It has been a few years since my good friends and I sat in my basement and began exploring the idea of building software to accompany SAP BusinessObjects. As I sit here reflecting on our journey, I am reminded of how fortunate we are for having opportunities, amazing colleagues, and customers that have turned out to be incredible champions for us. But the amazing thing to me is how I have learned over and over again that they can challenge us to continually innovate.

Sherlock® has been the mainstay of our company for years now. Our customers have come to rely on us not just for our capability in managing the SAP BusinessObjects platform, but also in how we carry that vision into our tools and into the business intelligence solutions we team up with them to build.

They teach us new stuff
Users always find new and innovative ways to break stuff. I personally love getting the call or email asking, for example, “Can Sherlock® help me figure out why my WebI reports started failing on Friday? If not, can you make it tell me?”. Let me tell you, in these years I have seen things that will make you wonder…how? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A user managed to build a 4 GB WebI report in XI 3.1
  • A user scheduled one report that had generated 2.9 million failed instances
  • A CMS with 450,000 reports was comprised of over 320,000 inbox docs, in which 99.9% had never been viewed
  • A single user report running multiple times a day was consistently blowing up and taking out every other report being processed by that Webi processing sever
  • A user had an unstable Webi report that had over 60 objects with 17 million rows of data in it (no it was not the 4 GB report)
  • A customer developed just a handful of universes, but each numbering in the thousands of objects, where the average object utilization was under 15%

There are a lot of fun stories that make you face palm.

How we learn
The great thing from all of these scenarios and questions that we receive from our customers is that they give us opportunities to learn more. They continually push us to not just expose more functionality, but to make more connections and to develop even more insights out of the massive amounts of data that we accumulate. Our customers inspire us to consistently develop new tools, new functionality, new pre-built content and to make even more data available for analysis.

imagesBut, isn’t this true for any effective implementation of business intelligence? How do you listen to your customer? Do you have a regular feedback cycle? Do you just chuck content out and tell them to go fish along with a “you can do eeeeeeeet”. Effective and fulfilling business intelligence cannot come in one form at one time. It is a convergence of a few things that are on the top of my head today (but surely more):

  • Effective use of a few useful technologies – not a smörgåsbord of every tool you can find
  • A close awareness of emerging technologies and how those innovations can ultimately improve business intelligence usage – not random implementation without a vision
  • A clear and constant communication with your users and an emphatic need to fulfill those needs to the best of IT’s abilities

My first manager, back in my days as an intern in IT, gave me advice I still carry with me to this day. One day, while lamenting about what a pain my end users were, he said very simply “If we didn’t have users, sure, we wouldn’t have anybody to complain, but then we also wouldn’t have jobs.” (we miss you Don)

He was right on. It really then became my mission (although not always successful) to be the guy that my users can turn to when they need to get their job done better. It really has nothing to do with me. I am here to serve. DOH!

My only really advice here is be your customer’s buddy. Really. Try it.