Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kick-start your WebFOCUS enterprise BI projects with expert mentoring

Two Weeks to Better BI!

Engage me for two weeks to shift your BI team into a higher gear. During the first week, I will provide a holistic view of the WebFOCUS enterprise BI product, how the various components work together, details on using the tools, and a proven approach to doing BI application development. In addition to all of the important core topics, I can cover unique issues impacting your organization. In the second week, I will work side-by-side with your BI team to build features of a custom WebFOCUS application.

Qualified WebFOCUS Expert

Having worked with many of the leading WebFOCUS customers, I can demonstrate how they were successful with the product.

I have worked with Information Builders, the software vendor of WebFOCUS, for decades: as an IB customer working in corporate IT; in IB Professional Services (instructor, consultant, and regional manager); in IB Technical Services (regional technical manager); and as a partner.





During these many years, Information Builders have awarded me multiple certifications, including:
  • WebFOCUS Business Analyst Certified Associate
  • WebFOCUS Application Developer Certified Associate
  • WebFOCUS Application Developer Certified Professional 
  • Certified instructor of variety of 4GL language topics
  • Certified instructor of product internals (reporting, maintenance, and database)
  • Certified instructor of advanced database design

Mentoring Topics 

We can customize the actual topics to fit your needs, but I typically cover areas such as:
  • Architecture, history of the product, underlying languages
  • Integration of the product with other technologies (e.g., R, Python, and SQL)
  • Agile project methodology for approaching BI applications

I dive into the WebFOCUS product details such as:
  • Data adapters, metadata (synonyms, Business Views, etc.)
  • Procedures, symbolic variables, scripting (Dialogue Manager)
  • Launch pages, controls, scripting (JavaScript)
  • BI Portal, responsive design, mobile
  • Security (built-in, custom, application-specific)
  • Schedules, distributions, alerts
  • Debugging, handling errors/no-data scenarios, performance optimization

I will cover the WebFOCUS tools such as:
  • BI Portal Designer
  • App Studio (for development of HTML, procedures, metadata, etc.)
  • ReportCaster scheduling and distribution
  • InfoAssist (end-user report writer)
  • Administrative consoles

We will then put all of this learning to good use by starting the development of a custom WebFOCUS application useful to your organization.

Contact Me

Contact me now to schedule an onsite visit: DLautzenheiser@Kencura.com.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Why I Choose WebFOCUS for BI/Analytics


WebFOCUS, the enterprise BI/Analytics platform from Manhattan-based Information Builders, has been around almost as long as the web browser. It's the product of choice not only for many large, global firms, but also for many small-to-medium sized companies.

It's also my BI tool of choice. Here are a few reasons why I'm confident recommending WebFOCUS.

Powerful yet Easy

WebFOCUS provides features for all BI users, both internal and external to the organization. General business users can have intelligence automatically delivered to them or users can open intuitive "InfoApps" on their desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Power business users can build their own sophisticated BI applications using the InfoAssist tool with browser-based GUI drag-and-drop features and share them with others in the "BI Portal." Hardcore technical developers can build complex enterprise BI applications using the Windows IDE called "App Studio."

Scalable

WebFOCUS can scale up, able to run on a variety of platforms based on your current needs. Should your usage volume change, WebFOCUS applications are portable and can be moved up from distributed environments to large mainframes. WebFOCUS can scale out, where servers are organized into load-balanced clusters. Whether you have a small group of twenty users or a global audience of twenty million, WebFOCUS can handle the volume.

Any Data Source

Not only can WebFOCUS run on any platform, it has adapters to read practically any data source. Actually, the sources are not even limited to what you would consider "data." Sources can also be applications (e.g., JD Edwards and SAP) and web services (which might be wrappers for programs written in legacy technologies).

Sitting on top of the data source is a powerful metadata layer that can contain items such as: user-friendly business names, help comments, calculations (mathematical expressions, string manipulation, IF/THEN/ELSE logic, function calls, SQL expressions, etc.), security rules, relational joins, hierarchy/dimensional grouping, and other important data enhancements.

All WebFOCUS tools use the same metadata layer, giving your organization a single version of the truth in all generated content.

Highly Dynamic, Multi-Step Procedures

The WebFOCUS engine interprets users' requests at runtime. A powerful scripting and symbolic substitution feature allows a single procedure to be dynamically changed into tens of thousands different permutations based on input selections and logical conditions. When I do conversions of other technologies, it is not unusual to convert hundreds of related legacy reports (e.g., those written in SAP BO Crystal Reports or WebI) into one single WebFOCUS procedure.

Unlike many BI products, these procedures are not limited to a single data query and formatting step. Instead, WebFOCUS can run sophisticated multi-step processes that branch differently based on user input or specific conditions (such as the day of the week, or whether certain data exist, or whether an event has happened or not).

A WebFOCUS procedure is not limited to just your typical reporting and graphing. Instead, the product provides a full application development language capable of building complex data systems. These BI applications can be extended with other technologies, such as C/C++, Java, R, and Python.

High-Quality Corporate Support and Product Enhancements

It's actually quite hard keeping up with all of the enhancements going into WebFOCUS. Being a privately-held company, Information Builders isn't forced to do things based on quarterly share prices. Instead, they are proud of being able to listen to their customers and coordinate product direction based on what they hear. Their customer support group is world-class and continually winning industry awards.

I'm a Fan

I've seen dozens of successful WebFOCUS enterprise BI implementations and proud to have been personally involved with many of them. If you would like to talk about WebFOCUS, feel free to reach out to me.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

IB Summit 2017 in Grapevine, Texas



Several people have reached out to see if I am attending the IB Summit 2017 the week of June 5th in Grapevine, Texas. Due to projects, I cannot make it this year but perhaps I'll see you there next time. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

IB Summit 2016 Key Events

I'm excited to attend Information Builders' annual user conference in Reno, Nevada, which is just a few weeks away. If you have not registered yet, be sure to do so soon as IB's early-bird pricing offer expires at the end of May 2016.

IB will hold the conference in the newly renovated Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, with sessions starting on Monday, June 13th, and lasting through Friday, June 17th.


For more information and to register, visit the main page here.









Everyone should attend these key events:

Day
General Events
Start
End
Monday, June 13th
Welcome Dinner
19:00
21:00
Tuesday, June 14th
Birds of a Feather Breakfast
07:30
08:30
Tuesday, June 14th
Keynote Session
08:45
12:00
Tuesday, June 14th
WebFOCUS Roadmap
13:30
14:30
Tuesday, June 14th
Analyst, Wayne Eckerson
13:30
14:30
Tuesday, June 14th
Analyst, Boris Evelson
14:45
15:45
Tuesday, June 14th
Analyst, Mark Smith
16:00
17:00
Tuesday, June 14th
Cocktail Reception
17:15
19:00
Tuesday, June 14th
Regional Receptions
19:15
20:15
Wednesday, June 15th
Analyst, Howard Dresner
08:30
09:30
Wednesday, June 15th
Analyst, Lyndsay Wise
11:00
12:00
Wednesday, June 15th
WebFOCUS Roadmap (repeat)
13:30
14:30
Wednesday, June 15th
Offsite Event (Freight House District)
18:00
23:00
Thursday, June 16th
Birds of a Feather Lunch
12:15
13:15
Thursday, June 16th
Ask Gerry (President Q&A)
17:15
19:00


Are you attending Summit 2016? Contact me if you would like to meet there to discuss your BI initiatives.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Rosnet Restaurant Management Solutions Offers Clients WebFOCUS for BI and Analytics

Rosnet in Kansas City, MO, have selected Information Builders' WebFOCUS product to provide their restaurant customers with modern BI and analytics. For more information, see their press release

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Must-See Sessions at IB's WebFOCUS Summit 2015

Information Builders' Summit 2015 is just two weeks ago. When you are there in Kissimmee, Florida, there are several things you must do. 




Here are the general events everybody should attend: 


Day
General Events
Start
End
Sunday, May 31st
Welcome Dinner
19:00
21:00
Monday, June 1st
Birds of a Feather Breakfast
07:30
08:30
Monday, June 1st
Keynote Session
08:45
12:00
Monday, June 1st
WebFOCUS Roadmap
13:30
14:30
Monday, June 1st
Cocktail Reception
17:15
19:00
Tuesday, June 2nd
WebFOCUS Roadmap (repeat)
08:30
09:30
Tuesday, June 2nd
Offsite Event (Universal Studios)
18:45
23:45
Wednesday, June 3rd
Birds of a Feather Lunch
12:15
13:15
Wednesday, June 3rd
Ask Gerry (Q&A)
17:45
19:30


You also don't want to miss any of the presentations by the BI industry analysts:

Industry Analyst Session
Analyst
Day
Start
Systems of Insight: A New Approach to BI to Make Your Big Data Actionable
Boris Evelson
Monday
13:30
In the Age of Analytics, Where Does BI Fit?
Wayne Eckerson
Monday
14:45
What Direction Is the BI Market Heading?
Howard Dresner
Monday
16:00
Data Monetization: From Data as a Service to Value-Added Content
Dan Vesset
Tuesday
08:30
Make a Bigger Impact With Better Metrics
Cindi Howson
Tuesday
09:45
The Big Deal in Big Data and Internet of Things is Analytics and BI
Mark Smith
Tuesday
11:00
Five Best Practices for BI
Lyndsay Wise
Tuesday
13:30


For more information, see Information Builders' Summit 2015 webpage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WebFOCUS Hyperstage for BI Columnar Database

For a client, I researched Information Builders' columnar database offering called Hyperstage. If you are a WebFOCUS customer, Hyperstage may be a cost-effective way to improve BI performance without special hardware, design, or administration.

This is a WebFOCUS-integrated database based upon technology from InfoBright (previously known as Brighthouse). Information Builders calls Hyperstage a "load-and-go," high-performance, highly scalable database that is simple to implement, use, and maintain.

Like other database adapters, Hyperstage is an add-on product integrated into the WebFOCUS Reporting Server, uses standard metadata, and is administered through the server console.

While relational databases store data organized into two-dimensional tables containing rows and columns, Hyperstage is designed to store together serialized values of each particular column. Rather than retrieve entire rows, a columnar database only reads the necessary columns.

This approach has proven useful for BI systems which need quick access to small subsets of data. Columnar databases in generate are optimized for analytic queries which ask questions about the data (e.g., aggregations and trends) rather than displaying records from the data.

Hyperstage organizes columns into "Data Packs" which are compressed to reduce the physical size of the database. While columnar data compressions of 10:1 ratios are common, an IB resource says one client obtained a 45:1 compression rate.

For faster retrieval, Hyperstage caches the Data Packs into memory. Hyperstage optimizes data access using an in-memory metadata layer known as the "Database Knowledge Grid." This feature helps eliminate the need for typical performance improvement techniques such as indexes, partitions, and materialized views.

Hyperstage uses an open-source relational database (either MySQL or PostgreSQL) and adds its own layers for improved data storage and query optimization. The WebFOCUS Hyperstage adapter will transform BI requests into optimized SQL queries. Queries that cannot be optimized by Hyperstage are handled by the relational database engine.

While the WebFOCUS language does not currently support a "HOLD FORMAT HYPERSTAGE" option, we should be able to easily replicate this feature with a small custom utility.

For example, many of my clients have nightly batch processing to load special BI databases for fast dashboard access. For Hyperstage, we might simply take some of those existing flat import files and use them as the input to a Hyperstage bulk load process.

Using the WebFOCUS language, we can develop a simple procedure to read the flat file's metadata and generate two SQL routines:

• CREATE command to initialize a Hyperstage structure (using ENGINE=BRIGHTHOUSE)
• LOAD DATA INFILE to bulk-load the Hyperstage structure


You can download my prototype of this WebFOCUS utility from my GitHub account.

Do you see places where Hyperstage might be of use within your organization? Let me know if I can be of service. 

About Me

My photo

I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.