Monthly Archives: June 2017

HERE’S THE GUY WE CAN HATE ON

All the social networking, selfies, me-first nonsense started with this guy:

When Philippe Kahn rushed his wife to the hospital to give birth in 1997, he had his camera, his laptop, his phone, and his soldering iron (which just happened to be in the car with his other tools). He wanted to share pictures of the new baby with family and friends immediately, but there was no internet connection in the delivery room. So he spent the labor time figuring out how to send a picture through his phone.

The result was the world’s first camera phone. Because 2,000 people got to see Sophie the day she was born, we now have selfies, Instagram, and citizen journalism.

In 2016 Time Magazine included Kahn’s first camera phone photo in their list of the 100 most influential photos of all time.

How to Budget the Cost of Microsoft Dynamics 365

CRM Blog How to Budget the Cost of Microsoft Dynamics 365

Have you been investigating CRM applications and now you are ready to consider budgeting for one? We have just the tool for you. The CRM Software Blog offers a free, easy, instant way to get an estimate for installation and ongoing costs of Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM).

Here’s how the Dynamics 365 Quick Quote tool works:

Just fill in the brief form with basic information about your company and its CRM needs – number of users, level of support required, and any issues, requirements or questions you may have.

That’s it. With that information, the Dynamics 365 Quick Quote tool will instantly and automatically generate an estimate and send it to you by email. The estimate is of course non-binding and comes with no obligation on your part; it is provided as a convenience to our CRM Software Blog readers.

Along with the estimate, your contact information will be forwarded to only one of our CRM Software Blog members who can answer any of your questions and will work with you on your project if you wish. The referral also comes with no strings attached; it’s purely for your convenience.

You’ll find the “Request Instant Quote Dynamics 365/CRM” bar on the right-hand side of  each page of the  CRM Software Blog.

If you’ve come to the budgeting stage for your CRM software implementation project, why not try the free, fast, easy Quick Quote tool and find out if Microsoft Dynamics 365 will suit your company.

Find a Microsoft Dynamics Partner in your area

By CRM Software Blog Staff Writer, www.crmsoftwareblog.com

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Data analytics startup Sumo Logic raises $75 million as it eyes IPO

 Data analytics startup Sumo Logic raises $75 million as it eyes IPO

Sumo Logic, a company that helps business users analyze log files, announced today that it has raised a $ 75 million series F funding round to keep driving forward. The raise will help power expansion of the company’s product and platform, as well as allowing it to expand its geographic footprint, CEO Ramin Sayar said in an interview.

In particular, the company is looking to improve its AI capabilities, along with its ability to support Internet of Things uses for customers like iRobot, the maker of the Roomba. Sumo Logic will also be expanding its physical presence further into Europe and Asia to meet increased demand.

“With this capital investment, we’re continuing to focus on how do we make it simpler, more cost-effective, and more scalable for users,” Sayar said. “Whether they’re technical users or whether they’re business users, [we want them] to be able to leverage this platform to gain insight into these modern applications, most typically run now on public cloud infrastructures, or those that are running on private and public cloud infrastructures.”

Sumo Logic sells a service that helps businesses more easily find patterns from the activity of their systems. The company’s analytics are designed to help IT operations teams make good decisions about how to maintain the applications and infrastructure in their care. The service also offers threat intelligence to help improve businesses’ security.

Since its last funding round in 2015, Sumo Logic says that it has more than tripled both its annual recurring revenue and its customer count. The company now has more than 1,500 business customers and over 30,000 active users. It is planning to go public, and this raise is a part of that path.

Sapphire Ventures led the round, which also included participation from existing backers like Accel Partners, DFJ Growth, Greylock Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Sutter Hill Ventures. Joining the existing pool of Sumo’s investors is part of Sapphire’s strategy, according to Jai Das, a managing director at the firm.

“We try to go and invest a little bit late and then try to pick or invest in companies that we think can be iconic, standalone, public companies,” he said. “So Sumo definitely fits that in our mind.”

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Higher Ed Faces Global Pressure To Boost Student Success

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $ 30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors Higher Ed Faces Global Pressure To Boost Student Success
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte

Millennials and Mentors stats Higher Ed Faces Global Pressure To Boost Student Success
Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jun 6, 2017]

A highly classified document was just leaked, and it suggests that Russia may have hacked into our voting systems before the election. You could tell the report was “highly classified” because it was marked, “Don’t Show Trump.” – Jimmy Fallon

The NSA contractor who leaked the document is a woman named Reality Winner. When he was asked if he had any contact with the leaker, Trump said, “Nope, I’m TOTALLY out of touch with Reality.” – Jimmy Fallon

Now, all along, Donald Trump has said the entire Russia story is “fake news”. And there is no way to know whether this document that was released was real … other than the fact that the leaker was immediately arrested. “Fake news, real prison.” – Stephen Colbert

The Department of Justice charged a federal contractor named Reality Leigh Winner yesterday with leaking classified materials to the press about Russia’s meddling in the election. This is a confusing story, so let me try to break it down: Reality Winner leaked information about a reality denier who tried to influence the election to support a reality host who is detached from reality. – Seth Meyers

A top-secret NSA report detailed Russian hacking efforts days before the 2016 election. Days before? Come on, Guccifer. That’s poor planning. You can’t leave your hacking to the last minute. Put some thought into it. No one wants an election you just picked up at Walgreens. – Stephen Colbert

It turns out Russia actually hacked the company that makes our voting machines. Which explains why anyone who pressed on “Hillary Clinton” heard a voice go “Try again”. – Jimmy Fallon

After the hackers gained access to the company’s accounts, they then sent “an email to trick local U.S. government employees into opening documents that were ‘invisibly tainted with potent malware’.” OK, they sent it to the poll workers. This is how democracy ends, with a fake email sent to the ancient cat lady manning the polling station at your high school gym. – Stephen Colbert

According to reports, four top law firms have turned down requests from the White House to represent President Trump during the Russia investigation. Man, how guilty do have you to be when a lawyer won’t even take your case? – Seth Meyers

So who really knows who won November 8? I mean, other than Vladimir Putin. I’m a little rusty on my Constitution, but I guess that means … new election? Sure, let’s have another one! Let’s just get the band back together. Somebody find Jeb and wake him up. – Stephen Colbert

A new study found that kids are bullying each other with Donald Trump’s words. The good news is, most kids outgrow Trump’s vocabulary by the time they’re 11. – Conan O’Brien

Trump’s been causing a lot of problems with the things he’s tweeted recently, but the White House says he isn’t concerned with being politically correct. Then they clarified their statement and said he isn’t even concerned about being correct. – Jimmy Fallon

A new report came out and it says that Donald Trump once shifted charitable donations for sick kids into his own business. Trump referred to the charity as the “Take a Wish Foundation”. – Conan O’Brien

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that while schools receiving federal funds must abide by federal civil rights laws, the department will not enter decrees on things like LGBT discrimination. Coincidentally, LGBT is also how Betsy DeVos thinks you spell discrimination. – Seth Meyers

It’s nice to be here in England. After two and a half years of presidential campaigning in America, I was, like, “Where can I go for another bitter, soul-sucking election?” – James Corden

We are here in the beautiful historic Central Hall Westminster. There is so much amazing history in this building. Gandhi spoke here, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech here, and Winston Churchill spoke in this very hall. And despite all that, they still allowed me to do a show here. – James Corden

Yes, there’s a big election coming up this week in the U.K. Actually, this venue is going to be a polling station. Raise your hand if you didn’t even know there was going to be a show here tonight, you were just trying to beat the lines. – James Corden

We talk about Donald Trump almost every night on this show, but I thought when I came here to London I’d finally get away from him for a little while. And then I get here, and who does he start a fight with? The mayor of London! While I’m in the city! He’s following me! – James Corden

Following salmonella outbreaks across the country, the Centers for Disease Control is urging chicken owners to stop snuggling with their birds. Though if you’re snuggling with chickens, salmonella is, like, your fifth biggest problem. – Seth Meyers

There’s a proposed bill in New York that would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for menstrual cramps. Which is why millions of men in New York are now saying “It is my time of the month.” – Conan O’Brien

The owner of the world’s largest private collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia says someone stole $ 200,000 worth of his collectibles. On the plus side, the collector is reporting that his virginity is still in “mint condition”. – Conan O’Brien

The game show “Cash Cab” is coming back to the Discovery Channel! It’s a show where the driver asks passengers questions from the second they get into the car until they reach their destination — or as it’s called now, “Uber”. – Jimmy Fallon

Astronomers are saying that a mysterious signal from space was caused by gas surrounding a comet. Of course, the comet is claiming the gas came from its dog. – Conan O’Brien

After 14 years, the CEO of J. Crew is stepping down. He said he wants to take a Gap year. – Conan O’Brien

share save 171 16 Late Night Political Humor

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Political Irony

Power BI User Security

Power BI continues to evolve with new features! As previously mentioned, Power BI can easily be integrated into your Dynamics CRM/365 org with the use of tiles. Recently, they have introduced a feature which allows you to display an entire Power BI Dashboard in your Dynamics 365 org. With these features, you may have concerns about user security. For instance, will my Dynamics 365 security roles limit what data users can see? To put it simply, the answer is “No”. But keep reading to find out how you can apply security!

Power BI User Security overview

Power BI is a tool that allows companies to display visuals of their data from multiple applications. For this reason, it would be difficult for the service to attempt to understand the underlying security structure behind each source. So how do you apply end user security? Like other applications, Power BI offers its own security features which you can easily apply to the entire dashboard and datasets. As previously mentioned, you can select which users to share your Dashboards to. Most noteworthy, it offers a feature called Row Level Security, or “RLS”, which can be applied to each dataset.

Row Level Security

At a high level, RLS involves a two-step process:

1. Your power user or admin can manage roles within the Power BI Desktop app to apply to your tables. Not seeing this feature? Make sure you have downloaded the latest version of the Power BI Desktop.

PowerBI ManageRoles Power BI User Security

In this example, I’ve created two roles and applied a DAX expression to each. The DAX expression is used to filter data for each role. Your power user or admin can then apply each role to your Tables.

The SalesRep role simply filters data based on Record Owner of the source data = the logged in Power BI user:

PowerBI SalesRepRole Power BI User Security

The SalesManager role filters data based on Record Owner’s Manager = the logged in Power BI user:

PowerBI SalesManagerRole Power BI User Security

2. Once the report is published to the Power BI Service, your power user or admin can apply the roles for each dataset.

Select the dataset -> Security:

PowerBI DataSetSecurity Power BI User Security

Add users to each role:

PowerBI UsersRoles Power BI User Security

When sharing a Dashboard that utilizes RLS behind it’s datasets, the end users will see only what their Power BI role allows. This works whether the Power BI user is viewing the Dashboard from within Power BI or within an external application, such as Dynamics 365.

For more information on RLS, check out this blog on Power BI’s site.

Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution. We also provide expert Managed IT Services, Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cloud Based Computing and Unified Communication Systems.

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Kinetica raises $50 million to provide GPU-powered data insights

 Kinetica raises $50 million to provide GPU powered data insights

Kinetica, which provides businesses and organizations with real-time data analytics, today announced funding of $ 50 million in a series A round, co-led by Canvas Ventures and Meritech Capital Partners. Existing investor GreatPoint Ventures also participated.

The software, which is powered by a graphics processing unit, allows businesses to analyze large feeds of data faster, using machine learning, BI analytics, and visualization. It can be installed on premises or run in the cloud with Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure.

Kinetica charges a yearly subscription based on usage. The San Francisco, California-based startup claims to have several licensed customers in production, including the U.S. Army, the National Security Agency (NSA), PG&E, GlaxoSmithKline, and IronNet Cybersecurity. Use cases range from genomics research to real-time drilling analytics and counterterrorism.

The startup initially developed the product for governmental organizations. In 2009, cofounders Amit Vij and Nima Negahban were hired by the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command and the NSA to create a system to track and capture terrorists in real time.

Other players in the GPU database sphere include SQream, BlazingDB, and MapD Technologies, the last of which recently closed a funding round.

Kinetica will use the fresh capital to hire more people and open new offices — the startup told VentureBeat that it has just opened a new office in Singapore. Founded in 2009, Kinetica has raised a total of $ 63 million and currently has 75 employees.

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Introducing dashboard email subscriptions: a 360-degree view of your business in your inbox every day

Earlier this year, we announced public preview of e-mail subscriptions for report pages in Power BI. Since then, we’ve sent hundreds of thousands of emails to our users, informing them of changes to critical data right as it happens.

Today, I am excited to announce the public preview of email subscriptions fordashboards in the Power BI service. Power BI dashboards pull together reports, images, Excel workbooks, and more, to provide a 360-degree view of your organization in a single pane of glass. Now, you can set up a dashboard subscription in seconds, and that same pane of glass can be delivered to your inbox every day. Keeping tabs on your critical data has never been easier.

Intrigued? Read on for more details. Or, head directly to your favorite dashboards to set up your own subscriptions. Have feedback? We’d love to hear it. Go to the community forums and make your voice heard!

To get started, navigate to a dashboard and select the new Subscribe icon.

7bae9150 d56e 4697 afb3 4843a879eb02 Introducing dashboard email subscriptions: a 360 degree view of your business in your inbox every day

Note: Like report page subscriptions, dashboard subscriptions requires a Pro license.

From there, simply select how often you’d like to receive emails, and you’re done! You will now receive emails with snapshots of the dashboard whenever any of the underlying datasets refreshes – though no more than once every 24 hours.

Tip: If you’re an owner of the datasets underlying the dashboard, you can trigger a refresh on those datasets to immediately get the subscription email. You can do this without ever leaving the dashboard using the view related content feature.

9a044412 f273 42ef a11c d81a3a33d0bf Introducing dashboard email subscriptions: a 360 degree view of your business in your inbox every day

We’re super excited to see what you can accomplish with dashboard subscriptions. On top of this, we have many further improvements planned to email subscriptions as we progress through public preview. These include subscribing others to emails, subscribing to reports with specific slicer and filter states set, as well as subscribing to content from Power BI apps. Excited about the future? Please vote on the associated UserVoice ideas to help us further prioritize our work!

Next steps

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SugarCRM Launches Hint, 1st in Relationship Intelligence Line

SugarCRM on Tuesday launched Hint, the first offering in its new line of relationship intelligence products.

sugar crm SugarCRM Launches Hint, 1st in Relationship Intelligence Line

Hint users can enter a few contact details about a person with whom they want to connect, and Hint automatically will search social sources on the Web for personal and company information.

That data, and other personal and corporate details from a company’s internal files, will be collated and served up to the user in a side-panel view.

“Hint is the building block for future relationship intelligence product offerings, which will go deeper into AI,” said SugarCRM spokesperson Andrew Staples.

Artificial intelligence requires large data sets, and “as Hint evolves, it will allow us to get the data needed and then layer predictive analytics and machine learning on top of that data,” Staples told CRM Buyer.

What Hint Users Get

For sales teams, Hint’s advantage over other CRM vendors’ products is that it lets users select specific data and quickly pull it into the CRM account profile in the context of a particular opportunity they’re working on, Nucleus Research noted.

Further, users can quickly create a new customer profile, and information from the Web can be refreshed automatically, keeping records up to date.

Hint is priced at US$ 15 a month per user. It is compatible with Sugar 7.8 or later.

Hint is SugarCRM’s first purely cloud-based Software as a Service offering, and it could be marketed as a standalone cloud service in the future, Nucleus suggested.

Taking On the Competition

SugarCRM is listed at $ 70 a user a month, so the price with Hint goes up to $ 85 a user a month. Microsoft Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn Sales Navigator costs $ 135 per user per month, Nucleus pointed out.

That said, Microsoft “does provide some built-in coaching, relationship health graphs, and in-mail capabilities that SugarCRM Hint doesn’t,” Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research, told CRM Buyer.

Competition for Hint comes from companies like Hoovers, InsideView, DiscoverOrg and Salesforce, remarked Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“The advantage for SugarCRM is that Hint’s a native product for their CRM solution, which facilitates a faster and automatic data append process,” Zhou told CRM Buyer. “The other solutions require integration with CRM to append the data, and require costly subscription fees.”

Possible Issues

It is likely that SugarCRM customers will understand the depth and breadth of companies and contacts that Hint can append, said Zhou.

They may need to turn to third-party data companies for specialized contacts, she noted. “InsideView and DiscoverOrg are strong in IT contacts, for example.”

Where Relationship Intelligence Is Going

“Relationship intelligence” is SugarCRM’s new name for the Sugar Intelligence Service, which the company unveiled at SugarCON 2016 last June.

At that conference, SugarCRM demonstrated Candace, an AI-powered intelligent agent. Candace is still in development and will be unveiled later, Staples said.

SugarCRM plans to partner with AI offerings from Amazon, Google and other companies rather than build its own AI products. It already integrates with IBM Watson.

“Our customers, and the industry at large, aren’t asking us to build AI,” Staples explained — “they’re asking us to give them the tools to build better business relationships.”

Sugar plans “to innovate on Hint and relationship intelligence quickly,” he added, indicating “there’s a good chance” the company will talk much more about Hint at SugarCON 2017, to be held in late September.

SugarCRM’s vision for relationship intelligence is that it will “guide and assist users in interactions with customers, helping them to plan meetings, build deeper connections, recommend best actions, and respond to late-breaking developments as relationships evolve,” Staples remarked, “at any time on any device.”
end enn SugarCRM Launches Hint, 1st in Relationship Intelligence Line


Richard%20Adhikari SugarCRM Launches Hint, 1st in Relationship Intelligence LineRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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A consulting POV: Stop thinking about Data Warehouses!

What I am writing in here is the materialization of a line of thought that started bothering me a couple of years ago. While I implemented projects after projects, built ETLs, optimized reports, designed dashboards, I couldn’t help but thinking that something didn’t quite make sense, but couldn’t quite see what. When I tried to explain it to someone, I just got blank stares…
Eventually things started to make more sense to me (which is far from saying they actually make sense, as I’m fully aware my brain is, hum, let’s just say a little bit messed up!) and I ended up realizing that I’ve been looking at the challenges from a wrong perspective. And while this may seem a very small change in mindset (specially if I fail in passing the message, which may very well happen), the implications are huge: not only it changed our methodology on how to implement projects in our services teams, it’s also guiding Pentaho’s product development and vision.

A few years ago, in a blog post far, far away…

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post called ”Kimball is getting old”. It focused on one fundamental point: technology was evolving to a point where just looking at the concept of an enterprise datawarehouse (EDW) seemed restrictive. After all, the end users care only about information; they couldn’t care less about what gets the numbers in front of them. So I proposed that we should apply a very critical eye to our problem, and maybe, sometimes, Kimball’s DW, with its star schemas, snowflakes and all that jazz wasn’t the best option and we should choose something else…

But I wasn’t completely right…

I’m still (more than ever?) a huge proponent of the top down approach: focus on usability, focus on the needs of the user, provide him a great experience. All rest follows. All of that is still spot on.
But I made 2 big mistakes:
1.    I confused data modelling with data warehouse
2.    I kept seeing data sources conceptually as the unified, monolithic source of every insight

Data Modelling – the semantics behind the data

Kimball was a bloody genius! Actually, my mistake here was actually due to the fact that he is way smarter than everyone else. Why do I say this? Because he didn’t come up with one, but with two groundbreaking ideas…
First, he realized that the value of data, business-wise, comes when we stop considering it as just zeros and ones and start treating it as business concepts. That’s what the Data Modelling does: By adding semantics to raw data, immediately gives it meaning that makes sense to a wide audience of people. And this is the part that I erroneously dismissed. This is still spot on! All his concepts of dimensions, hierarchies, levels and attributes, are relevant first and foremost because that’s how people think.
And then, he immediately went prescriptive and told us how we could map those concepts to database tables and answer the business questions with relational database technology with concepts like star schemas, snowflake, different types of slowly changing dimensions, aggregation techniques, etc.
He did such a good job that he basically shaped how we worked; How many of us were involved in projects where we were talked to build data warehouses to give all possible answers when we didn’t even know the questions? I’m betting a lot, I certainly did that. We were taught to provide answers without focusing on understanding the questions.

Project’s complexity is growing exponentially

Classically, a project implementation was simply around reporting on the past. We can’t do that anymore; If we want our project to succeed, it can’t just report on the past: It also has to describe the present and predict the future.
There’s also the explosion on the amount of data available.
IoT brought us an entire new set of devices that are generating data we can collect.
Social media and behavior analysis brought us closer to our users and customers
In order to be impactful (regardless of how “impact” is defined), a BI project has to trigger operational actions: schedule maintenances, trigger alerts, prevent failures. So, bring on all those data scientists with their predictive and machine learning algorithms…
On top of that, in the past, we might have been successful at convincing our users that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a couple of hours for that monthly sales report that processed a couple of gigabytes of data. We all know that’s changed; if they can search the entire internet in less than a second, why would they waste minutes for a “small” report?? And let’s face it, they’re right…
The consequence? It’s getting much more complex to define, architect, implement, manage and support a project that needs more data, more people, more tools.
Am I making all of this sound like a bad thing? On the contrary! This is a great problem to have! In the past, BI systems were confined to delivering analytics. We’re now given the chance to have a much bigger impact in the world! Figuring this out is actually the only way forward for companies like Pentaho: We either succeed and grow, or we become irrelevant. And I certainly don’t want to become irrelevant!

IT’s version of the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: Improving both speed and scalability??

So how do we do this?
My degree is actually in Physics (don’t pity me, took me a while but I eventually moved away from that), and even though I’m a really crappy one, I do know some of the basics…
One of the most well-known theorems in physics is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle. You cannot accurately know both the speed and location of (sub-)atomic particle with full precision. But can have a precise knowledge over one in detriment of the other
I’m very aware this analogy is a little bit silly (to say the least) but it’s at least vivid enough on my mind to make me realize that we can’t expect in IT to solve both the speed and scalability issue – at least not to a point where we have a one size fits all approach.
There have been spectacular improvements in the distributed computing technologies – but all of them have their pros and cons, the days where a database was good for all use cases is long gone.
So what do we do for a project where we effectively need to process a bunch of data and at the same time it has to be blazing fast? What technology do we chose?

Thinking “data sources” slightly differently

When we think about data sources, there are 2 traps most of us fall into:
1.    We think of them as a monolithic entity (eg: Sales, Human Resources, etc) that hold all the information relevant to a topic
2.    We think of them from a technology perspective
Let me try to explain this through an example. Imagine the following customer requirement, here in the format of a dashboard, but could very well be any other delivery format (yeah, cause a dashboard, a report, a chart, whatever, is just the way we chose to deliver the information):
Pentaho%2B8%2B %2BPage%2B3 S A consulting POV: Stop thinking about Data Warehouses!

Pretty common, hum?

The classical approach

When thinking about this (common) scenario from the classical implementation perspective, the first instinct would be to start designing a data warehouse (doesn’t even need to be an EDW per se, could be Hadoop, a no-sql source, etc). We would build our ETL process (with PDI or whatever) from the source systems through an ETL and there would always be a stage of modelling so we could get to our Sales data source that could answer all kinds of questions.
After that is done, we’d be able to write the necessary queries to generate the numbers our fictitious customer wants.
And after a while, we would implement a solution architecture diagram similar to this, that I’m sure looks very similar to everything we’ve all been doing in consulting:
Pentaho%2B8%2B %2BPage%2B4 S A consulting POV: Stop thinking about Data Warehouses!

Our customer gets the number he numbers he want, he’s happy and successful. So successful that he expands, does a bunch of acquisitions, gets so much data that our system starts to become slow. The sales “table” never stops growing. It’s a pain to do anything with it… Part of our dashboard takes a while to render… we’re able to optimize part of it, but other areas become slow.
In order to optimize the performance and allow the system to scale, we consider changing the technology. From relational databases to vertical column store databases, to nosql data stores, all the way through Hadoop, in a permanent effort to keep things scaling and fast…

The business’ approach

Let’s take a step back. Looking at our requirements, the main KPI the customer wants to know is:
How much did I sell yesterday and how is that compared to budget?
It’s one number he’s interested in.
Look at the other elements: He wants the top reps for the month. He wants a chart for the MTD sales. How many data points is that? 30 tops? I’m being simplistic on purpose, but the thing is that it is extremely stupid to force ourselves to always go through all the data when the vast majority of the questions isn’t a big data challenge in the first place. It may need big data processing and orchestration, but certainly not at runtime.
So here’s how I’d address this challenge
Pentaho%2B8%2B %2BPage%2B5 S A consulting POV: Stop thinking about Data Warehouses!

I would focus on the business question. I would not do a single Sales datasource. Instead, I’d define the following Business Data Sources (sorry, I’m not very good at naming stuff..), and I’d force myself to define them in a way where each of them contains (or output) a small set of data (up to a few millions the most):
·      ActualVsBudgetThisMonth
·      CustomerSatByDayAndStore
·      SalesByStore
·      SalesRepsPerformance
Then I’d implement these however I needed! Materialized, unmaterialized, database or Hadoop, whatever worked. But through this exercise we define a clear separation between where all the data is and the most common questions we need to answer in a very fast way.
Does something like this gives us all the liberty to answer all the questions? Absolutely not! But at least for me doesn’t make a lot of sense to optimize a solution to give answers when I don’t even know what the questions are. And the big data store is still there somewhere for the data scientists to play with
Like I said, while the differences may seem very subtle at first, here are some advantages I found of thinking through solution architecture this way:
·      Faster to implement – since our business datasources’s signature is much smaller and well identified, it’s much easier to fill in the blanks
·      Easier to validate – since the datasources are smaller, they are easier to validate with the business stakeholders as we lock them down and move to other business data sources
·      Technology agnostic – note that at any point in time I mentioned technology choices. Think of these datasources as an API
·      Easier to optimize – since we split a big data sources in multiple smaller ones, they become easier to maintain, support and optimize  

Concluding thoughts

Give it a try – this will seem odd at first, but it forces us to think differently. We spend too much time worrying about the technology that more than often we forget what we’re here to do in the first place…


-pedro


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Pedro Alves on Business Intelligence