Financial Storytelling and Data Storytelling in #PowerBI

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As a consultant, I think it’s important to understand the numbers that make up a business. It means I can provide better advice to my customers since I can read their balance sheets, understand their financial statements, and translate these numbers into effective data visualization in tools such as Tableau and Power BI.

There are a number of accounting ratios which can be used to help determine the success – or otherwise – of a business. There is no ‘magic silver bullet’ that can help to determine definitively, but it is possible to put the ratios together to make a story that will help us to understand the business better. We can tell the story better through data visualization. So we move from data storytelling to finance storytelling.

Once we have the ‘story’ behind the accounting ratios, we can start to use these as a basis for storytelling in Power BI. In this blog series, we will start to look at the accounting ratios and how they are calculated. Then, we will look at how we can visualize this information in Power BI.

Accounting Ratios

Click here to see a bigger version.

Since we are looking at accounting ratios and how we can visualize them, let’s use this flow chart as a starting point. In the next topics, we will look at what these accounting ratios mean in more detail. We will also look at some of the McKinsey modelling, such as ROIC and the calculation of value.

A Day in the Life of Jen Stirrup: Tuesday 17th July, 2018 #SQLCareer

I was inspired by Brent Ozar, Steve Jones and Iris Classon to write about my day. My work and life don’t balance each other at all; my work is my life and I love what I do and I’m an unapologetic workaholic. I’m also a single Mom, so life crashes down around my ears on a daily basis. So my take is slightly different and I want to talk about what it’s like to be a technical single Mom, which is another dimension to being a woman in technology. We are even rarer, I suppose. So this is my #SQLCareer post, 1 out of 4.

I live on cups of tea and tea enables and empowers me. I didn’t note it at each step but there will be tea at each point.

12am My day starts at midnight. I’m usually still working then, so I’ll start here. I’m doing my MBA at a college in Zurich, Switzerland and it’s a lot of hard work. I read very late into the night. I’m enjoying the challenge and I’m learning a lot. I’m doing it to qualify and validate my twenty year consulting career. I learned a lot from working in consultancies before starting to work for myself eight years ago, and I’m grateful for the experiences. I’m reading about change in organizations, and reflecting on my experiences of change management as a pawn and a player.

2am I sleep.

3.30am Dogs wake me up barking, insisting that someone is outside. My security lights have come on. It could just be an urban fox, drinking at the water bowl that I leave outside for the birds. But still. I calm them down, and then try to go back to sleep.

6.15am I’m back up again. My dogs, affectionately known as Copy and Paste, have somehow managed to get out of the dining room where they sleep, and have decided to sleep outside my bedroom door. They are a complete joy and they are patient with the fact that I’m not a morning person. I shower while they tear up my house and garden before I walk them at 6.45.

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My dogs Archie and Nimbus, also known affectionately as Copy and Paste. They are half-brothers from a different set.

6.45am I wake up my teenage son before I walk my dogs. He’s a morning person. I’m not. We grunt at each other and then I take Copy and Paste out for walkies.

7.15am. I’m back. My Alexa is playing BBC Radio 4 Today program, or the BBC World Service, whichever one grabs my interest. Teenager is showered and I’m shovelling things in his school bag, throwing lunch money at him, nagging him to choose breakfast cereal, fix his school tie, making sure he’s got his bus pass and fending off requests for Iron Maiden merchandise, a paintball birthday party, a bunch of comics and a manga book.

In the meantime, Copy and Paste have formed a protest group demanding treats, and are demonstrating by sitting in front of my fridge and staring me down accusingly. They are looking for cheese but Bad Dog Mom isn’t handing out treats.

7.16am Bad Dog Mom hands out treats.

7.17am Boy eats and dogs devour treats. I tidy up the house, which involves dish washing (my new dishwasher comes on Monday), taking out trash and recycling, zipping around with the hoover, and putting things where they belong.

7.45am  I shovel my son out of the door, and I drive my teenager to the school bus and I try to really listen to him. My Mom antenna are twitching for problems and I want to see he’s ok.

8am I drop off boy and I realize I haven’t eaten so I grab a croissant from Simmons bakers, who have been in business since 1838. I’m a regular. I drive back to my home, tuning into the Today program on BBC radio four.

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8.15am I take the dogs out again. I listen to Audible while I walk them. I’m currently listening to Infonomics by Doug Laney from Gartner.

8.45am coffee is brewing and the dogs are settling for a nap. My dog sitter arrives and I leave to get my train for my customer visit.

9am I’m on the train, furiously emailing.

10.30am I’m at my new customer site so I get to know the new team I’m working with. I don’t officially start for another week but I want to visit them so we are ready to hit the ground running. We kick off a high level view of our approach to taking them to a data science platform, analytics and machine learning. We draw, map and use post-it notes to move technologies around, remove some, add others. We note out data sources and data consumers. I photograph it all, for recording later. We are still agreeing a data modelling tool but they like Toad and Sparx.

1pm I met an old colleague for lunch. He referred me to the new customer so I want to thank him. I’m excited to be working with him again. I worked as a consultant for large and small firms before starting my own business, and it was the best way to start out. It meant I built a wide network, and I learned sales, marketing, customer perception and voice by learning and watching what other people did.

2pm I travel home and I sleep on the train.

3pm I’ve been asked to be an independent expert for an investigation and I need time to reflect. I have a meeting with the panel soon, and I like to walk as it helps me to gather my thoughts in preparation. It’s obviously NDA so I can’t get into details. I will say, however, that it can be quite stressful and walking does help me to think clearly. It’s crucial that I get this totally right, like everything else I do. People are depending on me and I have to be absolutely bullet-proof and right. Dogs are over the moon about the walk so at least someone is happy!

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4pm Home. I have a Microsoft Regional Director call. That’s NDA.

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5pm Teenage boy is home and he announces that there is no food in the cupboard or fridge. Teenage boys eat like locusts. So I go out and get some shopping done and we eat ready meals.

6pm My son and I walk the dogs. I want him to spend time away from a screen or anything electrical. It also means I get to talk to him, really talk.

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7pm My teenage son is bored with my presence and goes to his room to read Tokyo Ghoul. I have also sneaked a read of it, and I thought it was outstanding. In any case, I need to get some work done for a US based customer, and they are online now. The dogs alternate between running amok in a playful fashion, or lying in a heap because they have worn themselves out. It’s nice outside so the doors are open, and they bolt in and out of the house.

I work in an ad-hoc fashion and this US based customer has a deadline of next week. I am using Power BI to create data visualization templates and I am creating them a Style Guide as I go along.

9pm My teenage son goes to bed, after having sent me an Amazon wishlist of ten Iron Maiden tshirts.

I am still working, and I will do so until midnight, when I call off my official work. My work involves the billable work but it also involves catching up on the following:

  • I have press releases to do for a keynote so I need to answer interview questions by email
  • I am featuring in a tech magazine so I have to prepare some materials for that
  • I need to approve headshots
  • I need to lead the developer who is building my new website for me. This means I need to deliver content, do things at the Azure backend so he can move on to the next step, and answer all of his questions. He is an owl like me, and we both work late. He’s an Artificial Intelligence postgrad and he’s doing the work for me in his evenings.
  • I need to sort out my accounts.
  • I need to delegate work to my personal assistant, who is currently creating PowerPoint templates for me. When she’s done that, I’m going to give her my presentations to be redone in the template, and it will be new content for my website. It’s hard to delegate since I need to be very precise, but it is about investing time now to get time back later.

12pm – 2am MBA reading. I drop billable work at midnight and I start to read again.

That’s it!

Email is a huge part of our lives. How can you set yourself up so you find it easily, when you need it most?

Ever had to provide email for legal evidence? If not, good… but one day, you might have to do that. How will you find it?

Email is serious stuff and you need to look after it. In this blog, I’ll explain how I set myself up with email for a balance of keeping my primary email mailbox small and archiving my email for fast retrieval when I need it. I use Microsoft Office365 archiving, Microsoft Flow and Google Drive to help put together a system I’m happy with.

logo-brightwareSo here is the back story. I used to be an Artificial Intelligence consultant for a small company called Brightware, who were eventually bought by Oracle. My focus was mainly on natural language processing in emails. The idea was that we used algorithms and a knowledge base which worked out the meaning, or the intent of the email message. The Program, known as Answer Agent, would conduct the calculations using the model I’d built.

As part of my work, I learned a lot about Microsoft Exchange and other email systems which were in vogue at the time, such as Lotus Notes, Pegasus and Mercury Transport Systems. In order to split data into training and test sets, I was usually given a huge PST file which I could split out for testing and training my models.

Even after I left the organization in 2002 after a five year stint as an AI consultant, I’ve continued to practice many of the things that I learned in that time. It was great to get fantastic consulting experience with big name companies, and the people that I was working with then, are now in senior positions now as we’ve all ‘grown up’ together. It’s very true that ‘people may not remember what you did or what you said, but they remember how you made them feel’. One contact, who hadn’t been in touch for almost 20 years, got in touch to say that he is a Director of a small AI firm and they needed some extra help with a strategic direction and Microsoft technology roadmap, so he got in touch with me to help them with their growth trajectory. It’s funny how you work closely together, don’t see each other for 20 years and when you meet, the years just roll away.

So, throughout my career, I continued to back everything up to Outlook PST archives; not just for myself, but for people who sent emails as part of my company as well. Email really is a huge part of our lives, and what we email says so much about us: the good and the bad. Having read so many emails over my life, I’m amazed what people will type and commit to email in a professional setting. Email does not belong to you; it belongs to the company, particularly if the company paid for your network, laptop, email account and your time spent reasonably during the working day sending the email. You are what you write!

You never know when it’s going to come back on you, which is where this email is going. Recently, I learned that a former employee of the client was being accused of something illegal. I was summoned to a client that I hadn’t seen for a very long time, as a witness to an internal investigation. Reading the details, I was stunned but I was happy to help, of course. The client needed to get a fair and external understanding of what had happened. I won’t go into details, but the accusation focused on illegal behaviour. Note that I was entirely innocent but I could comment and show evidence on people’s behaviour, and that was my relationship with the issue. I had not been at the client for at least a year, so I really needed to dig back in my memory.

The thing is, we tend to assume that an accusation is the same as evidence, and it is not. It’s the same with gossip; the assumption goes along the lines of ‘well so and so said it, so it must be true’ even though there is no data to support it. With gossip, people don’t tend to go back and validate its veracity over time, and it gets forgotten about but the vestiges still remain. It gets tucked into our mindset as some sort of evidence, which is likely used to support another piece of gossip as it comes our way. We don’t always see the silliness of the gossip, but we do sometimes remember that the gossiper made us feel ‘bad’ so we don’t always remember what they said or what they did, but we remember how they made us feel. So gossip, and accusations with no data, are foundless. They are not evidence.

Fortunately, accusations require proof in the legal system, and I was asked to provide evidence on the behaviour of other individuals. To my relief, I had backed up all of my emails and it was easy to go through them. I could submit them as I had been the cc recipient of some relevant conversations, and this helped to bring the issue to a close.

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Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/193584-193584/

As a consultant, I run into toxic situations now and again, and these are the situations that help you to grow as a consultant and as a person. I like to believe that emotions should not dictate our decisions, but this can be easy to say but more difficult and challenging to put into practice. Having been an advisor in some internal company cases on racial and sexual harassment has meant that I really have to put my own experiences and feelings aside, and look at the facts. It is a sobering experience, but it means I have to rise to be the leader that I would want to be leading me if I was the focus of these investigations.

I’ve also found two other ways of backing up email using Office 365 and Google. I’m going to lay them out here, and I hope it helps.

Archiving your Email

Why does Microsoft have more than one Archive folder (it seems!), and how are they different? There is the Archive folder and the In Place Archiving functionality. Essentially, the Archive folder in Outlook 2016 is available from your devices, but the In Place Archiving isn’t available on your device in your mail client. It’s that simple. In Place Archiving is for real archive, but you can find email again easily. Plus it keeps your mailbox small, which has got to be good, right?

Archive items in Outlook 2016

The ‘Archive’ folder is accessible on the left hand side of Outlook or through the Archive button in the Delete group on the ribbon. You can move one or more messages to your Archive folder without deleting them. The main benefit is that you can still access these emails on your phone and tablet, so they are still easy to find. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Select one or more messages that you want archive, but still find if you’re looking for them on your phone etc.
  2. In the Delete group, choose Archive.One Click Archiving
  3. You can also use the Backspace key to immediately archive one or more selected messages.
  4. Your message(s) will be moved to the Archive folder. If you archive a message by mistake, go to the Archive folder and move the message back to your Inbox.

Note: The Archive button is only visible in Outlook 2016. Your Archive folder already exists, even if you’ve never used the feature before. If you can’t find it, go to File > Office Account > Update Options > Update Now.

I don’t use this feature, because when I want to archive, I really want to archive. So I use the In Place Archiving Feature instead.

In Place Archiving in Office 365

An In-Place Archive in Exchange Online in Office 365 helps people to file emails by providing additional email storage. It’s not in your device mail by default, but you can find it using Outlook or Outlook Web App.

You can view emails in your archive mailbox and move or copy messages between their primary and archive mailboxes.

Here’s a screenshot from Technet. I’ve used this screenshot since I don’t want to display my own email.

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Credit: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn922147(v=exchg.150).aspx

You can find out more by visiting the Technet Site.

What about email attachments? Using Microsoft Flow to archive inbound documents to Google Drive

I use MIcrosoft Flow to automatically store inbound attachments to Google Drive, as a ‘cold storage’ mechanism. I use OneDrive and Google to store data. If, for some reason, I can’t access OneDrive, then I know I can find things in my cold storage.

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service created by Google. It allows users to store files in the cloud, share files, and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with collaborators.

To find out more about the Microsoft Flow connector, click here.

You can set up a Flow quite easily, and here’s the page that will take you through the wizard for Microsoft Flow:

Here is the final flow:

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I hope that helps you to see how to store email easily. You never know when you, or someone else, might need it badly.