Business Goals for 2019: Looking back over 2018 and forward

December is a great time for setting personal and business goals for next year. I’d hoped for some downtime at this time of year, but I’ve picked up a crucial data science project which needs to be delivered over Christmas so there isn’t much downtime. I’m also starting to write another book, which will be my fourth published book, and that will require focus. So I will be working every day except Christmas Day, and that includes weekends as usual.

As part of my MBA program, I’ve done lots of strategic analysis modelling for businesses, starting with the default SWOT and a PESTLE analysis through to different models: Porter, Business Canvas Model, SOAR, and so on. I am not going to share here. The reality is, with Brexit, it’s more difficult to plan. Markets, and businesses, do not like uncertainty. Businesses, like countries, benefit in the longer term from open trade. Increasingly, global competition will occur on a more level playing field but there has to be open access for that to occur. Brexit is a plan for the right by the right, and it is stopping the open access that we enjoyed previously.

For what it is worth, here is my take on Brexit: I believe that May’s Remainy Brexit plan will never get through Parliament because it pretty much keeps us in the Customs Union. This means that the People’s Vote option will become increasingly likely. We are no longer talking about the big red bus lie and we see the chaos. If there is another vote, I hope that we will stay in the EU as we are now.  So I am going to assume that all other things remain equal.

More than talking a good game

I was contacted me recently, by a former colleague who explained to me that someone had spoken to them about me. This ‘someone’ had told them that I was too small to deliver a project, that I didn’t know what I was talking about but I talked a ‘good game’, and that I would never deliver on time or on budget. The former colleague was so concerned about what they’d heard, that they invited me to lunch to explain the accusations which were stated behind my back. I was so horrified and fairly mystified; I had never worked with this individual and I didn’t really know them. I just asked for specific examples where I had just ‘talked a good game’ and not delivered on time or on budget, because I had no idea where they got their evidence from. It was all fairly alarming but of course the ‘someone’ hadn’t given any basis for their assertions at all.

In any case, the former colleague simply said that they would continue to work with me and they enjoyed working with me in the past; they had their own evidence to go on, and it is a mark of our good relationship that they talked to me about it at all. I was hugely relieved but I do wonder how often these tactics work, so I’ve decided to explain myself here and discuss this in terms of my goals.

So if you’re here because you’ve heard something similar, please let me know and we can have an honest discussion. I’ve got over twenty years as a Consultant, and I have postgraduate degrees plus industry experience in delivering Artificial Intelligence solutions. I’m writing my fourth book in Business Intelligence and I’ve edited another two. I have presented to five thousand people in the past month. So I do talk but I also deliver.

How was 2018 for you?

Data Relish Ltd was originally set up as Copper Blue Consulting, and was rebranded three years ago in order to make the offerings more clear. I have employed people in the past, and I had a business partner for a few years but that relationship is no longer in place. I do work for myself but note the following points:

Contracts and Partnerships

Current Status for 2018: I have partners who help me to deliver effectively. I have contracts in place with large partner organizations which allow me to scale; I have partnerships for 24 by 7 support, for example. Partnerships allow me access to sales, marketing and legal backup when I need it. Some of these partnerships are with Azure resellers and organizations, and I do not directly sell Azure so that my customers can benefit from the support that my partner organizations offer.

I am not releasing partner names here; I have a degree of concern, originating from the conversation with my customer, that there is a strong need for confidentiality on the basis that I’ve had the aforementioned stunt pulled on me. I am not giving any names away so that I inadvertently give detractors the opportunity to repeat their performance.

Customers

Current Status for 2018: 50% repeat customers with 50% new customers generated by word–of-mouth from previous customers

I am able to provide references on request from organizations of different sizes, verticals and global impact. Some of my customers are multi-billion turnover, right down to startups. I don’t make a huge effort to market myself because all of my work comes from word-of-mouth. Since I am so dependent on word-of-mouth marketing, it can mean I’m susceptible to stunts like the one mentioned above since I don’t have the flashy marketing that might give some people comfort. I have started to look more closely at marketing and I have set up a partnership with a small consulting firm to help me. It works well since they give me help, but I also pass on leads that I receive, and we have jointly delivered projects on occasion.

Business Community

Current Status for 2018: I started more business networking last year but it tailed off in February. Reason: I was not picking the right events well enough and I got disheartened.

I have started to attend Chamber of Commerce events again, and I met with David Gauke MP (Minister for Justice) and Richard Harrington MP (Minister of Business and Industry) this year. I am interested in learning from the local business leaders here in Hertfordshire, and also looking at ways that I can feed back into the business community. Networking is important and it builds trust. Additionally, being part of the local Chamber groups is offering the route of having our voices heard jointly in Government, and I was surprised to learn that our local MPs have regular and frequent meetings with Chamber representatives. Business is crucial to the success of society by keeping cashflow moving, providing jobs and stability and homes. I advise businesses strategically because I believe in putting the business back into business intelligence, and at the front-and-centre of artificial intelligence efforts.

Charity

I was a Data Ambassador for DataKind this year. Wow! What a rewarding, creative experience and it was incredibly satisfying to work with people who love data and want to do good with data science to help charities.

Current Status for 2018: I got involved with DataKind. You know who you are and I love you all; you have brought such knowledge, fun and great company to my life and you shine your light far out. You cancel out the darkness where people behave as in the anecdote above. Thank you for your healing.

 

So what are my Goals?

Here is the list of goals for 2019:

Contracts and Partnerships

Goals for 2019: I have partners who help me to deliver effectively and I will continue to honour the trust that they have put in me.

In 2019, I do not intend to employ people now since it takes me away from doing things that I love. I may do so in 2020 but it is not the right thing for me at this time. I have previously lost sleep over making people redundant and I do not want that burden again. I work on projects, often, that are simply too big for me to run out and hire a whole team of people and it would be madness to try. How could I even support things like 24 hour support? These are big projects and I need help quickly. Customers need help with AI, BI and Data Science leadership. So it works well.

Customers

I have done extremely well this year and I am proud of my customer list. Through partnerships and on my own, I have punched well above my diminuitive size to have a customer list where my customers have billions and billions in turnover and it is a mind-boggling amount when I add up the turnover amount of all these customers combined.

I do help them to be even more successful and I do help them make technology choices as part of the vision and strategy that I help them to formulate and devise.

Goal: More repeat custom and generate new customers. 50%/50% split between regular customers and new customers is a good split, and it worked well for me this year. As I lead customers to success, they drop off my customer list because they don’t need me any more; but that’s what I want! Self-sufficient, satisfied customers who are enabled and empowered to move on, and who recommend me to their colleagues and community.

Business Community

I am going to set myself the target of attending more business events this year. I am currently researching the business events that have value, and the ones that do not offer value to me.

Goal: I intend to re-ignite my business networking in a more targeted way. I have been pleased to meet leaders that I can learn from, and i hope to contribute more.

Charity

I was a Data Ambassador for DataKind this year. Wow! What a rewarding, creative experience and it was incredibly satisfying to work with people who love data and want to do good with data science to help charities.

Goal for 2019: More of the same. I get enormous richness from philanthropic efforts and I want to help people.

I wish you all the best for 2019! And don’t let anyone steal your pixie dust.

pixiedust

 

 

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.

Are you a data Thought Leader? Call for speakers for Thought Leadership podcast series

thought-leadership_fish_131437046

Credit: MPI Group

As part of the Business Analytics Portfolio, I am spearheading a series of Thought Leadership podcasts and I am looking for people to be interviewed in a ‘fireside chat’ format.

 

I am bringing together experts from our community to share insights, ideas, and tips on helping data executives lead the way to becoming more data-driven.

The podcasts are intended to speak to senior executive people in the organisation, and they aren’t technically oriented. PASS already had a wealth of opportunities to speak at the Virtual Chapters to share deep technical expertise.

The first episode with Ken Puls is on the PASS website, and please do listen to his session. I am looking for more episodes, and I’d love to interview people in the PASS community.  I will be your friendly interviewer, and the topic is YOU, how you got to this stage in your career, what’s your data story, and what wisdom would you share to a  younger you? What do you think is happening in the industry now, and where is it going? What books do you recommend for people who want a more data-driven organisation?

I am looking for Thought Leaders and Budding Thought Leaders. This is your chance to showcase your expertise. It’s an informal podcast, so there are no slides. It’s just you, me and twenty minutes of your time.

Do you have a data story to share? If so, please email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com and let’s try to make it happen!