David McCandless announced as PASS BAC keynote speaker

The Professional Association of SQL Server announced this morning that acclaimed data visualization expert, TedTalk speaker, and Information Is Beautiful author David McCandless will keynote at the 2nd annual PASS Business Analytics Conference in San Jose, CA, May 7-9.

 
David will take the stage on Day 2 for a journey through the world of visualizing facts, data, ideas, and statistics. Microsoft’s Kamal Hathi and Amir Netz will kick off the conference on Day 1 with insights into how Microsoft is making data more accessible through easy-to-use tools including Power BI. Exciting times, people!
 
The PASS BA Conference – featuring 65+ sessions across five topic tracks – brings together business analysts, data scientists, and BI and IT professionals to connect with each other, share experiences, and learn more about the power of data to transform business. You can find all the details at http://passbaconference.com. On a minor note, I’m speaking too during a general session (not the keynote, obviously!) and I hope to see you there!
 
I am REALLY looking forward to David McCandless speak, and it would be wonderful to meet him in person. I hope you can make it to PASS BAC. If you are looking for a discount code, here is mine for you to use to get $150 off: BASF2O
 

How do you choose the right data visualisation in Power BI to show your data?

How do you choose the right visualisation to show your data? Usually the customer wants one thing, the business user want something else, the business sponsor wants something flashy…. and it’s hard to tease out the requirements, and that’s before you’ve even opened up Power BI such as Power View, Excel, Tableau or whatever your preferred data visualisation software.

In other words, there are simply too many charts to choose from, and too many requirements to meet. Where do you start?

I found this fantastic diagram which can help you to choose the right visualisation. I’m often surprised to see that people haven’t seen this before. Note: this diagram was done by Andrew Abela of Extreme Presentation and the source is here and his email address is on the slide, so be sure to thank him if you’ve found it useful. If you can’t see it very well, click here to go to the source.

choosing-a-good-chart-09_001

Chart Choosers should not replace common sense, however, and Naomi Robbins has written a nice piece here which is aimed at the wary. However, diagrams like Abela’s can really help a novice to get started, and for that, I’d like to thank him for his work.

How does it related to Microsoft’s Power BI? If you look at the visualisations that are available in Power View, you can see that most of the visualisations in the diagram are available in Power BI.  The ones that are excluded are the 3D graphs, circular area charts, variable width charts, or the waterfall chart.

Why no 3D? I personally hope that Microsoft will leave 3D out of Power BI tools, unless of course it is in Power Map.  With 3D on a chart, it is harder to identify the endpoints, and it can take us longer. It might also mean that points are occluded. If you’re interested and want to see examples, here is one by the Consultant Journal team or you can go ahead and read Stephen Few’s work. If you haven’t read anything by Stephen Few, get yourself over to his site right now. You won’t regret it. Why is it different from Power Map? 3D maps provide context, and they are the exception where I will use 3D for a data visualisation showing business data. I’m obviously excluding other types of non-business data here, such as medical imaging and so on.

Why no circular area or variable width charts? I am not a fan of variable width of circular area because we aren’t very good at evaluating area when we look at charts and graphs, and Robert Kosara has an old-but-good post on this topic here.

This blog is mainly for me to remember stuff but I hope it helps someone out there too.

Best Wishes,
Jen

Data Visualisation with Hadoop, Hive, Power BI and Excel 2013 – Slides from SQLPass Summit and SQLSaturday Bulgaria

I presented this session at SQLPass Summit 2013 and at SQLSaturday Bulgaria.

The topic focuses on some data visualisation theory, an overview of Big Data and finalises the Microsoft distribution of Hadoop. I will try to record the demo as part of a PASS Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter online webinar at some point, so please watch this space.

I hope you enjoy and I look forward to your feedback.

SQLPass Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter – Join Us for Charting Collections of Connections in Social Media: Creating Maps and Measures with NodeXL

Join Us for a free webinar on Charting Collections of Connections in Social Media: Creating Maps and Measures with NodeXL
The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter will be hosting Marc Smith next week, on 2nd July at 7pm PDT. I am honoured to be hosting. To register, click here: 
The topic: Networks are a data structure common found across all social media services that allow populations to author collections of connections. The Social Media Research Foundation’s NodeXL project makes analysis of social media networks accessible to most users of the Excel spreadsheet application. With NodeXL, Networks become as easy to create as pie charts. Applying the tool to a range of social media networks has already revealed the variations present in online social spaces. A review of the tool and images of Twitter, flickr, YouTube, and email networks will be presented. 
Does it work? It’s certainly very interesting stuff. Here is my NodeXL graph for the past week:
I must admit that I’m not terribly good at planning out tweets. I don’t tend to worry about things like ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’. I just put out things that interest me, and things I am excited about. People respond, or don’t respond. I am more concerned about what I don’t tweet: I try to take care not to offend anyone because I think it can be done inadvertently when you have only 140 characters. Things spill out, that interest me! I am an ‘interested’ person, who loves lots of subjects and probably many of you are the same.
Personally I’m very grateful for twitter since it allows me to connect with my sqlfamily from around the globe. I love tweeting people in the US, for example, because it’s great to feel connected with people even though they are far away.
Tweeting suits my lifestyle. I am a single mother and I don’t have a sparkling social life with friends and parties. For example, it is 4am here in the UK and I am still working. However, I am happy and this is no sob story! What I do have, is friends that I see at technology events such as SQL events, and these people are my friends, my ‘sqlfamily’ and I am at home at these events. I never thought I’d feel so at home with a bunch of people from all over the place, and I know I am extremely privileged to know many of the sqlfamily from everywhere.
I suggest you go to the NodeXL website, take a look at the free download, and introduce yourself to your own networks hidden in your data. This could be Twitter data – or perhaps even data and patterns hidden in your corporate Data. You don’t have anything to lose by simply trying it, and who knows what you will find!
 
I am not holding this webinar, but I am hosting. So please allow me to introduce my guest speaker. For those of you who don’t know, Marc does some interesting research on social media and I recommend that you join us. Marc Smith is a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction. Smith leads the Connected Action consulting group and lives and works in Silicon Valley, California. Smith co-founded the Social Media Research Foundation (http://www.smrfoundation.org/), a non-profit devoted to open tools, data, and scholarship related to social media research.

Smith is the co-editor with Peter Kollock of Communities in Cyberspace (Routledge), a collection of essays exploring the ways identity; interaction and social order develop in online groups. Along with Derek Hansen and Ben Shneiderman, he is the co-author and editor of Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a connected world, from Morgan-Kaufmann which is a guide to mapping connections created through computer-mediated interactions.

PASSBAC keynote: The Microsoft data story, and the next chapters

I attended the keynote from the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago, April 2013. For those of you who missed it, here is some of the content of the keynote.
The take away point is that Business Intelligence must be simple. It is important to make it fun, and we are drowning in data. Not being able to read and understand data, is like being disadvantaged in today’s world. We have to move beyond what we now think about Business Intelligence. We have to get inside our data. 

The keynote was opened by Bill Graziano ( twitter ¦ website ) who underlined the importance for a need amongst Business Analytics professionals for knowledge and support. PASS is helping to formulate a community of Data Professionals. If you’re a Business Analytics  professional, you can be a part of the shaping of this community and be a part in it. If this interests you, could can take a look at joining up a Virtual Chapter and receive monthly webcasts, for example. This can help you to stay connected once PASSBAC is finished.
Next, we had Dell appearing. They have over 15 years of IM software experience. 

Dell has over 15 years of IM software experience, after their purchase of @Quest, for example. Dell constantly monitor their own brand in social media. For example, they have 6 years experience in watching their brand online, and anticipating with customers from a support and brand engagement perspective. They made the following observations in the social media market:

Dell’s Observations
Data Type Proliferation
Vendor Proliferation
Data-Location proliferation
IT and LOB challenges
Snap into existing environments

Given these observations, they then moved to address these points in the market:

Analysis of social media needed to be:
Data-Type Agnostic
Vendor Agnostic
Data-Location Agnostic
Open
Capability needs to be at the tools layer

The takeaway point from the Dell part of the keynote is: Make the hard things simple to allow for more collaboration, exploration, analysis and communication
The final part of the keynote was presented by Amir Netz, who is a Distinguished Technical Fellow at Microsoft. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to speak with Amir in person, I’ve found him to be a very approachable and fun guy, and this came across clearly in the keynote, which was probably the most engaging I’ve seen (and I see a lot!) Netz was accompanied by Kamil Hathi who knows his stuff inside out and is a ‘go to’ expert for Analysis Services. I was really excited about this keynote since, whilst individually they are both excellent speakers, the idea of a joint presentation sounded fun and informative. They started off by emphasising how ‘simple’ attracts people. The strategy is to go back to Excel, thereby capturing the simplicity once again.  
How can we make the spreadsheet really interesting again? Well, we can add in lots of unstructured data! To do this, we can use Hadoop, which is a file system, essentially a shoebox of unstructured data. A lot of data, all different kinds! Using Hadoop, you can easily transform the unstructured data. Structure on extraction, rather than a structured data model before extraction. Therefore, you’re not imposing a structure on data that the ETL meets via the load; you’re structuring the data once it is in Hadoop.

The team then did a great demo of PowerView using data from a dataset of music and songs. We learned that Mariah Carey has had more weeks in the charts than luminaries such as Elvis, the Beatles and U2.
This showed the power of the interaction of the data. In Amir’s example, the kids had fun learning about their music idols. This was easily demonstrated in the keynote audience, who were cheerfully shouting out band names. We heard all sorts of names being shouted out: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Madonna and even Milli Vanilli!

Power View is all about sharing information, and having fun with the data. 
Business Intelligence is elective – nobody forces an organisation to use Business Intelligence. It is about time management, and how much time people spend on Business Intelligence.
However, business intelligence can be fun can help you to get the ROI because it means that people will use it, and learn from it. Fun is important, and success is infectious.
It has to be more than fun, but it is a good starting place.  We can use it to start more investigations, and then lead to deeper questions.
The team then did a deeper exploration using Power View for sentiment analysis with Twitter data. Sentiment used as a means of prediction of outcomes. If you’d like to know more about this, I’ve written a two part MSDN article on the topic.

The most exciting part was the announcement of Codename Geoflow, which allows you to do location sensitive content to your data. In other words, it allows you to create 3D data visualisations based on maps. You have to see it to believe it, and if you’re looking for #Geoflow information, here you are http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2013/04/11/day-2-pass-business-analytics-conference-new-3d-mapping-analytics-tool-for-excel.aspx … #PASSBAC #SQLBits #SQLPass #SQLFAQ
Amir did a great demo to show the changes in the ‘music chart songs’ data over time and over place. It is a wonderful story, brought to life by #Geoflow. it also looked great on the huge 81 inch touchscreen, and its a great way to drive visualisations of data. At the PASS BA Conference, we will be lucky enough to have the Microsoft Experience lounge, where we can go and try all of this gadgetry out! Like Amir says, it has to be fun too.

We don’t just think about business. Business Intelligence could also be called basic intelligence, but to achieve it, we need to get inside our data and let people work with it in familiar tools. 
This is the Microsoft story, and I’m excited to see the next chapter for our business users.


Up and coming PASS BA Sessions, and Data Visualisation and Microsoft Workshops

If you’re here looking for precon notes, I will be posting these up in the next few weeks after I’ve finished my precons at SQLSaturday Denmark, Databasedays Switzerland and SQLBits in Nottingham, UK. So please keep checking back, or email me at jen.stirrup@copperblueconsulting.com 

I’m delighted and proud to be presenting at the PASS Business Analytics Conference this week, in Chicago, Illinios, on 11th and 12th April. 


I love SQLPass Summit, and it is one of the highlights of my year. The Business Analytics conference is happening for the first time, and I can’t wait to meet the new #SQLFamily – or should that be #PASSBAFamily – that I will meet! I’m already making arrangements to meet fellow BA and Twitterati ‘in person’, which is one of my personal favourite things to do! See you there!

I’m pleased and proud to be presenting a preconference training in the Denmark in April 19th at the Microsoft Offices in Hellerup, Denmark, and a workshop in Pfaffikon, Switzerland.


With respect to Denmark, in case you’re not familiar, SQLSaturday events are often accompanied by one-day, very reasonably priced community training days.  This means that attendees get a deep-dive training day on a specialised subject on the Friday Preconference training day, as well as being able to attend the range  of sessions on the main SQLSaturday event.

The precon I’m delivering is an in-depth day, which is aimed at Business Intelligence specialists who focus on front-end reporting. We will be looking at some of the ‘new toys’ in the SQL Server 2012 toolbox, as well as having a fresh look at old favourites such as SQL Server Reporting Services.

Our data source is the Tabular Model.  I’m seeing more traction of the Tabular model at customer sites, but not everyone has had the chance to play with it yet. Therefore, I thought it worthwhile to use the Tabular model as a data source, in order to expose its usefulness to a wider audience. 
 
To register for the Denmark event, please click here
 
I’m holding a Data Visualisation workshop in Switzerland on 17th April.  

If you want to conduct advanced, business-oriented Business Intelligence analysis in SQL Server 2012, then it is essential to understand data visualisation. This session is aimed at developers who want to make informed data visualisation decisions about reporting, with supporting cognitive psychology theory where relevant.
The takeaways will focus on:
 
  • Introduction: Finding patterns in the data.
  • Further Data Visualisations: learn about visualisations that are perhaps not so well-known. This includes Stephen Few’s bullet charts and Tufte’s Sparklines in SSRS.
  • Multivariate data: We will cover the complexities of displaying multivariate data since is potentially more complex by visualisations. For example, we will look at Tufte’s “small multiples” in Power View and in Reporting Services.
  • Putting it all together: Considerations for Dashboards. This workshop aims to deliver a breadth of data visualisation knowledge, underpinned by cognitive psychology theory to provide deeper understanding.

To register for DatabaseDays, please go to http://www.databasedays.com/:

 
 
Last but not least, I’m holding a preconference training day at SQLBits in Nottingham, United Kingdom, on Thursday 2nd May. SQLBits is one of my favourite events, and I’m very glad to be going back to my roots after having been far travelled this year so far!
 
If you’d like to register for the SQLBits precon, the Training Day link is here. I hope to see you there! 


Mobile Business Intelligence Presentation Portugal 2013

I gave this presentation at SQLSaturday event in Portugal during March 2013.  Thanks to the organisers for taking such good care of me during my visit.

As I discussed during the session, there were three main strands of mobilising Microsoft technology:

– use third party products such as PivotStream to free your PowerPivots
– use cloud computing e.g. Azure
– use SharePoint

These options will not suit everyone but it might help somebody to decide which path is the right one for them. I look forward to your commentary and feedback.