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Speeding up Your BI Program with the Right Tools

One of the more important trends in business intelligence over the past few years has been a need for speed: an ever-increasing volume of data means that existing BI systems must be able to process information faster and faster. On the business user side, an increased demand for BI puts pressure on BI teams to develop new applications faster, without sacrificing quality.

While there are a number of factors that go into streamlining and speeding up your BI program, one of the most important is having the right tools for the job.  In other words, maximizing you development speed requires having the best tools.   Almost everyone is using dedicated ETL and reporting software,  but have you thought about the peripheral tools that would speed your productivity?

In my previous post,   I discussed how slow-running systems can cripple your development efforts. In some of the feedback I received, folks wanted to know the right tools for their BI program. This post describes some of the problems that sticking to the status quo, or not having the right tools have on your speed of execution. It also identifies tools every BI/DW program should have.

Here are some important tools that no BI program should be without:

SQL execution environment

The bad old way  Plain old database tools.  Sqlplus.   Isql.  Green screen tools.

Tools every program should have:   TOAD, SQL Server Management Studio, or similar

What you get:   Debugging and development speed


Query Tool

The bad old way: Write SQL queries for everything.

Tools every program should have:   BI tools are faster and deliver more useful results.    Everyone on the team should have them.

What you get:   Faster analysis and design.  Cross training on tools.

System Monitoring

The bad old way: Security and performance concerns limit access.   Only the DBA can see inside the database,  only the sysadm can see inside the server.

Tools every program should have:  Developers have access to what is happening in the database and on the servers.   Especially important are query plans, disk reads, and status of long running queries.

What you get:   Faster testing.  Less time wasted.  Is this query going to run 2 minutes or 10 hours?   Better wait to find out.

Data Modeling

The bad old way: Type table DDL statements in a text editor.

Tools every program should have:   Use a data modeling tool like Erwin or Power Designer

What you get:   Less time fixing table mistakes and inconsistencies.  Higher quality table design.

Change Management

The bad old way: Keep copies in file folders.

Tools every program should have:   Use a change control tool.  Many are free.

What you get:   Faster development, fewer errors.

Desktop Sharing

The bad old way: Phone calls and emailed files.

Tools every program should have:   Desktop sharing tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting, or Live Meeting.

What you get:   Faster development, fewer errors.

Investing in tools will increase the speed that you can delivery new functionality. Our clients that have made tool investments report not just improvements in speed, but increased ability to meet deadlines, shorter backlogs, and happier developers.

Tom Victory, Principal Consultant

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