Want to learn how to skill up from #BusinessIntelligence to #ArtificialIntelligence? Join me at #Live360 in Florida

I’ll be speaking at Live! 360 Orlando, December 2-7. Surrounded by your fellow industry professionals, Live! 360 provides you with immediately usable training and education that will keep you relevant in the workforce.

SPECIAL OFFER: As a speaker, I can extend $500 savings on the 5-day package. Register here: http://bit.ly/OSPK88Reg

OSPK88

Workshop: Moving from BI to AI: Artificial Intelligence Skills for Business Intelligence Professionals

Are you interested in reusing your existing BI skillset in order to add Artificial Intelligence to your skillset? Is your organisation interested in applying AI at a practical level? If so, this precon is for you.

In this precon, you will leverage your existing BI skillset to learn Microsoft’s latest AI technologies. You will learn AzureML, using your existing SSIS expertise. You will also learn R and Python, using your knowledge of SQL in SQL Server to get a working knowledge of these languages and their use in AI. You will use your conceptual knowledge of Business Intelligence to learn how to choose the right model for your AI work, and how to identify its value and validity.

Join this session to add AI to your organization’s technical capability, springboarding from skills that you already possess.

Workshop Agenda

Moving from BI to AI: Artificial Intelligence skills for Business Intelligence professionals

9.00am AI for the Enterprise

AI for the Enterprise

What is AI? Terminology that you need to know

Blueprint for AI in the Enterprise

Technology Overview; how do you choose the best tools to provide business value?

 

In this section, we will look at what you need to know to set the scene for AI for the enterprise. There is a very wide range of technologies in the AI space, and this section will introduce the key players and how they compare with one another, along with clear explanations on how they are used best. The session will also propose a blueprint for delivering successful AI projects, from the business perspective.

 

10.00am Get started with AI in Azure

  • Introduction to AzureML
  • Build simple machine learning models with Azure Machine Learning

In this section, you will get hands-on experience in practice building a machine learning model from end-to-end, using AzureML. This is intended to formalize some of the knowledge you have learned so far. In this section, you will ingest data, select a model, train and test a model, and make it production-ready. Then, you can visualize your results in Power BI.

11.30 Selecting your model in AI

An exploration of models in AI

Selecting models in AI

Evaluating models in AI

In this section, we will cover AI models in detail. We will look at the models themselves, their differences and similarities, and how to choose between the models. We will also look at ways of evaluating models.

12.30 – 1.30 Lunch

1.30 Working with Microsoft ML Server and R

  • Fundamentals of R
  • Microsoft ML Server
  • Using R with Microsoft ML Server

In this section, we will cover the fundamentals of R, and how we can use it to create robust, production models using Microsoft ML Server. R is a first class citizen in Microsoft’s Data Platform offerings, and it touches other technologies, such as AzureML, SQL Server and Power BI. We will cover its use in Microsoft Machine Learning Server to help provision a flexible enterprise platform for analyzing data at scale, building intelligent apps, and discovering valuable insights across your business. Machine Learning Server meets the needs of all constituents of the process – from data engineers and data scientists to line-of-business programmers and IT professionals. It offers a choice of languages and features algorithmic innovation that brings the best of open-source and proprietary worlds together.

2.45 Break

3.00 Python Data Science Notebook and Labs

Python is an important skill in analysing data, data science and artificial intelligence. In the final segment, you will learn about Python, how to use it, and how to use Notebooks to work with your code.

5.00 Wrap up and QA

Connecting Android apps with Java and #AzureML

During my mentoring session with Acorn Inspirations, we were building an app that needed to access AzureML via an Android phone app. Quickly, it became clear that we were integrating a lot of different moving parts: Android, Java, AzureML. How did we do it?

Without giving away too much about the solution they are building, I worked on the Azure Machine Learning part to produce a sample recommender model. The model was created by going through the TDSP process, and it was productionized and ready to go.

Meanwhile, the other team members worked on the Android app, and then we got to the point of knitting everything together.

Writing an Android app means that the code has to be in Java or Kotlin. Kotlin is more complex, and you can read this excellent book, Kotlin in Action, in order to understand it better.

There is also the matter of network calls on Android. One recommendation is that we could use Retrofit to sort out the network calls but this would take longer to implement since it is more complex, so it was decided to use the standard http packages that are available in the Android SDK instead.

Then came the question: how do we use the APIs? JavaScript with jquery is one option and it can be faster. Then we had a piece of luck.

Using this Azure sample here, it tuns out that the project, with the ability to connect to Azure, is built in. This is known as a QuickStart and this facility allows you to configure the client application, which is wrapped up as a complete Android project which you can open up in your IDE. Neat!

Once that’s done, it’s possible to think about configuring the Android app to connect to your AzureML model using Java. There is a good example here:  https://github.com/aribornstein/JavaAzureMLClient

For more information in making your model production-ready, see the Microsoft Azure ML documentation here. It’s also possible to retrain the Azure ML model and it’s worth considering, too.

So yes, there are a lot of moving parts but Azure does give you some help on the way.

Getting the Swagger.JSON file from #AzureML

I’m conducting some mentoring for #TeensInAI at the BBC Studios in London today with Acorn Aspirations. I’m working with a group, and we are creating an app that uses various technologies, such as Android mobile studio, Java, AzureML and Swagger.

It wasn’t immediately obvious where to find the Swagger JSON file for deploying as part of the Android app, so here are the instructions.

You need to download the JSON file from the AzureML web portal. To do this,

  1. Sign in to the AzureML portal.
  2. Click Web Services on the left hand side
  3. Select your web service
  4. Select the option New Web Service Experience, which is in Preview.
  5. Click Consume, which you will see towards the right hand side of the page.
  6. On the Consume page, copy the Request-Response URL.
  7. In the URL, replace execute?api-version=2.0&format=swagger with swagger.json
  8. Paste the URL into your browser.
  9. Save the returned file.

And that’s it! You can find out more about consuming a web service in AzureML here.

Why UK Power BI Summit? Derive business value from your data

I’ve created UK Power BI Summit in response to an industry need for Power BI to have its own event, and I hope to produce a repeatable model for other Power BI groups globally. I am working with Microsoft in Redmond at the moment, in the hope that I can spread the world globally about the power of enabling businesses through data, via easily-accessible tools.

What’s the rationale? Personally, the next step in my career is to continue my trajectory from the data center towards boardroom level leadership and consultancy, in order to help organisations become 21st century, data-driven organisations. Data is at the foundation of businesses. Data, in turn, leads to insights and better decisions that improve the business. Ideally, businesses should have data as part of their DNA. This does not mean that there is not a place for context or for ‘gut instinct’. Data gives businesses new insights, and, in turn, it gives them new options.

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My favourite bookshop in the world: The Strand Bookstore, New York, on the corner of Broadway and E 12th Street.

With my business and technical skills in mind, I am doing my MBA at this stage in my career to focus on building businesses as data-driven organisations. The MBA will help me to combine my technical and business expertise within an established framework that will help me to be more effective in a leadership role. I believe that the MBA will help me to articulate and achieve a strategic viewpoint, which, in turn, will help businesses to use their data more effectively.

I am not alone in this data-driven journey. My industry experience tells me that many organisations suffer from one thing: hype about the possibilities and opportunities in data, and, particularly Big Data, but they don’t know how to get started in terms of technology, people, and enabling business processes that would consume these services.

Organisations can find it difficult to know where to start, or even how to start. Very often, businesses simply store all of their data, rather than think proactively about the data that they have, and how they could use it. As businesses continue to get excited about the opportunities of Big Data, they will also need Data Thought Leadership in order to guide them effectively towards success.

Digital Transformation is a much bandied about term. It isn’t simply whacking a few Virtual Machines in Azure, moving data to the cloud and – yay – digital transformation. It’s about transforming the business through the use of technology, and it has the business at the front-and-center of the activity.

Now is the time for businesses to bring their data and their strategy together, using the latest technologies – but they can’t do that, until they see their data. This is where Power BI come in.

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The Power BI event is aimed at those people in the organisation who are aware of business needs, user needs, and have winning ideas and who are willing to learn about user-oriented technology to make that happen. The event is aimed at helping these people to learn about the technology from beginner to advanced, according to their needs.

Although the event is about technology, it’s also about the business, and deriving business value from your data. It’s not a straightforward technology event. It’s about the business as well as the technology, and how it’s used. It’s about bringing you along the journey, further.

I thought that the difference between UK Power BI Summit and other events such as PASS SQLSaturday events, SQLBits were fairly clear, but it would seem from my email traffic that my assumption wasn’t correct.

Just to be clear:

  • I am not part of the SQLBits committee and I have nothing to do with their leadership. I don’t represent them and I’m not featured on their promotional video. I’ve been speaking there since SQLBits 7 through to SQLBits XV. You can look for my SQLBits 7 – 15 sessions here.
  • I am part of PASS and a non executive Director, and I sit on the PASS Board as an elected Director. I don’t represent PASS here. If you want a PASS-validated blog, then please head over to their site. This isn’t a PASS event.

Let’s look at the SQLBits mission statement, taken from their site:

SQL Bits was started by a group of individuals that are passionate about the SQL Server product suite. There is a breadth of knowledge in the SQL Community that will benefit everyone in the community. We want to spread that knowledge. We all work with the SQL community, some of us for many years and have all been given the MVP award by Microsoft.

Let’s look at the PASS Mission Statement, taken from their site:

PASS is an independent, not-for-profit organization run by and for the community. With a growing membership of more than 100K, PASS supports data professionals throughout the world who use the Microsoft data platform.

PASS strives to fulfill its mission by:

  • Facilitating member networking and the exchange of information through our local and virtual chapters, online events, local and regional events, and international conferences
  • Delivering high-quality, timely, technical content for in-depth learning and professional development

PASS was co-founded by CA Technologies and Microsoft Corporation in 1999 to promote and educate SQL Server users around the world. Since its founding, PASS has expanded globally and diversified its membership to embrace professionals using any Microsoft data technology.

So, the UK Power BI Summit is ultimately looking at using Power BI to transform businesses, through expertise in the technology, embedded in business-oriented discussions. The technology should support the business in its mission to adapt to the new world of data.

If you’d like to register, click below:

Eventbrite - UK Power BI Summit

Guess who is appearing in Joseph Sirosh’s PASS Keynote?

This girl! I am super excited and please allow me to have one little SQUUEEEEEEE! before I tell you what’s happening. Now, this is a lifetime achievement for me, and I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely and deeply honoured I am. I am still in shock!

I am working really hard on my demo and….. I am not going to tell you what it is. You’ll have to watch it. Ok, enough about me and all I’ll say is two things: it’s something that’s never been done at PASS Summit before and secondly, watch the keynote because there may be some discussion about….. I can’t tell you what… only that, it’s a must-watch, must-see, must do keynote event.

We are in a new world of Data and Joseph Sirosh and the team are leading the way. Watching the keynote will mean that you get the news as it happens, and it will help you to keep up with the changes. I do have some news about Dr David DeWitt’s Day Two keynote… so keep watching this space. Today I’d like to talk about the Day One keynote with the brilliant Joseph Sirosh, CVP of Microsoft’s Data Group.

Now, if you haven’t seen Joseph Sirosh present before, then you should. I’ve put some of his earlier sessions here and I recommend that you watch them.

Ignite Conference Session

MLDS Atlanta 2016 Keynote

I hear you asking… what am I doing in it? I’m keeping it a surprise! Well, if you read my earlier blog, you’ll know I transitioned from Artificial Intelligence into Business Intelligence and now I do a hybrid of AI and BI. As a Business Intelligence professional, my customers will ask me for advice when they can’t get the data that they want. Over the past few years, the ‘answer’ to their question has gone far, far beyond the usual on-premise SQL Server, Analysis Services, SSRS combo.

We are now in a new world of data. Join in the fun!

Customers sense that there is a new world of data. The ‘answer’ to the question Can you please help me with my data?‘ is complex, varied and it’s very much aimed at cost sensitivities, too. Often, customers struggle with data because they now have a Big Data problem, or a storage problem, or a data visualisation access problem. Azure is very neat because it can cope with all of these issues. Now, my projects are Business Intelligence and Business Analytics projects… but they are also ‘move data to the cloud’ projects in disguise, and that’s in response to the customer need. So if you are Business Intelligence professional, get enthusiastic about the cloud because it really empowers you with a new generation of exciting things you can do to please your users and data consumers.

As a BI or an analytics professional, cloud makes data more interesting and exciting. It means you can have a lot more data, in more shapes and sizes and access it in different ways. It also means that you can focus on what you are good at, and make your data estate even more interesting by augmenting it with cool features in Azure. For example, you could add in more exciting things such as Apache Tika library as a worker role in Azure to crack through PDFs and do interesting things with the data in there. If you bring it into SSIS, then you can tear it up and down again when you don’t need it.

I’d go as far as to say that, if you are in Business Intelligence at the moment, you will need to learn about cloud sooner or later. Eventually, you’re going to run into Big Data issues. Alternatively, your end consumers are going to want their data on a mobile device, and you will want easy solutions to deliver it to them. Customers are interested in analytics and the new world of data and you will need to hop on the Azure bus to be a part of it.

The truth is; Joseph Sirosh’s keynotes always contain amazing demos. (No pressure, Jen, no pressure….. ) Now, it’s important to note that these demos are not ‘smoke and mirrors’….

The future is here, now. You can have this technology too.

It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s not too far removed from what you have in your organisation. AzureML and Power BI have literally hundreds of examples. I learned AzureML looking at the following book by Wee-Hyong Tok and others, so why not download a free book sample?

https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/card?asin=B00MBL261W&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_c54ayb2VHWST4

How do you proceed? Well, why not try a little homespun POC with some of your own data to learn about it, and then show your boss. I don’t know about you but I learn by breaking things, and I break things all the time when I’m  learning. You could download some Power BI workbooks, use the sample data and then try to recreate them, for example. Or, why not look at the community R Gallery and try to play with the scripts. you broke something? no problem! Just download a fresh copy and try again. You’ll get further next time.

I hope to see you at the PASS keynote! To register, click here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2016/Sessions/Keynotes.aspx 

Upcoming Microsoft Azure webinars on Azure Machine Learning and Cortana Analytics

I found these webinars over at the Microsoft site, and I’m reposting them here for you:

Introduction to Azure Data Factory with Wee Hyong Tok, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
August 4, 2015 at 10am PDT 

This webinar is held by Microsoft, and I recommend you tune in if you want to learn more about Azure Data Factory. It enables you to process on-premises data like SQL Server, together with cloud data like Azure SQL Database, Blobs, and Tables. Wee Hyong Tok will help you to understand Data Factory capabilities, and the scenarios where Data Factory can be applied. Click here to register.

If you want to translate the time for this webinar into your own timezone, please click here.

Harness Predictive Customer Churn Models with Cortana Analytics Suite with Wee Hyong Tok, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
August 18, 2015 at 10am PDT

This webinar is held by Microsoft, and I will be tuning in so I can drink all the good Cortana Analytics goodness!

In this session, Wee Hyong Tok will show you how to build a real-life churn model with Azure Machine Learning, make it enterprise-ready with Azure Data Factory, and deliver data insights with Power BI. Click here to register.

If you want to translate the time for this webinar into your own timezone, please click here.

Click on the image for the original Cortana announcement at WPC15.