ZAP Data Hub’s pre-built reporting solutions are the fastest, most cost-effective way to get accurate, trusted reporting from the most widely used ERP, CRM, and finance systems.
Get in touch
July 14, 2018
By Trey Johnson
No comments yet
If you’re using codes and scripts when preparing data for reporting, then read on. In his latest blog, ZAP’s Trey Johnson explains how wizard-based software automation is a more productive approach – financially and operationally – for integration and preparation of data for reporting from ERP, CRM, finance systems, databases, and files.
I’ve had the opportunity to experience the process of managing the “wrangling of data” in a variety of ways. And some of my experiences could be defined as highly technical applications of rudimentary technology, due to the absence of more robust tools.
Stuff like loading data warehouses with data from multiple sources using batch files and DOS-like utilities… One could say it was akin to working with hand tools versus power tools.
The world of data management is still very much evolving, and while there are places for codes and scripts (or hand tools), much of the world expects a bit more in the form of wizard-driven user experiences (or power tools) within the data management infrastructure.
The promise of a great user experience – and great user interfaces – does much to benefit all levels of BI user and data analyst from the most basic (or new) to the most experienced (or mature).
So, in a few quick points, expanded upon in this post, here’s a view of what wizards uniquely do…
Life without Wizards
We’re not talking about Gandalf or Harry Potter, but the ability for technology which works with data to take a strong foothold would be severely limited without these “Wizard-Like” user experiences.
If you’re living life without wizards, you probably have developed a strong set of fundamental knowledge, or your company has historically bought/built tools to get the job done. Kudos, but keep reading because the world needs Wizards now and your depth of experience is still equally as valuable.
Wizards vs. Visual Orchestration
Great user experiences are borne out of the visual interactions users have with the product(s). As such, it is easy to confuse the intelligence of Wizards with the slightly more elemental Visual Orchestration found in products.
A good wizard essentially replaces the knowledge needed to accomplish one or more tasks. For example, in ZAP Data Hub, users connect to a Smart Data Source and, using a checkbox, choose the tables (and data) they want to acquire. In turn, ZAP Data Hub then generates all the necessary elements and steps such as:
Any product claiming to have Wizard-like behavior, needs to be able to take small interactions (such as checking a box) and turn those into significant outcomes, thus saving large amounts of effort and guiding users past the point where they simply may not have the expertise (or time) to do it all on their own.
Visual orchestration is different from wizards and less hands-free. The most common metaphor in visual orchestration for data management is the “arrow.” The arrow often defines the flow of data into an input or out of an output. This is certainly visually helpful but often, the geometric shapes between the arrows have properties which must be managed and seeing something “flow” visually doesn’t really mean there is a large amount of underlying smarts.
The absence of underlying smarts means data management expertise becomes more of a requirement; especially, in the orchestration configuration.
Tableau Prep, I’ve seen, does a great job for the individual user by visually orchestrating their data preparation AND providing a little bit of wizardry with some of the geometric elements of the canvas. It’s by no means a replacement for full-blown data management but, as with most Tableau technology, a great user experience.
So is there no place for code, anymore?
Having spent a good portion of my career focused on what we describe now as data management, I’m probably a little biased… There will always be areas where code bridges the gap between the functional building blocks of one or more solutions.
What is code in data management? It could be the making of web service calls as we encounter rows of data in a pipeline. Or something even more simple, like a SQL code snippet as a CASE statement in a calculation.
One thing is for certain; there is no place for ONLY code anymore! Especially when we have software that alleviates many elements of the unnecessary experiences of code-heavy solutions.
Master Craftsperson or Apprentice?
Is it the knowledge of the tools or the experience of the person which makes someone a master of their craft?
Wizards can be incredible assets at moving you MUCH farther, MUCH faster but they only expedite the process, not eliminate it. If people want to truly master what the wizards do for them, they’ll want to understand somewhat precisely what the wizards produce.
The go news is you can remain an apprentice with your favorite data management tools and still achieve and gain knowledge and expertise. In fact, this is probably the most valuable aspect of having wizards within a data management product.
So while the users may not skillfully wield the hand tools (or code) anymore; with power tools (and wizards), they make a very tangible difference to their organizations very quickly – and grow and deepen their own knowledge at the same time!
Trey Johnson is ZAP’s Chief Evangelist. Based out of Jacksonville, Florida, he brings experience from leading various boutique BI software and national consulting companies. A published author, speaker, and consultant, Trey sat on the PASS Board of Directors over multiple terms, concluding as their Executive Vice President. He was a long-term member of Microsoft’s BI Partner Advisory Council and has spent the last 25 years delivering business intelligence, data warehousing, and data management solutions to businesses of all shapes, sizes and “data challenges.” Follow Trey on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Comments are closed.
All Rights Reserved