Upcoming Events

UK Azure Group, SQL Midlands edition

  • Thursday, February 9, 2017
  • 6:30pm 7:30pm
  • Aston Manor Academy


To Register: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/sql-midlands-6264475503

Implementing NHS Azure Hybrid Architectures

The NHS is undergoing a time of unprecedented change, as well as increasing financial pressure under a public microscope. In order to meet these challenging requirements, NHS South London and Maudsley is undergoing a Digital Transformation program which is fundamentally ultimately altering delivery of its healthcare services. The Digital Transformation is crucial to the success of the Trust, and it affects everything from the physical layer right up to self-service reporting. It is also an important balancing act between highly sensitive patient privacy in a world that expects data on-demand in mobile and external environments.

In this technical session, join us to learn from the expert team who architected, designed, and delivered the hybrid Azure cloud and SQL Server solution for NHS South London and Maudsley Trust. Learn about the technical constraints and challenges and how we overcame those challenges, particularly through a healthcare lens of highly-sensitive patient privacy issues in a world of data. You will also learn about the technical benefits that were gleaned from this hybrid implementation. In order to bring the achievements to life, you will see real-life insights into healthcare in a Power BI demo, in use by hospital team members.

Using Azure, SQL Server and Power BI means that the NHS is empowered to create enriched opportunities for research to improve patient outcomes, both now and in the future, as well as directly improved patient outcomes now. Join us for this technically-oriented session to see how Azure, SQL Server and Power BI joined forces to fundamentally deliver improved patient healthcare, research and insights in London.

To Register, visit http://www.sqlmidlands.com/events/48-9th-feb-2017-nhs-in-azure-data-factory-custom-activity.html


Power BI for the CEO

  • Thu, Apr 6, 20179:00am Sun, Jun 4, 201712:59am
  • The International Centre

Date: Saturday 8th April, time to be determined

Location: The International Centre, St Quentin Gate, Telford, Shropshire, TF3 4JH

Register: http://sqlbits.com/information/registration.aspx

Digital Transformation is much more than just sticking a few Virtual Machines in the cloud; it is real, transformative, long-term change that benefits and impacts the whole organisation.
Digital Transformation is a hot topic with CEOs and the C-level suite, renewing their interest in data and what it can do to empower the organisation.
With the right metrics and data visualisation, Power BI can help to bring clarity and predictability to the CEO to make strategic decisions, understand how their customers behave, and measure what really matters to the organization. This session is aimed at helping you to please your CEO with insightful dashboards in Power BI that are relevant to the CxO in your organisation, or your customers’ organisations.
Using data visualisation principles in Power BI, we will demonstrate how you can help the CEO by giving her the metrics she needs to develop a guiding philosophy based on data-driven leadership. Join this session to get practical advice on how you can help drive your organisation’s short and long term future, using data and Power BI.
As an MBA student and external consultant who delivers solutions worldwide, Jen has experience in advising CEO and C-level executives in terms of strategic and technical direction.
Join this session to learn how to speak their language in order to meet their needs, and impress your CEO with proving it, using Power BI.

Data Visualisation Lies and How to Spot them Techorama

  • Mon, May 22, 20179:00am Wed, May 24, 20175:00pm
  • Kinepolis

Register: Buy Tickets


During the acrimonious US election, both sides used a combination of cherry-picked polls and misleading data visualization to paint different pictures with data. In this session, we will use a range of Microsoft Power BI and SSRS technologies in order to examine how people can mislead with data and how to fix it. We will also look at best practices with data visualisation. We will examine the data with Microsoft SSRS and Power BI so that you can see the differences and similarities in these reporting tools when selecting your own Data Visualisation toolkit. Whether you are a Trump supporter, a Clinton supporter or you don’t really care, join this session to spot data lies better in order to make up your own mind.

Taming the Open Source Beast with Azure for Business Intelligence

  • Saturday, June 17, 2017
  • 9:00am 5:00pm
  • Trinity College, College Green, Dublin 2,

Location: Trinity College, College Green, Dublin 2, Dublin, County Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

Register: https://www.sqlsaturday.com/620/registernow.aspx

Today, CIOs and other business decision-makers are increasingly recognizing the value of open source software and Azure cloud computing for the enterprise, as a way of driving down costs whilst delivering enterprise capabilities.

For the Business Intelligence professional, how can you introduce Open Source into the Enterprise in a robust way, whilst also creating an architecture that accommodates cloud, on-premise and hybrid architectures?

We will examine strategies for using open source technologies to improve existing common Business Intelligence issues, using Azure as our backdrop. These include:

– incorporating Apache projects, such as Apache Tika, for your BI solution
– using Redis Cache in Azure in as a engine as part of your SSIS toolkit

Join this session to learn more about open source in Azure for Business Intelligence. Open Source does not mean on premise.
Demos will provide practical takeaways in your Business Intelligence Enterprise architecture.

IT Pros Roundup: Windows as a Service

Not sure what Windows as a service is? With Windows 10, Microsoft moved to deliver Windows as a service which introduces a new way for how it’s built, deployed and serviced.

Start by viewing this 5-minute video demo where Microsoft demystify the core components of the Windows as a service model. I’ve put the video here:

Terminology you should know

  • Feature updates add new features to Windows 10, delivered in an agile manner
  • Quality updates are released monthly and are cumulative.
  • Servicing branches allow organizations to choose when to deploy new features.
  • Deployment rings are groups of devices used to initially pilot, and then to broadly deploy, each feature update in an organization.

Then review this quick guide to the most important concepts and delve into detailed guidance to help you manage Windows 10 updates in your organization.

Microsoft Vendor process – some issues and how I resolved them

As you will know, I  have been working extremely hard on the UK Power BI Summit.  One thing to note: If you are thinking of setting up a community event, I would recommend that you engage with Microsoft as a vendor. It will put your conversations on a more equal footing. I am still not a bona fide vendor because some of the Microsoft offices still cannot ‘see’ me, and it will help you to have the vendor status.

I am not a vendor, and this became the equivalent of a ‘mute’ button when i was trying to engage people in my event –  people couldn’t do anything to help, because I was not a vendor. So I was effectively ‘muted’.  I wanted to try and do the best possible for my event, so I decided to go through the process to get past the ‘mute’ button that was pressing down on me.

Becoming a Microsoft vendor is not a quick or easy process and I want to help you, dear Reader, so it is easier for you than it is for me.  The reasons for the complexities in the process are as follows:

Becoming a Microsoft vendor means that you need a Microsoft account, which is fine. Now, there is a well-documented difference between a Microsoft account and an Office 365 account. There is a fantastic blog about it here. Now, the problem occurs if  you have a Microsoft account that has the same name as an Office 365 account. The vendor system will reject you if you have a Microsoft account that has the same name as an office 365 account, and the two are linked together.

When you go through the Microsoft vendor process with an email address that is identical for a Microsoft account and an Office 365 account, then it bounces you out, and your application for becoming a vendor is rejected. The whole Microsoft Office 365 / Microsoft Account issue, differences and distinctions are terribly confusing.

What do you do? You need to restart the vendor process again, but you need to use a Microsoft account that does not have an identical Microsoft Office365 account LINKED to it.

So here is what I did:

I attempted to go through the process by using an email address that was a Microsoft Office 365 account and a Microsoft account. For the purposes of illustration, let’s call it jen@jenstirrup.com which is the login for both Office365 and the Microsoft account.

After a week or so, I got an email to say that my application was rejected.

I spent another few weeks raising it as a support issue, and eventually told that I was to restart the process, and to speak with the Microsoft sponsor to restart the process. Now, I didn’t want to restart the process without understanding WHY it was rejected so I did my own research because I’m a clever girl like that, and I had a hunch that it was due to the login (no evidence, just a thought that I decided to follow up). Here is what I did:

I took my Microsoft Office 365 email address which I will mark in orange so it is less confusing!!! (jen@jenstirrup.com), and de-linked it from the Microsoft Account settings page for jen@jenstirrup.com – I will mark the Microsoft Account in blue.

I then tried to set up a separate Microsoft account with the same e-mail address jen@jenstirrup.com 

This attempt was refused, and I was told to wait 48 hours.

I waited 48 hours, and, after a few attempts of setting up a New Microsoft Account for jen@jenstirrup.com with the same Microsoft Office 365 account(jen@jenstirrup.com), the new Microsoft Account jen@jenstirrup.com was set up. I will set this to be the colour green. There was no magic here; I just kept trying until it worked. This meant I had three accounts now:

  • jen@jenstirrup.com – my Office 365 account
  • jen@jenstirrup.com – the original Microsoft Account which then reverted to an outlook address
  • jen@jenstirrup.com is my new Microsoft account which I set up for the Vendor process, which wasn’t linked to anything.

With my new Microsoft account,  jen@jenstirrup.com, I could then go and restart the Microsoft vendor process again. The confusing thing is that they all have the same name and I have tried to clarify it by giving them different colours to show that they are different accounts, just called the same thing. 

After my new  jen@jenstirrup.com was set up, I then restarted the Microsoft Vendor process again, over at payment central.

Once again – the process failed.

During the Microsoft vendor process, the system asks for your IBAN number, and then it does a lookup to get your details. You will have an IBAN number, but your bank does not always display it for you. Therefore, make sure that you have it.

Unfortunately for me, when I was going through the application service, Microsoft’s IBAN lookup / verification process failed. This produced a ream of error messages about an unrecognised IBAN. I have been through lots of similar vendor processes for other large companies, and I knew for a fact that my IBAN number was correct and confirmed. I didn’t type it in wrong, in case you think I am that dumb 🙂

I waited until the next day and tried again, and this time, the process seemed to work.

I then checked with the Microsoft vendor people, and I was told over the process of a week, that my process hadn’t gone through, and they could not see me set up in the system. To be fair, I had not had an ‘Welcome’ email to indicate that i was a vendor yet.

I double checked the vendor system, which showed success – but nobody at the Microsoft vendor offices, in the US or in Dublin, could find me. Super confused!!

I logged back into the Microsoft payment system, and I noted that I now had a number next to my company name. Rather than ask  the team to search by name, I gave them the number. After another few days delay, someone in the US has come back to tell me that they can see me in their system, and they sent me a screenshot of my details.

I noted that the ‘search term’ for my company name was not the same as my actual company name; it was a contracted version. So, instead of ‘Data Relish’ it comes up as ‘DATA RE’. This would explain why the US and Dublin teams could not find me, and I was lucky to spot the number next to my name.

I have sent the screenshot to Microsoft UK who say that they can’t find me, and it may take another few days for the details to come through to them. So, although I still have a wait, I feel I am getting somewhere.

Lessons learned:

The Microsoft Office365 / Microsoft Account setup is confusing. It is affecting all sorts of systems, including the vendor account system.  I really hope it gets sorted.

I now have two Microsoft accounts: jen@jenstirrup.com (the original) has now reverted to an outlook.com address. I have my new shiny Microsoft account   jen@jenstirrup.com  which is completely on its own, and it is not connected to anything – it remains my vendor account address. My office365 address remains unchanged.

Although it’s too late for my current event, I think it is easier to engage as a vendor. I understand that other community bodies do this, and I was not on the same footing as them. I am not sure if I will ever arrange another event again but at least I will have this vendor footing now.


  • If you are going through the Microsoft vendor process, set up a new Microsoft account dedicate to the vendor process and being a vendor.
  • I should have set up an account such as jen_vendor@jenstirrup.com and this would have been ok.
  • Be prepared for unexpected issues, like the IBAN problem. This means you should get your application done as early as possible.
  • Be patient. Lots of big systems, and some Azure AD issues somewhere.
  • Keep asking for updates. Everyone else is probably confused, too!

I hope that helps and that, you, dear Reader, have a successful experience in the vendor setup process. I’m blogging this in order to save you from some of the issues that I had.