Adam Bakhtiar, one of our dependable Product Specialists, shares his thoughts on two recent successful projects which have been amongst the most challenging of his career.
A couple of projects that have filled my schedule lately have been very interesting for me. These two are the largest projects I have worked on in my career so far.
Both required me to transform the database supplied by IBM Cognos Controller into one more friendly for analytical reporting.
IBM Cognos Controller is excellent for accountancy data input validation and consolidation. However, for users required in-depth planning, forecasting, and analytical insights, IBM Planning Analytics is the best tool for the job.
Having both tools hosted as SAAS in IBM’s cloud simplifies system infrastructure. However, because Controller is more of a specialist tool than Planning Analytics, its data structure needs to be transformed for effective reporting. The challenge then is to align Controller’s vast configuration flexibility into more consistent and predictable information for Planning Analytics to digest and present.
The amount of data stored by the system owner also presents a challenge for system performance. In summary, this requires not only accurate transformation but also good system performance.
In my role as a product specialist for IBM Planning Analytics, it is my responsibility to ensure that requirements are fulfilled.
From the outset, I recognised that these were complex challenges with intricate requirements.
Because of their complexity, emphasis on forward-planning, design and architecture is even more important.
The danger of not having a robust design is that the system can end up with complex mechanics, redundant data, or metadata, or even worse, the model may be shelved.
Adding to the complexity, we needed to translate several ‘accountancy’ requirements into ‘data engineering’ terminology. Often, projects become difficult due to misunderstandings between business and technical understanding.
This prompts me to use diagrams to overcome these issues. There are a few data diagrams that I employ for my design: Data flow diagrams (including metadata and process flows) and UML use cases to understand user roles.
These diagrams help me structure the system better, understand requirements, and devise the most effective methods to meet the system owner’s needs. They are more user-friendly than word or Excel-based component design documents.
Diagrams are also useful for conveying my message to the system owner. They have eliminated many misunderstandings and mistranslations, simplifying complex requirements into sets of blocks and arrows.
At the end of the day, for large projects, I prefer to spend a bit more time upfront on design, rather than tinkering with code and engaging in back-and-forth discussions with unhappy system owners.
Adam Bakhtiar, Product Specialist – 24th October 2023