Category: 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 It is out of date now, but I like it so much that I will keep using it as long as I am able.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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PASS Business Analytics Conference 2014 – Live Blog – Keynote Day 2

Good morning. It’s Day 2 here in San Jose, CA, for the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Today’s speaker is David McCandless, data visualization expert. Data Visualization is such an important field, in my opinion. There is a lot of junk out that that purports to be using data effectively but instead is just seeking to confuse. We need to do better. The insights of people like David can help us do that.



Looking Forward to the PASS Business Analytics Conference

Next week, I have the great privilege to attend the PASS Business Analytics Conference in San Jose, CA. This is actually a bit of a surprise since the pieces only fell into place a few weeks ago for my being able to go.

I have been given the opportunity to be part of the Blogger Core again this year and will be Live Blogging the Keynotes. I will also be spending a fair amount of time in the PASS Community Zone chatting about PASS, BI, Data, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and Firefly. And Spenser For Hire, if anyone is interested. Remember that show? It was awesome.

I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things I am really excited about. These are in no particular order and this is certainly not everything.


I have never been to California, so it will add another US State to my list of “Been There.”


Day 1 Keynote by Amir Netz (Twitter) and Kamal Hathi (Twitter) of Microsoft. These gentlemen are both brilliant and great speakers. I actually had the honor to sit down with Kamal for an interview at the 2013 PASS Summit in Charlotte, NC. That was a great experience.


Day 2 Keynote by Data Visualization expert David McCandless (Website|Twitter). I consider myself a student of data visualization. The field fascinates me and I am excited to keep learning more.


Panel: Has Big Data Killed the EDW? This session is a panel discussion with five speakers for whom I have immense respect:

Joseph D’Antoni (Blog|Twitter)

Josh Fennessy (Blog|Twitter)

Karen Lopez (Blog|Twitter)

Lynn Langit (Blog|Twitter)

Stacia Misner (Blog|Twitter)

There is just so much hype around Big Data. And whenever anything new comes along, there always has to be people screaming about some other thing that has to be “dying” because of it. I am looking forward to hearing the views of these excellent data professionals.


DAX From the Field: Real-World Case Studies This session, by DAX expert Alberto Ferrari (Blog|Twitter) looks really exciting. I have to come out and say it: I love DAX. I really do. And I fully realize that my DAX needs improving if I want to keep taking my skills forward. This session by Alberto will be a great way to do that.


Health Analytics: Quality and Effectiveness of Healthcare With Power BI Tom Lawry (Blog|Twitter) is the Director, Worldwide Health for Microsoft. This looks to be a great session as it combines Healthcare AND Power BI. There is just so much happening in the Healthcare industry as it related to data and BI. I’m love the tools in Power BI. This session has Awesome written all over it.


Business Intelligence Transformed Our Finance Department This looks to be an outstanding session by Gremeen Foundation Senior Business Manager Jason Hahn (Twitter) and Marc Reguera (YouTube Channel|Twitter) of Microsoft Finance. I have viewed many of Marc’s Microsoft BI YouTube videos and they are great real-world examples.


A Master Data Management Case Study: MDS and DQS The concepts involved in Master Data Management are so important to successful BI. This session from the mighty Josh Fennessy (Blog|Twitter) looks to be jam packed with great information from his experience.


SQLFamily There are so many friends I have made through PASS events like the Summit, BA Conference, and SQL Saturdays. And often, it is only at these events that I get to see some of these friends. That is one of my favorite aspects of going to events like this. The People are AWESOME.

That wraps it up for now. If you are attending the BA Conference, I would love to meet you.

Oprah And The 2014 PASS Business Analytics Conference

After the success of the 2013 PASS Business Analytics Conference, PASS is doing another one. The 2014 PASS Business Analytics Conference will take place May 7-9 in San Jose, CA.


Last year, I was a speaker as well as part of the official Blogger Core for the event. You can read my posts on this topic:

Who’s Got Two Thumbs And Is Speaking At The PASS Business Analytics Conference?

Business Analytics And PASS: Yes, Please!

PASS Business Analytics Conference – Live Blogging – Keynote Day 1

PASS Business Analytics Conference – Live Blogging – Keynote Day 2

PASS Business Analytics Conference Recap

Alas, I am unable to attend this year. But I wanted to help spread the word about what I feel is a hugely valuable learning opportunity.

In the 1990s, you often heard people talk about the Information Age. This was essentially the revolution of computerization and the adoption of our new digital world. You could argue that we are still in the Information Age, but I think we have transcended that simple definition. Even in the Information Age, information was something to be tightly controlled and protected as an asset; something to be used by the privileged ones.


Analytics solutions were there to be used by senior people in companies in order to drive strategic decisions, etc. It was not something to be shared with just anyone, even within those organizations. What we have seen over the past several years is the adoption of the idea that everyone should have access to better information. The concepts of the Democratization of Data and bringing BI to the Masses have taken root and are driving a lot of the innovation that we have been seeing. With this movement, people are truly realizing that it is not only CXOs and senior managers that need better information to make better decisions.

I picture Oprah standing before all of us, as her audience, saying “YOU get access to better information! And YOU get access to better information! And YOU! and YOU! You ALL get access to better information!”

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From the release of Power Pivot for Excel 2010 to the incorporation of Power View into Excel 2013 to the launch of Power BI for Office 365, Microsoft has certainly embraced this viewpoint. Anyone who needs to make decisions can benefit from better information. As such, the role of the Information Worker has expanded to more and more people as the tools of the trade have become much simpler to use. What is key, though, is that people understand how to use this information, and the tools involved, effectively. I have to applaud PASS for creating a Business Analytics Conference at such an important time and continuing to help us make better use of such a highly prized asset.

Although I cannot attend PASSBAC this year, I really want to encourage you to do so if you can. My own experience last year was just fantastic. PASS consistently puts on quality events with great speakers and networking opportunities. And I have no doubt the 2014 PASS Business Analytics Conference will live up to expectations.

NOTE: If you had told me back when I first started blogging that I would feature Oprah in a post, I never would have believed you. But, here we are…

Power BI Demo Contest Entry

Behold! I hereby present my entry into the Power BI Demo Contest! I am really pumped about this set of tools and hope this demo helps show off what Power BI can do.

You can view it here on my YouTube channel.

Getting a prize would be cool, but I have to say the fun I had making this video and learning more about Power BI was awesome.

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.