Lodestar’s Strategy For Working Remotely With Clients


Working RemotelyAs a business analytics coach, it is our passion to talk about things that make your job easier. Today, we are going to talk about the subject of client support in a remote situation. We all know there is no substitute for physically being with a client. There is value in face to face interaction with your partner and helping them navigate through the complex world of business intelligence, especially if your client is new in the game. There are times, unfortunately, that being there in person is not possible for a variety of reasons hence, working remotely is necessary. Since the show must go on and timelines have to be maintained, companies like Lodestar Solutions have mastered the art of remote development and support. Here at Lodestar, we have conducted numerous development cycles in a remote situation with great success. Most projects started with the first and last week being on site and the in-between time is spent in remote collaboration with the client.

Our day begins with a 15-minute daily standup hosted by us via a web conferencing application. This allows the flexibility of the entire team to participate in the daily standup while some individuals are working remotely. However, most of the time, the client side team members attend the daily standup together in a conference room.

The use of web conferencing tools allows us to record the parts of the meetings that need to be preserved for things like requirements, issue resolution, or training. We find the use of web conferencing tools very powerful because we can share screens and that facilitates true collaboration. Everyone is on the same page and they can participate from their desks. Since the sessions are recorded, we save them and have them archived for later review. The team members that are unable to attend can review the sessions at a later stage and get up to speed with the latest developments.

We supplement web conferencing with video. Since everyone has webcams nowadays, we encourage everyone in the team to use them. We cannot overstate the importance of this since it enforces team participation and enhances communication.

We encourage our readers to try the methods that we have outlined above and reach out to us if they need help in either selecting the best tools or knowing the process that we follow to introduce and maintain remote worker strategy at your organization.

Here are a few resources and suggestions that you may want to check out that may help you when working remotely:

Camtasia by TechSmith is a screen recording device useful for recording lessons, tutorials, or demos – https://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html

Overview of daily stand-up – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-up_meeting

Web video conferencing is very useful on GoToMeeting – http://www.gotomeeting.com/

If you want to learn about how to communicate with naysayers & difficult personalities, how to gain executive sponsorship for your projects, and how road mapping your project will save you time and money, please reach out to us at 813-254-2040 or at Coaching@LodestarSolutions.com.

Naming Conventions in TM1 – Keep Your Data Clean!


Naming conventions in TM1As business analytics coaches, it is our passion to talk about things that make your job easier. Today we are going to talk about best practices in naming conventions in TM1 and application management. Naming conventions in TM1 are effective if and when adopted early. Once you have an established environment, it is difficult to go and update and/or change names of objects. It may sound trivial to change or update names but it’s most definitely not. As you may know, changing the names of well-established objects in a TM1 Ecosystem requires unravelling multiple layers of objects that are interconnected. Starting early and sticking to a naming standard will help in future activities like error resolution, optimizing the environment, adding capabilities and finally the most important of all, documentation & knowledge transfer.

Choosing a naming convention requires all developers involved agreeing on the naming convention. Each object in the application has to be named using the same method. In order to take a systematic approach to this, what we do is take the lowest level in objects and go up from there.

Elements – This is a good place to start because it is the lowest level object in the application. It is advisable to choose the element principal names as a digit code and straight from the source. If the digit code is a description, use that as an Alias. If the description is not unique, amount all the elements then concatenate it with the digit code and make it unique. There are many other ways to make things unique. You need the description to be unique because you can’t have a duplicate Alias on TM1. Refrain from using special characters in element names. If your metadata source has special characters, replace them or omit them during the dimension build during the ETL process.

Subsets – Keep subsets to the minimum. We have noticed with many clients, that there are duplicate subsets meaning there are subsets that have the same elements in them. Keep the subset list clean by deleting duplicates. Use uniform names for dynamic subsets. Try to be descriptive in the name without making the name too long. Prefix dynamic by labeling them as such. Most subsets should be created on the fly in a turbo integrator process. This limits the amount of subsets to a great deal.

Dimensions – If a dimension is specific to a cube, name the dimension with the cube name in it. For example, if an account dimension is for the P&L cube, using something like PL_Account is a good idea. That way all the P&L specific dimensions are listed together in the dimension list.

Cubes – This should follow the same pattern as the dimensions. For example, cubes should be prefixed with the type of cube it is. (PL_XXXX, BS_XXXX etc.)

TI Process and Chores – Special attention should be paid to these objects since they are looked for when a specific activity has to be performed on the application. These activities can span from anything related to maintain dimensions and loading data to extracting data. Having a good naming regiment here is essential for yourself and your predecessors. A good method is to prefix the name with the action being performed. For example, a dimension action can be prefixed with DIM_, a data Load can be prefixed with LOAD_.  If you have a large application with a mix of different types of cubes, you can prefix the process names with the name of the cube. (P&L_Load, P&L_Dim_Account) This kind of naming convention ensures objects are clustered together and makes life easier for everyone.

Following a structured approach that is agreed upon by all developers in the application is how you keep a sustainable TM1 ecosystem. Please feel free to reach out to us at Sales@LodestarSolutions.com for details on naming conventions in TM1 or any other items.

Heather L. Cole On Why BI Projects Fail


Our friend Joe Stangarone, President of mrc and 30+ year IT professional, wrote a great blog post on how many business have high expectations when they adopt BI solutions only to be disappointed after they see the results. These businesses subsequently put the blame on the software. Joe goes on to discuss 5 factors that hinder your BI projects.

In his first point, “It doesn’t really fit your business”, he explains how details can fall through the cracks when you’re doing your requirements gathering and quotes Lodestar Solutions very own Heather L. Cole who said:

“The biggest reason why BI fails is that companies don’t do proper requirements gathering,” says Heather Cole who is President and CEO of Lodestar Solutions. “Often times, IT might interview the business, create a list of requirements, and they start building. BI needs to be a collaborative project between IT and the business. IT is still running projects via a waterfall method, which doesn’t work in the ever changing business environment of today. Both IT and the business should be educated on Agile/Scrum methodologies and all BI projects must be run in some form of agile method, so there is constant communication between the business users and IT.”

Joe goes on to cover how the data may not be clean, you may have blind spots, it’s not maintained, and how end users may not adopt it.

To see the entire article, visit mrc’s Cup of Joe Blog by clicking this link: 5 problems that create “Unintelligent” Business Intelligence

Why BI Projects Fail

Predictive Analytics Success For TV & Music


How is predictive analytics being used these days? Let’s look at two examples of how gathering information through social media and other outlets is being used to choose actors for television shows and how music is streamed to you.

“Big data and analytics are empowering the rule breakers” ~ Kevin Spacey

How many of you watch House of Cards on Netflix? How many knew it was green-lighted based primarily on big data and predictive analytics gathered from viewing habits and patterns of their subscribers? And Kevin Spacey as the lead actor? Yep….selected primarily because of gathered data. They knew that people who watched shows/movies similar to House of Cards also watched a lot of Kevin Spacey movies.predictive analytics success They then pitched it to Kevin knowing that people who liked “A” also liked “B”. Combine data from “C” and they predicted that “D” (House of Cards) will be a hit even before a pilot was shot.

Netflix has been collecting big data from their users. Every time they hit the pause button, fast forward, re-watch a show, abandon a show entirely after watching the first few minutes, what device they are using to receive their service, and MANY other “events”, it is logged, recorded, and analyzed. This allows them to come up with other ideas and concepts for shows.

Let’s now look at music. Forward thinking companies like Spotify are using new technology like Nestify. It is predictive analytics that targets and anticipates specific music depending on the time of day & activity you are engaging in without you having to manually select the genre. Take, for example, the song “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede which was prominently featured in the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”. You click the “thumbs up” button on your media device while on the treadmill at 5:30pm. But how many people really want more cover songs from Bjorn Skifs and his 1974 bandmates? Nestify is using predictive analytics to distinguish the difference between your “most listened to” genre of Adult Contemporary (because you have it on while working as background music) and that time of day when you’re typically at the gym to start playing “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky. Couple that with a GPS system in your device that will recognize/pinpoint when you actually arrive at the gym to start your “pump it up” playlist, and BAM! Your device will know you better than you know yourself.

There is a move towards “customer-centricity” where companies are reorienting their operating models around the customer. Studies have suggested that those with leading demand-analytics capabilities showed higher commercial performance levels compared to those that used more “traditional” methods. So, in summary, if you are not using or at least considering predictive analytics, the speed of technological advancements and how data is used is going to leave you in a position of playing constant catch up.



IBM Cognos OLAP Modeling Tools – Which should I choose?

IBM Cognos OLAP Modeling Tools As business analytics coaches, we are often asked many questions about what are the right IBM Cognos OLAP modeling tools for particular projects.  IBM Cognos OLAP modeling tools come in a number of different options with IBM Cognos. Each modeling tool has a number of differentiators that, depending on your situation, may make it the modeling tool for you. Below you will find a chart that lays out four of those differences.

IBM Cognos Transformer
(File-based MOLAP cube with pre-aggregation)

  • Optimal to provide consistent interactive analysis experience to large number of users when the data source is an operational/transactional system, and a star or snowflake data structure cannot be achieved.
  • Cube architecture that includes pre-aggregation is such that scalability requires careful management using cube groups.
  • Data latency is inherent with any MOLAP cube technology, where data movement into the cube is required.
IBM Cognos TM1 (In-memory MOLAP technology with write-back support)
  • Optimal for write-back, what-if analysis, planning and budgeting, or other specialized applications.
  • Medium data volumes.
  • Aggregation occurs on the fly, which can impact performance with high data and high user volumes.
IBM Cognos Dynamic Cubes (In-memory accelerator for dimensional analysis)
  • Optimal for read-only reporting and analytics over large data volumes.
  • Aggregate-aware, with extensive in-memory caching for performance.
  • Star or snowflake schema required in underlying database (highly recommended to maximize performance).
Dimensionally modeled relational (DMR) (Dimensional view of a relational database)
  • Easily create a dimensional data model over low data volumes in an operational/transactional system. Latency needs to be carefully managed.
  • Well suited for complex security requirements.
  • Caching on the Cognos Dynamic Query server helps performance.
  • Processing associated with operational/transactional systems impacts performance.

As you can see, there are a number of IBM Cognos OLAP modeling tools and we would love to talk with you about your business requirements for a modeling tool for business analytics.  If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of IBM Cognos or Business Analytics coaching, please reach out to us at 813-254-2040 or email us at coaching@lodestarsolutions.com.

Things Successful IBM Cognos Business Analytics Clients Will Never Say

Why are some projects more successful than others? Why do some Cognos Business Analytics clients feel accomplished while others feel they are beating their heads against a wall? The answer is – their WORDS!  Learn how to have Cognos Analytics SuccessCognos Analytics Success

Here are the things you will probably never hear successful IBM Cognos Business Analytics clients say:

We do not have IT support.

IBM Cognos deployment should be a collaboration of IT and the business. Many clients say they want to implement TM1 or Express without IT support.  You can but you shouldn’t!  IT is a critical component of a successful team.  If you don’t have IT support, go build it.  The first step is to communicate you goal, your plan, and how you can work together.  With a proper plan you can minimize IT involvement but they must be involved.

I know what I am doing. I don’t need your advice.

To truly succeed, the team has to be open to new experiences, new ideas, and new perspectives. Everyone has to always be open to feedback; on how they are executing, how they are communicating, and how they can improve. Those who are constantly open to feedback get the respect of their teams and colleagues.  Cognos Business Analytics involves many moving parts and a collaborative team that is open to all options including modifying data warehouses, designing things different and working with the resources you have even if it’s not “best practices” will increase the probability of success.

My company won’t invest in training or coaching

Cognos Business Analytics companies that are dedicated to training and coaching their team members in the tools and processes of business analytics solutions like Cognos become self-reliant.  Your business will change and your models will change. You don’t want to have to call consultants constantly to make the changes.

“If you are afraid you will train your people and they leave. What if you don’t and they stay?”

I don’t need to learn that, it’s not my responsibility. 

The team members that are highly successful in analytics love to learn.  The more they understand how the tools work, the more value they add to the organization in knowing how to leverage data and analytics.  Successful Cognos Business Analytic teams cross train their team members the tools, data warehousing, as well as presentation techniques.  This training empowers the team and allows for everyone to back each other up in challenging times.

We already completed requirements gathering.

The business is constantly changing and as a result, their needs will change.  Requirements gathering is a continuous process.  It involves active listening skills that are not natural to most analytically minded people, as they like to “solve” problems.  Successful teams continually check and recheck to make sure the needs have not changed.  Business aqnalytics requires an agile flexible approach to be successful.

How to handle crazy BI reporting requirements – Ask the 5 “W’s”

Reporting - Lodestar SolutionsHave you ever received a custom reporting request or data request that makes no sense?  Maybe you ask questions and the response you get makes you think, “Are these people are insane?” Instead of getting frustrated and venting to officemates, this is your time to shine!  The thing is, most people will reluctantly handle BI reporting requirements if it’s a superior or they will bury the request in the mounting pile.   STOP! This is an opportunity knocking at your door. 

There is a reason someone is asking the question! Here are some potential reasons for crazy BI reporting requirements :

  • Data is not available elsewhere or not accessible.
  • Data is not in a useable format.
  • Bad data exists.
  • There’s a business reason to look at data in different ways.

When you get these crazy BI reporting requirements requests, try asking the requester a few questions but remember to preface it by saying, “If you don’t mind, I would like to ask a few questions so that I build the report not just to provide you this information but hopefully address your next question regarding this data.  If I better understand your request, I will be able to create a more relevant solution.” 


  • Who will be using this report?
  • What would be your next question if this data seems out of expected ranges?
  • Will you need this on the mobile devices? Will you need to work with this offline?(Where)
  • How often will you need this information updated? (When)
  • Explain how you will use this data?  What business question are you trying to answer?  (This is the “Why” they need it.)

Once you understand the Who, What, Where, When and Why, you can create the best solution possible not just more reporting that will lead to another request.

How to Demo Cognos Mobile on a Projector

How to Demo Cognos Mobile on a Projector

Are you looking to roll out a mobile solution to your organization but are facing the challenge of how you train a large number of people simultaneously? Have you tried using the the best outdoor projectors indoors, only to find that they are not suited to train large amounts indoors. Well, the solution is quite simple for IBM Cognos Mobile. Demo Cognos Mobile There’s a product called Reflector that you should give a look. Reflector allows you to wirelessly display your iPad or iPhone onto your computer for group presentations or business meetings.  It is, indeed, easy to mirror your IBM Cognos Mobile App so you can present your new mobile dashboards to a room or people or web meeting.

Reflector is an AirPlay receiver that accepts wireless mirroring and streaming connections. It uses technology that is built into your computer, iPad, iPod or iPhone to wirelessly display content. As far as what's under the hood, it works much like an Apple TV or Roku. There's no complicated set up or need for adapters and wires that will look like a jungle. Once installed, simply connect your device and mirroring begins.

I highly recommend Reflector for any IBM Cognos Developers that want to demo their mobile solutions to users.

You can find it at   http://www.airsquirrels.com/reflector/ and try it out.  The full version costs about $13.00. 

IBM Support OnBoarding & Getting Started with IBM Help

We know from experience that finding information can be difficult while trying to navigate on IBM’s website. IBM SupportHowever, IBM Support is trying to make that easier. Whether you are new to managing your IBM Business Analytics products or just need a refresher, I suggest that you participate in one of their upcoming webinars to better manage your account. I would also like to remind you to make sure that you keep you company contacts current in your IBM profile. Outdated contacts can delay support requests, especially if they have left the company.

These IBM support presentations are 30 minutes, followed by Q & A, and will focus on one of three subjects:

• Gaining and Managing Access to Your Software – including managing contacts, roles, responsibilities – Passport Advantage Online
• Getting IBM Support – including getting help on demand – SR tool, Support Portal, Notifications
• Gaining and Managing Access to IBM SPSS License keys – live demo

Click here to link to the page with all information on the recurring OnBoarding sessions.

Lodestar Solutions also recommends that you check out these links for additional information.

Getting started with IBM Support
 VIDEO: Honey, have you seen my keys? (Related to SPSS)

Arrgh! The Lodestar Pirates won’t be at IBM Insight 2014 (IOD)

We wanted to let all our loyal mates know that the Lodestar Solution’s Pirates won’t be sailing into the IBM Insight 2014(formerly known as IOD) port this year.  Yes we were scheduled to attend but, upon examination, we realized attending would not further our goals to steer you to make your IBM Cognos Business Analytics investment really sail.

Lodestar’s goal is to guide you by being the leading educator and implementers of business analytics.  Candidly, we determined that sitting in a trade show booth for hours would not be as beneficial to you as us focusing on developing amazing new content that we can bring to you!  Instead of hanging out at IBM Insight 2014 in Vegas, the Lodestar crew is going to be developing a number of exciting new 1 hour software agnostic programs that we can bring to you.  These training programs will show you how to:

  • Define your data map for better data in less time
  • Create a Business Analytics culture
  • Promote yourself as a BA expert
  • Give a Demo that doesn’t suck
  • Define your BA roadmap
  • Meet the needs of the Business with the data that’s not in the warehouse
  • Increase end user adoption
  • Increase your effectiveness in Requirements Gathering
  • Create a partnership between the Business and IT
  • Develop effective training programs that make you scalable
  • And much more…

Our plan is to create our unique programs and provide a limited number of free training sessions each month.  The free programs each month will be offered on a first come first serve basis.

Why are we not attending IBM Insight 2014?  

“We believe strongly the Data and Analytics can improve the world.  If we can help empower you, you can change the world!”

Look for our captain in Vegas.  We realize a number of you look forward to chatting with our captain, Heather Cole, so while Heather won't entrenched into the traditional IBM Insight 2014, she plans to come to Vegas for a day or two.  If you would like to schedule a time to meet with her in Vegas, please email sales@lodestarsolutions.com.  Her schedule will fill up fast, so don’t delay.  Heather plans to provide everyone that meets with her a copy of her audio session, “How to Give a Software Demo that Doesn’t Suck”.