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Analytics craft

The art of being an analytics practitioner.

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· 15 min read
Lauren Benezra

Let’s set the scene. You are an analytics engineer at your company. You have several relational datasets flowing through your warehouse, and, of course, you can easily access and transform these tables through dbt. You’ve joined together the tables appropriately and have near-real time reporting on the relationships for each entity_id as it currently exists.

But, at some point, your stakeholder wants to know how each entity is changing over time. Perhaps, it is important to understand the trend of a product throughout its lifetime. You need the history of each entity_id across all of your datasets, because each related table is updated on its own timeline.

What is your first thought? Well, you’re a seasoned analytics engineer and you know the good people of dbt Labs have a solution for you. And then it hits you — the answer is snapshots!

· 16 min read
Christine Berger

If you're reading this article, it looks like you're wondering how you can better optimize your Redshift queries - and you're probably wondering how you can do that in conjunction with dbt.

In order to properly optimize, we need to understand why we might be seeing issues with our performance and how we can fix these with dbt sort and dist configurations.

· 13 min read
Pat Kearns

Analytics engineers (AEs) are constantly navigating through the names of the models in their project, so naming is important for maintainability in your project in the way you access it and work within it. By default, dbt will use your model file name as the view or table name in the database. But this means the name has a life outside of dbt and supports the many end users who will potentially never know about dbt and where this data came from, but still access the database objects in the database or business intelligence (BI) tool.

Model naming conventions are usually made by AEs, for AEs. While that’s useful for maintainability, it leaves out the people who model naming is supposed to primarily benefit: the end users. Good model naming conventions should be created with one thing in mind: Assume your end-user will have no other context than the model name. Folders, schema, and documentation can add additional context, but they may not always be present. Your model names will always be shown in the database.

· 11 min read
Lauren Benezra

Hey data champion — so glad you’re here! Sometimes datasets need a team of engineers to tackle their deduplification (totz a real word), and that’s why we wrote this down. For you, friend, we wrote it down for you. You’re welcome!

Let’s get rid of these dupes and send you on your way to do the rest of the super-fun-analytics-engineering that you want to be doing, on top of super-sparkly-clean data. But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

· 5 min read
Kira Furuichi

"I forgot to mention we dropped that column and created a new one for it!”

“Hmm, I’m actually not super sure why customer_id is passed as an int and not a string.”

“The primary key for that table is actually the order_id, not the id field.”

I think many analytics engineers, including myself, have been on the receiving end of some of these comments from their backend application developers.

Backend developers work incredibly hard. They create the database and tables that drive the heart of many businesses. In their efforts, they can sometimes overlook, forget, or not understand their impact on analytics work. However, when backend developers do understand and implement the technical and logistical requirements from data teams, they can spark joy.

So what makes strong collaboration possible between analytics engineers and backend application developers?

· 18 min read
Nate Sooter

Executive Summary:

If your company is struggling to leverage analytics, dealing with an overgrown ecosystem of dashboards/databases or simply want to avoid the mistakes of others, this story is for you. In this article, I will walk through forming the first analytics engineering team at Smartsheet including how momentum built around forming the team,  the challenges we faced, and the solutions we developed within the first year.

Introduction

Most writing about analytics engineering, or AE for short, assumes a team already exists. It’s about operating as an AE team or managing stakeholders or leveraging tools more effectively. But what about the prologue? What initial problems do AEs solve? How does an AE team even start? What do the early days look like?

· 16 min read
Donny Flynn

Editor's note: In this tutorial, Donny walks through the fictional story of a SaaS company called JaffleGaggle, who needs to group their freemium individual users into company accounts (aka a customer 360 view) in order to drive their product-led growth efforts.

You can follow along with Donny's data modeling technique for identity resolution in this dbt project repo. It includes a set of demo CSV files, which you can use as dbt seeds to test Donny's project for yourself.

· 10 min read
Dave Connors

Measuring the number of business hours between two dates using SQL is one of those classic problems that sounds simple yet has plagued analysts since time immemorial.

This comes up in a couple places at dbt Labs:

  • Calculating the time it takes for a support ticket to be solved
  • Measuring team performance against response time SLAs

We internally refer to this at "Time on Task," and it can be a critical data point for customer or client facing teams. Thankfully our tools for calculating Time on Task have improved just a little bit since 2006.

Even still, you've got to do some pretty gnarly SQL or dbt gymnastics to get this right, including:

  1. Figuring out how to exclude nights and weekends from your SQL calculations
  2. Accounting for holidays using a custom holiday calendar
  3. Accommodating for changes in business hour schedules

This piece will provide an overview of how and critically why to calculate Time on Task and how we use it here at dbt Labs.

· 8 min read
Pat Kearns

💾 This article is for anyone who has ever questioned the sanity of a date not in ISO 8601 format

Have you ever been assigned to add new fields or concepts to an existing set of models and wondered:

  • Why are there multiple models named almost the same but slightly different?

  • Which model has the fields I need?

  • Which model is upstream or downstream from which?

· 3 min read
Jason Ganz
David Krevitt

Doing analytics is hard. Doing analytics right is even harder.

There are a massive number of factors to consider: Is data missing? How do we make this insight discoverable? Why is my database locked? Are we even asking the right questions?

Compounding this is the fact that analytics can sometimes feel like a lonely pursuit.

Sure, our data is generally proprietary and therefore we can’t talk much about it. But we certainly can share what we’ve learned about working with that data.

So let’s all commit to sharing our hard won knowledge with each other—and in doing so pave the path for the next generations of analytics practitioners.