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Month: August 2011

Frank Buytendijk to keynote at TDWI Las Vegas 2012

The TDWI keynote speaker who told about jogging with a chip in his shoe is coming back. Frank Buytendijk, always entertaining and thought provoking, will be the Monday morning keynote speaker at next February’s TDWI conference in Las Vegas, according to TDWI education director Paul Kautza this morning.

The chip counted his steps, which gave him reason to run. It seemed like his only reason, he recalled in a TDWI keynote two years ago. One day he returned after only 10 minutes. His wife asked, “What, is it raining?” No, the battery had run down and there was no reason to run.

Frank emails from home in the Netherlands that he’ll speak on “philosophy, discussing truth, reality and what is good.”

Until February, read his weblog. See “Medieval Best Practices,” “What is fact-based, anyway?,” and “Marx, Google and Facebook.

Data analyst for a construction company: where to look?

The general manager of a local builder wanted my advice the other morning — how to find a data analyst. I’m sure a lot of small-business managers would like to know, too.

“I don’t know what I don’t know,” he says, “but I know that I don’t know.” He’s been trying to convince the boss that they had to see what the pile of data that had accumulated over the years could tell them.

But the boss thought that between them they knew enough. They’ve been running the businss for so long that much of the management is by intuition. “We self-correct by feel.”

Finally, the boss agreed. One question motivated him: where to economize after all the obvious cuts have been made.

Though the company has survived the Great Recession so far by cutting expenses, they still have to cut a little bit more. They’re now looking for finer, hidden expense. Only good analysis can reveal that.

The company is too small to hire a pro, and the manager and owner are too busy to learn to do it themselves.

Above all, says the manager, the analyst has to know the Bay Area construction industry. For example, no analyst can be shocked by the high prices — such as a $370,000 backyard house. Here that’s nothing fancy, just a nice hut. The analyst should also a feel for the industry’s data and measures.

I think the ideal is an out-of-work tradesman. There are lots of smart guys who drifted into the trade as young men and couldn’t leave until they were forced out. Some may be good at math, have a feel for statistics, and approach questions analytically.

I say start with the industry knowledge, then go down my list of top analysts’s traits.

The joy of 6.1

There’s nothing like a Tableau release. No one but Tableau users tweet so exuberantly, not even a flock of birds at dawn. What’s going on here?

This week Tableau Software released version 6.1, on paper just a single decimal point up from last fall’s Six. We got more iPad readiness, improved maps, and other handy improvements. But to read Twitter, this was a much bigger deal than that.

No, I don’t work for Tableau. I just know it when I see something going on. People love this tool. I’ve seen few other products of any type loved so much — perhaps not since backyard mechanics tinkered with Volkswagen bugs, or Mac people discovered icons, or designers found Adobe Illustrator.

I read one cynic this summer sneer about “Kool-Aid,” as if to be so enthused is to have entered a death pact with zombies.

I don’t know what flavor Kool-Aid such sneering BI zombies are hooked on, but it’s their loss. What’s going on must be too simple for their tortured minds: Users love tools that respond. Not that learning them is always easy. But once learned, good tools prove capable, consistent, and simple.

Imagine how much fun the customer conferences are. They’re one of the few business events where, instead of talking about solving problems, people actually do solve them.