Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sponsorship of SQL Saturday #79, What a Great Event!


First, let me just say that I love SQL Server.  We’ve had an intimate and steamy relationship since 1999, version 7.0 that has gone on behind my wife’s back during the middle of many nights that lasted into the hours of many mornings.  I started out in the Data Warehouse Business as a developer using Oracle 7.2 and Informatica for ETL. Back in the mid 90s there simply wasn’t a comparable product from Microsoft, SQL Server was known to be for small databases and DTS was a far cry from a mature ETL tool.  Most clients we dealt with would say you can’t say SQL without SQL Sucks.

I could but anyway the point I am trying to make is no one would dare create an enterprise data warehouse with SQL Server, boy did that change quickly.   From 1999-2000 I have almost exclusively used the Microsoft SQL Server DB engine for reporting databases, operational data stores, and data warehouses.  When I was learning SQL Server, the community for support and questions was not nearly as large and easy to communicate with as today. Twitter, and too many great sites and blogs to mention here were non existent, especially in the middle of night when I learned everything from books by Kalen Delaney (Blog | LinkedIn) or Rob Volk (Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter) from SQLTeam.com.

I couldn’t think of a better event to sponsor to give back to the community and technology that I have grown to love over the last 12 years. My first SQL Saturday amazed me to say the least.  Not only was it organized very well by Scott Klein (LinkedIn | Twitter), Herve Roggero and all the other great folks from the South Florida SQL Server Users Group (SFSSUG) (Twitter | Web) and many volunteers from the South Florida SQL community, but the speakers were phenomenal. I learned more in one day about Azure and Denali that I would have in three months reading on my own.  As a sponsor we had a table in a room and got to introduce the speakers, myself, and what TekPartners BI Solutions is all about and it was great.I had a really good turnout for my educational lunchtime session on what Business Intelligence means, how organizations use it, and what tools in the Microsoft BI stack are used for each layer.  My good friend who is also a great BI Architect Luis Figueroa (Blog |LinkedIn | Twitter told me I should start presenting at events in the future and am definitely thinking about it.The speakers in our room had some very informative sessions to say the least. David Cobb (LinkedIn | Twitter) had a great session on Hyper V and SQL Server Clustering, Michael Antonovich (Blog | LinkedIn ) had a phenomenal session on Powerpivot, Sharepoint, and SSAS (All in 1 hour btw even with a power failure and restart of his laptop), Herve RoggeroAzure MVP (LinkedIn | Twitter) had a really informative session on SQL Azure. It covered how to import data into the cloud and a tool he developed to backup and restore SQL Azure databases.  Geoff Hiten (Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter) had a very advanced session on SQL Denali Always On and was blown away by the information he covered and how far mirroring has come.  Seems like yesterday when Mirroring had just been released and we were saying I’m not trying it, you try it for DR.

All in all a great event and feel very proud that we sponsored it and gave a little back to the SQL community that has provided me a very good career and life for the past 12+ years. I am going to make it a point to get more involved in the SQL Server community going forward.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

PM Tools Session – South Florida PMI-IIBA Event


I had a great time presenting “Business Intelligence with a Hint of Scrum” for the PM Tools session at the South Florida PMI – IIBA event last thursday August 11, 2011. Thank you for the great turnout and never thought it would be a standing room only session!  I will recap for everyone that wasn’t there what was covered and feel free to download the presentation Business Intelligence with a Hint of Scrum here. I began the session introducing myself and my background on Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, a little about TekPartners (www.tekpartnersbi.com) and how we incorporate Scrum into every Business Intelligence project we undertake.  I then gave an overview of Business Intelligence and the major technology areas that it encompasses: Dashboards, Scorecards, KPIs, Self Service BI, BI in the cloud, Operational Data Stores (ODS), Data Warehouses, and OLAP.   Then proceeded with an overview of Scrum and the most common terms that are part of every scrum project: Product Backlog, Release Backlog, Release, Sprint, Burndown Chart, Scrum Master, Features, User Stories, Product Owner, and a few others.  Introduced a tool that we have used on projects called Axosoft Ontime (www.axosoft.com) that has scrum functionality integrated into its core.  We switched gears a bit and jumped into the tool for a demo and showed the audience how powerful and easy it is to use.  Demonstrated the creation of a Project, Product Backlog, Release Backlog (Features), Sprints (Dates and Features), Burndown Charts showing Project Velocity and Estimated Time to Completion, Due Date, Features (updating them), its other email tracking features, and easy reporting on resources, workload, features completed etc. right out of the box. I really enjoyed presenting this session and hope it was educational for everyone that attended.  Thank you for all the positive feedback I received so far I really appreciate it. Any questions about the content or on the tool, please don’t hesitate to email me atasammartino@tekpartners.com.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Metadata – Why Every Organization Needs It


For the last few months I have been leading a metadata project and on more than one occasion I have thought to myself, why doesn’t every company do this?  Metadata has different meanings depending on who you ask but the most common and agreed upon meaning is that it is data about data. Every company has data, and most have a significant amount that has been put together over the years.  Unfortunately, only very few people outside of the developers or database administrators that work directly with the data usually know where to get what, or how to join or piece it all together to make sense out of it.

This is why metadata repositories are so important.  Granted it is not always an easy sell to tell the CIO of a company that he or she needs a project to document their database systems from top to bottom and it is going to take 6-12 months. If the executives could search a repository as easy as they can google something to find out what data is captured by their organization, it might peak their interest.

The Embarcadero ER Studio Enterprise Suite of tools that includes Business Architect and Data Architect make it very easy to document conceptual business entities to logical and physical data models very easily.  The newest feature of the tools are that the repository that stores all of this information now has a portal where users can login through a website and search their metadata repository.  Executives can now find out exactly if they have a particular piece of data for reporting, where it is, who owns it, and whom to see to get access to it.

If executives in your organization are constantly asking for more information, and I am sure they are, and its not quite clear how to obtain it you may want to embark on a metadata project.  Your time to deliver a Business Intelligence solution will be greatly reduced as the discovery phase and time required from the data SMEs will be much smaller.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I am a Project Management Professional

I recently passed the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional Exam and it was not easy.

When I decided to pursue this credential I did not think it would be as difficult as it turned out to be.  The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), which is what the exam is based on for the most part is approximately 400 pages and my first pass at reading this put me to sleep literally after about 80 pages.  The PMBOK defines and goes into great detail how Projects should be done according to the Project Management Institute.

The last part of that sentence is very important because the way you have managed projects for however many years you have, will differ from PMI’s guidelines. Unfortunately they only test you on the way they view how projects should be done and you need to immediately separate yourself from your experience to a certain extent.  This can be very challenging to do and found myself arguing with myself about certain points on more than one occasion, which will do you no good to pass the exam.With a toddler at home and running a BI practice full time, studying in my spare time was not working out well.

I decided to enroll in a training class from the Project Management Training Institute (http://www.4pmti.com), and recommend it as it was an eye opening experience to the breadth and depth of the material covered in the exam.  It was 4 days of 10 hours per day with an hour and a half of homework each night and covered the ~20 Math Formulas, 5 Process Groups, 9 Knowledge Areas, and all 42 Processes that have approximately 3-7 Inputs, and 3-7 Outputs each, which essentially make up most of the material on the exam. Not only do you have to know all of that, you have to understand it all very well. You’ll notice I said “most of the material”. This is because there are other topics covered on the exam that test your experience that are not covered in the PMBOK that make sure you are qualified.

All in all it makes me feel very proud to have this credential as I learned a tremendous amount of things that will help me manage BI projects better, and that was really the goal from the beginning.  If you embark on this journey to achieve the PMP® credential I encourage you to prepare well because the 200 question – 4 hour exam does a very good job of making sure you really know all the material.