Friday, April 29, 2011

IBI and IBM Talk Mainframe

On the 11th of May, 2011, Information Builders CEO Gerry Cohen will be the featured speaker on an IBM webinar presenting his thoughts on the future of the mainframe.

Also speaking will be Leo Porter-Lee, a senior technical analyst at Chubb. Moderator for the event will be Doug Rock, the publisher of IBM Systems Magazine, from MSP TechMedia.

For more information or to register for the event, see their web invitation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

IBI Summit 2011 FAQs

Information Builders has posted a list of frequently-asked questions about Summit 2011 in Dallas, Texas, on their website.

For example, IBI answers some important questions about the evening events:

  • Sunday night (June 12th): Welcome Reception
  • Monday night (June 13th): Cocktail Reception 
  • Tuesday night (June 14th): Off-Site Event 
  • Wednesday night (June 15th): President's Reception (Ask Gerry) 

If like past events, you will also be invited on Monday night to a Regional Cocktail Receptions following the general reception. Each of the Information Builders' field sales force regions will gather their customers and provide a smaller networking event somewhere in the Hilton Anatole.

The details of the off-site event are still being kept quiet under lock and key. But here is what I can share (don't tell anybody where you heard it): it will be a fun location near Dallas that can hold about a thousand people. It will probably have a big Texan theme and offer enough different activities to satisfy a variety of personalities.  

Myself, I am rooting for a rip-roaring rodeo with a Texas barbeque.

I would not be surprised if there is boot-scooting music involved (not to mention a photo opportunity between you and a big steer!). 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Summit 2011 Give-Away

If you were at Information Builders' Summit 2010 in Orlando, Florida, you may remember that Partner Intelligence gave away a pair of Bose headphones.

For this year's event in Dallas, Texas, we chose what I think is another great prize: an Amazon Kindle 3 electronic book reader.

I actually bought one for myself just to make sure we were making the right decision!

To be eligible to win, just stop by the Partner Intelligence booth in the vendor area sometime between Monday, June 13th, and Wednesday, June 15th, and sign one of our registration slips.

You cannot miss us; you will pass our booth not only as you look for the Welcome Reception's open bar but also everyday as you head for the breakfast and lunch buffet lines. So when you think of free drinks and food, think of Partner Intelligence (but only during the Summit; otherwise, it should be "when you think of BI, think of PI"). 

We will randomly pick the lucky winner at the end of the user conference event. I am thinking that it could very well be you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reflections on Life in the Cloud

If you are interested in web-enabled applications using data stored in the cloud, see an article on my general BI blog

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WebFOCUS Difference Between DEFINE and COMPUTE

If you have ever interviewed for a WebFOCUS developer position, you have heard this: "What is the difference between DEFINE and COMPUTE?"  It is a simple question, but surprisingly there are many who cannot articulate a good response.

This question serves the same purpose as the college English 101 class. It immediately knocks out people who should not even be sitting in the room.

Both DEFINE and COMPUTE are phrases used in the WebFOCUS 4GL computer language to perform  calculations. These are robust commands that can be logical (IF-THEN-ELSE phrase), mathematical (such as calculating percentages), comparisons, or calls to other programs (such as user-written subroutine).

So if both do calculations, why are there two of them?

When you create a calculation using the DEFINE statement, WebFOCUS will perform it on every record that meets your selection criteria (an IF or WHERE test). So if you have one million sales transactions and are aggregating them by month, the DEFINE calculation will happen one million times.

On the other hand, WebFOCUS performs the COMPUTE calculations only after its sorting and aggregation steps have finished. So WebFOCUS would first sum your one million records into twelve months and then perform the COMPUTE twelve times.

The DEFINE happens on every detail database record while the COMPUTE is on each aggregated result line. Your next question is, when would you use one over the other?

The common response deals with efficiencies. If you can get the same results performing a calculation one million times versus doing it just twelve times, you want to use the one with the least amount of work involved. That makes your BI reports run faster and more efficiently.

Another common but less valid response is: "if you get the same results either way, just always use DEFINE." That is the non-thinking person's answer.

The real answer is you use either COMPUTE or DEFINE when you must. Sometimes, you must be at the detail record level in order to perform a calculation. Sometimes, you must work with the aggregated values.

One example would involve percentages. You can never calculate ratios and then add them together (at least, not if you want to show correct figures).

Take these three students, their individual grades, and their very small class total:

  • Bob: 24 out of 25 questions (24/25 = 96%)
  • Ted: 23 out of 25 questions (23/25 = 92%)
  • Sue: 20 out of 25 questions (20/25 = 80%)
  • Class Total: 67 out of 75 (67/75 = 89.3%)

If you were to just sum the three detail averages to get a class total, you would get 268% (96% + 92% + 80%), which is not correct. Therefore, you would not use a DEFINE statement to calculate these percentages and then sum them together--you would get the wrong ratio.

Instead, you could use a COMPUTE phrase to summarize the details by class and then calculate the results. The COMPUTE will provide you with the summary figures of 67 divided by 75 for the right ratio of 89.3%.

Of course, handling this single interview topic properly will not get you that WebFOCUS job. It will, however, give you a chance to answer more than one question. 

About Me

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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.