Today I’m working on building a new reporting system at my day job. Basically we’re looking at creating tools to budget and forecast results to be reviewed weekly, with a goal of being more on top of results so we can react better. The stuff that every business really wants to do.
I’ve got the reports that we want at the end, and now I’m looking at them trying to figure out where to get the info from, how quickly it will need to be updated, where to source info that isn’t readily available and all that good stuff. By the time we’re done I’m sure we’ll be hitting on Access, SQL Server, Excel, VBA, Power Pivot and Power Query, and possibly some other tools I haven’t thought of yet.
So at the end of the day, I’m building a system here. Something to be used daily to capture, store and report on information. Built of a collection of different pieces and technology, I’m essentially building my own software solution to a business problem.
I started with some sketching on paper, trying to illustrate the overall data collection/storage points and program flow. Then I moved to Visio to try and draw it there. (The pieces needed to move around as I added new dimensions and considerations.) Then I got stuck on some of the considerations… some of them were big enough that they could change the way things were done.
Now I’m in Word trying to state – in English – the goals and non-goals of the overall project, so that I can get an overview on paper.
I’ve got a meeting this afternoon with a key player/driver to talk specifically about:
- What the system should do
- Key points that is absolutely will not be required to do
- Key points that we want to make sure do not happen (different from above)
- Who is going to use the system (each part)
- How it’s going to be updated (each part)
- How often updating will be needed for information drivers
I’m hoping with those stated that I can do two things:
- Get answers to the major design changing considerations I need before I build anything, and
- Generate a list that I can go back to later to ensure I haven’t overlooked or missed anything when I’m designing the system.
While I’m keenly aware that I’m not going to get everything covered, and that some design considerations will need to be made on the fly during development, I want to minimize the chance that any of those will major issues. I hate coming up on a blocking point part way through the implementation that forces design re-work and retrofitting.
Now I’ve done this kind of things many times, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that I’ve settled into a piece of software that really works for me when trying to design this stuff. I usually end up with Word to track goals, Visio for the flowcharts, but there’s a lot of iteration to get through it.
That’s the reason I’m reaching out here, is to see what others do in this area. I’m curious as to what tools/processes YOU use to scope and design a BI system or software. Do you start with a goals document, do you start with flowcharts, or something else? Are you happy with your process, or are there pain points and gotchas that you still get hit with?