Roundup of Azure #CosmosDB Sessions at #MSIgnite

If you are at Microsoft Ignite this week in Orlando, FL, don’t miss these Azure Cosmos DB database sessions and all the Cosmic Announcements. Here’s a list of the Azure Cosmos DB sessions below. You can find out more details on Azure Cosmos DB sessions over at the Schedule Builder here.

Here’s a great slideshare presentation about Azure Cosmos DB over at SlideShare to help you get started.

Azure Cosmos Timetable.png

If you can’t make it to Ignite, be sure to watch the keynotes. You can be sure that there are great news and insights coming along, so be sure to watch!

What I’m doing this week at #MSIgnite

I’m delighted to say that I’m doing the Community Reporter role for Microsoft Ignite. This means I get to interview the Microsoft Executive Team, such as Amir Netz, James Phillips and Joseph Sirosh. I have complete stars in my eyes! I don’t often get the chance to speak with them so I’m delighted to get to do that. Also, they are very interesting and they have a lot to say on topics I’m passionate about, so make sure and tune in for those. I’ll release more details about times and how you can watch as soon as I can.

What does a Community Reporter do? During Microsoft Ignite, the Community Reporters will be your go-to’s for live event updates. If you aren’t attending the conference this year, these reporters will be a great way to see what’s happening on-the-ground in Orlando. Check out my content on my blog here and on Twitter and LinkedIn follow me on social to stay up-to-date on all things Microsoft Ignite!

I’d also like to meet some of you so when I get the chance, I’ll tweet out to see if any introverted people fancy sitting at a table with me for breakfast or lunch to talk about all things data.

I am also speaking at Ignite so here are the details:

When? Thursday, September 27 4:30 PM – 5:15 PM
Where? Room W330 West 2 

Artificial intelligence is popularized in fictional films, but the reality is that AI is becoming a part of our daily lives, with virtual assistants like Cortana using the technology to empower productivity and make search easier. What does this mean for organizations that are running the Red Queen’s race not just to win, but to survive in a world where AI is becoming the present and future of technology? How can organizations evolve, adapt, and succeed using AI to stay at the forefront of the competition? What are the potential issues, complications, and benefits that AI could bring to us and our organizations? In this session, we discuss the relevance of AI to organizations, along with the path to success.

 

Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft R and SQL Server are being used to help tackle homelessness in London by providing actionable insights to improve the prevention of homelessness as well as the processes in place to help victims. Join this session to see how Microsoft technologies are helping a data science department to make a difference to the lives of families, by revealing insights into the contributors of homelessness in families in London and the surrounding area. Join this session to understand more about finding stories in data. The case study also demonstrates the practicalities of using Microsoft technologies to help some of the UK’s most vulnerable people using data science for social good.

When? Thursday, September 27 2:15 PM – 3:30 PM
Where? OCCC W222

For people who want to build careers and manage teams, it is crucial to understand diversity and how it impacts your organization. Increasing the role of women in technology has a direct impact on the women working in hi-tech, but the effects can go far beyond that. How do female tech workers influence innovation and product development? How do men benefit from having more women working in technology? Can the presence of women in tech affect a company’s profit? Join a lively discussion on diversity, and hear proactive steps that individuals and companies can take in order to make diversity and inclusion part of the organizational DNA.

One last thing!

Remember to download the Microsoft Ignite app to have your information handy on-the-go!

See you there!

 

 

Why I changed my mind about #PowerApps and became a fan… and why you should, too

This blog post title was initially titled ‘Why I disregarded PowerApps but now I radically changed my mind’. I changed my mind and I now think that PowerApps is a very powerful tool and basically it does a lot of the app form functions that Access does but way better. I get it now and I want to explain how I changed my mind about PowerApps.

PowerApps performs the same function as Access can do: building the business apps you need and extend or customize the apps you already use. Only, PowerApps does it way better because it has the robustness, scalability, security and performance of the Azure cloud with Office365 inbuilt in the app from the start.

In this blog post, I’ll set out where I think PowerApps fits in the business, and why it’s way better than Access. There are plenty of PowerApps templates but I hope that this post will convince you to give it a try.

TL;DR – I care about producing business-friendly solutions that are maintainable, robust, perform well, have potential for scale, and that I can hand off to an IT support team. PowerApps gives me these things. Access does not because it is not always backed up, or placed on a network so people can update it, and it is not always secured properly. So you can think about migrating your Access apps to Power Apps, for example. In this blog post, we will answer the following questions:

  • What can PowerApps do for you?
  • How do you get started with PowerApps?
  • What I’d like to see PowerApps do next

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Any questions, please let me know or get in touch to schedule some time to talk further.

 

What can PowerApps do for you?

PowerApps allows you to design, create, use and share custom business apps with your team and organization. PowerApps installation means that you can use apps that have been shared with you, and it also means that you can create your own apps.

What kind of apps can you create? Intelligent laziness is very important! The automation of tasks means that you can focus on the activities that are more meaningful and add more value to the organization. If you are leading a team, then it means that you and your team can work wherever you happen to be, on any device.

What kind of apps can you create? Many Access forms could be redone in PowerApps since they involve data entry. Here are some examples:

  • Connect apps to your existing data, such as SharePoint, Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Drive and more
  • Create and update customer invoice, receipt and order forms
  • Create Helpdesk apps
  • Create Expense apps

As a BI person, I have spent time curing businesses from cottage industry Access databases and Access forms. Often, in my experience of rescuing Access databases and forms, I find that they proliferate through the business, usually unmonitored, untested properly and aren’t always production ready. They are often built in an ad-hoc fashion. In short, when I find some Access, I perform an internal sigh and I immediately start to mastermind it’s replacement. Access is often a the sticking plaster to solve a genuine business problem and it is quick to produce something quick. As Brent Ozar puts it, Access has Play-Doh factor. Yes, it’s an old post from Brent Ozar ( b ¦ t ) but it is still holding true.

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So when I saw PowerApps at first, my reaction was ‘Oh no, it’s the new Access’. My initial vision was that developers would hate it, and I’d spend my life running around chasing after apps as well as Access to make them production ready.

So here’s what I found:

PowerApps has the IT guardian role built in

PowerApps solves the Access problem of scaleability, robustness and performance. PowerApps is built in Azure as part of Office365 so that means that Azure takes care of these factors for you. For me, this is a massive relief because I care about producing solutions that are maintainable, robust, perform well, have potential for scale, and that I can hand off to an IT support team. When I leave site, I want to leave with a job well done. I don’t intend to be there forever; it’s not what I do. So I like to enable others and bring people on a journey that they can continue without me. So what does PowerApps mean for the small business?

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PowerApps for the Small Business 

PowerApps is robust and secure. If you are using Access or Excel to run your business, then you should consider PowerApps. It provides a much more robust way for small companies to track data and projects than Excel or Word because it is in the cloud so you don’t need to worry about losing or screwing up your Excel spreadsheet of inventory, orders and so on. Also, it means that you can be more confident that your data is secure because it is in the cloud, and not on a USB.

PowerApps is mobile. It is also an easy way to mobilise apps as well. The functionality is built in. This is another big win over Access, in my book. This means that PowerApps has the most value added for tracking your organization in terms of projects, budgets, and growth.

PowerApps lets IT do their job more easily. PowerApps will give your IT people an easier way to manage your business-built apps rather than having them hidden on a laptop somewhere. PowerApps lets IT do their job, of being the guardian of the data and the IT function. It’s easy to maintain, which is idea for the organic business user turned power user turned ad-hoc techie. The idea of creating databases and trying to maintain them seems like an unnecessary use of resources; however, for small businesses, PowerApps creates a database for you so you can focus on what you need to do for your organization: managing growth and delivering success.

PowerApps has Play-Doh factor but in a good way. Creating apps in PowerApps allows a business to customize its own apps, thereby streamlining business processes. For example, you can use it to track crucial business information for each customer, including contact information, addresses, order information, invoices, and payments. Since it is in the Azure cloud, team members can access and update it, so the information can stay current and secured. Since the frm is a central idea to Power Apps, this helps small businesses ensure that employees enter data accurately and consistently so your data is cleaner at source.

How do you get started with PowerApps?

At a high level, here are the steps:

  • Choose from professionally designed templates to start quickly
  • Start with a blank canvas, and customize to suit your needs
  • Add business logic and intelligence using the power of Excel-like expressions
  • Create interactive visuals and media to build unique, professional apps

PowerApps is an easy jump for the BI Developer who already knows DAX. To create more custom apps, PowerApps has some object-oriented ‘formula’ that you can change, configure and set. It also has intellisense so you are guided to program correctly.

PowerApps is constantly being updated. For information about what’s new in this release, please see this topic: https://aka.ms/powerapps-releasenotes

Connecting Android apps with Java and #AzureML

During my mentoring session with Acorn Inspirations, we were building an app that needed to access AzureML via an Android phone app. Quickly, it became clear that we were integrating a lot of different moving parts: Android, Java, AzureML. How did we do it?

Without giving away too much about the solution they are building, I worked on the Azure Machine Learning part to produce a sample recommender model. The model was created by going through the TDSP process, and it was productionized and ready to go.

Meanwhile, the other team members worked on the Android app, and then we got to the point of knitting everything together.

Writing an Android app means that the code has to be in Java or Kotlin. Kotlin is more complex, and you can read this excellent book, Kotlin in Action, in order to understand it better.

There is also the matter of network calls on Android. One recommendation is that we could use Retrofit to sort out the network calls but this would take longer to implement since it is more complex, so it was decided to use the standard http packages that are available in the Android SDK instead.

Then came the question: how do we use the APIs? JavaScript with jquery is one option and it can be faster. Then we had a piece of luck.

Using this Azure sample here, it tuns out that the project, with the ability to connect to Azure, is built in. This is known as a QuickStart and this facility allows you to configure the client application, which is wrapped up as a complete Android project which you can open up in your IDE. Neat!

Once that’s done, it’s possible to think about configuring the Android app to connect to your AzureML model using Java. There is a good example here:  https://github.com/aribornstein/JavaAzureMLClient

For more information in making your model production-ready, see the Microsoft Azure ML documentation here. It’s also possible to retrain the Azure ML model and it’s worth considering, too.

So yes, there are a lot of moving parts but Azure does give you some help on the way.

Financial Storytelling and Data Storytelling with Profitability Ratios

Following on from my earlier blog post, discussing Accounting Ratios, let’s take a look at a specific set: Profitability Ratios.Profitability Ratios can be defined as understanding the effectiveness of the company in generating profit. In this blog post, we will concentrate on profitability ratios, working our way around the flow chart presented here:

Screenshot (1)

The formula are presented below, in terms of their meaning:

  • Return on Net Assets (RONA) (Return on Capital employed) – return on the fixed and current assets less current liability. It is also known as the primary ratio.
  • Return on Equity (Return on Shareholders’ Funds) – This also looks at return on the fixed and current assets less current liability, but it looks at it from the Shareholder’s perspective.
  • Gross Profit Margin – percentage of sales revenue remaining after the expense of making the product / solution / delivering the service is taken into account.
  • Net Profit Margin – This is the percentage of sales revenue that’s left, after all of the expenses of running the firm have been fully met.

Let’s have a look at how they are calculated, and what they mean.
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Calculating the Profitability Ratios

1.Return on Net Assets (RONA) (Return on Capital employed)

Net Profit before long-term interest and tax /

Total Assets less creditors falling due within one year

This figure is expressed as a percentage, so it is multiplied by 100%. That said, at root, it is fundamentally calculated as follows, expressed as a percentage:

Profit /

Capital

Profit can include one of the following metrics:

  • Operating Profit
  • Net Profit before Interest and Taxation
  • Net profit after taxation
  • Net Profit after taxation
  • Net Profit after taxation and preference dividend

Capital can be measured by one of the following options:

  • Total Assets
  • Total Assets less intangible assets
  • Total Assets less current liabilities
  • Shareholders Funds
  • Shareholders’ Funds less preference shares
  • Shareholders’ Funds plus long-term loans
  • Shareholders’ funds plus total liabilities

What combination do you choose? Basically, the MVP answer holds here: it depends. The definitions depend on what business question you are trying to answer. The RONA definition was chosen here in order to illustrate how it differs from Return on Equity, which is explained below.

2. Return on Equity (Return on Shareholders’ Funds)

Net Profit before long-term interest and tax /

Share Capital and Reserves

This figure is expressed as a percentage, so it is multiplied by 100%.

3. Gross Profit Margin

Gross Profit /

Sales

This figure is expressed as a percentage, so it is multiplied by 100%.

4. Net Profit Margin

Net Profit before long-term interest and tax /

Sales

This figure is expressed as a percentage, so it is multiplied by 100%.

It’s possible to see that these ratios are made of five different things. I’m a visual person so I’m marking these in colour since I will need to remember them for my exam!

  • Gross Profit
  • Net Profit before long-term interest and tax 
  • Sales
  • Share Capital and Reserves
  • Total Assets less creditors falling due within one year

Interpreting the Profitability Ratios

With the Return on Net Assets figure, we are looking at the effectiveness of the assets that are financed by long-term creditors as well as the shareholders, and we are looking at the profit generated as a result of these combined assets. Higher RONA can mean that the company using its assets efficiently. Also an increasing RONA may indicate an emphasis on executing efficiently, as evidenced in improved profitability and overall performance.

The Return on Equity ratio looks at the same issue, but from the perspective of the shareholder only. The long-term creditors are partialled out. Understandably, shareholders want to see a high return on equity ratio, since this would show that the organisation is being effective in its deployment of investors’ funds. Shareholders can also track progress by calculating the return on equity at the beginning of a period and then check it again at the end of a period to see if there is a change in return.

Net Profit Margin shows the sales revenue after all of the expenses have been removed. It should be as large as it can possibly be, as long as it is sustainable. However, this should not be taking place at the expense of another aspect of the business. Be wary of short-term attitude to profit. This is sometimes evidenced in the net profit margin.

Limitations on the Productivity Financial Ratios

Accounting Ratios give us useful insights in the management of a company, but it is not the whole story. The business context, and the company itself, should also be considered. RONA does not calculate a company’s future ability to create value. Additionally, the values on the balance sheet might not represent the replacement cost, therefore masking the reality of asset utilisation.

In the next post, we will look at Activity Ratios and how they are calculated, along with some advantages and limitations. We are leading up towards visualizing these ratios in Power BI, and it’s important to understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ of visualizing these ratios.

Getting the Swagger.JSON file from #AzureML

I’m conducting some mentoring for #TeensInAI at the BBC Studios in London today with Acorn Aspirations. I’m working with a group, and we are creating an app that uses various technologies, such as Android mobile studio, Java, AzureML and Swagger.

It wasn’t immediately obvious where to find the Swagger JSON file for deploying as part of the Android app, so here are the instructions.

You need to download the JSON file from the AzureML web portal. To do this,

  1. Sign in to the AzureML portal.
  2. Click Web Services on the left hand side
  3. Select your web service
  4. Select the option New Web Service Experience, which is in Preview.
  5. Click Consume, which you will see towards the right hand side of the page.
  6. On the Consume page, copy the Request-Response URL.
  7. In the URL, replace execute?api-version=2.0&format=swagger with swagger.json
  8. Paste the URL into your browser.
  9. Save the returned file.

And that’s it! You can find out more about consuming a web service in AzureML here.

Introverted and fancy some quiet no-pressure chatting over a bite to eat? Join me for breakfast or lunch at #MSIgnite

Diversity, for me, also includes types of people. Some people can win through noise and sheer stamina for arguing a point, but that can really switch off introverts. It’s important to try and look through other people’s lenses. Just because they don’t respond like you, doesn’t mean that they are wrong. It just means that they are different.

I’m an introvert and I have an INTJ personality type. INTJs are personality unicorns! For others, it means that I prefer networking in quieter groups. So, I thought other people are probably like me, and would probably fancy introverted networking – or quiet downtime – on their terms. Extroverted people don’t always get how introverts work, so I’ve added a handy guide here courtesy of Blessing Manifesting:

selfcareintroverts2

 

So I thought I’d offer up the chance for a quiet chat, in among all of the noise. We could call it networking…. or just downtime. Ignite is going to be super busy and we all need to do some self-care. And that means food!

So if you fancy meeting with me in the food halls for breakfast or lunch during the Microsoft Ignite week, I’ll post up a note on my blog and on Twitter to say where we are meeting.

The idea is that it’s a casual invite for people who would like to learn, connect and share with others. Sometimes people like to chat and meet with speakers, and meeting casually for lunch or breakfast is a great way to do that, plus meet other attendees too. It’s the chance for a quiet chat about Microsoft Ignite, business intelligence, data science and the topics that get we introverts fired up inside – even if we are not shouting about it outside.

So I’ll post up on Twitter and on my blog, where I will be, and we can head off, join the queues, grab a table and a bite and a quiet chat before the sessions start.

Microsoft Ignite is going to be busy and it’s easy to feel ‘peopled out’ or ‘conferenced out’ if you are introverted. I get it and I thought it might be nice for some quiet chatting before the day starts.