Wednesday, March 8, 2017

To Tableau, or Not to Tableau

This was the question I had as I reserved a space at the event held today here in Tel Aviv. I was supposed to go last year but was out of the country at the time.Nice view we had.

Tableau is about data visualization. yes the same stuff we did 30 years ago with 1-2-3 or Excel but smooth, "simple" and flexible to work with many, many forms of data. They went public in 2013 and since have steadily grown in awareness and revenue. Tableau may not have been on everyone's radar but it is showing up more and more.

Dashboards are the low hanging fruit, embedded systems data, advanced analysis and problem-solving once you get some real data views is when the fun starts.

My impression was the event would be a local Business Partner running the event and maybe 25-50 people would show up for an afternoon event between 2 and 5 pm. Which would be great as I wanted time to talk to them about the ecosystem, project work and length and recurring revenue streams.

Oh boy was my thinking wrong!

My estimate, confirmed by the Tableau people, was over 300 people came and it looks like as many as 400 had replied they were coming. And this is in Israel where I have been at full events that barely had 250 people. Interestingly many startups here use it for client reporting and proof that their marketing or advertising or whatever the solution, is working.

If you wonder if this is something you should be looking into, if you haven't already, the answer is definitely yes. London friends they are coming to you June 5-7, register here.

The time was meant to have networking, for the 5, yes that is correct, 5 Israel Business Partners to get time with everyone. Even if I wanted to be a  BP, I can't, this year. I don't really understand the thinking, but I was encouraged to apply anyway as they review their partners every year, similar to how SalesForce does it. More on this later in this post.

After networking, we had a quick demo from the UK Sales leader Josh and his Product PreSales specialist Rafi. I say quickly because when speaking in a foreign country, native English speakers should slow down their delivery so everyone can process what is said, and also explain as they go along what they are doing to create the demo. The exuberance Rafi and Josh displayed was great, but I would have preferred a little more explanation about the way she built the views for the demo.

There was a brief slide deck from Laurie as he tried to explain that once you build a dashboard the interested parties can start to really expand on their knowledge and play with it further.

I think there are a little way to go for this part as a non-IT person does not think the same way as tech or data people.

As an example, I, like most of you reading this, understand databases and views, SQL calls and other aspects of databases but because of a lack of education, most end users do not. They can learn, and some do, but many just don't want to learn or change. A problem we all face no matter which solution we choose to use for even basic functions in business.

Thus my impression, given the demo was already seen, is someone would become the guy in the corner that is the Tableau expert rather than many users editing it. That is how I first met a few people in the Lotus Notes world in the R2 days. And I can see people with Tableau interests ending up in the same way.

Great, I love it, let's get started! Well, hold on a second there. It is not so simple.

  • They have a 14 day(30?) trial period. Not long enough IMHO for your average consultant or corporate person to get their head around it.
  • Very pricey options, per user ($999) to get a license to work with it but to save it on a server and not just locally you need Professional ($1,999).
  • No developer license or option. Ok, so how do we get it?
  • (They have student/teacher Desktop editions)

BUT, there is a "free" public edition here for Windows and Mac and you can read the details.
Ok, so it is limited, but should be enough for us to get our head around how to work with it.

Ready to get going? Try these:

Quick Start in text form for those, like myself, that prefer textual information
Training Videos for those that like visual learning
Long(1 hr) videos on how to via youtube
An amusing example of Data Visualization to help you build your first
There are also various forums and user groups so the community is engaged and even shows how to get Domino to work via REST and ODBC and DB2.

Getting back to the Business Partner discussion, it seems that the expectations are for customers to seek out Tableau partners and work with them on their projects. I can see this as companies move away from training people on new items and prefer to outsource projects. However, I also see it as an internal benefit that should be given proper training to get the most out of it, especially at these prices.

There is a fee to become a partner but once you would be down that path it would be expected.

Coming from the Lotus and IBM Collaboration space my view is tableau is seriously limiting their growth potential by not having options available for consultants or small services teams or even individuals.

Maybe Tableau really does send leads to their BPs around the world from the people that request it from their website. As an end user, this page leaves me wondering what the difference is between the 4 types of partners and why 2 of the options search by country, region, industry, and certifications while the other 2 sort only by region.

Perhaps the same confusion is what leads to the many requests to the Tableauthians (I know, somewhat Star Trek like but not sure what they call themselves) looking for consultants.

I could definitely have used this for past reporting and am looking at using it for some current projects.

How about you?

What are you doing with it?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Closing, the Connect CGS Speaker

The closing session at IBM Connect this year was probably the most educational closing session I have listened to over the years. And that is a good thing because although some closers were motivational or inspirational or imaginative, the creative process often gets hidden in the final product.

Eric Whitacre, who until the session I had not looked up or heard of, was very upfront about his motivations and goals/dreams and how all of them combine to help him fulfill his music efforts.
Eric has created a collaborative choir, digitally, and continues to push the envelope to do more. You can look at some of his work here, here, and here to get an idea of what I am talking about.

While that was all very cool and awesome acoustically, it was his explanations about how he composes the new pieces that was so intriguing.

As with most designers and artists, he free hands some ideas on paper peppered with items that pop in his head to come up with a high level plan. Nothing is wasted, they are just ideas for next time perhaps.

He quoted Hans Zimmer the great composer of so many movies themes who said “Why go with your 5th worst idea when the 1st one is just as good”.

He then continued on by explain the Fibonacci number and how that influences art and music.

When Eric broke down the song from Frozen and compared it to how Beethoven’s 5th works, I am pretty sure everyone in the room was blown away by the relative simplicity of his explanation to something most people give little thought.

Eric composes orchestral pieces but involves non-traditional methods into his work. His usage of snapping fingers to make rain storms for instance or having an audience download an app to run during  the concert when he tells them to hit the button providing an aural and visual enhancement to his piece is great art. By bring his audience into the conductor circle he has gained their interest and makes the symphony seem modern instead of old and dusty. I would love to take my kids to see him some day.

My wife will read this and remind me of how I fell asleep at the symphony with her parents when we were first married. It isn’t that I don’t like the music, in most cases I do, it just doesn’t excite me the same way as seeing Eric Clapton in concert. Let the record also state, I fell asleep at a Fleetwood Mac conference during Mick’s elongated drum/percussion solo. I argue I was just tired in both situations. J

I can only presume this is how great developers plan their applications. I have worked with few developers that do it this way to such detail but maybe the detail is not what is really important. The details are appreciated, but are they just nice to have or do they serve a purpose? Even if that purpose is to complete the overall original vision of the creator? Do people really notice these nice to have items?

Whoever said don’t sweat the small stuff, really never understood, it is the small stuff that means the most.

Executive Upgrades of the Server Kind

At Gurupalooza, the last day session of IBM Connect where the IBM Champions and Best Practices presenters answer audience questions, my friend Todd asked us something along these lines:

“How do you convince an executive that feature packs must be installed and maintained like formal releases?"

In today’s world, there are no formal releases. Your browsers update automatically, if you let them, your phones update apps automatically, again if you let them. So why should your servers or clients that have helped you to make money and sales likewise not be updated?

A few of us replied with these answers:
  • ·         Security, many updates are about security which should not even be a question, especially if you have outside facing servers.
  • ·         Compatibility, advances by obvious vendors like Microsoft can cause issues with older code because it cannot understand new drivers or parameters (I’m not a developer so keeping this simple for readers). Even Apple makes choices that can limit functionality for Traveler and device synchronization.
  • ·         New functionality, even old dogs can have new tricks although these days evolutionary functionality is more expected. To be fair, non IBM messaging products do not have anything truly new, just different ways of doing the same thing, albeit faster (one hopes).

And these are all good and valid reasons, but for a stubborn executive, or a combatant one against specific companies or products, you need to dig deeper.

My answer was formed from my years of evangelizing the product line and pushing the boundary of what one can say to an executive. I always ask to see their staging and development architecture or environment. This usually creates a long discussion about priorities, resources and good intentions, but also brings the point home. If you want to delay the updates, because of fear of it breaking something, which is a very valid reason, you have no reason NOT to at least have some test environment for the updates.

My friend, and fellow IBM Champion, Bill Malchisky added to this idea by suggesting one look for the feature or function in the updates that best supports the business lines and getting the business lines to do your dirty work in getting the updates pushed through.

If you need an illustration, try referencing an automobile. If they had a service engine light on, they would bring their car in to the dealer. If their headlight died, they would go to Auto Zone or whatever shop, Walmart probably works too, and get a bulb and replace it. Okay, maybe this is too much for an executive who may not even know there are bulbs, but as a parallel reference it works.

The feature packs are that bulb. Safety (security) necessitates your head lights work.

Now ask about changing the oil on the car. The average person has no idea that it does not need to get changed every 3 months, yet that is what the industry started to do because once a year didn’t make them enough money. Anyway, the point is, when you change your oil, and your oil filter and usually the air filter and some other things you are helping your car run better and improve your mileage/gas ratio.

Feature pack 8 works the same way. One nice benefit is you get faster indexing or new enhanced view lookups or as we will see shortly, the index being removed from the NSF itself, optionally, and imagine how much faster your backup could be and your replication once you have these installed. Now to put that in application transactional business benefit, you may be able to do transactions a few seconds faster which makes your customers happier. Every little bit counts.

Like I have been preaching for years, if you did not get any budget for updates or after hours work it is because you never made the proper business case for your Enterprise software. If you treat it, internally, as an expense, rather than an investment with an ROI, you deserve the quagmire you may have fallen into by now.

In two separate conversations with other Business Partners, each were amazed at how many Domino.Doc customers still exist and never went to Lotus Quickr, or anything else. And now they will find it is even more expensive to migrate because at the time it was “just the document management app” instead of the “soul of our organization”.

If you put Domino and your applications up on high, or down low, then your executives will see it as you do. 

Aim high, be proud, be strong....and then present it all as a case study at IBM Connect next year or at a User Group event and be a leader to others.