Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Review - Marketing Metrics, by Paul Farris

I have seen some very poorly run marketing departments. Because of my past experience, I’ve been skeptical every time I deal with marketing. This book made me reevaluate those feelings and grow to respect the new found science of marketing. Marketing can be effective when metrics are measured and qualified. While reading this book, I met Ron Hendricks, CMO for Northcentral University. He runs his department like a lab, and he is very, very effective. Thanks to this book and Ron, I admire a well-run marketing department and look forward to dealing with more of them.

The metrics in this book are well thought-out, with clear formulas, good examples, and thoughtful insights. I think this should be on every executive’s desk. These measures will make you rethink your business. Hopefully, you’ll have new ideas on how it can grow.

Also, our business intelligence practice will be better equipped to interact with marketing executives, salesmen, and creatives.

Here's the Amazon link:

Marketing Metrics

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review - The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course In Finance for Non-Financial Managers, by Robert Cooke

This book is perfect if you are not an accountant and one of the following things are true.

-You need to read financial reports
-You interact with executives
-Deal with CFOs or Controllers
-Prepare budgets
-Invest in companies

As a technology consultant, I’m often asked to help with difficult business problems, and more often than not, those issues deal with accounting principles. I’ve tried reading Accounting 101 books, but I don’t need to know how to keep a "T" account. I needed a summary book for Accounting 400, and this book fit the bill.

There is also an online test that will grant you a certificate of completion. I didn't do that, but you might like to.

Here's the Amazon link:

The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course In Finance for Non-Financial Managers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review, Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell

Before reading this book, I thought my philosophy of hiring fast and firing fast was a sound management principle. I was wrong. After reading the horror stories in this book, I am recommitted to interviewing thoroughly, completely a full background check, checking all references, and then proceeding cautiously. I still believe that we should terminate employees very soon after discovering that they weren’t who we thought they were.

I also have a habit of being captivated and intrigued by everyone I meet. I need time to let that fade away. I need reality to set in before making an objective hiring decision.

This book is filled with 45 great tips on hiring good people, but all of them don't need to be applied all at once. In fact, I think that would be impossible. Instead, I intend to continuously evolve the hiring process by selectively applying these tips. I’ll just keep experimenting until the perfect team is assembled.

I liked the idea of putting prospects on projects immediately. For instance, I could show a prospect a user interface design and tell them to improve it. I could show them a database and ask them to write a query.

Mornell mentions that we should walk the prospect to his or her car. He says you can tell a lot about a person by how they organize their car. Mornell is a psychiatrist, and brings a unique insight to the hiring process.

Mornell mentions a 49er's Football scout that would not recommend a player until he observed 200 plays of the player. He did this so he could feel comfortable with how they react in different situations. It's impossible to observer 200 plays when hiring people, but we should watch the person in a variety of situations before making a hiring decision.

This book was very easy to read, had very big type, lots of pretty pictures, and can be completed in about 2 hours.

Software development is increasingly becoming a team sport. This book reinforced my belief that the team needs to be part of the entire hiring process.

Here's the Amazon link:

Hiring Smart

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Review - Lean Thinking, by Womack & Jones

Lean Principles are a hot topic in today's economy. It isn't just about cost reduction; it's about observing every aspect of our lives and our businesses and making them more efficient.

I learned:

1) Muda, the Japanese word for waste, is everywhere and should be shunned and eliminated in every circumstance.

2) Eliminating muda will make workers happier, reduce costs, and will simplify complicated processes.

3) My new hero is Taiichi Ohno, who was the original anti-muda engineer.

4) This book is full of examples of real world companies who applied these principles and did great things with them.

5) After reading this book, I now observe waste wherever I am. I see it in the airport security line, at the DMV, when filing my taxes, at the hospital waiting room, and at the butcher counter.

Software Developers see waste every day, but often do nothing about it. They are too worried about breaking code that is working. Proper testing methods would give them the confidence they need to eliminate wasteful code. I would remind them of their responsibility to remove code that does nothing, simplify complicated code, and to never repeat themselves.

Here's the Amazon link:

Lean Thinking

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book Review - The Copywriter's Handbook, by Bob Bly

Before reading this book, I wasn’t clear on what a copywriter actually did. A copywriter creates print and web content for marketing purposes. They are wordsmiths who choose their words to capture their audience’s attention.

Here’s what I learned:

1) We see the same words repeated in a variety of ads because those words are proven to sell, time and time again.

2) Copywriter's sell things with their words, so every copywriter should look at the end product and ask, “is this going to sell something?” Everything else is irrelevant.

3) Copy (the text that copywriters produce) should tell a compelling story that keeps people reading.

Here's Bob Bly's website:

Bob Bly

Here’s the Amazon link:

The Copywriter's Handbook

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review - Getting Things Done, by David Allen

Getting Things Done
This book is a very quick read and worth the couple of hours it will take to get through it.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Manage your TODOs using an electronic medium. Set a start date, a complete date, and a priority. Don’t use your email as your to-do list. A clear to-do list will clear your mind and lift a burden. I tried this and it worked.

2) A good day means that we've completed 3 important things that day. At the beginning of the day, choose which 3 things you will complete.

3) If your organizational system is simple, you are more likely to follow through with it and complete it.

Here's the Amazon link:
Getting Things Done

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Differences Between SSRS Report Builder 1.0 and Report Builder 2.0

I was going to draft a blog post on this topic when I found this one:

Andrew Fryer's Blog

Andrew wrote this very clearly and I don't feel the need to add to it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review - The Power of Full Engagement By Jim Loehr

This is a great book that taught me a lot about energy management. I learned that mental energy should be conserved and used much like physical energy. Here are my takeaways:

1) Manage your energy, instead of managing time. This is contrary to the mountain of books written on time management. This is the first book I've read on energy management. When you workout, you have intervals of high energy, followed by a rest interval. The work day should follow the same pattern. Now I'm trying to work in 90 minute sprints, followed by a 5 - 15 minute break. I'm also devising a way to apply this when managing software developers on projects.

2) Stress is not always a bad thing, but can be very good if it results in positive results. Stress also pushes us out of our comfort zone and enhances our abilities. Constant stress is a bad thing.

3) Working out, eating well, and getting sleep will provide more energy to accomplish your goals and should not be ignored. Bad eating and low activity creates negative stress and a loss of concentration.

Here is the Amazon link:
The Power of Full Engagement

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Internet Explorer Timer

One of the chapters in "The Power of Less" focuses on Internet usage. That led me to wonder how much time I spend on the Internet. I looked for different applications, but couldn't find one that would simply tell me the total amount of time I use Internet Explorer. I decided to write one myself.

This application simply times how long the iexplore.exe process is in memory. I know that doesn't answer how long I'm on the Internet, but it should give me a pretty good idea.

You can download it here:

IE Timer

FYI, it requires the Microsoft DotNet Framework 2.0. You probably already have it installed.

Here's a screenshot of my IE time as of this writing:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Power of Less

Overall, I enjoyed the book I learned the following things:

1) Get to the essentials in everything in life and ignore the rest. Eliminate things that do not add value towards a primary goal.

2) Only work on one primary goal at a time. Either lose weight or finish the degree or write the great American novel. Avoid spreading yourself too thin.

3) Focus on a single task until that task is accomplished. Trying to complete a project while keeping the cell phone on and watching for new email notifications is not very efficient. It also leads to a hectic and harried life. Turn off all outside extractions and immerse into a project. Time will go by faster and happiness will follow.

This book should have been 50 pages, rather than a 160. It is a tad repetitive and is easily skimmed. You can also learn everything you need to know by looking at this guy’s blog:

Zen Habits

Here's the Amazon link:

The Power of Less

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SQL Server 2008 Shrink Log File

When DBAs wanted to shrink a log file in SQL 2000 and 2005, they would often backup the log with TRUNCATE_ONLY. When they attempt to do the same thing in SQL Server 2008, they will be greeted with this message:

'TRUNCATE_ONLY' is not a recognized BACKUP option.

Here is a replacement script for SQL Server 2008:

USE Test



This script puts the database in Simple Recovery mode. It then shrinks the log file. Finally, it puts the database back in Full Recovery mode.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Index grayed out in SQL Server Management Studio

In SQL Server Management Studio, if you right-click on the indexes and you see new index grayed out, it is because the table is schema-locked in another window. Close the design view of the table and new index should now be black and usable.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Putting for Analytics

I often do my best thinking on a putting green that is conveniently located about half mile from my desk.

Recently, I was all lined up, taking a practice swing, and it was perfect, very smooth. My practice swings are usually pretty good, I remember and focus on all the technique I have learned from coaches, lectures, books, experience. I swing freely and effortlessly.

Things only seem to go awry when I put a ball in front of me. I stop swinging freely, I tense up, tighten my grip, and both my swing and the ball become erratic. I have spent years attempting to recreate my practice swing with a ball present, I am sometimes successful, sometimes less so, but I’m always a scratch golfer when I golf without a ball.

Why is there a difference between my practice swing and my real swing? I think it's because when the ball is there, I become so focused on performance that I no longer think about the process that gets me the putt I am after.

I have found the same to be true about a performance focused mindset in business intelligence. Companies spend much less time examining the fundamentals of what got them to where they are in the first place. While examining the reports of a standard company, all focus is directed on dissecting "What happened?" When companies are only performance-oriented, much time is spent analyzing sales by product, by territory, by sales person, by location, or by time of the year. Retail organizations look sharply at sales during "the season", while time and billing firms examine their "top performers" with a keen interest. But how much do these things impact the future? Regardless of what the answer might have been in the past, our current recession has made it very clear that the companies that are solid are those who focused on sound fundamentals, on the process. How effective is it now to examine December 2007 sales? Will those figures have any impact or accurate prediction on what sales will be like in December 2009? What about December 2010? It is likely that if companies continue to be overly performance focused, reactions will be tense and erratic.

I see examples of this behavior in the news, all the time. The latest government stimulus packages are very reactive, with little thought put into goals, impact, future. Wall Street is too results oriented. Every time a firm posts numbers that are shorter than expectations, there is a direct impact on stock price, which affects the longevity of that organization. As companies focus on current numbers, avoid creating a vision, and the process to implement it, they too compromise the future.

So I loosen up, I remember what I have been taught and what I have learned from experience. I know how to do this. I remind myself that keeping an eye on the ball is important...but I will never make it to the hole/goal if I lose my grip on the club.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SSRS 2008 List All Reports, Users, Roles, and Security

Someone on the newsgroups today asked the following question:

Is there any report that can be run in Reporting Services that lists
all reports and the users that have access?

I assumed he meant that he wanted a list of all the reports he has, and a list or roles and the users that are in them. I quickly wrote the following query for him. I hope some of you find it useful:

SELECT u.UserName, c.[Path], c.[Name], r.RoleName, *
FROM Users u
JOIN PolicyUserRole pur
ON u.UserID = pur.UserID
JOIN Policies p
ON pur.policyID = p.PolicyID
JOIN Catalog c
ON p.policyID = c.policyID
JOIN Roles r
ON pur.RoleID = r.RoleID
ORDER BY u.UserName, c.[Name], r.RoleName

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book Review - 10 Days to Faster Reading

I loved this book, and I think all software developers and business stakeholders should read it. We all have a lot to read, and getting through some of it quickly will give us back the gift of time.

Here is what I learned:

1) In general, authors are repetitive, so once you get the point, and you don't need to see the supporting evidence used to reinforce it, just skip the rest and find the next point.

2) Read with an index card covering the line and you'll stay focused and read faster. I don't find that particularly enjoyable. I only do this when there's a book I have to read for work, like a standards specification, or something really boring.

3) If I read 150 words per minute or 400 words per minute, my comprehension stays the same, around 80%. So if my comprehension is the same, I might as well read fast.

If you want to buy this book, here's the Amazon link:

10 Days to Faster Reading

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Book Review: Getting Started with Consulting

I just finished reading "Getting Started with Consulting" and I loved it. I've been a consultant for nine years. This book did three things for me:

1) It confirmed the things I was doing right, but felt like I was the only one doing them.
2) It told me to stop doing things that weren't working, but I kept trying anyway. I suppose I did this because I felt like everyone else was doing them, so why shouldn't I?
3) It gave me important insight into consulting as a business. It taught me how to market, how to arrive at good pricing, and how to network more efficiently.

In this job market that many of you are looking for new positions. If you are considering a consulting practice, this book will be an excellent beginning.

Amazon Link