Monday, April 30, 2012

Take a Flat Friend to IBI Summit 2012 (Flat Gerry, that is)

Information Builders doesn't limit innovation and creativity to just producing software products like WebFOCUS.

No, they even apply it to their annual users' group conferences.

Jake Freivald, VP of Marketing, announced today a special "Flat Gerry" theme in preparation to IBI sending each Summit attendee a special gift in the mail. 

If you are attending the iWay and WebFOCUS annual event in June, you probably got this message from Jake: 
Flat Stanley, Jeff Brown’s popular children’s book is about a young boy who is flattened by a bulletin board. But he discovers some real advantages to being flat: he can slide under doors, fit between sidewalk grates, and be mailed anywhere in the world for an exciting adventure.
"Not-So Flat Gerry"Well, there’s a new flat guy in town – Flat Gerry, a paper cutout of our CEO Gerry Cohen. And he’s coming to visit you soon in the US Mail.
While he’s your guest, we’d like you to produce a short video featuring Flat Gerry. 
You can show Flat Gerry learning about your organization and how you use our products. You can invite him to sit in on a team meeting. Heck, maybe he'd like to see the sights in your city!  All we ask is that you have fun and be creative. With permission, a selection of videos will be shown during the Summit 2012 keynote presentation.

Get your crayons and cameras ready!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Presentation: Avoiding BI Blunders

NOTE 2012 May 1st: Dates and times originally shown here have changed! See a later blog for more updates.

Be sure to mark your calendar for Sunday, June 3rd.

That is the day that I present at Information Builders' Summit 2012 in Orlando, FL. If you are attending, please come to my informative and fun (perhaps to the point of irreverent) session on how to avoid the big mistakes made building BI dashboards with WebFOCUS.

You will hear about using Agile techniques for BI application development and learn how to watch out for the common mistakes.

Below is the IBI agenda summary (click on the link for the complete agenda):

Avoiding Big BI Blunders: How to Run a Successful WebFOCUS Dashboard Project

Doug Lautzenheiser, Partner Intelligence
Tech Level: Getting Started
Sunday 3:15PM - 4:15PM
Executives, project managers, and technical developers will discover how to avoid common blunders involving WebFOCUS business intelligence (BI) dashboards. Core foundations required before a BI initiative is initiated will be identified, and the key ingredient to "clarity" will be explained. Personal experience with tools such as low-fidelity mock-ups will be shared, and concepts such as the Magic Triangle, the Planning Fallacy, and the Versioned Release Schedule will be discussed.

If you have any questions, let me know.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Harry Potter for WebFOCUS BI Magic

Information Builders just announced their Summit 2012 offsite event for Tuesday evening, June 5th: Universal's Islands of Adventure. The event includes dinner, drinks, and five hours of rides.

Here is the summary:
Join the battle of good versus evil above the streets of Marvel Super Hero Island®. Get splash happy with your favorite cartoon characters in the water rides of Toon Lagoon®. Come face to face with the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park®. Venture through the mists of time as you experience the epic adventures of The Lost Continent®. And step right into the pages of the children’s books of Dr. Seuss in Seuss Landing™. Islands of Adventure is the stuff legends are made of. 
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Islands of Adventure. Pass through the towering Hogwarts™ castle gates and explore the familiar passageways, classrooms and corridors. Visit the shops of Hogsmeade™, including Honeydukes™Zonko's Joke ShopOllivanders™ and more. Dine at the Three Broomsticks™. Plus experience new pulse-pounding rides including Dragon Challenge™Flight of the Hippogriff™ and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, a state-of-the-art attraction that brings the magic, characters, and stories of Harry Potter™ to life in ways never before imagined. 

For more information, see IBI's page or go directly to Universal's page

Monday, April 9, 2012

IBI Announces Release of WebFOCUS 8.0

David Sandel, Senior VP of Information Builders' Business Intelligence Division, announced today that IBI has made available the much anticipated WebFOCUS Release 8.0.00 product. This covers all of the components: WebFOCUS Reporting Server, the WebFOCUS Web Client and its associated tools, Developer Studio, and the WebFOCUS ETL product DataMigrator.

David made the following statement:
Release 8.0.00 is a strategic release that includes significant new features and architectural enhancements across the product line. As such, release availability will be managed and Information Builders has augmented its customer support services to include a new process to help customers prepare for installation, configuration, and migration activities. If you are interested in upgrading to Release 8.0.00, please contact your local account team to start the process and obtain software download information. As we obtain feedback from the first adopters of Release 8.0.00, it is anticipated that new service packs will be provided approximately every six to eight weeks through 2012.

It looks like the long wait for WebFOCUS 8 has been worth it. Here is a list of the new features:

  • Unified Architecture and new Managed Reporting Security Model
  • WebFOCUS Reporting Server Core Technology and Adapters (e.g., Big Data support for Hyperstage)
  • Active Technologies (new HTML5/JavaScript charting engine)
  • WebFOCUS Developer Studio enhanced and integrated with new architecture
  • Business Intelligence Portal (replacement for the WebFOCUS BI Dashboard)
  • InfoAssist integration with BI Portal and new architecture
  • Mobile BI (HTML5 features for Apple iPad/iPhone and Android devices)
  • Legacy User Interfaces replaced
  • DataMigrator enhanced for Big Data loads and data cleansing 
  • Magnify for BI applications with search capabilities
  • RStat predictive analytics templates for marketing

Of course, most major architectural changes require existing customers to basically export legacy applications and import them into the new product. WebFOCUS 8 comes with just such migration tools to help customers move from one architecture to another and IBI is offering assistance with the task:
The tools are designed to migrate standard WebFOCUS environments. Migration efforts involving customizations and extensions applied to WebFOCUS 7.x environments will require engagement with Information Builders Worldwide Customer Support Services and Professional Services organizations.

If you want to learn more about WebFOCUS 8, be sure to come to the annual users group Summit in Orlando in June. See this article (and especially this one) for more information. 

Understanding WebFOCUS BI Images

If you are just buying the WebFOCUS BI product from Information Builders, you need to understand "images" and work them into the initial deal.

Organizations that build software applications will typically have multiple environments to separate different software life-cycle development tasks. Except for some minor differences, these logical work-space separations will be mirror-images of each other. 

At a minimum, companies will isolate Production from Development. Then, they implement formal processes for fully testing newly developed software features and promoting them properly into Production. This protects the business applications from failing due to improper changes. Developers are not allowed to directly monkey around with Production applications.

Being a full application development product, WebFOCUS also requires multiple images. 

In addition to Production and Development images for WebFOCUS, most companies also have Disaster Recovery images in the event of a catastrophic event that brings down Production. Should that unlikely event happen, companies switch over to their DR environments. Typically, the DR image is considered a non-used software copy and included with the Production purchase.

Many companies will also have a Sandbox image; a safe environment isolated from all other users so that the system administration team can properly test new versions and configurations of the software product. 

Instead of moving directly from Development to Production, most companies have an intermediate staging area called "Production QA" or "User Acceptance Testing" where business users can test out newly developed features before approving them into the Production environment. This separate area ensures that business testing and demonstrations will not be impacted by developers. 

Organizations without a PQA/UAT environment are forced to coordinate time between developers and users in the same environment to make sure everything remains stable (which usually means the developers must stop working on certain features or altogether). 

In summary, many companies have the following WebFOCUS images which are stand-alone:

  • Disaster Recovery
  • Sandbox 

Companies also have "promotable" images that exist in a chain for software development:
  • Development 
  • Test 
  • Production QA 
  • Production 

For very large projects (such as mainframe platform migrations and modernizations), some companies might set up multiple development images to avoid conflict between multiple IT teams. This would isolate the various development and testing work efforts being done and prevent conflict. 

Each WebFOCUS image can be configured differently. Of course, each would typically point to different code repositories and, potentially, different database images. For example, the PQA/UAT environment might point to a full version of the Production database for full volume testing while the Development environment might point to smaller test databases.

If you are using the Micro Focus Enterprise Server, you probably have multiple "regions" in that product as well. Each WebFOCUS image may be assigned to be used with a specific Micro Focus region. You could configure the Micro Focus to WebFOCUS interface differently for each environment.

If you have not yet purchased WebFOCUS from IBI, now is the time to negotiate getting these extra images as part of the initial sale. If you have already paid for WebFOCUS without images, then you may have less of a bargaining chip. 

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.