Mobile Business Intelligence Presentation Portugal 2013

I gave this presentation at SQLSaturday event in Portugal during March 2013.  Thanks to the organisers for taking such good care of me during my visit.

As I discussed during the session, there were three main strands of mobilising Microsoft technology:

– use third party products such as PivotStream to free your PowerPivots
– use cloud computing e.g. Azure
– use SharePoint

These options will not suit everyone but it might help somebody to decide which path is the right one for them. I look forward to your commentary and feedback.

Be the difference: the Adria Richards situation

Here’s a summary of my thoughts on the Adria Richards situation, as a female in tech. For those of you who aren’t on Twitter, here is a summary:

  • Adria Richards was an attendee at PyCon. Richards overheard a conversation by two men, which included a number of technical terms, which Richards took to infer some innuendo.
  • Richards posted their picture on Twitter to her thousands of followers whilst asking Pycon to remedy the situation.
  • Richards was then subjected to a lot of twitter support; but also the subject of a great deal of vitriol. Most of it is too disgusting to repeat here, but I got some of it a whilst back when I complained about the experiences of girl gamers over Twitter. Trust me, it isn’t nice.
  • Richards, and one of the developers in the photo above, got fired.

So, as a female in tech, here are my thoughts:

  • The guys were mildly in the wrong for their initial comments.
  •  Richards was mildly in the wrong for the over-reaction. 
  •  Absolutely wrong – not mildly – is the sad fact that Richards has received a huge amount of revenge via social media. Vitriolic commentary about rape, being killed, and even tweets showing pictures of decapitation and so on and so on. The kind of vile stuff you see on the Internet. However, if you use social media, you need to recognise that it may not always like you and this is a consequence that nobody could have foreseen.
Richards has the right to be offended; absolutely. I personally would have been dismissive of such juvenile commentary, and perhaps rolled my eyes at them.  I don’t think either party could have foreseen the circumstances.  Richards and the developer fired, for example, and the internet furore and backlash that has ensued. 
In my opinion, the ‘dongle’ jokes were juvenile and silly, and they were thoughtless. However I do think that Richards should have had a quiet word with them, either immediately or at a later point. A simple ‘Guys, I’m not comfortable with that…. can you keep that until later?’ would probably have sufficed. This would have been a mature, simple route for anybody; male or female. If she didn’t feel comfortable doing that, then she could have asked others sitting around her for their thoughts and opinions. A simple sentence, signifying maturity, would have permitted the guys to apologise and amend their behaviour; if they didn’t, then she’d have a clearer case for justifying her Twitter response and ‘outing’ of these developers.

Why it is difficult for me personally:

  • I think that the initial over-reaction has a ‘halo’ effect; I don’t want ‘men in tech’ to think that we are all Richards in disguise. I don’t want to be treated differently because I’m female. I want to be treated the same. I don’t want guys to feel that they are treading on eggshells around me. I can carry out my professional work much more easily when people get past the ‘girl’ thing. 
  • This whole, sorry, wrong situation is a setback for everyone; men and women in tech. For example, I am worried that it may scare companies from hiring women, thinking that we will go off on some Twitter strop at the slightest provocation. That’s exactly the sort of situation that we do not want. I want to be seen as a professional; someone you’d hire and trust to deliver a good job, not someone you’d be afraid to interact with in case of a Twitter furore.

How do you get a balance, then? I do think that people should behave professionally; my code is to behave as if the CEO was sat next to you. Would you swear? Make juvenile jokes? Probably not. I’d expect the same professionalism from others, regardless of their sex.  Incidentally, the developer in question has made an apology, and it would be nice if it was accepted graciously. 
People need to wake up and realise that we are in tech, not saving babies or curing cancer, and apply our energies and brains to things that will really change the world. Like behaving as if we are adults. Like giving women the same opportunities as men. Like the risks to young women in various parts of the world, when they try to get an education – think of Malala, for example, at school near me. Like us women not shooting ourselves in the foot. Like trying to find the ‘mature’ route to set an example to the ‘brogrammers’ who are in the majority in our industry.
I really hope that this situation resolves itself as well as possible, for the developers and for Richards herself. That we all mature because of this situation.

Be the difference.

Everything as a Service, whether you know it or not!

I’ve reposted this infographic from the Engine Yard. I often give presentations where I can see that there is some resistance to cloud. This resistance has a variety of roots, and here are some common themes that I encounter:

  • my boss will never put anything in the cloud
  • our data is too sensitive to put into the cloud
  • we can’t work out how much it will cost in advance

With respect to the first item, this is a trust issue. It is like a vicious cycle; they don’t try, so they don’t trust, so they don’t try…. and so on. However, people use the cloud all the time. They might not know that it’s the cloud, but it is there!

I’ve reposted this infographic here in order to show people that they are constantly using the cloud, whether they realise it or not. If it doesn’t appear properly, click here to go to the original.


Courtesy of: Engine Yard

The Progress of Mobile Business Intelligence

This Infographic from Domo in 2011 tells a story about the ROI of mobile business intelligence. I’ve enclosed it as-is.  It reflects the fact that I’m always being asked, at the start of any Business Intelligence project, whether the data can be mobilised.

The optimism of the infographic is interesting, since the figures shown below should be borne out by the time of writing this blog, which is March 2013.


In order to get a better idea of mobile Business Intelligence adoption, I suggest that you look at Howard Dresner‘s Mobile Business Intelligence Survey, which he conducts on a yearly basis.  To summarise, despite the earlier optimism of the original infographic, penetration of mobile BI today is modest, with majority of organizations report that fewer than 10 percent of users have access. As you might expect, smaller organisations have higher adoption of the new technology, with 20 percent of small business participants report that their mobile BI penetration is 81 percent or higher. So penetration in the small organizations is significant today. The take-away point is that there is a disparity between ambition and reality, where businesses are concerned.
Dresner’s research makes a calmer estimate: half of even the largest of organizations will be in the 11–20 percent band of using mobile Business Intelligence by 2015. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for mobile projects. In my experience, people can get distracted by the shiny-shiny new devices or applications, but forget that they still require clean, tidy data. Putting bad data on a mobile device doesn’t make it any better, and this is a key point which the whole mobile Business Intelligence discussion seems to miss.
In other words, on twitter, I’d like to see the hashtags #CleanData and #RightData used just as much, if not more, than the hashtags #BigData and #MobileBI, which are fairly ubiquitous where Twitter is concerned. These problems are less fun, and are often hard to do, which explains why they are much less popular than projects which involve shiny gadgetry.


My 10 years with SharePoint from the SQL Server perspective; the story so far.

I’ve been working with SharePoint since SharePoint Server 2003. It’s been ten years since my boss, on his last day working beside me as a consultant for Dimension Data, ran past me saying “I’ve made you SharePoint administrator, you’ll love it” as he ran out of the door. I yelled back “What’s SharePoint?” and he gave me a cheeky grin and said “you’ll thank me, you’ll love it.” I never saw him again.

Over the ten years now, there have been times where I have wanted to do anything except thank him for inheriting SharePoint. There are other times where I’ve been the sole voice, evangelising its usage within an organisation. Ultimately, yes, I do want to thank him!

I’m amazed by how SharePoint has evolved over the years. The central tenet is the same; sharing information, regardless of the format. I’m glad that there is a move towards collaborative sharing, working and business intelligence.

If there is anything I could change about SharePoint, it would be the following things:

  • I’d make sure that every SharePoint project included the business users and business sponsors, and not just technical resources. I’d want a diverse team, right at the top of my list.
  • I’d clarify the licensing. 
  • I’d make it super-easy to jazz up a SharePoint website. If you want some really fancy SharePoint website, you have to know things like CSS. I’m not a web designer so I’m not going to go there.
  • SharePoint has a broad skill set of skills in setting it up; it’s an architecture project, not just a Business Intelligence project. I’d like that message to get across. 

Since SharePoint is delivered as a website, that makes it look deceptively easy.  Don’t be fooled. It’s sharing information, so the information assets need to be secured and controlled as with other information stores.  Over my ten years, I’ve struggled with security, identity delegation, and authentication. If you’re thinking “well, that’s easy” then you’re blessed that you didn’t see the earlier kerfuffle in trying to sort it out! So, I was very glad to see that Kay Unkroth and an amazing team of Technical Reviewers have put together a white paper entitled Microsoft BI Authentication and Identity Delegation

I come at SharePoint from a SQL Server angle; in other words, from the data up.   I recommend this white paper since there is a lot here about connecting to various data sources, and the SQL Server expert will find this very useful. There’s also references to custom user references. For the SQL Server Business Intelligence reader, there’s a lot of information about enabling personal, team and enterprise Business Intelligence from the architecture perspective, and this will prove useful to you for your SharePoint 2013 projects.

I strongly recommend that you read this paper. Sometimes I think people assume Business Intelligence is just about pretty pictures (sigh). However, to make the reports, dashboards and so on happen in SharePoint, you’re not waving a magic wand. Magic needs to happen under the hood. Unkroth’s white paper will help to demystify the complexities for you. I really wish we’d had all this information earlier.

I’ve spent many nights working with SharePoint to make things happen for my Business Intelligence customers. However, it does seem to me that the thinking at Microsoft is becoming more ‘joined up’ and I’m glad to see a diverse range of technical authors who have helped to make this paper happen.

I love what I’ve seen SharePoint do for customers over the years, and I look forward to working with it for the next ten.