Saturday, August 9, 2008

Agile Waterfall

When it comes to developing new features, the level of requirements is on a spectrum. At the one extreme is the Waterfall model. With waterfall, development is a one-way street that progresses from requirements to implementation to testing. At the other extreme is Cowboy coding, which leaves programmers to do what they think is best.

Where your development team falls on this scale depends on how intelligent and capable of seeing the big-picture your developers are. With full requirements, the coders only need to implement what is documented. Whereas, Linux, Google, Apache, MySQL, and many other projects where products of cowboy coders. Ideally, every programmer would be a genius with vision, but that's just not the case.

A happy medium is Agile software development, which can apply the structure of Waterfall to short iterations where developers are given more freedom.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

RIAs 4 B2B & B2C

Shaku Atre wrote an article for DM Review, Does BI Have to be Extroverted, Introverted, or Both?

The main point is that people (consumers, and business users) are familiar with, and expecting to have more power through Rich Internet Applications.

She specifically states, "Providing dynamic, interactive access with rich visualization and RIAs, B2C, B2B and B2E applications will require a robust back-end server with comprehensive access to disparate data, scalability to support millions of people, reliability, security features and improved performance to provide all of this in a matter of seconds."

Time and again I am amazed at how well journalists are able to speak on behalf of InetSoft without knowing we exist.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Intelligent Dimensions

I recently read The ‘intelligence’ in Business Intelligence solutions, written by a Sanjay Shah, who I believe to be the Sanjay Shah who is CEO of Skelta Software, a Business Process Management software and services company.

I'm sure that Mr. Shah was trying to make the case for his firm's consulting services that are able to implement the "intelligent dimensions" that business users need. When I read it, I was thinking in terms of eliminating the middle man and providing these simple data manipulation capabilities directly to the user.

Yes, I'm talking again about End User Data Mashup and I am going to shamelessly describe how my employer's products address the idea of "intelligent dimensions".

The 3 points Sanjay lays out are:
  • Create Intelligent Dimensions by Observation
  • Combine Data from Related Functional Areas
  • Combine Traditionally Different Reports into One
The first is quite simply defining your own grouping. In our product, these are either range columns, simple named groups, or complex named groups. Range columns are just how they sound, a column that groups a range of a scalar value. Simple named groups allow you to drop the distinct values of a field into custom categories you define. Complex named groups allow you to mix these capabilities, and go beyond, defining custom definitions for each bucket.

The second is Data Mashup. I keep saying that you don't need sophisticated ETL for the majority of situations that span data sources, so I won't dwell on it here, again.

The third is the idea behind the interactive visualization dashboards you can build with Style Intelligence. You can use the first two points to prepare sophisticated and actionable datasets, and then build a dynamic interface that allows you to slice and dice this data in various intuitive ways.

Thank you, Mr. Shah, for describing how companies can get the most out of business intelligence. I apologize if the use of our product means you see less consulting revenue.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Innovate on Behalf of the Customer

Product Management is not a new concept, so I spend some time reading up on what others have to say on the topic. As my father often quotes his favorite fortune cookie, "Learn from experience, preferably other people's."

There's a blog on being a good product manager that covers various topics in a no-nonsense way.

Recently, I have been reaching out to customers and talking to them about their experiences with our product, and looking for ways we can improve. The strategy I've been taking is outlined very well in one of Jeff Lash's articles.

Essentially, product features, enhancements and innovations need to be rooted in customer needs, but not a direct implementation of their desires. A product manager has to consider the impact on: development; other customers; and future direction.