Free PASS Business Analytics Conference webinars on 3rd Feb. Join our BA Marathon!

header_logoFree PASS Business Analytics training folks! PASS are holding a BA Marathon in the lead up to our Business Analytics conference in April in Santa Clara, CA.

Top Business Analytics speakers free online event for our ‪#‎PASSBAMarathon‬ include:

Jen Underwood – Senior Technical Product Manager for BI (and all around awesome, I might add!)
Lynn Langit – Big Data and Cloud Consultant (also awesome and completely inspirational!)
Dean Abbot – Co-Founder & Chief Data Scientists – Remarkable teacher and practitioner. Fact.
Chandoo – As he’s done for me personally, he’ll make you awesome in Excel, which is quite frankly essential for any BI, BA and/or analytics job you have, or ever will have. Only superstars have one name.
Marc Reguera – Finance Director at Microsoft. He’s a great data story teller and I love talking with him, and listening to his sessions.
Avi Singh – PowerPivotPro principal consultant. Yes, PowerPivotPro, people. Awesome!
Hyoun Park – Chief Research Officer – I can’t wait to hear him share his expertise!
James Kobielus – Big Data Evangelist with an enviable number of twitter followers. I talked with him about BAC and he was just amazing. In fact, I took notes during the conversation because I was learning so much from him (blush).

BA Marathon – what is it, and who is it for?


On Your Mark. Get Set. Go!

Join us on February 3, 2015 for a preview of what’s to come at the PASS Business Analytics Conference in April.

The BA Marathon features 6 back-to-back live webinars with leading experts from around the world. Register for all sessions to take advantage of this free, live educational experience!

I’m delighted to be participating and I hope to see you there. Oh, and keep watching for the release of more great speakers over the next few days.

Jen’s Diary: A belated Review of my first year on the Board

Disclaimer: I am not officially talking for PASS here. These are my own opinions.

I’m a year into my tenure on the Board of Directors for PASS. What have I done, and what have I learned?

The Skinny:

  • Set up new VCs
  • Supported other VCs with speakers, Microsoft ‘go to’ contacts, I created a Pathway for people who needed help with their VCs
  • Helped to run two VCs as a VC Leader or Co-Leader – Business Intelligence, Excel BI, and Data Science
  • I helped with two User Groups, and run a third as the leader
  • I ran two SQLSaturdays and planned a third for this year
  • I spoke at a ton of events all over Europe and the US: Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, France, Budapest (Hungary), Darmstadt (Germany), Vienna. I also spoke at User Groups around the UK, SQLSaturday Exeter, SQLSaturday Edinburgh, SQLBits.
  • I also delivered a lot of VC sessions, and you can see those over at the PASS Business Intelligence YouTube channel.
  • I helped with the PASS Business Analytics Conference, eventually inheriting the Portfolio from the awesome Denise McInerny. I’m now in the driving seat, and I love this challenge!


The Full Fat version!

Virtual Chapters – I drove through opening up some new VCs in:

Data Science, which is getting a logo as we speak! I’m second in command to Mark Tabladillo for this one.

Excel BI which I now run

High Availability and Disaster Recovery – see, I’m not just all about the BAs. All about the BAs… get it? No? ok.

In-Memory VC which is run by Niko Neugebauer and Ami Levin

I also rebooted some VCs, so:

Azure VC was rebranded as Cloud

Oracle VC was eagerly adopted by Mark Broadbent

Professional Development was rebooted and led by Neil Hambly and Matan Yungtan

I also supported Global Growth by helping the following VCs get up and running:

Global French – this is a real gift of a VC and if you speak French, it is well worth a look. It isn’t just covering France: it covers Canada too, and French speaking Africa. They are a great team and deserve to be congratulated!

Global Chinese – these guys are taking off and they are doing brilliantly.

Global Spanish – I wish I knew what the Spanish word for ‘awesome’ is. These guys are awesome! They deliver VC sessions on a weekly basis. That’s right – weekly. They are so community spirited and they share their expertise.

I’ve helped the other VCs with things like getting speakers. I’ve managed to get some of them a ‘go to’ contact in Microsoft, so that they have someone to speak to, in order to get expert help, Microsoft speakers and so on. That program is still ongoing.

I identified that VC leaders sometimes need help with learning to use GoToWebinar and so on. I produced a pathway series that was aimed at helping people with tips and tricks. It was well attended and I hope it helped people. Here is the first segment of the Pathway here.

What else did I do?

I delivered SQLSaturday Edinburgh and SQLSaturday London Business Analytics edition. It’s unusual for someone to organize two SQLSats in the same year, but hey,it was fun! Each event combined hundreds of attendees in total, and I helped to provide a lot of training hours to a lot of people.

I also kicked off SQLSaturday Edinburgh 2015, which is a work in progress. I’m pleased that I have quit a few registrations already and I haven’t really done any advertising yet. It’s in June so there is plenty of time.

I also run the Hertfordshire SQL Server user Group, I help support Neil Hambly (President) as second-in-command for the London user Group, and I help run Hampshire SQL Server user Group whilst the current owner is on maternity leave.

And I’ve been spending a massive amount of time on the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Wow, this has been a lot of work but I think that the emerging data professional community will love what we are doing. It’s a real break from PASS Summit and from previous editions of the PASS BA Conference. Look at our announced speakers so far and I have got serious Imposter Syndrome when I speak to them. They are simply amazing, knowledgeable, accessible and authoritative, and expert at what they do. The great thing about helping to lead a conference is that I get to help choose, as part of a team, whom I’d like to see speak, so I (very selfishly) contacted the best people I came across as experts in analytics, whether it was through in-person events, conferences, thought leaders on Twitter, influencers on LinkedIn and so on. And we are lucky they are coming along! here are a few examples:

Chandoo – making you awesome at Excel

Dean Abbot – Data Mining and Predictive Analytics Expert

Jordan Goldmeier – Excel guru and decision maker thought leader. Data Visualisation expert, Excel MVP

James Taylor – CEO of Decision Management Solution, an authority on Decision Management and the effective use of business rules and predictive analytics

James Kobielus – Big Data Evangelist at IBM.

Rob Collie and Avi Singh of PowerPivotPro – yes, these two are a great team!

There are a whole ton of great speakers being announced, so why don’t you head over and take a look?


To summarise, I’ve worked hard and I hope people can see the value in what I do. I know I haven’t attained perfection – which I am humble enough to admit.

Thank you for the friends who have stayed with me on this journey.

Thank you to the PASS Board membes who serve alongside me. They continue to inspire me, and overwhelm me sometimes with just how smart they are.

Thank you to Judy and the rest of the PASS team at PASS HQ. They are all individually amazing, and together they are an fantastic team. I rely on their insights and wisdom. And here they are!


Here is hoping for a great 2015!

Power BI and R and the role of Data Visualisation in Data Audits

In the Wizard of Oz, Toto pulls back the green curtain to expose that the Wizard of Oz is a fraud. We can peep behind the ‘green curtain’ of the data visualisation to learn how to ‘poke holes’ in the data that you are given, both in business and in everyday news headlines.

In order to explode the myths in the data that surrounds us every day, it is a little known secret that there are hidden patterns in the data chaos that surrounds us. Deviations from these patterns highlight invention, bias, anomalies and even deliberate fraud.

You can use both R and Power BI data visualisation combined with timeless data analysis and patterns such as Benford’s Law to reveal or conceal efforts to distort the numbers, and question the veracity of the data.

You’ll need courage, heart and wisdom to analyse data, since truthful data doesn’t necessarily give easy answers! My slides are here, but they are pretty bare because I don’t read off slides, but I talk around them. So here is some context.

What is Benford’s Law? Here is the Wikipedia definition: Benford’s law, also called the first-digit law, states that in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way. According to this law, the first digit is 1 about 30% of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than 5% of the time.

To detect manipulations or fraud in accounting data, people such as Mark Nigrini have successfully used Benford’s law as part of their fraud detection processes. It’s not foolproof however: Bernard Madoff filed accounts that were consistent with Benford’s Law, for example, It’s a start, and like other stats, we are dealing with probabilities rather than certainties.

It has come into light with respect to the European Union because countries need to meet the Stability and Growth Pact criteria before they can join the European Union. Therefore, countries are ‘incentivized’ to make sure that they look stable. The data regarding Greece looks strange indeed, particularly just before they joined the Euro. You can see the FT article here.

Academic evidence has found that Greece, for example, shows the greatest deviation from Benford’s Law among all the European states. Again, probabilities rather than certainties. As always, the debate rages on.

How can you use R and Power BI to look at this? Well, first of all you need a data set. If you are interested in playing with economic data, you can download it here.

R comes with a handy Benford’s Law packages for you to try as a demo:

Benford Tests


You can visualise the data in R, of course. Alternatively, you could take the data as a csv dump, and load your data into PowerPIvot.

Once the data is in PowerPivot, you simply need the leftmost number. In my example, I took the Deficit Surplus data from Eurostat, and renamed the surplus column to Deficit Surplus. Then, we get the left hand digit. All this is straightforward enough:

=Left(ABS(‘Deficit Surplus'[Deficit Surplus]), 1)

Now, all you need to do is make this data into a Pivot table in Excel.

Overall Deficit Surplus versus Benford

You can then graph this data quite simply:
Overall Deficit Surplus versus Benford Chart
Here is the same chart in Power View:

Overall Deficit Surplus versus Benford Power View
As a next step, next time we will look at this data for different countries and years. I hope you’ll enjoy this journey with me. In the meantime, my slides are below.