before letting loose in Photoshop
  • background-image is your friend

As it is all pretty static at the moment there are plans to move to a site that supports .NET so I can add some more features, in particular a blog and news feed. I would like to try this in ASP.MVC to get some experience there.

So go to RJR Consulting and have a look around (especially if you need telemarketing, telesales or similar services).

Using Integration Services to populate a Date Dimension

Every data warehouse needs a date dimension and at some point it needs to be populated. Most use some sort of a SQL script that loops though the dates and add rows to the destination table but this is pretty slow to execute. You might even try cross joining a year, month and day temporary tables to produce a set based solution but don’t forget to filter out the illegal days.

I prefer to fill my date tables by generating the correct stream of values from a SQL Server Integration Services script source component. This has a number of benefits:

  • It executes very quickly
  • The data can be bulk loaded
  • CultureInfo supplies the correct translations of day and month names
  • It is easy to add custom columns such as fiscal years and quarters

I haven’t wrapped this in a pre-compiled component as it is so easy to do in script from. Also, I haven’t got around to generalizing the fiscal date offsets for different companies so they usually have to be custom coded.

Script Component TypeFirst drop a “Script Component” onto your Data Flow.

Select “Source” as the Script Component Type and click OK.

Then double-click the newly added component to edit the properties.

Note that you need to add the correct output columns before adding the script or else it won’t compile.

Output Columns

I’ve renamed the output here to “Dates” to help further down the Data Flow.

Click the “Add Column” button to add new columns as show here. Note that I’ve also changed the data type of each column to match my source table. It required casts in script but it’s easier than conversions in the data pipeline.

Finally go back to the script part of the dialog and click the “Edit Script” button to launch Visual Studio for Applications.

In the resulting window, add your code to generate the date stream to the CreateNewOutputRows() function.
The general form is of:

var output = this.DatesBuffer;  // Get the output buffer

while (/*loop though your dates*?)


    // Set the various column values e.g.
    output.CalendarYear = date.Year

    // Increment the date
    date = date.AddDays(1);

The full script is in the attached sample package where I’ve also added a script destination that does nothing with the data. Attach a data viewer to see what output is generated.

Generated outputFrom here you can manipulate the data, and pipe it to your dimension table from within the pipeline. (27.08 KB)