Business Analytics

PASS Business Analytics Conference 2014 Recap

BadgeWow. That was quite a few days I had in San Jose last week. Since you follow my blog with rapt joy, you no doubt have already read my two Live Blogs of the keynote addresses. As you can see, there was a lot of great info flowing. It was really fun to participate in that flow and help people who could not be there to share in some of the experience. I actually enjoy the pressure of blogging something live and it is gratifying that people keep telling me how much they like it when I do.

A few people have commented on the nature of my live blog posts, how they auto-update themselves without the reader having to refresh. The key for me is a free WordPress plugin called Live Blogging. You can find info about it here. It is out of date now, but I like it so much that I will keep using it as long as I am able.

The overall pressure was a bit less for me this year since I was not speaking. I actually wasn’t expecting to go at all until a few things fell into place just right about a month ago. In addition to the missing Speaker ribbon this year, I was happy to wear a different ribbon for the first time. Do you see which one I mean? You found it. Yes. I am a Diva. I wore that proudly. It started some conversations, as I expected it would. Mission accomplished. Conversations, after all, are a HUGE part of what makes conferences like this so valuable. Networking and connecting with people is essential. I don’t really consider myself a Diva. But it did fit my Purple ribbon theme this year.

Last year, my PASS Business Analytics Conference Recap focused on stepping out of my comfort zone and the ROI involved with doing so. This year, the theme of my Recap is on Sharing. PASS marketing for events often includes the slogan: Connect. Share. Learn. That is really what we do at these events. The more I think about it, though, the more I see that Share is at the center of all of it (literally, too, for those paying attention). When we Connect with others, it involves Sharing something of ourselves. When we Learn, that involves someone sharing their knowledge with others. In the age of social media, a massive number of people share so much information with others, including what their lunch looked like, where they are now, where they are going, who they are with, where they want to be, which Lord of the Rings character they are, and “It’s Complicated.”

Sharing is at the root of so much that is happening today. We are sharing more within our organizations with the rather new Enterprise Social movement with Lync and Yammer and other similar technologies. We are sharing our passion for coding with the next generation with Reshma Saujani’s Girls Who Code and Lynn Langit’s Teaching Kids Programming. We are sharing our treasure to support interesting projects via Kickstarter. We are sharing our data and insights more effectively with Power BI (I couldn’t resist. I’m a BI guy after all). With the Self-Serve BI movement in general, BI professionals like me are sharing the experience of enabling others to explore data with an ever larger group of people. So many of today’s tools and technologies revolve around making insights easier to get. Why should the CXO be the only one with access to interesting data about our organizations? Why not share it with people at all levels that can make better decisions via that data? We are proving more and more that sharing what we have does not make us weaker, it makes us stronger. It is such an exciting time to be working with Data during what can easily be called a Renaissance in that respect.

Data is everywhere. It permeates (wow, fancy word, eh?) our society in ways you may not think about. We are learning more and more, as well, that it is not just THAT we share Data, but HOW we share it that makes a big difference. I was ECSTATIC to see the mighty Data Visualization expert David McCandless (Website|Twitter) was delivering a keynote. There is SO MUCH bad data viz out there. So many people LYING to us by presenting what might otherwise be good data in a way that is intended to mislead. It is not going to get better until we learn to see through it and the people LYING with data, who rely on our ignorance, see that ignorance evaporate. It is not just those extreme cases, though. There are so many people with great intentions who try to share data effectively but just don’t know how. Often, they mistakenly obscure the meaning of data with something shiny. They don’t realize that it is the DATA that should POP, not the shiny. Data Visualization is an area that I am just digging into. I find it exciting and strewn (another fancy word) with possibilities.

We teach our children to share at school, at home, at the park, at parties, etc. We, as adults, are getting back into sharing. And, by sharing data, we get back into another activity from childhood: play. Just as children learn through play, so too do we, as data professionals, learn through playing with Data. It is through play that we can find the patterns and relationships we didn’t know where there. As David McCandless said, “There is so much data in the world, what else can you do but play with it?”

I have said it before, and I will say it again: events like the PASS Business Analytics Conference are an amazing opportunity. If you have never been to a conference like that, or a SQL Saturday, I implore you to make every effort to try it. I have NEVER been disappointed that I attended a conference. Ever. I have gotten something valuable out of each and every one. I have one last piece of advice to share: Go find something you are passionate about. Connect with others in your community. Share your passion with them. Learn together. Repeat.

I know that was more than one. But, hey. It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want. 🙂

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