Want to learn how to light up Big Data Analytics using Apache Spark in Azure?

Businesses struggle with many different aspects of data and technology. It can be difficult to know what technology to choose. Also, it can be hard to know where to turn, when there are so many buzzwords in the mix: analytics, big data and open source. My session at PASS Summit is essentially talking about these things, using Azure and Apache Spark as a backdrop.

Vendors tend to tell their version of events, as you might expect, so it becomes really hard to get advice on how to have a proper blueprint to get you up and running. In this session, I will examine strategies for using open source technologies to improve existing common Business Intelligence issues, using Apache Spark as our backdrop to delivering open source Big Data analytics.

Once we have looked at the strategies, we will look at your choices on how to make the most of the open source technology. For example, how can we make the most of the investment? How can we speed things up? How can we manipulate data?

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These business questions are translated into technical terms. We will explore how we can parallelize your computations across nodes of a Hadoop cluster, once your clusters are set up. We will look combine use of SparkR for data manipulation with ScaleR for model development in Hadoop Spark. At the time of writing, this scenario requires that you maintain separate Spark sessions, only running one session at a time, and exchange data via CSV files. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll see an R Server release, when SparkR and ScaleR can share a Spark session and so share Spark DataFrames. Hopefully that’s out prior to the session so we can see it, but, nevertheless, we will still look at how ScaleR works with Spark and how we can use Sparkly and SparkR within a ScaleR workflow.

Join my session at PASS Summit 2017 to learn more about open source with Azure for Business Intelligence, with a focus on Azure Spark.

Microsoft Data Insights – Digital Transformation with Power BI for the CEO

I’m holding a series of training courses around the UK, more details will be published. In the first instance, on 15th September, I’ll be holding a day-long practical workshop on Working with Business Data for Busy Executives in SME Organisations in Hertfordshire, England. The cost will be £100 pounds plus VAT, food and workshop materials included, and you can also network and share experiences with other attendees who will also be running businesses, like you.

I don’t believe in a ‘stack ’em high’ approach, which doesn’t give a pleasant experience for learning. So, classes will be restricted to 12 people only, unless otherwise stated. This means that you will get a good amount of attention.

I’m doing the Executive MBA at the University of Hertfordshire Business School, I’ve also been a NED (Non Executive Director) for PASS, who are based in the United States.  As I’ve been spending time leading organisations, I’m keen to share this knowledge and expertise with the community from a data-driven, data leader perspective. The following blog post will give you a flavor of the workshop. along with some of my thoughts on Microsoft Data Insights Summit. If you have any questions, please pop them in the comments box and I’ll read them from there.

Here are my slides from Microsoft Data Insights Summary, combined with some of the slides from the keynote by James Phillips, held in June 2017.

Slide1

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I have extensive experience in Tableau as well as Power BI. However, most of my consulting data visualisation is in Power BI suite of products. Why is that?

Tableau is wonderful at data visualisation, as is Power BI, of course. However, for enterprise customers, where I’m building a data warehouse, I prefer having analytics closer to the data source, perhaps in a data warehouse or data lake. I like to think about the overall business intelligence architecture. Tableau is superb at data visualisation and it also cleans and integrates data, but to a much lesser extend, which is why they partner so well with Alteryx. I don’t like cleaning data or doing repeatable analytics so close to the end reporting layer and business people seem to want to do it there, without thinking of issues such as robustness, repeat-ability and longevity in the analytical formula that they are creating. I prefer to hand off clean data and analytical formula to the reporting tool as far as possible.

I’m not thinking about Business Intelligence in terms of a spot solution for data visualisation or reporting, for example. I’m looking at the whole canvas. I prefer to clean the data and have it all fixed closer to the source, so that I can get the same number for the same report, regardless of the reporting technology that I use. With Power BI, I can stay within the Microsoft playpen of technologies. I do note however that Tableau Server is in Azure and if you are looking at analytics, that’s another option so that the analytics formula isn’t contained in disparate workbooks. Instead, they are published to Tableau Server and people can should download their workbooks there, for ‘one version of the truth’.

As an external consultant, I work with Power BI because I think it has an astonishing reach technically as well as geographically. Some of my customers are global and I really need the certainty of global resiliency.. Gone are the days when Microsoft had a lot of disparate reporting technologies that didn’t talk to one another very well and we had lots of different interfaces that used to overlap. Customers got really confused about what to use. For example, do you put your KPIs in Analysis Services, or in Reporting Services? Now:

The answer is always Power BI! Take a look:

Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Apart from Data Visualization, what is Power BI useful for?

Power BI is particularly useful for:

  • businesses that are acquiring other businesses and they need somewhere to put the data, and keep the business running in the meantime
  • cost savings
  • GDPR – if you don’t know what this is, you need to contact me to find out more. Microsoft are in the forefront of working with customers to make sure that they are compliant.

Do I still see Tableau?

Yes – some of my customers don’t need public cloud because they pop up their own data centres if and when and where they need them. So, for them, they tend to stick with what they know, and what works for them.

What Business Intelligence tools do I see less of?

I see Qlikview less and less, as customers look to align their reporting and they can replicate their Qlik scripts in SQL Server and SSRS.

I also don’t see Pyramid Analytics appearing much, and I don’t get asked often about them. According to the Gartner report, 2017 may represent a critical period for the company and, rightly or wrongly, the Gartner Magic Quadrant does carry enormous weight when customers are looking for solutions. With many solutions, customers don’t use the full range of features contained in any technical solution, and Pyramid are going to have to work hard to explain how they compare / compete with the Power BI on-premise solution, which is going to go from strength to strength.

However, for others, particularly in the SME market, the Azure offering is extremely compelling. Power BI and Azure together mean that you can focus on the business, rather than working on the technology to support the business. I can also see that more and more data is going into the cloud, and I am part of projects where I am doing exactly that – cloud business intelligence. Cloud Business Intelligence is a real growth offering for me and I plan to keep being ahead of the curve.

Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Are people using Power BI or is it simply good Microsoft Marketing?

People are using it, yes. Here are the numbers, produced by James Phillips during the Power BI Keynote: Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Power BI and the C-Suite

Given it’s reach within the organisation, Power BI can reach the C-suite level as well as the rest of us, in the organisation. Before continuing, it’s probably worth reading about linear vs exponential business growth models e.g. HBR.

 

You can watch the video below, or read on for some of the headlines:

Here are some headlines:

Gross and Net Profit

Net profit

Progress Towards Targets

Revenues and revenue growth rate

Expenses

Employee Engagement

Let’s get started!

Gross and Net Profit

Slide18 Why do CEOs care? As part of the Digital Transformation process, the CEO must develop a guiding philosophy about how he or she can best add value whilst showing ongoing strategic assessment and planning. However, it is difficult for them to allocate time to the collection, cultivation and analysis of data. Instead, they need to focus on strategic decisions, and they need data to run their business, to understand how their customers behave and measure what really matters to the organization. Power BI can help to bring clarity and predictability to the CEO, and this session is aimed at CEOs, and those who support them with data, in order to see how they can be empowered by Power BI, and see it as a key asset within the organisations short and long term future. Slide16

Net Profit

This goes without saying, but keeping an eye on net profit at all times is essential for business leaders. This might be visualized as a line graph or quarterly chart. However you decide to represent the data, it needs to provide detailed, regularly updated information. You can get added value by allowing this data to be broken down.
With Power BI, you’d be able to tap your chart and see real-time data on profits by region, product type or team. First you calculate your gross profit, then your expenses, subtract expenses from gross profit, and you have net profit.

Calculate Gross Profit first:
Gross profit, also called gross margin, shows you how much money you made from selling a product.
It subtracts the selling price from your wholesale cost to calculate the difference. It does not take into account expenses from rent, personnel, supplies, taxes or interest. Gross profit is a required step toward calculating the company’s income or net profit.

Progress Towards Targets

You can use EXPON.DIST function in Microsoft Excel to help measure progress towards your targets.
Use EXPON.DIST to model the time between events, such as how long from the order placement takes to actual delivery. For example, you can use EXPON.DIST to determine the probability that the process takes at most 1 minute.

Revenues and revenue growth rate

By being able to instantly visualize how fast (or otherwise) your business is growing its revenues, it’s much easier to find out what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Need to lose some dead weight? Invest in a growing department? Respond to a new trend among consumers? Tracking your revenues closely is crucial and will help with those decisions. A line graph would again be particularly clear in this instance.

Slide22 Slide21

Think of a Rubik’s cube – people instinctively know how to use them, and to arrange the cube into colors. We also interact with colour and data in the same way; intuitively and quickly.

Expenses

Whether it’s staff, machinery, IT or property, your expenses are one of the biggest drains on your long term success. A dashboard can break these down instantly so you can see where your biggest outgoings are, and then make decisions about what’s costing too much.

Revenue per employee
Revenue per employee is a little like Return on Investment. Are your people actually making enough revenue to justify hiring them? Are they working at 100% capacity or is there room for them to work more, instead of employing new workers? A revenue per employee dashboard helps you make these choices rationally.

Employee Engagement

Measured by an anonymous survey, employee engagement is a key BI factor for any CEO. If your people are motivated, enthusiastic and giving their work 100%, you can be sure your company will grow. By contrast, unengaged colleagues will be a detriment to productivity. It’s essential to keep regular tabs on how employees are feeling about their work.

 

Summary

As part of the Digital Transformation process, the CEO must develop a guiding philosophy about how he or she can best add value whilst showing ongoing strategic assessment and planning. However, it is difficult for them to allocate time to the collection, cultivation and analysis of data. Instead, they need to focus on strategic decisions, and they need data to run their business, to understand how their customers behave and measure what really matters to the organization.
Power BI can help to bring clarity and predictability to the CEO, and this session is aimed at CEOs, and those who support them with data, in order to see how they can be empowered by Power BI, and see it as a key asset within the organisations short and long term future.

See you at Techorama?

Techorama

Why should you go to Techorama?

Techorama is a yearly international technology conference which takes place at Metropolis Antwerp. We welcome about 1500 attendees, a healthy mix between developers, IT Professionals, Data Professionals and SharePoint professionals.

I’m delighted to announce I’m speaking, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Techorama team for all of their hard work and effort in putting on a great show.

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First off, there will be a keynote by Scott Guthrie, EVP of Cloud + Enterprise, Microsoft Corporation – now this is BIG NEWS.

Scott Guthrie, EVP of Cloud + Enterprise, Microsoft Corporation will be keynoting at Techorama 2017 (May 23). In his keynote, “Azure, The Intelligent Cloud”, Scott will open the event with a strategic vision on the Microsoft cloud.

Scott Guthrie will also give another breakout session on May 23 which will be a Q & A session. Come with your questions!

 

 

 

The event itself will be top-notch content for Developers, IT Professionals, Data Professionals and SharePoint Professionals: 11 parallel breakout sessions with top speakers from all over the world: experts in their field, offering meaningful networking opportunities with partners and like-minded people

There will also be a unique conference experience in a movie theatre with lots of surprises!

What will I be talking about? You can find out more here at my dedicated Techorama page.

Data Visualisation Lies and How to Spot them

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.

We hope to welcome you at Techorama 2017!

 

Five reasons to be excited about Microsoft Data Insights Summit!

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I’m delighted to be speaking at Microsoft Data Summit! I’m pumped about my session, which focuses on Power BI for the CEO. I’m also super happy to be attending the Microsoft Data Summit for five top reasons (and others, but five is a nice number!). I’m excited about all of the Excel, Power BI, DAX and Data Science goodies. Here are some sample session titles:

Live Data Streaming in Power BI

Data Science for Analysts

What’s new in Excel

Embed R in Power BI

Spreadsheet Management and Compliance (It is a topic that keeps me up at night!)

Book an in-person appointment with a Microsoft expert with the online Schedule Builder. Bring your hard – or easy – questions! In itself, this is a real chance to speak to Microsoft directly and get expert, indepth  help from the team who make the software that you love.

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics is speaking and I’m delighted to hear him again. I’ve heard him present recently and he was very funny whilst also being insightful. I think you’ll enjoy his session. You’ll know him from Freakonomics.

freakonomics

I’m excited that James Phillips is delivering a keynote! I have had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and I am really excited about where James and the Power BI team have taken Power BI. I’m sure that there will be good things as they steam ahead, so James’ keynote is unmissable!

Alberto Cairo is presenting a keynote! Someone who always makes me sit up a bit straighter when they tweet is Alberto Cairo, and I’m delighted he’s attending. I hope I can get to meet him in person. Whether Alberto is tweeting about data visualisation, design or the world in general, it’s always insightful. I have his latest book and I hope I can ask him to sign it.

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Tons of other great speakers! Now someone I haven’t seen for ages – too long in fact – is Rob Collie. Rob is President of PowerPivotPro and you simply have to hear him speak on the topic. He’s direct in explaining how things work, and you will learn from him. I’m glad to see Marco Russo is speaking and I love his sessions. In fact, at TechEd North America, I only got to see one session because I was so busy with presenting, booth duty etc… but I managed to get to see a session and I made sure it was Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari’s session.  Chris Webb is also presenting and his sessions are always amazing. I have to credit Chris in part for where I am today, because his blog kept me sane and his generosity during sessions meant that I never felt stupid asking him questions. I’m learning too – always.

Ok, that’s five things but there are plenty more. Why not see for yourself?

Join me at the conference, June 12–13, 2017 in Seattle, WA — and be sure to sign up for your 1:1 session with a Microsoft expert.

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.

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

UK Power BI Summit

I’m very proud to say that I’m the lead organiser for the UK Power BI Summit, held on 16th and 17th February! I’d like to thank Microsoft and Pyramid Analytic for their support of the event; it wouldn’t happen without them.

Need help on Power BI, or just to know how to get started throughout the organisation? What about Cortana – how can it be useful for your organisation?

Come and join Siva Harinath and Will Thompson, flying in from Microsoft’s Power BI Team in Redmond, to join us in the UK for the inaugural UK Power BI Summit! Siva and Will are delivering the keynote and also delivering a workshop on Advanced Power BI with Data Modelling.

When: 16th and 17th February 2017 

Where: Shendish Manor, Hemel Hempstead.

Cost: of the event is £120 inclusive of VAT. Click here to register and pay for UK Power BI Summit

 

A choice of hands-on workshop on Thursday 16th February:

  • AzureML and Cortana OR
  • Advanced Power BI with Data Modelling

AND

  • A choice of general conference sessions on Friday 17th February
  • Birds of a Feather roundtable discussions on Friday 17th February

See you there!

Click here to register and pay for UK Power BI Summit