Tag Archives: Business intelligence

Interesting Links #4

These seem to get longer and longer. A whole pile of links for you.

Management and Organisational Behaviour

How Serving Is Your Leadership? – Who is working for who here?

Be a Manager – “The only reason there’s so many awful managers is that good people like you refuse to do the job.”

I’m the Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me? – Because your team will be more productive… Here are some pointers.

Software Development

Technical debt 101 – Do you think you know what technical debt is and how to tackle it? Even so I’m sure this article has more you can discover and learn. A must read.

Heisenberg Developers – So true. In fact this hits a little close to home since we use JIRA, the bug tracking tool mentioned in the article.

What is Defensive Coding? – Many think that defensive coding is just making sure you handle errors correctly but that is a small part of the process.

Need to Learn More about the Work You’re Doing? Spike It! – So you are an agile shop, your boss is demanding some story estimates and you have no idea how complex the piece of work is because it’s completely new. What do you do?

Software Development with Feature Toggles – Don’t branch, toggle instead.

Agile practices roundup – here are a number of articles I’ve found useful recently:

How to review a merge commit– Phil dives into the misunderstood world of merge commits and reviews. Also see this list of things to look out for during code reviews.

Functional Programming

Don’t Be Scared Of Functional Programming – A good introduction to functional programming concepts using JavaScript as the demonstration language.

Seamlessly integrating T-SQL and F# in the same code – The latest version of FSharp.Data allows you to write syntax checked SQL directly in your F# source and it executes as fast as Dapper.

Railway Oriented Programming – This is a functional technique but I’ve recently been using it in C# when I needed to process many items in a sequence, any of which could fail and I want to collect all the errors up for reporting back to ops. It is harder to do in C# since there are no discriminated unions but a custom wrapper class is enough.

Erlang and code style – A different language this time, Erlang. How easy is programming when you don’t have to code defensively and crashing is the preferred way of handling errors.

Twenty six low-risk ways to use F# at work – Some great ways to get into F# programming without risking your current project.

A proposal for a new C# syntax – A lovely way to look at writing C# using a familiar but lighter weight syntax. C#6 have some of these features planned but this goes further. Do check out the link at the end of the final proposal.

Excel-DNA: Three Stories – Integrating F# into Excel – a data analysts dream…

Data Warehousing

Signs your Data Warehouse is Heading for the Boneyard – Some interesting things to look out for if you hold the purse strings to a data warehouse project. How many have you seen before?

The 3 Big Lies of Data – I’ve heard these three lies over and over from business users and technology vendors alike. Who is kidding who?

Six things I wish we had known about scaling – Not specifically about data warehouses but these are all issues we see on a regular basis.

Why Hadoop Only Solves a Third of the Growing Pains for Big Data – You can’t just go and install a Hadoop cluster. There is more to it than that.

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning – Finally it looks like we can have a simple way of doing cloud scale data mining.

Data Visualization

5 Tips to Good Vizzin’ – So many visualizations break these rules.

Five indicators you aren’t using Tableau to its full potential – I’ve seen a few of these recently – tables anyone?

Create a default Tableau Template – Should save some time when you have a pile of dashboards to create.

Building a Tableau Center of Excellence – It is so easy to misunderstand Tableau which is not helped by a very effective sales team. This article has some great advice for introducing Tableau into your organisation.

Beginner’s guide to R: Painless data visualization – Some simple R data visualization tips.

Visualizing Data with D3 – If you need complete control over your visualization then D3 is just what you need. It can be pretty low-level but its easy to produce some amazing stuff with a bit of JavaScript programming.


I Don’t Have Time for Unit Testing – I’ve recently been guilt of this myself so I like to keep a reminder around – you will go faster if you write tests.

Property Based Testing with FsCheck – FsCheck is a fantastic tool primarily used in testing F# code but there is no reason it can’t be used with C# too. It generates automated test cases to explore test boundaries. I love the concise nature of F# test code too especially with proper sentences for test names.

Analysis Services

I’ve collected a lot of useful links for Analysis Services, both tabular and multidimensional:

DAX Patterns website – This website is my go-to resource for writing DAX calculations. These two are particularly useful:

Using Tabular Models in a Large-scale Commercial Solution – Experiences of SSAS tabular in a large solution. Some tips, tricks and things to avoid.


Interesting Links #3

Latest links for easy consumption over the May long weekends – I missed out on March so have dropped some of the less interesting ones to keep the list short.

Organisational Behaviour

Programmers, Teach Non-Geeks The True Cost of Interruptions – a simple way to show to your boss how drive-by-management kills programmer productivity. Also work reading Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule which highlights the differences. If this is still a problem then this notice might be your only solution

The Death Of Expertise – The Dunning-Kruger effect is often strong in semi-technical managers especially in industries where confidence plays a large part in success such as finance. This article discusses some of the problems related to treating all opinions as equal and ignoring experts.

Save Your Software from the Start: Overcoming Skewed Thinking in the Project Planning Stage – Very simply, why we always underestimate the true complexity and cost of a project plus some tools to help overcome these psychological effects.

Why Good Managers Are So Rare – Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units.

I Give Up: Extroverted Barbarians at the Gates – Anyone remember the “perpendicular transparent red lines” video doing the rounds? This is an on-the-nail deconstruction of what is happening and why it happens. If you are an introvert then this other post might feel very familiar to you.


Coconut Headphones: Why Agile Has Failed – A rant about how modern agile methodologies seem to only consist of management practises. Take note of the end points to being successful.

The death of agile? – Additional comment on the above. 

Writing User Stories for Back-end Systems – The real functionality a user sees in a business intelligence project is quite small and can easily be described in a few words. This makes breaking up user stories into sprint sized chunks hard. This article gives some great advice that can be translated to BI projects. 

Design Your Agile Project, Part 1 – So how do you pick the right kind of agile project? When should you use Kanban and when should you use Scrum? How is the business side of equation handled? Also Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Large Agile Framework Appropriate for Big, Lumbering Enterprises – A perfect solution to doing agile in finance organisations (wink). Love the concept of ‘Pair Managing’.

Metrics that matter with evidence-based management – Its long but Martin does a great job looking at lots of the metrics in use today, why their use is limited and a far better approach to designing metrics that really help.


Is ETL Development doomed? – “Long term, the demand for ETL skills will decline”. The demand will mutate into one for more abstract ETL capabilities.


Intro to Unit Testing 9: Tips and Tricks – A handy list of tips that can make maintaining unit test code a little easier.

FsCheck + XUnit = The Bomb – Even if you write code in C# it may be wise to think about writing unit tests in F# since the code is more concise, easier to read and with FxCheck can find things you might not.

Data Visualization

5 Tips to Good Vizzin’ – Should be required reading for anyone who is thinking about creating dashboards in Tableau.

A Natural Approach to Analytics – This explains why using tools such as Tableau for largely static dashboards is a waste of time. Users need to interact with the data in a way they cannot do when relegated to dashboard consumers.

Big Data/Hadoop

Modern Financial Services Architectures Built with Hadoop – Hortonworks looks at big data in financial services.

Beyond hadoop: fast queries from big data – I think Hadoop might be catching up here but it is still a bit of an elephant compared to SQL Server/Oracle etc when it comes to raw query performance.

Don’t understand Big Data? Blame your genes! – 5 common errors for dealing with big data.

The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis – Big data answers are not always correct. This paper looks at some of the pitfalls.

No, Hadoop Isn’t Going To Replace Your Data Warehouse – More thoughts on modern data architectures and hybrid transactional/analytical processing.


Interesting Links #1

Since I manage to read so much on the train I think readers will find some of the articles useful so I plan on listing up the best ones each month.

Business Intelligence




Development Process

Personal Development

Organisational Behaviour

  • The Open-Office Trap – New Yorker article rounding up all the research done one open space workplace productivity. Some interesting results among the expected ones.
  • Can-Do vs. Can’t-Do Culture – “The trouble with innovation is that truly innovative ideas often look like bad ideas at the time.” Next time you are thinking why something won’t work, take a moment to consider if you are stopping innovation.
  • Don’t interrupt developers – Absolutely nails why you should not interrupt developers.
  • Are Your Programmers Working Hard, Or Are They Lazy? – “the appearance of hard work is often an indication of failure” – a must read for both developers and managers.

Risk Driven Architecture

Architecture shares something with testing in that resources are limited so effort is best directed toward maximising risk reduction.

The amount of ‘architecture’ in a solution should also reflect the risk associated with a project. For example the sample solution I’m creating carries almost no risk apart from my pride so a light touch is warranted.

However in a real solution what are the major risks? Where should we concentrate our efforts? Below are some of the common risks associated with business intelligence projects:

  • Unclean data e.g. Key pathologies – see later post.
  • Unreliable sources – how are failed connections, retries and duplicates handled?
  • Data volumes – what are the expected peak volumes? What will happen if these peaks are exceeded?
  • Latency requirements – can data be supplied to users fast enough? What is the business cost of delays?
  • Testability – how testable is the solution? How long can you keep going before technical debt catches up with you?
  • History and archive – in my experience most source systems don’t keep a full fidelity history so it ends up being the data warehouse’s responsibility.
  • Staying agile – unfortunately many problems with business intelligence solutions are due to an inability to change things; once users, reports, spread-sheets, and ETL code depend on data warehouse schemas or cube designs the whole thing becomes very difficult to change.
  • Disaster recovery – what happens when your server dies? Network fails? Data centre fails?
  • Scalability – what are your expected user loads? what happens if they are exceeded? are there any events that could cause your user load to be drastically exceeded?
  • Usability – how will your users interact with the system? how much training will they need? what if they need help? how can you make the solution easier to use?

“Agile architecture is the art of constraining a solution in order to optimise competing stakeholder concerns whilst maximising the number of options for future design decisions.” – James Snape (just now)

So to be agile lets just concentrate on the risks and try to not be too prescriptive over the final solution. Everything else can generally be quickly changed if it doesn’t work out.