Month: April 2013

PASS Business Analytics Conference–Recap

PASSBAC NameTagThe very first PASS Business Analytics Conference (PASSBAC) has come to an end. And it was fantastic. Since you follow my blog with rapt joy, you know that I had the great honor of speaking at this shiny new event. While I have spoken many times to user groups and several SQL Saturdays, it was my first time speaking at an event of this caliber. While I was certainly nervous about presenting, I was even more excited. I LOVE presenting. And I feel comfortable in saying it is something I am pretty good at. While my co-presenter, Doug Lane (b|t), was very appreciative of my asking him to present with me, I must confess that his advice on writing abstracts was invaluable in our getting selected. I met Doug at a SQL Saturday in Chicago a few years ago. It was great to share this honor with a friend from my #sqlfamily. I do want to send special thanks for Joe D’Antoni (b|t) and Scott Stauffer (b|t) for their efforts in coming to my aid the night before the biggest presentation of my career.

Speaking wasn’t the only first for me at PASSBAC, nor was it the only thing I had the honor of sharing with a friend from my #sqlfamily. In 2011, I attended my very first PASS Summit. At that time, I took part in a program for first-time Summit attendees called First Timers. This featured having a Summit mentor as well as taking part in extra networking events. At one of these networking events, I met Angel Abundez (b|t). At PASSBAC, Angel and I both had the honor to be invited to sit at the Bloggers table to Live Blog the keynotes. On Day 1, I sat down next to him and we had a moment of, “Wow, we’ve come a long way in a few years.” You can read Angel’s Live Blogging here. To me, that transformation from First Timer to Bloggers table is more than just the fact that we are both seeing solid growth in our careers. It also speaks of how open and inviting the SQL community is. I often hear that people in other industries and even other groups within the technology sector are just in awe of what we have going on. PASS is an important part of that.

I have to say that I was not only honored that PASS asked me to participate in the Live Blogging of PASSBAC, I was nervous. I had never done that before and wasn’t really all that sure what it would entail. I ended up getting some great advice from John Sansom (b|t) and Jason Strate (b|t). John provided me with a blog post of his about Live Blogging that was really helpful. At the end of that post, John links to a Live Blog from the 2011 PASS Summit by Brent Ozar (b|t). I looked at that post and thought, “Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln! How can I even come close to matching that?” There are lots of pictures and great commentary. Even if I had convinced my wife to let me take her camera, I would be more likely to drop it on my foot than capture anything of value quickly enough to add it to a live blog post. Then I realized that there was no reason I had to try to match what Brent or any other person had done. I did see that Jason had kept it pretty simple in his Live Blog of the Day 3 keynote of PASS Summit 2011. I figured I would start simple. I set up the Live Blogging plugin for my WordPress blog and decided to try to keep my entries short enough to cross-post them on Twitter. It turns out that was a good choice as so many people told me how much they appreciated what I was doing. I was honestly blown away by the feedback I was getting for my efforts. I even noticed that the PASSBAC homepage was featuring my live blogs of the keynotes. Thanks so much to everyone who followed and expressed their appreciation in one way or another. You can read my Live Blogs from PASSBAC Day1 and Day2. On Day 2, I even got the timestamp working. Yay. As you can see, the keynotes were awesome, from my perspective.

My choice to cross-post to Twitter ended up being a great one from a networking standpoint. It turns out that only the @passbac account itself had more #passbac tweets than I did, according to, who provided Twitter analysis for the conference. In addition, the analysis performed by iTrendTV showed that I was in the Top 5 in both “Largest Audiences” and “Most Engaging Authors.”  Notice Angel in there with me and some fine company.

My point here is that we need to remember that the I in ROI means “investment.” That investment doesn’t always involve money. Sometimes it means we stray out of our comfort zone or take a risk by doing something new in a public setting. In my case, I was confident that live blogging was a great opportunity that I had to take. I looked at overcoming my trepidation as the investment toward the ROI of increased connections in the industry. I knew that doing a decent job with the live blogging had a good chance of leading to expanding the network of people I value so much.

I had a tremendous amount of fun Live Blogging. I hope I get invited to the Bloggers table for more events in the future.

On the morning of Day1, SQL Sentry hosted a breakfast and informal discussion on Business Analytics emceed by Kevin Kline (b|t). The panel was made up of the following great experts:

Chris Webb (b|t)
Craig Utley (b)
Jen Stirrup (b|t)
Paul Turley (b|t)
Stacia Misner (b|t)

It was great discussion that could have gone on a few more hours and I would have been happy to stay for it. Thanks much to SQL Sentry, Kevin and the great panelists.

I went to fantastic sessions by Jen Stirrup (b|t), Jason Thomas (b|t), Angel Abundez (b|t), Craig Utley (b), Ayad Shammout (b|t) and Denny Lee (b|t), and more. I spent a lot of time learning more about Excel features and geo-spatial topics like GeoFlow.

Overall, the event was just amazing. I am so glad I got to go. The fact that I got to participate in a meaningful way makes it even better. I really want to thank all the people in PASS HQ, Board Members, Sponsors, Program Committee and everyone else who worked so hard to make this event happen.

PASS Business Analytics Conference – Live Blogging – Keynote Day 1

Greetings! I have had the great honor to be asked to Live Blog the Keynotes for the PASS Business Analytics Conference here in Chicago. Behold!

All set for the keynote to start.

PASS President Bill Graziano taking the stage.

Gartner: Business Intelligence is growing faster than any other business area.

Connect-Share-Learn: Working together is key for success.

Virtual PASS Chapters rock. Take geography out of the equation.

…and the puns just keep on coming…

HUGE thanks to Sponsors and Exhibitors. This couldn’t happen without you!

Matt Wolken from Dell taking the stage to discuss the promise of Analytics.

Dude, you’re getting a Dell.. keynote speaker. Cool.

Who is the “average” social media user? Unlike Trix, it’s not just for kids.

Key social media users are those that control the money/budget.

People closest to the action ARE the authority today.

Analytics used to be about executives looking back. Now it is about finding new customers.

Companies implementing BI are 13% more profitable than their peers.

57% of all CIOs say they plan to expand BI this year or next.

Business Analytics shifting to be seen as a revenue source. People work for your company; your data should work too.

Data no longer sourced just INSIDE organizations. So much out there you can bring in to complement what you already have.

“Dell now has software”

Now consuming many different types of data: structured, semi-structured, text, etc… How to manage all that at once?

SO much data sprawl in organizations. People have their own versions of truth their way. Key is to integrate and share.

Dell has been one of the leaders in listening for the brand via social media. What are people asking? What can we do about it?

Dell is turning data on conversations into actionable insight. Stay ahead of the curve to change features before issues arise.

Microsoft speakers Amir Netz and Kamal Hathi taking the stage now.

Amir’s parents spent 6 months salary to buy him his first computer, an Apple IIc with TWO disk drives.

That experience changed his life and led to working with Data.

That story is prime example of an investment in enabling users. The payoffs are there.

Kamal discussing his history with CompuServe. Lots of data there, which led him to Microsoft.

So many idea in data now. How can a business user make sense of what tools to use when there are so many? Simplicity.

Behold: the Spreadsheet. Back to Excel. #ISeeWhatYouDidThere

Data Explorer taking the stage now. Again, finding data from Outside the Organization to complement that from Inside.

Data Explorer is essentially collaboration with the world via the Internet.

THIS is AMERican Idol data. Very big data.

Advertisements for the Model T were not about driving. They are about tinkering and tools. Mechanics.

Contrast with recent BMW ads: The Ultimate Driving Machine. Different focus.

The Elephant is in the building. HDInsight for the win. #hadoop

Let Excel turn your data into information. Turn raw data into columns for ease of use.

What kind of Pivot? Well, #PowerPivot, of course!

Simplicity: Working with Big Data in Excel without dealing with MapReduce, or any of the other dev tools, etc. Excel can do it.

Amir’s kids created their first slide deck in third grade. But have never seen a slide projector before. #TechnologyChangesPeopleDont

BI nowadays is like a slide projector. You need professionals to make the slides. Costs money and time.

We need to do the same thing with BI that PowerPoint did to the slide projector. SIMPLIFY IT.

Amir’s Son: “Kids know nothing about Business; even Intelligence is suspect!”

Ahh… Power View! Kids know PowerPoint today. Behold: Power View. Love it.

VISUALIZE data. A picture is worth a thousands. Sometimes cliches are so common for a reason. #TrueStory

Billboard Top Ten from various countries in Power View: Paul Anka puts Canada on the map! what about Rush??

Who does Australia have? MVP Rob Farley! @rob_farley

Key takeaway from visualizing Billboard music data? SO many songs popular in the US come from outside the country!

So, is the Billboard Top Ten the Data Explorer of the music world? Looks like it can be.

Analyzing artists by weeks on the Billboard charts. Using Power View to find the greatest artist of all time?

Visualizing data can help you overcome your preconceptions. This is KEY for quality use of analytics.

Amir’s story of ULTIMATE user acceptance? A fist-pump from his son. #AwesomeSauce

Why all the enthusiasm about Power View? FUN. #TotallyAgree

Amir: BI is elective. Nobody FORCES people to use BI. FUN can be the first step to true ROI.

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Well, you can sure make him thirsty. Fun + BI = user acceptance.

Analyzing Tweets. Find out WHEN people are tweeting, not just what they are tweeting about. Gold mine.

What kinds of events make people tweet about your business? Get insight to drive strategy.

Truly advanced tech should be indistinguishable from magic? Try Data Science. The data is there. Use it.

Which has more impact? Positive sentiment or negative? Business Analytics can help you find out!

Kamal: Twitter has replaced TV.

American Idol contestant the Judges don’t like consistently generates positive sentiment in Tweets. Power to the People. #democratization

“Faster Insights for everyone, on ALL data” #Booyah

Kamal: Adding #GeoFlow to Excel. Bring it.

Showing 3-dimensional model of the globe in Power View. Turns dots into bars! BI-Candy!

Amir showing #geoflow on a touch screen. Data at your fingertips! Literally. Stunning.

Amir: The story we just told you for the last hour? Let’s do it in two minutes. #awesome

Amir: the Dick Vitale of #msbi #marchmadness

Amir: BI has to be something that everybody can use. BI need not stand for Business Intelligence. It needs to stand for Basic Intelligence.