Have We Forgotten How to Fix Problems?

February 26, 2014   //   Business Intelligence, , , , , ,

Last week my check engine light came on. Rats! To pile onto the problem, the engine enforced some sort of safety governor that limited my speed to 40 MPH. Double rats! I knew this couldn’t be good. Later as I sat at the dealership waiting for the bad news, I learned a sensor in the throttle body had shorted out. Perfect, let’s get a new sensor and be on our way then – of course, the resolution was not so easy! The service tech went on to say that in this situation the sensor could not be fixed and the entire throttle body has to be pitched for a new one. I’ve heard this story before. About a year ago I had a sensor issue with the catalytic convertor and sure enough I had to replace the entire catalytic converter to fix that situation as well. It seems like nothing is truly repaired anymore these days. This is a really hard reality for me to endorse or even understand. I come from a family that ran a highly successful farm implement dealership back in the day. My Grandfather and his brothers serviced many products and encountered every manor of mechanical disaster. The fact that they sold great products was not what made them successful. They also serviced those great products and solved hard problems. I actually watched one of my uncles make the main engine bearings for an old engine instead of searching for the replacement part. But today, some of these mechanical skills are lost due to computer diagnosis and replacing whatever parts the software tells you to replace.

In my field, Business Intelligence, there can be a tendency to take the same approach. “Your SQL Server is too old and you need to upgrade or change vendors.” “Your SQL EDW is old school and you need to think about Big Data.” “Our team doesn’t use your ETL tool, you need to migrate to a new ETL tool.” And the list goes on. Now I’m certainly not advocating that keeping old technology around is always a good thing. I just feel like sometimes there is a tendency to hit the easy button and just start over with new parts. It doesn’t always have to be that way. Shouldn’t the focus be on gaining ROI and solving business problems? Sometimes too much money is spent on shiny new toys when the old toys just need a little care and maintenance.

Assessment And Diagnosis Are Important!

All of our BI projects here at SWC include time to do the assessment/discovery. Sometimes clients push back on that part of the budget, which is totally understandable. But the time we spend doing the assessment helps solidify what it is we are trying to solve. We always have some ideas on what we think we’re going to deliver but it’s good to have the assessment to confirm what we said during the sales process. The primary purpose of the assessment is to determine what is truly broken and if our approach will solve those issues.

We get the opportunity to fix a lot of BI dysfunction. If there wasn’t dysfunction, I’d probably be looking for a career change real quick! Often the dysfunction isn’t the tools and technology; it’s the process. So what good is it to replace one set of tools for another if the business process isn’t addressed. Or in other situations, are the present tools being leveraged to their fullest capability to solve the current problems. Good consultants dig into those topics. We apply the technology skills where necessary and we ensure that the customers problems are being solved both technically and functionally. I’m never going to rebuild the main engine bearings for a skid-steer loader, but I will steer my customers through a difficult BI landscape with many moving parts. And I don’t need a diagnostic report to tell me what to do!

Business Intelligence TractorThis picture is of a tandem four wheel drive tractor made from two two-wheel drive Minneapolis Moline U’s. My Grandfather and his brother built this one and several like it. At the time (mid-1960s) four wheel drive farm power was not a reality. But, the market demanded more power and they delivered it in a very creative way. I like to think we use that same can-do spirit here at SWC when we are solving hard technical problems, particularly in the BI space that I work in!

Additional Business Intelligence Posts

If you enjoyed this post from Chad, check out a few of his past posts on business intelligence:
My Search For The Business Intelligence Chupacabra
Do Tableau And MDS Make Strange Bedfellows?
Technology Meetups Make A Difference
If They Only Had Tableau
What’s the R in ROI (for BI)?
Microsoft BI: Catching the Deadliest Dashboard
A BI Consultant’s Musings on PowerPivot
Tech Smart vs. Business Smart: Which Hat Does Your IT Consultant Wear?
How is Digital Cholesterol Impacting your SQL System Performance?

Recommended Past SWC Blog Posts

If you would like to learn more about business intelligence topics related to this blog, please check out some of our past posts:
Ask SWC: What is the New R Feature for Tableau 8.1?
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