Maintaining the efficiency of your Sigma platform is essential for sustaining the flow of accurate and timely insights. Your analytics environment, left unchecked, can grow cumbersome and slow, undermining its purpose and your productivity. This guide details how a health check can prevent common pitfalls, enhance your analytics capabilities, and keep your Sigma deployment at peak performance.

As your reliance on Sigma grows to power analytics across your organization, ensuring a healthy environment becomes increasingly important. Without regular maintenance, even optimized deployments can deteriorate over time under the strain of expanding data and usage. Regular health checks are key to catching issues early before they compromise performance or open security vulnerabilities.

In this blog, we discuss:

What is a Sigma Health Check?

A Sigma health check provides a structured process to assess the effectiveness of your analytics environment. It aims to optimize how well Sigma meets your organization’s needs for data-driven insights.

During the health check, key aspects are examined, including workbook performance, administration practices, documentation standards, and infrastructure efficiency. The goal is twofold: first, to identify areas for enhancement, and second, to maximize Sigma’s latest capabilities.

Regular health checks stand as best practice for any adopter, even experienced analytics teams.

These evaluations foster technical excellence and ensure your analytics pipelines align with industry standards, enabling your data teams to deliver precise insights for informed business decisions.

Risks of Not Performing Regular Sigma Health Checks

When Sigma environments are first deployed, they are typically lean and highly efficient. However, as the volume of data and number of users grow — without regular oversight — several issues can arise that compromise the system’s initial efficiency and security standards, including:

  • Runaway queries: Sigma is great because it gives data analysts the ability to write new functions easily. But without proper precautions in place, this freedom can lead to the execution of excessively large queries, straining your data warehouse resources and incurring unnecessary costs.
  • Increased query queue times: As your user count increases, you may notice that Sigma starts to feel ‘slow’, and queries take much longer than they should. This slowdown impacts user experience and productivity, making it crucial to monitor and optimize the system’s responsiveness.
  • Workspace bloat: Over time, workspaces can become cluttered with seldom used or obsolete workbooks, complicating navigation and efficiency. Regular audits can identify these redundant elements, allowing for a cleanup strategy that keeps the Sigma environment tidy and focused.
  • Compromised data security: Maintaining robust security models and audit practices is essential in safeguarding your data. Neglecting these practices can lead to unauthorized data exposure, risking sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, both internally and externally.

The lack of regular Sigma health checks can result in a bloated, inefficient, and insecure environment, eroding trust in your data analytics infrastructure. To prevent these issues, it’s critical to periodically review and adjust your Sigma setup, ensuring it remains aligned with best practices and your organizational needs. This proactive approach guarantees the continued reliability, efficiency, and security of your data environment, fostering trust and enabling scalable growth.

Our 4-Step Approach to a Sigma Health Check

The scope and focus of a Sigma health check can significantly vary based on the project’s scale and complexity. A vast deployment teeming with extensive analyses and numerous users will present unique challenges compared to a more compact, recently initiated project.

Regardless of your environment, a Sigma health check should consistently follow these 4 steps.

An infographic by Analytics8 showing the 4-step approach to a Sigma health check process: 1) Interview Stakeholders, 2) Review Existing Security Practices, 3) Review Instance Performance and Usage, 4) Document and Prioritize Your Findings. Highlights the necessity of these steps to proactively identify potential issues, inefficiencies, and areas for optimization across your platform.

Optimize your Sigma environment with a strategic four-step health check, focusing on stakeholder insights, security assessments, performance analysis, and prioritized action plans.

Step 1: Interview Stakeholders

Kick off your Sigma health check by engaging with different user groups within your organization. This initial step is critical for understanding the platform’s impact from multiple perspectives and pinpointing areas that need refinement.

Segment users into distinct categories such as Basic Users, Admins, Power Users, and Developers. Tailor your questions to each group to gather comprehensive insights. Example questions include:

  • For Basic Users and Admins:
    • Are you able to easily find the information or features you need?
    • Do you enjoy using Sigma? Can you share why or why not?
  • For Power Users and Developers:
    • How often do you encounter uncertainties about data calculations?
    • What steps do you take to resolve these queries?

Collecting this feedback from across the spectrum of Sigma users will offer a rounded view of the platform’s usability, performance, and the effectiveness of your data analytics practices.

Step 2: Review Existing Security Practices

Conduct a thorough examination of your security measures within Sigma, focusing on how data access and permissions are managed across users. Revisit the rationale behind current practices and evaluate their effectiveness. This step is crucial for ensuring that your Sigma environment is secure, scalable, and compliant with data governance standards.

  • Data Access:
    • Investigate the method of how groups inherit access to data. Is it designed to efficiently scale with your organization?
    • Assess the safeguards in place for sensitive data. Are these measures robust enough to prevent unauthorized access?
  • Permissions:
    • Review the Account Types configured within your Sigma setup. Question whether the permissions granted to each user are appropriate for their role.
    • Consider the principle of least privilege: What is the minimal level of access a user needs to perform their duties effectively?

This detailed security review is essential for maintaining a secure Sigma environment, ensuring that data access is appropriately managed and sensitive information remains protected. By addressing these areas, you can fortify your data governance framework and minimize the risk of data breaches.

Step 3: Review Instance Performance and Usage  

Leverage the platform’s analytics to perform a detailed analysis of how users interact with and utilize Sigma. This phase, coupled with insights gathered from stakeholder interviews, is vital for identifying both highly engaged areas and potential inefficiencies within your Sigma environment.

  • Usage workbook analysis:
    • Frequently Used Documents: Focus on Sigma’s usage workbook to identify the most frequently accessed workbooks/datasets and note the largest queries/materializations. This information is key to pinpointing bottlenecks such as query queuing and resource-intensive queries.
    • User Engagement: Track daily active users and peak usage times. This data helps in understanding user engagement patterns and planning resource allocation accordingly.
    • Report Rationalization: Seek out the least engaged workbooks and datasets within shared workspaces. These underutilized resources are prime candidates for review and possibly deprecation to streamline your environment.

This in-depth technical review, guided by actual usage data, highlights areas of high demand as well as potential redundancies within your Sigma setup. By focusing on both ends of the usage spectrum, you can target your optimization efforts where they are most needed, ensuring your Sigma environment remains efficient and aligned with user needs.

Step 4: Document and Prioritize Your Findings

Following an in-depth review and collection of insights from your Sigma environment, the next step involves documenting your findings and establishing priorities. This organized approach ensures a clear path forward for enhancing your Sigma setup. Here’s how to navigate this process:

  • Document and Prioritize: Record all findings with their priority levels, descriptions, and estimated efforts. Identify which issues are critical and which are secondary, allowing for focused resource allocation.
  • Assign and Act: Detail the scope of each finding and assign team members to manage the implementation. Start with the highest priorities for immediate impact, planning for both immediate fixes and long-term enhancements.
  • Continuous Improvement: Incorporate training for any new practices or tools identified. Schedule regular reviews to adapt and maintain performance, ensuring your Sigma setup stays aligned with best practices and business needs.

Documenting and prioritizing findings in this manner not only clarifies the roadmap for remediation but also underscores a commitment to continuous enhancement and best practice alignment within your Sigma environment.

Eric Heidbreder Eric Heidbreder is a Senior Consultant with Analytics8 based out of Chicago. He primarily works within the Analytics space to help customers pick the right tool for the job and build maintainable and user-friendly BI environments with Looker and Sigma. In his spare time he plays bassoon, guitar, and dreams of pugs.
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