Doing the Do: the best resource for learning new Business Intelligence and Data Science technology

As a consultant, I get parachuted into difficult problems every day. Often, I figure it out because I have to, and I want to. Usually, nobody else can do it other than me – they are all keeping the fires lit. I get to do the thorny problems that get left burning quietly. I love the challenge of these successes!

How do you get started? The online and offline courses, books, MOOCs, papers, blogs and the forums help, of course. I regularly use several resources for learning but my number one source of learning is:

Doing the ‘do’ – working on practical projects, professional or private

Nothing beats hands-on experience. 

How do you get on the project ladder? Without experience, you can’t get started. So you end up in this difficult situation where you can’t get started, without experience.

Volunteer your time in the workplace – or out of it. It could be a professional project or your ‘data science citizen’ project that you care about. Your boss wants her data? Define the business need, and identify what she actually wants. If it helps, prototype to elicit the real need. Volunteer to try and get the data for her. Take a sample and just get started with descriptive statistics. Look at the simple things first.

Not sure of the business question? Try the AzureML Cheat Sheet for help.

machine-learning-algorithm-cheat-sheet-small_v_0_6-01

Working with dat means that you will be challenged with real situations and you will read and learn more, because you have to do it in order to deliver.

In my latest AzureML course with Opsgility, I take this practical, business-centred approach for AzureML. I show you how to take data, difficult business questions and practical problems, and I show you how to create a successful outcome; even if that outcome is a failed model, it still makes you revise the fundamental business question. It’s a safe environment to get experience.

So, if this is you – what’s the sequence? There are a few sequences or frameworks to try:

  • TDSP (Microsoft)
  • KDD
  • CRISP-DM
  • SEMMA

The ‘headline’ of each framework is given below, as a reference point, so you can see for yourself that they are very different. The main thing is to simply get started.

Team Data Science Process (Microsoft)

tdsp-lifecycle

 

KDD

kdd

 

CRISP-DM

330px-crisp-dm_process_diagram

 

SEMMA

metodo-semma

It’s important not to get too wrapped up on comparing models; this could be analysis paralysis, and that’s not going to help.

I’d suggest you start with the TDSP because of the fine resources, and take it from there.

I’d be interested in your approaches, so please do leave comments below.

Good  luck!

Data Acumen – Analytics Literacy in a Data-Driven world

I am sharing this blog by Richard Lee The video of his interview is below. I agree that data literacy has to be part of any leadership conversation.

We talk about data in terms of technology, and this is usually how customers approach me. I agree with Richard’s insight that it has to be recast as a business problem solving venture with an emphasis on data acumen as well as business acumen.

In this era of ‘alternate facts’, ‘post-truth’ our need for data acumen will become a necessary part of business acumen.

Enough of my thoughts; I will let Richard speak, and you can read his insightful blog post below.

Preface: I did not write a formal posting on the Data for Policy confab this past September, but wanted to at least share the materials that I presented and discussed during the conference. Abstract: The notion of Data-driven Policy making and its associated Governance, is often challenged by the fact that the vast majority of Politicians, […]

via You can’t have Data-driven Policy if your Leaders are Analytics Illiterate” — infomgmtexec

PASS Business Analytics Day, Jan 11, Chicago

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PASS’ first Business Analytics Day, which will be held in Chicago on January 11, 2017. You can choose one of two full-day, in-depth sessions for $595: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

These are unique learning opportunities to get more advanced in R or data visualization with Power BI. And as with other PASS events, the goal is to allow you to walk away with real-world analytics knowledge that you can use immediately!

PASS Business Analytics Day

You have two great choices: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016

With Microsoft SQL Server 2016, data scientists can run in-database analytics using R. This is a “best of both worlds” scenario: delegate database management to SQL Server whilst you create analytics and visualisations in R and Power BI. In this session, we will cover the overall architecture of SQL R Services and go over some best practices. We will look at best practices in analytics and visualisations with a focus on R, and then we delve more in-depth into some practical common use-cases.

Speakers:
David Smith, R Community Lead at Revolution Analytics, a Microsoft Company
Seth Mottaghinejad, Data Scientist, Microsoft

Mastering Power BI Solutions

In this Power BI hands-on Workshop, you will master the “power” of Power BI. Learn to use self-service and enterprise-scale Power BI capabilities; gain valuable skills to integrate, wrangle, shape and visualize data for analysis. Beginning and intermediate level users will learn to address data and reporting challenges with advanced design techniques.

Speaker:
Paul Turley, Mentor with SolidQ, BI Architect, and Microsoft Data Platform MVP

Date: January 11, 2017

Location: Microsoft Technology Center, #200 – 200 East Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL.

We hope you’ll join us!

Business Analytics Webinar Marathon announced!

31060117291_46e25da6d4_kJoin PASS on 14th December for our next bumper edition of the Business Analytics (BA) Marathon on Wednesday, December 14. We have six back-to-back sessions, all about analytics. Why not challenge yourself to attend all six?

If you want to learn R, predictive analytics, or learn about business analytics generally, then join our industry experts for six back-to-back webinars.

Each webinar lasts for an hour, and they start at 17:00 GMT. Check the time in your own timezone here

Webinar Date: Wed December 14, 2016

Start time: 17:00 GMT ¦ Check the time in your own timezone here

Session 1: Analyzing Healthcare Open Data with Power BI
Dan English, Senior Data Warehouse Architect, Constellation

Session 2: Big Data Analytics with SparkR
Jen Underwood, Founder of Impact Analytix, LLC

Session 3: Disrupt the Static Nature of BI with Predictive Anomaly Detection
Uri Maoz, Vice President of US business, Anodot

Session 4: Using R to Clean and Transform Small Data
Mark Wilcock, Technical Delivery Manager, ‎Credit Suisse

Session 5: Visualizing Multiple Time Series with R in Power BI
Bill McLellan, BI Team Lead and Sr. BI Solutions Specialist, TKC Holdings

Session 6: Real-World Predictive Analytics
Miguel Molina-Cosculluela, Managing Partner & Analytics Evangelist, Analytikus
Diwakar Rajagopal, Senior Director of Partnerships, Pyramid Analytics

See you there!

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 

Jen’s PASS Diary: BA Portfolio thoughts, please

As always, this isn’t an official PASS blog post, but one of my braindumps.

In a nutshell, I want to pick community brains. Don’t think analytics isn’t relevant to you, if you’re a DBA: without DBAs, there is no Data Science or Business Analytics. Your input is valuable.

You will have seen the latest blog post from PASS about the strategic direction of PASS Business Analytics conference. If not here, are a few key takeaway quotes:

“The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of our analytics community globally.”

“Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.”

I’ve put together a plan of how that might shape up, but I need your help and ideas so that I can do the best job that I can.  for the people who put their faith in me when they voted for me to be on the PASS Board. You’ll see from the post that more than 25,000 PASS members from around the world identifying a professional interest in BA so that’s a lot of people to serve, so that they can connect, learn and share.

I still believe that the industry has got to the point where organisations are either crossing the Rubicon, or sitting on the Acheron where it comes to analytics and making the most of their data.

So tell me: what would you like to see, preferably with an emphasis on something ‘actionable’ that I can deliver? How can I best help you? What do you think would work? Wouldn’t work?

I’ll be releasing a vlog which outlines some of my thoughts and perspectives, in the near future. It will be my first attempt at a vlog and I’ll be happy for any tips too, so I can make that successful.

Here are some contact details:

email: jen.stirrup@datarelish.com

comments box below

twitter: @jenstirrup

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/jenstirrup to connect

Now, I used to offer to do phone calls and GoToMeeting meetings. However, as many of you will know, I have had to close my Skype account and change my phone number due to various threats, which I reported to the police at the time. Note that these were not vague phone calls: at their height, I was receiving threatening phone calls at a rate of one every two minutes from a variety of phone numbers, day and night across timezones. Some people clearly have a lot of time on their hands. Although that has stopped, mainly because I have changed my details, I am reluctant to hand out these details.

If you’d like to talk, then you can contact me personally so that I go through a process to ‘verify’ you if I don’t know you, and then we will try to arrange something. I am sorry about the extra hoops but I need to protect myself as well as try to help people in the community.

Thank you again; I do appreciate it. I am humble enough to recognise that there is more brain power out there than simply mine. I can’t do everything myself, and I need help to ‘scale’. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Jen

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Red hair and a teapot dress!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen’s PASS Diary: The Happy Prince and the Swallow

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Picture Credit: checanty

Oscar Wilde was well known for his writing for adults, but he’s probably less well known for his excellent children’s writing, too. He tackles strong themes, and they are well worth the read for adults as well as children. In one short story, The Happy Prince, Wilde writes a rather sad tale about a statue of a Happy Prince, who is somewhat misnamed because he’s never really known true happiness. In the tale, there is a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt. Saddened by what he saw around him, The Happy Prince tasked the swallow with giving everyone the jewels of himself, until, eventually, there was only the basic iron left. The swallow flies around, giving out the precious stones in the statue, but eventually dies, breaking the Happy Prince’s heart. There’s more to it than that, and it’s a sad tale, and for various reasons it has always been special to me.

I think that being on the PASS Board is a bit like being both the Happy Prince and the Swallow. Like everyone, I have talents, experience and wisdom in some areas, and not others. I happen to try to use my talents, small as they are, for the benefit of SQLFamily. I have won both of my PASS elections outright as the winner with the most votes. This means that SQLFamily gave me a position, but also a mandate to try and help the community via PASS. I am a volunteer and I try my best, and I give my ‘jewels’ away for free where I think they are best needing to be spent, and I am also the messenger that takes them there.

It’s a lot of work, however, inside the tent. I’d like to explain a little about how much effort I put in normally. Since I’m in Europe, attending PASS calls means that I’m on the phone late in the evenings. If I have a few calls a week, then that takes out a few of my evenings. It all adds up, and anyone in IT knows it’s not just about the meeting, there is work outside of that as well. If I was based in the US, I’d take the calls during my working day; however, it’s a different story when you have your evenings taken out. I’m just putting that here so people understand that being on the Board, from this part of the world, is actually a huge commitment and this is my third year of doing it. Fortunately I am single so it’s not impacting time with a spouse, although it does impact my newly-found Netflix addiction.

What am I working on? A few things:

There’s a difference between PASS BA the event, and PASS BA the strategy. Both require a lot of work. Vision is ‘why’, strategy is ‘what’, and execution is ‘how’. The strategy is a follow on from a vision, a mission statement of where PASS would like to go. This diagram might help, and I sit along all three of these elements:

vse-leadership-management-474x234

 

Credit: Goulston Group‘s image.

The PASS Mission Statement has to translate into a strategy, which then translates into execution plans. Execution is crucial, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a strategy. A strategy is all about making a decision about where to play, and the way to play. A strategy tackles more fundamental questions:

  1. What organisation should PASS be?
  2. How does this add value to PASS?
  3. Who are the target audience for the PASS BA proposition?
  4. What are your value propositions for the BA audience?
  5. What capabilities are essential to adding value to the PASS BA organisation, and differentiating their value proposition?

In future blog posts, I will try to speak to each of these questions from my input as the PASS Business Analytics portfolio holder. A strategy provides a foundation for decision-making. It’s a garden for growth and where to cut costs, and determining priorities. The strategy gives a signpost and a guide to prevent drift, or scope creep. Personally, I have never seen scope ‘creep’ – it usually gallops! So there is a lot to think about, as I try to help PASS continue to be successful, and move forward to further success.

A strategy is particularly critical in volatile environments, and there is none more volatile than the world of data at the moment. You just need to see the Apache top level projects at the moment. Apache Spark is à la mode, but now there is also Apache Flink and Apache Arrow to consider, which also play in some of Spark’s space. Also, you could consider Apache Apex which is designed to improve the performance and speed of big data components that work together as part of a larger system. How would an architect decide, and put these bits together?

I am continuing to make sure that my voice is heard and I’ve already made the following points:

  • Strategy – I have been working a lot on the PASS BA strategy. More details on this will be ongoing, but here are some details which I’ve previously posted. I’m supporting the team as we move forward to tell our story, and that’s involved a lot of research and teamwork. Thank you Teresa C for your help 🙂
  • PASS are working on the BA Marathon, as promised in the last blog post. I’ve been having input on that.
  • I’ve raised the question of greater engagement and activity outside of the US. I’ve sent through my thoughts and ideas, and hopefully that will lead into more growth in that area, through strategy and execution. This is crucial; growing PASS will mean greater support and engagement outside of the US. My EMEA seat is supposed to give the ‘voice’ outside of the US to the rest of the Board, and I’ve already made these points on a number of occasion. In my own capacity, I spoke at SQLSaturday Vienna, SQLBits and I’m speaking at SQLSaturday Paris and SQLSaturday Dublin in June. I’m also speaking at Digital Pragmatism: Delivering Real World Improvements in Mental Health. I also spoke at Microsoft TechDays, a UK event.
  • Also, I’m supporting SQL Server Geeks in my own capacity and I’m delivering a precon for the team out there in India to help support their wonderful event and community. How much do I believe in the SQL Server Geeks event? I have 100% faith in the team out there – and SQL Server Geeks is going to be the highlight of my year.I’m delighted to see the growth in the community there. Amit Bansal, Manohar Punna and the team are doing a wonderful job. Pinal Dave runs a wonderful blog out of India. These are only a few people in that part of the world who are doing wonderful things, and they all contribute to make the Data Platform world better, both in person and online.

So, that’s a roundup. As always, please feel free to get in touch at jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org