Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How good IS good?

I've been interviewing loads of candidates recently (you may have seen my ads on Jobserve and LinkedIn) for Siebel Analytics consultants.

By the way, if you would like to connect on linkedIn ( please send an invite to; in the note say you are reading the blog.

Most of the interviewees have stated that they are pretty good at developing Analytics applications. One said that he was an expert and knew all of the components in detail.

So, to test this I ask a few simple questions (see my previous blog for some examples). Before long it becomes obvious that they have over estimated their own ability. This makes for an awkward end to the interview because it's obvious that they have been exposed. So why do they do it? Do people really believe that they know the system like the back of their hand, or is it bluff to try and get past the interview and into the job where they will learn?

Perhaps my questions are too difficult?

Try this one, and see what you think.

Q. What Types of Physical Table are there?

A. There are 4 types of Physical table

- Ordinary
- Alias
- Stored Procedure
- Select

Not really a difficult questions, is it?

But no-one could answer it.

Whilst I’m on the subject of tables, the new OBI EE has a slightly different way of creating Aliases.

You now have to include the Orignial underlying Table in the model (something I always do but found others do not). Right click on the table and select New Object.. Alias.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I have the worst phone in the world.

It's the O2 XDA lli. Oh it may also be a PDA, has windows, can pay music, runs Excel/Word/PDF, has a web browser to connect to the internet, has email and can syncronise with my Outlook, has vidoe and a camera, plays games; but it's the worst phone in the world.

You'd think that is was brilliant with all those features, but sometimes you just need a phone.

You know how you see people on the tube holding on with one had whilst texting their mates with the other - I can't do that (there are no keys on the xda and it a big bulky thing).
Voice activate their phone to call their mates whilst driving - I can't do that
Have video calls with the kids - I can't do that.

and the battery only last two days.

It doesn't even connect to the web very well, it took me two years to get it configured and it's rubbish.

So, I have finally given up. I'm now looking for a new phone.

But here's the catch - last time I went looking for a great phone the xda sounded fantastic - All those features!! wow gotta have it. Now hate it.

for the new phone,
Do I get 3G?
Should I get Balckberry?
What about the camera, 2 megapixels or 3?
Do I need PDF viewer?
What about my Sudoku game I bought for the xda and Dope wars?
Do I need an RSS viewer?

Then there the question of service provider.
  • o2? (who I now hate),
  • three?,
  • Vodaphone? (no because I don't like Michael Schumaker),
  • Virgin Media? (got their broadband and it's really good).

And what price package? Turns out that o2 200 means paying £60 per month not £35.

The main problem is size (isn't it always the case!) For applications, games, emails, etc you need a decent size screen, but for normal phone operations you only need a 40mm square, and the ability to hold the thing in one hand, texting.

Is there a phone out there that has a fold out screen - ideally I would like 15 inch screen, and also a folder out keyboard for faster typing, runs applications and plays games.

You know, I think I'll just go and buy a data card for the laptop and go and get the smallest 3g phone in the world!

I'll get the wrong one, but it'll give me somethign to moan about.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On the bandwagon....again

Well if we are all spilling the beans on where we're going this year then here is my diary...

Spring Series - Warsash

One race each Sunday, starting March 11th. We have a full crew and repaired boat. Lets hope it's not too cold.

Cowes Week

August 4th - 6 days racing, 6 days partying. Cobra are sponsoring the beer, Planet Pursuits are sponsoring the clothing again. Need to find our Dobby.
Still have 4 places to fill.

Little Britain Challenge

September 6th-9th. A great opportunity to network in the building trade!

All the above on Beefeater, our Sigma38. She used to be called Yeoman and was sailed by Prince Phillip in Cowes week.

Zone Squad

(The RYA Team GBR that my son is in)
Hayling Island - March 24th/25th
Rutland WATER - April 14th.

Lake Garda

Big international event for Oppies with 500 boats expected.

IOCA National Events

Inland Championships - May - Grafham - Two days
National Championships - July 28th - August 4th (+plus pre-event training)
EOF - End of Seasons – October 18th/19th

Open Circuit

Warsash – May
Maidenhead – May
Island of Wight - June
Lymmington Main fleet - June
Lymmington Regatta Fleet - June
Hayling Island - June
Wraysbury - June
Mudeford - July
Papercourt - September
Poole- September
Chichester - September
Spinnaker Open - September

Now you know where I'll be during the weekends and holidays.

As for work time, probably on client site - Don't have too much time to go to conferences. Not that I'd know which one to go to anyway. Is there one for Siebel Analytics experts who knows a thing or two about sailing?

I’m also going to try to fit in a RIB treasure hunt so watch this space.....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Documentation, It's MAD!

Let's face it, there's not many people who like documentation, except a good BA of course, but every single project needs it.

Now if the title and first sentence haven't put you off I'm going to let you into a few secrets.

1. A good set of design docs will save your project money
2. Post project documentation (actual designs, architecture maps, etc) will rarely, if ever, get read
3. Your documentation will be instantly out-of-date with release x.1

Still with me? OK, they're not really secrets, but they are issues we have to contend with. The motivation to write something detailed that will never get read and will be obsolete in 5 minutes, without the proper tools is pretty low. Especially if you have just had the go-live party the night before :)

So a typical Analytics (Oracle BI EE for the late comers) will need the following

a. Design of Datawarehouse - This includes Tables, fields, indices, schemas, tablespaces, parameters, views, Materialized views, etc
b. Design of DAC - EP's, Subjects, Table Groups, Tables, Indices (again!), Tasks
c. Design of ETL
d. Design of Analytics Repository (Oracle BI Repository)
e. Design of Webcat
f. Integration designs
g. Technical Architecture Map
h. Support Guide - What to do if.... scenarios

what did I miss?

(We are going to assume Analytics with Informatica ETL for this example)

Here's the catch. You have a reference to a physical table in at least four places - Db, DAC, Informatica, Physical layer. In your design you want to ensure referential integrity, i.e. don't refer to a table in the DAC that does not actually exist in the Db!. Another example where you have this is with tasks in the DAC that refer to Informatica Workflows.

My prefered approach is to create all these documents up front, i.e. in the design phase (say that last bit slowly with a deep voice), then update the documents at the end for what actually got built.

What tools do you have?

Most project sites that I go to will have MS Office, but you really need the professional version for Access and Visio Professional. You could try to publish the designs in Word or HTML, and you could even use Analytics to present the design!!
The Word vesion is probably the easiest (least technical) but requires most work, the Analytics version will need a place to be set up, with Webserver, db and Analytics server licence.

What do I use?

Glad you asked that because we have developed the MAD - Majendi Analytics Designer, system. This is a semi automated system that can document an existing Analytics aplication, from DB to Webcat. It produces MS Word documents which details all of the items in a) to e) above. I supplement this with Visio diagrams for star schemas (This also uses the design repository for the source tables).
As well as the Word documents templates being populated we also have a miniture Analytics system which details the meta data. The heart of the system is a set of Access databases which import metadata from txt files or directly using ADO (so it can work on any database) to conect to the databases. A side benefit is that building the system teaches you all the underlying data structures in the ETL and DAC.

How do you get the information you need?

You can query the repositories directly in the Oracle/SQL database.
You can use the documentation utilities of Analytics and the Web catalog manager
I also use the UDML file that you can get from Analytics, and parse this into an Access Db.

(If you want to know about UDML files I'll be posting a short note on that later).

The beauty about the MAD system is that I can document a whole complex system in a couple of days, even better is the ability to analyse an existing application to help with an upgrade, or with new releases - your documents can very quickly reflect the underlying new system.

So there you have it, Documentation may be boring but you can make it interesteing by using your technolgy skills to reduce the problem down to automated tasks, just like we did. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Questions, Questions

Why have I not written a blog for ages ?
Does Siebel Analytics work on IE7 ?
Is there a version 8 of Analytics, if so what is it called ?
What is the difference between Siebel Analytics and Oracle BIEE ?
Where are all the best Analytics consultants ?
How do I find good crew for the next racing series ?
Is disconnected Analytics a good idea despite the technical challenges ?
How do you get more skilled in Analytics ?
What is the MAD system ?
What makes a good consultant ?
What does Siebel 8 look like ?
Is it better to be an employee or go contracting ?
When is a good time to buys flights to Portugal ?
Where is the next big Analytics Project ?
How do I pay my tax bill ?
Should I go on the Marketing Server Architect course ?
What technical questions should I ask an Analytics candidate ?

I better stop there. Since my last blog things have been busy, very busy. During that time I have been trying to think of a subject to write about, but so many things come to mind. Should it be technical, personal (to show that I'm a nice guy!) or political (don't get me started). So I'm going to give my views on all of the above.

Why have I not written a blog for ages ?

Because I went on a skiing holiday, went live at the Royal Mal on their 7.8 project, spent every weekend taking the kids sailing, did my tax return, invoiced clients, did my LTd company accounts for 2005/2006, had Xmas lunches and dinners(the Majendi one was really good), watched some rugby, developed the MAD system, had a kids night out due to sons birthday, paid lots of bills, updated the Majendi Accounts system, interviewed some candidates, ran some Analytics master classes and finally got some sleep. phew!

Does Siebel Analytics work on IE7 ?

I installed Analytics on my new laptop this week and it seemed to work fine. I've had some trouble with Oracle 10g Enterprise manager. It became corrupted so I had to uninstall everything and start again. EM is now a web based system which looks much better than the previous version and is easy to use but this corruption has been a royal pain.

Is there a version 8 of Analytics, if so what is it called ?

I don't think so. I've had a good look at the Oracle website and can still only find 7.8.5. I'll keep my eye open for news on this front, but let me know if you find anything.

What is the difference between Siebel Analytics and Oracle BIEE ?

Good question. I installed both this week on my Laptop, BIEE first. The first product worked well except the manual said the username/pwd was admin/admin, turns out it was Administrator/Administrator - Thanks! I liked the xml Publisher which is new, but the rest was mainly a renamed Analytics system, placed into a different folder structure, for example, C:\OracleBI\Server\.
Oracle BIEE looks like it's just a replacement for Analytics Platform, I can't see where you get the applications part from, other than installing Analytics Applications itself. When I tried this, it recognised that there was an existing Analytics platform so didn't create it owns structures (e.g. C:\SiebelAnalytics). I'll investigate more this week so let me know if you have a specific issues.
(I'm off to check Mark Rittman blog for more details)

Where are all the best Analytics consultants ?

I wish I knew. Majendi is always looking for consultants who have lots of experience with Analytics. I am looking for permanent consultants for Inforte. If you know of anyone who has at least a couple of Analytics project sunder their belts then please let me know ASAP.

How do I find good crew for the next racing series ?

I nearly didn't enter the Warsash Spring Series due to lack of crew. Biggest problem is that one of our team is getting married in the middle of the series, even worse, he's having a stag do the week before so taking out both weekends.
I would like to be competitive so need the best possible sailors. After some badgering I've now got a team that can compete most weeks so we should get better as the series progresses. Follow our results at WSS.

Is disconnected Analytics a good idea despite the technical challenges ?

I still don't think so. In the age of 3G and broadband everywhere it must be far better to get people to work online than go through the major hassle of disconnected Analytics

How do you get more skilled in Analytics ?

I read the ITToolbox posting with a mixture of glee and annoyance. So many beginners are being placed on analytics projects that clearly have not been on a course. They ask stupid questions which demonstrate a laziness to read the manuals, support web and even previous toolbox postings. The consulting firms that hire these people are not investing properly in their people and dong their clients a disservice. The clients who outsource to the cheapskates get the system they deserve, but the cost is that the general image of Analytics is undermined and investment is moved to other reporting tools. As an industry we really are shooting ourselves in the foot. I would like to see Oracle step in and really classify their partners so the clients know what they are getting.

What is the MAD system ?

It's a brilliant Analytics Design and Documenting system that we use to design a and document Analytics systems. It will analyse your current system and look for redundancy and flaws. It saves me weeks in a project and removes the boring work. I'm trying to get some reverse engineering in there now, along with embedded Visio diagrams.
Perhaps I should sell it?

What makes a good consultant ?

Patience, hard work and diplomacy. One of my pet hates is to see consultants surfing the net in Client time, but there are other things which are more subtle like remaining positive about Analytics even when it does do what you want - never let the client see you undermine the product as it is our lifeblood; Also, Keep you politics to yourself, even outside the office. You are never off duty with a client.

Is it better to be an employee or go contracting ?

On balance, being an employee gives you a better lifestyle. Having spent half my working life employed the other half a contractor I am leaning towards the employed model. Whilst contracting I have spent so many nights and weekends doing accounts, payroll, tax returns, company returns, VAT returns, meetings with solicitors, accounts and HR people. On the face of it the financial benefits are greater, but this UK government has found many new ways to tax anyone who dares to start up a business, even if you get away with IR35 there is other taxes that they will apply, and There's no getting away from National Insurance. Better to find a good employer who cares about your development and sees a partnership between you than try to go it alone.

How do I pay my tax bill ?

Don't you just hate Tax, especially when the government don't have a clue how to spend the money wisely. I paid mine online, ontime; lets see if I still get a fine.

When is a good time to buys flights to Portugal ?

Last year. We saw prices on BA flights go up by the day in January. Trying to buy online the system failed several times, and at the very end of the process - all very annoying, but even worse when you log in the next day and the prices have gone up 20 pounds, and the next. Ended up paying 150 pounds more for the flights, and cut down the holiday by two days. Next time we book really early. Come on BA get your act together.

Where is the next big Analytics Project ?

I think I know! The UK analytics market is getting more mature due to the reduction in the number of new CRM installations - companies are concentrating on upgrades. The German market is going very strong so time to brush up on those accents. The majority of customers I am speaking to are interested in Marketing, which as you know has Analytics at it's core. The other hot topic is data quality - many projects are delayed or failed due to poor quality of data, so I'm seeing what can be done to smooth the process of migration and cleansing. If you have any views let me know.

Should I go on the Marketing Server Architect course ?

Oh yes. Like I just said, this area is building up a strong demand. As an Oracle partner we get discounts for Oracle courses so will be putting as many people as we can on the course.

What technical questions should I ask an Analytics candidate ?

I am forever interviewing people, mainly using technical questions, but also using some competency based q's
Here is a selection of questions that I ask (I have an AQS - Analytics Question System which I have extracted some questions from)

Questions for you to establish if they know anything about analytics

W0 Warehouse

W1 What schemas do you recommend for an Analytics system
W2 How do you save changes to data in SQL
W3 What is the structure of a PL/SQL script
W4 What tools do you use to manage databases
W5 What is the difference between an OLTP and an OLAP
W6 Do you use indexing on a staging table?

I0 Informatica

I1 How do you call a stored procedure in Informatica
I2 When do you use re-usable objects
I3 Where do you create your own mappings in the Siebel Informatica Repository
I4 How would you add a field from S_ORG_EXT_X to the warehouse


D1 What is the main purpose of the DAC
D2 What objects are in the DAC
D3 How do you add an Index for a table (existing and not existing)
D4 How do you run a full load (not incremental)
D5 How does Change capture work

Con0 Analytics Config

Con1 Where do you change the config settings
Con2 How do you turning caching on
Con3 How do you add a new style
Con4 What default logging level is best for a 1000 seat company?

R0 Repository

R1 What are the three layers
R2 How do you set session variables and how do you set Repository variables?
R3 How do you update alias table definitions?

Web0 Webcat

Web1 How do you copy requests from one webcatalog to another?

Dash0 Dashboards

Dash1 How do you create a dashboard?
Dash2 How do you set the permissions on a dashboard

Ans0 Answers

Ans1 What is the Formulae to use in a request, to see a Repository Variable?

Del0 Delivers

Del1 Where are iBots stored ?

Mkt0 Marketing

Mkt1 What is a QLI ?

Int0 Integration

Int1 What is an Action link used for?

Too many questions, and not enough time to get all the answers (How many of the above do YOU know?

The Cowes

The Cowes
Cowes Racing