Extracting information from your OSS

Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make [a] difference.”
Mike Schmoker
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I’m possibly having a major brain-fade here (again), but the only two ways I can think of for extracting information from your OSS are:

  1. Via your OSS GUI (Graphical User Interface)
  2. Via some form of reports

Note that I exclude system interfaces from this list because they are but a mechanism for transferring data rather than extracting information. Also note that I include database queries and the like as being a form of a report.

Now, assuming that I’m not being particularly forgetful again today, and there are only two extraction mechanisms, they become really important, particularly when you consider that OSS really only exist to capture data and derive insight / information.

It’s really all just a very simple three-step process:

  1. Data goes in
  2. Magic happens here in the OSS
  3. Information / insight comes out

I once contracted to an OSS vendor that provided the same set of canned reports to their new customers for years. The only problem was that a majority of the reports created error messages, the ones that “worked” didn’t provide information that was particularly helpful and they were originally written in a language that is as commonly used as Klallam so the vendor didn’t update their reports.

As a result, this vendor’s customers had to rely on their GUI for all information, or write their own custom queries if they had this in-house skill-set. The information in this vendor’s database was incredibly powerful if you were able to understand their database schema and write custom SQL scripts, which I forced myself to learn specifically for this purpose.

Unfortunately since most of the vendor’s customers were unable to leverage the data via reports, they were missing out on one of the powerful mechanisms for accessing the information that should’ve been at their fingertips. Without inspiring reports and the insightful data scientists creating them, the customers were being short-changed by their OSS. They were unable to access the information that could’ve made a big difference to their organisations.

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