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Collaboratively Innovate with Version Control in Spotfire Analytics

Blog: The Tibco Blog

Version control (also known as revision control or source control) for DevOps and software development is a well-adopted practice to eliminate the risk of manual errors and enable teams to work together to develop code. However, many BI analysts and developers aren’t taking advantage of the benefits of version control when it comes to developing analytics reports. Typically, analytics reports are made up of a group of individually-created versions, which are saved and merged manually without source control as a backup. So, how should BI analysts and developers adopt version control and what challenges could this best practice address?

Learning from Software Development Best Practices

One of the most important best practices for software development is “commit early, often, and with clear messages to your future self or others.” In other words, take baby steps for success and commit after even small crunches of valid code to provide an easy-to-follow history tracking with a detailed changelog. This comprehensive history serves as the basis for deciding on the final version of code.  It’s also important in the case of an emergency to discover what went wrong compared to previous versions.

Here are several other best practices for maintaining version control when developing code:

Write Descriptive Commit Messages

In the moment, it’s easy to generate a creative abbreviation. However, these abbreviations need to have meaning now and in the future to both yourself and others. Writing descriptive commit messages helps provide enough information that anyone can understand.

Keep File Naming Conventions Consistent

An easy-to-recognize file structure encourages teamwork and establishes a single point of understanding between team members. Elements should be recognizable at a glance to accelerate collaboration and eliminate time that could be wasted trying to identify files in the repository.

Merge Versions Seamlessly

Merging can be useful when trying to combine the work of several team members with previously separated codes and allows for accelerated delivery cycles.

Version Control for BI Analysts & Developers

BI analysts and developers face these common challenges when building analytical reports:

– Coordinating development, changing enterprise analytics workflows and managing multiple report versions, especially with several contributors, is risky due to the possibility of human error.

– Development cycles and production releases without appropriate governance can lead to mistakes in the final release.

– A lack of standardized development processes can cause conflicts, bottlenecks to collaboration and wasted time due to manual verification.

With these challenges in mind, let’s take a look at how leveraging the best practices of software development can improve your BI and analytics practice. Imagine a team that consists of three business analysts is just about to kick off an Agile project where quick and accurate deliverables are key.

Version Control in Spotfire

Peter from Germany                   Maria from Spain                        Paul from the UK

Although Peter, Maria, and Paul are all very talented Spotfire experts in data analytics and setting KPI targets, they all have different working habits and work in different parts of the world across various time zones. Under these circumstances, it is even more important to align their versions transparently and consistently by integrating version control best practices into their daily routine, including:

– Governing production releases

– Restoring mission-critical deployments in production

– Tracking and coordinating changes by Report Template Authors

– Merging work efficiently

By adopting these best practices, BI analysts and developers can achieve several business benefits:

Accelerated Quality Report Delivery through Better Collaboration

With history tracking, change log generation, and detailed report comparison, multiple BI developers can work on the same report at the same. With this type of collaboration, customers can receive a quality report at an accelerated rate.

Safeguarded Brainstorming & Elimination of Human Mistakes

With the ability to restore previous versions, users can brainstorm and try ideas safely while building dashboards. BI and analytics developers can eliminate costly human errors by adopting version control.

Enhanced Teamwork across Different Locations and Time Zones

Merging independently-developed versions of an analytical report can be risky. With version control, all changes are tracked and users can share and edit the same document at the same. Ultimately, version control takes collaboration to the next level and increases effective work across different locations and time zones.

These are just some of the benefits that BI analysts and developers can take advantage of by adopting a software development best practice, such as version control. To learn more about this topic and EPAM’s BI Version Control Accelerator for TIBCO Spotfire, a turn-key solution that accelerates the delivery of Spotfire reports by 4-5x, join our webinar series or contact us at enterpriseanalytics@epam.com to request a free demo!

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