A few weeks ago I authored a post that explained how were leveraging an Innovation game on my current Agile Data Warehouse project. You can find the original post here.
One of the aspects I love about Agile is the freedom it allows you to be bold as it acknowledges it is impossible to get it perfect off the bat. I find that this encourages people to take a chance and try new things. If it doesn’t work? No problem, we will just adjust and get better as we progress.
My initial blog proposed using a visual Innovation Game with Visual Report Boards to allow for brutal transparency and the management of the data requirements for an Agile Data Warehouse project. Each Visual Report Board had an object at the centre with 6 dimensions around it that illustrated how the object could be reported on. (I affectionately refer to these boards or diagrams as Hexes) Our Objects were the people who the corporation were interested in. It turns out that this method has been successful. It has allowed us to create a visual backlog of data requirements and have the clients prioritize the work and guide the work according to the overall business priorities.
Why am I writing this blog then?
Well it turned out that once we started placing the data requirements or reporting stories on the Visual Report Boards, it became apparent that our objects and dimensions of the diagrams required tweaking.
Initially I had placed a Person object at the centre of the diagram. The dimensions where then aspects of how we need to report on that person. Although this object and dimensions may work for other projects, it did not work for our project. (Actually I think that most Data Warehouse projects would probably make the same change we did, but I’ll let you decide that for yourselves)
Our experience was that most of the reports or data requirements were very clustered on the Visual Report Boards and the diagrams did not allow for the visual communication of what the report was or what data was required. I was starting to worry that this process might not provide the brutal transparency that allowed for the efficient creation of a Data Warehouse in an Agile way.
Just the Facts
After reviewing the requirements, it became apparent I had the wrong objects at the centre! Rather than people at the centre, the objects at the centre should be transactional data. The centre objects needed to be the actual data that was summed, aggregated, filtered, sliced, and diced. Once I made this change, the value of the Visual Report Boards increased exponentially. Now they communicated the content and purpose of the data requirements.
The real indication that I was on the right track is that the Revenue and Expenses Hexes I now had were also the first two Fact tables that were needed in the Data Warehouse! This method of visualization and analysis was aligned 100% with the Data Warehouse design process. Of course the Hexes were Fact table. This made perfect sense. I imagine more Hexes will be needed in the future as we discover the need for more Fact tables.
In addition, we created one more Master Data Hex as some reports and data requirements are not related to transactions.
I am convinced the use of these Visual Report Boards and the related use of an Innovation Game enable the creation of a Data Warehouse in an Agile manner. We are executing in Iterations and not increments and the clients are thrilled with the control, visibility, and value they get every 2 weeks. I’ll post another blog once we have created enough of the Fact tables to provide more lessons learned.