Register for Good Data beta version!

Last weeks were hectic. You have probably noticed that Good Data secured the initial funding totaling $2 million (read more about it at BusinessWire). We have also released so-called private beta version of our business intelligence tool. The feedback was pretty good, so we have switched to the public beta today - anybody can request an invitation at our registration page. You should receive your invitation within several days, or several hours, if you're lucky.

What can you expect from our beta? We have prepared a warehouse you could be familiar with (it was used in our first video) - is a fictitious retailer (check out the schema). We have prepared sample reports and you can try how easy it is to create one yourself. (Read more about our beta.)

Release early, release often

We want to release often. I'm very happy that our users can cooperate with us on Good Data improvements at our GetSatisfaction forums. Please share your ideas, report problems, or just write us what's your feeling about Good Data.

Good Data team is developing according to the Scrum model, and we started another sprint yesterday, so new features are implemented almost every day.

On a personal note, I like musicals. Julie Andrews sings the following lyrics in The Sound of Music:
Let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me
I can tell you we'll definitely do better than our best.
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False reasons why enterprises aren't interested in SaaS

According to a Forrester Research survey (source:, these are the top reasons to say no to SaaS:
  1. Integration issues.
  2. Total cost of ownership concerns.
  3. Lack of customization.
  4. Security concerns.
I an convinced these reasons are wrong. APIs and microformats speak for better integration. In my experience, TCO is one of the main reasons why companies want to try Good Data platform. Customization depends on application, no matter whether it's SaaS or not. And security? Your data are more secure in a cloud out there than in your own house.

Mike West, VicePresident and Senior Strategy Consultant with Saugatuck Technology, comments the survey:
I hope everyone realizes that Forrester polled only IT managers. [...] SaaS is really primarily a business solution that disintermediates the IT department, shifting workloads to the cloud. If IT is concerned about SaaS -- and Cloud Computing, as well -- it may be because more SaaS means smaller, more management-oriented IT. Defending the IT department's technical turf by resisting the considerable business benefits of SaaS is a disfunctional (but completely understandable) response to this burgeoning phenomenon.
He's very right. And the four reasons aren't reasons why companies are not interested in SaaS. They are the reasons why IT managers are scared of SaaS, scared of change.

New twist on data analysis

BI failures tend to be at least as spectacular as the successes. Some companies spent the GNP of several small countries a few years back producing "decision support" systems and data warehouses that never matched up with rapidly changing user requirements.

Things have changed. A multitude of products and tools to build BI applications are available today, and their cost is plunging. The whole BI and online analytical processing market changed irrevocably.

BI is one of the fastest growing segments of the software business. The fact that BI vendors are flourishig, despite the distractions and budget drains caused by Y2K preparations -

Stop! Y2K? Well I have something to admit. The previous paragraphs were cited from the Enterprise Development magazine, September 1999.

A lot of interesting stuff is written there: Newest releases appeal to a diverse user base and feature an adaptable architecture for deploying BI solutions. Decision support for the masses, finally. OLAP goes on the Web. Put the spreadsheet out to pasture.
Wayne Eckerson, director of research and services with TDWI, noted that for the past 10 years BI has targeted the technological-savvy employee—the super-user. He pointed to TDWI data showing that a mere 24 percent of users actually access BI tools. "It’s a huge problem [underscoring] why BI is not invasive," Eckerson told the crowd.
However, a common theme projected throughout Information Builders keynotes and sessions is the idea that BI is no longer just a back-office tool.

These words were written today, and you can find the same thoughts in the 9-years-old magazine. The magazine does not exist anymore, Y2K is over, and the BI issues, mmm still the same "new twist", n'est-ce pas?

Don't improve things you're not asked to

S-CurveImage by 96dpi via FlickrRecently I worked as a BI consultant for a big bank. I was responsible for their metadata warehouse solution.

We would like to integrate our data dictionary with your solution, they told me.

Data dictionary? I asked and they explained.

Oh I see, I replied, you're talking about business nomenclature. And I explained what business nomenclature means in terms of metadata warehouse, the CWM standard etc.

Then there was a presentation where I explained everything once more. I believed my presentation was quite good but I missed a point. I was strict in using "business nomenclature" because hey, I was right, wasn't I?

I understand you but where is our data dictionary? That was the first question.

So don't try to narrow paths that are given. Especially when you're not asked to do it.

Mark Madsen writes about the same issue although his issue is the ideology of bad non-centralized Excel data in BI:

We're facing the incomplete data problem because of another piece of BI ideology: all the data must be centrally managed. This is unrealistic. We can't possibly house every last bit of data. Because of this reality, BI tools like Business Objects added the ability to bring outside data into reports. Other vendors moved the BI processing to the PC.

Our ideology has failed us by setting up a paradox. If we do use these features or tools, then we contribute to our biggest complaint about Excel — manipulation of data outside the centrally integrated view. If we don’t use them then users will continue to circumvent BI tools.

Mark is right, people use and will use Excel. Don't try to convince them they're wrong because they are not. Just take it as a fact and build on it. Put the twisting path to use.

Reaching out for good data

When do you talk about good data? Google returns sentences like these:
  • "We don't have really good data..."
  • "Once we have good data..."
  • "It's hard to make good policy decisions when they're not grounded in good data."
  • "If you have good data..."
  • "Do you have good data to validate your opinion?"
These are not positive statements but there's a hope the world will be better (once, if).

There is a difference between good data (data quality) and Good Data BI platform. However, I cannot resist to convert the sentences:
  • "We don't have really Good Data..."
  • "Once we have Good Data..."
  • "It's hard to make good policy decisions when they're not grounded in Good Data."
  • "If you have Good Data..."
  • "Do you have Good Data to validate your opinion?"
It makes sense, doesn't it? Well it's not enough to have good data, you need a good analytical tool too.

How to write a good elevator pitch

I am back from the TechCrunch party and I'm overwhelmed by the crowd. I've met some interesting and smart people like Scott Wheeler from Directed Edge, and many others. I've also met many of my friends, but I already know that they're interesting and smart, so it was no so big surprise.

Anyway, there were seven or eight start-up elevator pitches presented, and I was quite happy to see the presenters well prepared. I hate boring presentations, and believe me, you can get people bored in less than two minutes.

I remember when my friend and I wrote a TV sitcom pitch. It is possible that our sitcom was funny, but the pitch definitely wasn't. We tried so hard to put too much on one page that we lost our main desire: fun. Or pitch failed and so did we.

It is hard to be short. Look at me, this is my forth paragraph, you've already read 158 words, and I haven't tell you anything about writing good elevator pitch yet.

Here it is: Solve my problem.

It's not easy to do, but that's the point. Don't tell me who you are, how many employees you have, don't bother me with your blabla mission. Just tell me you have a solution for my problem.

Do you need to understand your data, do you need to have a report prepared for tomorrow presentation but your IT department cannot help you? We in Good Data can. Yes, it is on-demand, software-as-a-service, collaborative, Ajax, heuristic ETL, automatic, intuitive - but these are only features. Who cares, if it solves your problem?

I believe that when you do something, it solves somebody's problem. Find that somebody, invite her to an elevator, and tell her your solution. If it really solves the problem, you can always present your company later.

TechCrunch meet-up in Prague starts in one hour

Good Data is proud to be part of it. It's exciting how many people promised to come. I guess there will be so many questions about Good Data, but I would like to be a big ear tonight, to listen what's going on in other heads than mine.

Video kills the rock'n'roll

I read faster than you talk. This is only one of the reasons I actually don't like video blogspots. I see it more and more often - a video without any added value.

To create a video is a long but funny process. However, the fun is over when you have to watch it. It's a little bit strange - why would anyone spend several hours producing a videospot if writing text is so fast?

To answer it, we have to think about the preparation. To write a text, you have to know how to write, and you have to know your point. It should be the same with audio and video recordings, but it's not.

Today, you don't even need an expensive camcorder to be a video hero. You don't need to have a point, just aim, shoot, cut, and publish. Should we blame the technology for that? Or are we victims of our laziness?

I can work with text. I can easily look at the end of it, to read its conclusion, I can look at the paragraph beginnings only, I can skip boring parts and re-reads the interesting ones, I can highlight them, and save them, and share them.

But I'm not able to work with video in that way. I don't know how much time should I skip to watch something interesting, and I have not even a little intention to watch talking heads for minutes if I can read the same in seconds.

That's why I don't like video and why I don't listen to podcasts (nor audiobooks). I am bored to listen to something I can read easily.

Think before shoot. Is your video necessary? Helpful? Does it really show something that's better watched that described?

If not, please save my time.

Hopelessly devoted to metadata

I spend this week in Bratislava, leading metadata management training, couching new metadata experts-to-be, and reviewing existing metadata projects. It's all about metadata in data warehouses.

I begin to meta - I say "meta" a hundred times each day. I see metadata everywhere.

I, to begin my third paragraph with this beautiful pronoun, I try to explain the difference between theory and practice. Usually, people and the projects are concerned about the technical side of the metadata issue. However, the technical part is the easier one.

You can find the real problem in business process. That's why most of the metadata projects fail. They can be at very high technical level but without a proper business flow, they're useless.

Everybody wants to buy a metadata solution. These millions should not be invested to software. Invest them to your people.

Looks like I'm not thinking about metadata, am I?

Are you fed up?

Mark Smith writes:
The current situation should have business mad as hell and fed up. With so much of an organization's IT budget being spent on technology, but the situation in business having gotten a whole lot worse, now what? I would recommend that business either take back control of their BI destiny or just write them off as educational experiments. Another choice is to develop a new strategy built on the demands for information and analytics that might need to completely bypass IT and outsource to a supplier that provides software as a service (SaaS) and just requires data feeds to populate their analytics and BI capabilities.

At today's Open Coffee Club, we have talked just about that. The following question emerged: Will IT fight back? Do they feel that SaaS makes them useless and incompetent?

In my opinion, IT departments are not happy about consuming so much time on operations and deployment, and the SaaS concept will force them to focus on the boring stuff more and more.

Poor IT!

Getting Things Lazed

This method is not as well elaborated as the famous David Allen's Getting Things Done, but it's pretty easier to use.

It borrows the idea of inbox from GTD. With everything that goes to your inbox (like emails), you just have to do a single action. Archive it or delete it or whatever. Hide it all away! It can be a little bit sophisticated like this: You can use Gmail with GTDInbox extension, and mark every message that needs to be replied by "Next Action" label. It disappears and your inbox is always empty.

Mind like water guaranteed.

Sites I'm excited about: Blist, Social|median, Twine

Blist is a spreadsheet-like database. Imagine your Excel where you can easily include different data types like checkboxes, pull-down lists, even images and documents. You can even have a blist in a blist. Very nice concept. I had some ideas about transforming my boring wine list from Excel to a web application, but I guess I stick to Blist now.

Social|median is in almost-public alpha, enter RWW invitation code provided by ReadWriteWeb to sign up. The site is full of so-called News Networks - imagine topic related RSS aggregations. You can comment on their articles, add new sources, clip new web sites etc. Business intelligence network was created yesterday, it has 8 members, aggregates 10 sources, other 14 sources are recommended automatically by the system.

Twine allows you to blog in a different way, but it's not the only purpose. You can create/join twines (spaces) and clip web sites to them easily. You can twine bookmarks, books, photos, documents, emails... and then tag them and share them. You need an invitation to join Twine, I have some.

So these are the cool sites I'm excited about, because I sign up today. I feel dizzy sometimes: Did I clip this web page to, EverNote, Twine, or Social|Median? Or did I only starred it in Google Reader?

It simply can't work

Any question or comment? - asked the presenter.

An old man stood up: - It can't work! The whole concept is nonsense, it will be slow, unreliable, nobody will want to use it. Plus, the concept is not new and it does not solve anything that can't be solved by today's standard procedures. It simply can't work.

It happened several years ago at an international conference about databases. The talk was about XML databases.

The presenter smiled at his embittered old friend. - I would like you to remember this conference some 30 years ago. I talked about SQL then and you criticized my talk with the same words as today. I ask you, can SQL work?

The question is not whether it can or cannot work. It is always about you. Do you want it to work?

Too deep in my comfort zone

London Symphony Orchestra released Mahler's Sixth symphony recently. I have to listen to it again and again. This neurotic and scary recording makes me uncomfortable. It is different from the recordings I know. Gergiev's reading of the symphony is wonderfully tempting.

I feel very good in my comfort zone. I listen to CDs I know, I read blogs I've been reading for years, I buy books written by authors I've read before, I eat meals - you get the point, I guess. It makes my life organized and tidy.

And boring. The bell in my head is ringing: Try something new!

Ok, Japanese fish soup with a complete fish head, Gergiev's Mahler, blog in English. It makes me uncomfortable and I like it.

What a surprise.

On the need for on-demand business intelligence tools

On-demand BI, let's imagine it! - a friend of mine was excited. - It can be here in a few years!

Well, - I opposed, - it's already here for several years, but the huge companies haven't noticed it yet.

In a huge company like a bank, time is flowing differently. What can be done in hours, it takes weeks there, and nobody is concerned, nobody notices.

A new report? Ok, if you have such an idea, you go to business people, they discuss its business case and prepare its business design. Then it's IT move. The business design is not easy to implement, one has to change this and that, that attribute is not in the data warehouse yet and maybe you need a completely new datamart...

And there you are: Your new report is ready to be used in three or six months. At that time you realize it's not exactly what you need.

Can you be happy with it? Many people in the big companies are, and they are convinced it's the only way how it can work.

It is not. Time is running fast elsewhere.

Changing my job, starting a new blog

I am not new in blogging. I started to blog in summer 2003. I just moved to Switzerland at that time and I was there alone, without my friends, without my family, without my girlfriend, without my cat. So I started to blog to be in touch with them, the cat included.

By now, I have ten blogs plus five others that are dead. None of them is in English. However, I'm changing my job, and that's a great opportunity to start blogging in English.