Business Analytics and PASS: Yes Please!

Over the past few years, I have been truly amazed at the power of Business Analytics. I know that part of that is due to my increased exposure to it through client projects. But it seems clear to me that the understanding of what analytics brings to the table has grown as well. One example of the rising prominence of analytics is the fact that IBM is paying out Marketing dollars on prime time commercials about it. From my perspective, that is neither insignificant nor a coincidence.

More and more companies are realizing their data isn’t some static asset that they should just stick onto disks like people used to hide money under their mattresses. It has value far beyond just keeping accounts up to date or being able to how many customers bought Jiffy Pop last week. That is information. And that is certainly important. But analytics takes us to another level entirely.

A client recently told me that his company has gotten really good at measuring operational metrics. Data can help you do that. But analytics can help you determine if you are measuring the rights ones in the first place. Suppose your company can tell the efficiency of Process XYZ with amazing precision and managers all over the company spend a lot of time, both in and out of the office, worrying about how it will fluctuate. Quality business analytics could help you show them how much of an impact Process XYZ actually has on company success. You may end up lowering the company’s overall healthcare costs by preventing a few ulcers.

I am actually just finishing an SSAS 2012 Tabular Model for the Client above in the next couple weeks. It is the first Business Analytics project in his company. It is just a Proof of Concept, and it is not yet complete, but he keeps telling me how valuable it has already been. It is allowing him to correlate data points he never could before. While it is a short project, and the team is just me and a part time PM, I am trying to keep it in the Agile vein and releasing new versions to him every few days or so with new fields, new measures, etc. Within about five minutes after I made the very first release, he told me that he had been able to prove a theory about what was causing a particular business pain, a pain that went up to the highest levels of his company. My point with this is that analytics can often help us see things from different angles or perspectives that are otherwise impossible.

I just can’t wait to get this into that hands of more people in this company. THEN we will really see what, I think, is the greatest benefit that Business Analytics provides: Questions. You read that right. Not Answers. Questions. Answers are great and analytics can provide those. But Questions are the gems. Truly successful business analytics will lead you to the questions you didn’t know to ask. 

I am certainly not the only one who has noticed the rise of Business Analytics. The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), which holds a SQL Server Summit every year, announced the first ever PASS Business Analytics Conference taking place in Chicago this April.

PASS BA Conference(b|t)

I have a passion for presenting and my excitement for analytics comes through. I have presented at many SQL Saturdays and various user groups both in person and remotely. When this conference was announced, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would submit a session or two. I also knew that this was going to be a very long shot for me. The competition would be VERY stiff and, being the first event of this kind for PASS, there would be a lot of people vying for spots to present. I couldn’t believe it when I got the email that one of those sessions I submitted was accepted. It will be the crowning achievement of my Presenting career to date. I will be co-presenting with a friend of mine, Doug Lane (b|t), who I met at a SQL Saturday event in Chicago a few years ago.

Our session, Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts, is a Star Trek themed introduction to the terminology and ideas that are an important foundation for Business Analytics projects using Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services as the technology of choice. We will be focusing on SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 and covering both the traditional Multidimensional Model (Cubes) as well as the new Tabular Model. The increased demand for analytics will lead to more and more analytics projects. Yes, I put that together all by myself. As such, it is important for people to have an understanding of what they are getting into and start off on the right foot.

There are so many amazing sessions at this conference. In addition to having the privilege of speaking, I am really excited to be counted as an attendee. Here are just a few of the many sessions that I am particularly excited about.

Dave DuVarney (b|t) of SolidQ is giving a session: Delivering Agile BI Solutions. I firmly believe that analytics projects are iterative and work best when users and stakeholders get their hands dirty early and often. This will provide awesome insight into how to handle this well.

Cindy Gross (b|t) of Microsoft and Eduardo Gamez of Intel are presenting: How Intel Integrates Self-Service BI with IT for Better Business Results. One of my first projects in my SQL Server career was designing/implementing a SQL Server Reporting Services Report Model for enable power-users at a client to create their own reports. Ever since then, I have been a proponent of empowering end users as part of an overall reporting solution. This session looks to be a magnificent look into how a highly respective organization like Intel was able to create a holistic solution with great success.

Marco Russo (b|t) will be delivering a session on: Modern Data Warehouse Strategy. In his abstract for this session, Marco points out that new technologies around Self-Serve BI and Big Data Analytics are not doing away with the concept of a Data Warehouse, “but we do need to update our strategy for data warehouse implementation to fit the requirements of this new era.” I am still relatively new to Data Warehousing in general so I expect to get a massive benefit from this session. Marco’s blog and book, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: The BISM Tabular Model, have been of enormous help to me on my current Tabular Model project.

There are 60 sessions in all. Sixty. I am just ecstatic that PASS saw the value in holding an event like this focusing on Business Analytics. I feel so honored that I get to be a part of it.

If you work in a company that has data, then you work in a company that is likely to benefit from Business Analytics. We, as a global community are producing and consuming ever increasing volumes of data and at increasing speeds. Analytics is no flash in the pan; it is here to stay and the appetite for it will only get larger. The sooner you start learning about it, the better. The PASS Business Analytics Conference is an excellent place to start. You can register here. Your career is worth the investment. Who knows? Maybe you could end up leading your company (and yourself) into an era of better insight and success than ever before.

4 replies »

  1. Steak holders? I think they have those guys at Ruth’s Chris. I think the guys you work with are “stakeholders”. /pedant


  2. Love it – Dig it even. Business Analytics that is! Thanks for your passion, and analysis is the key to life. Part of it, anyway.