Simplify in 2017: Part I

Hi All –

This post is the first of a two-part series on how I’m approaching 2017. Part I is exclusive to high level priorities and the choices and habits reflecting them. Part II planned for next week will be more technical and focus more on simplifying the Microsoft business intelligence solutions and projects I contribute to in 2017 and beyond.

I assume most of you are familiar with at least some of the main ideas expressed by Steve Jobs. One of my favorite quotes of his is “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication..”. Clearly the essence of this has proven true in various personal computing markets and I think business intelligence and analytics products and services continue to pursue and reflect the value of these ‘non-functional requirements’ as well – the simpler or ‘lighter’ the tool or solution, for all parties involved, will generally win. It will win because it’s easier to understand, use and support and because it’s more stable and less error prone given fewer layers and parts/dependencies. (After all, one of the primary value propositions of analytical models is to provide a simplified interface over data – to deliver a ‘it just works’ experience for all the various tools and users that may access it)

So the end game I’m constantly thinking about in one form or another is “How can I best architect (or advise on) BI solutions and strategies such that they deliver powerful capabilities (at scale, with complexity) without sacrificing simplicity (or driving up costs and hours to deliver)?” I’ll talk more deeply about this next week but per some of my recent posts and presentations you can assume that Azure Analysis Services, Direct Query mode models (and optimization of it’s data sources (clustered column store, Azure SQL DW) will all be parts of this.

Per the quote simplicity is much more than just minimalism or avoiding clutter. However, to focus on those higher, abstract design ideas (and study the fast-moving MS data platform constantly) I think (for me at least), it’s essential to start out with avoiding and/or severely reducing various forms of clutter – essentially anything that would take my mind’s focus off of MSBI technologies and closely related trends and design techniques.

Here are the specific actions, habits, and structural/lifestyle choices that at least help (I think) to put me in a position to deliver simplified and more valuable MSBI solutions in 2017:

  • I haven’t owned a television for 5+ years (no Netflix or Hulu either).
  • I don’t actively follow any sports and generally have no idea what’s going on in pop culture or politics.
  • I have a small circle of tech friends and very rarely go out to social events, bars, movie theatres, restaurants, etc. I am, however, co-organizer of Boston Business Intelligence and hope I can be of use in coordinating good events/speakers.
  • I have a small, simple home in a quiet neighborhood near Boston
  • I’m about as single as it gets – even the thought of relationships and settling down with a family life is difficult to comprehend.
  • Although there are certainly added responsibilities in owning your own consulting firm, I’m able to more than offset this time by simply not engaging in the low value added activities that are generally part of being a tech consultant for another firm.
  • During weekdays I generally consume one large meal per day after normal business hours and very little time goes into preparing or consuming this meal.
  • Everywhere I go, such as the commute to work, I try to surround myself with relevant tech information sources and devices.
  • When I’m not studying or working on BI I like to study philosophy and art which champions individual creativity, independent thought, and achievement. Specifically, I study the ideas of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism.

I’ve said before in multiple blog posts that I think natural analytical skill (an ability to ‘see the chessboard’) is essential but, particularly with the pace of change in BI and analytics, I believe a greater advantage is available to those that simply immerse themselves in it – the ‘lifelong learner’ mentality.  I’m cautiously optimistic that if I don’t stray from the bullet points above and if I stay focused on the technologies and solution architectures in Part II (next week)  I’ll have a very fulfilling (more specific and important than ‘successful’) 2017.

A typically very simple and highly focused (and caffeinated) day:

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