Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to Ask Smart BI/Analytics Questions

Many people rush when posting a "how-to" question on a software vendor case, a LinkedIn group, or some other web forum, as well as when sending an e-mail question to associates. Getting a good answer to the question can be dramatically improved by first properly structuring the request.

For a great article on how to ask smart questions, see author Eric Raymond’s article on that topic. Eric has written several well-known books on open-source software and the Linux operating system, one of his most famous being “The Cathedral and the Bazaar.”

Eric advocates that “Google is your friend” and you must always search before asking for help. 

He recommends that, before posting a question in a web forum, you try to find the answer yourself by going through these steps:

  1. Search the archives of the forum to which you plan to post
  2. Search the web
  3. Read the manual
  4. Read a FAQ
  5. Inspect or experiment
  6. Ask a skilled friend
  7. If you're a programmer, read the source code (e.g., the WebFOCUS JavaScript engine)

Eric also makes the point that “All diagnosticians are from Missouri,” meaning that the people reading your answer will ask you to “Show me your problem’s symptoms in chronological sequence.” 

Following Eric's advice should help you get answers to your BI/Analytics questions.

Have you been frustrated by people asking for help (or perhaps, have you found yourself guilty of asking vague questions)? 

About Me

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I am a project-based consultant, helping data-intensive firms use agile methods and automation tools to replace legacy reporting and bring in modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics. For several world-class vendors, I led services teams specializing in providing software implementation and custom application development. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven methodologies and automated software tools.

During twenty years of technical consulting, I have been blessed to work with smart people from some of the world's most respected organizations, including: 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, graduating summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS BI and iWay enterprise integration products, and for over a dozen years served in branch leadership roles. For several years, I also led technical teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the 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.