Discussing Why not How – Digital Transformation for the CEO at MS Data Insights Summit

I’m delighted that I have been selected to speak at Microsoft Data Insights Summit in Seattle. The topic is Digital Transformation with Power BI for the CEO.

In my session, we will look at essential metrics to measure the business health, and the key metrics that C-level executives find crucial to understand the business – and to look at the Why.

The phrase ‘what gets measured, gets managed‘ is attributed to Peter Drucker. However, it has been used elsewhere e.g. Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines used it in his 1998 book. It is sometimes stated as if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it, sometimes attributed to Peter Drucker or Lord Kelvin. (sidenote: it is a contraction of Lord Kelvin’s article, and you can find the whole piece here. As a graduate of the University of Glasgow, I’m honoured to mention him here.)

hipstermetrics

It is usually taken to mean that you need to measure things to improve them. I think it is more subtle that that; I think that it means ‘you measure things that you care about‘.

How does the business know what they care about? It’s all about the Why.

If you were to create a NASA Voyager Golden Record to indicate what numbers describe your business, what would they be?

NASA Voyager Golden Record

NASA/JPL Voyager ‘Golden Record’

By NASA/JPL – The Sounds of Earth Record Cover, Public Domain, Link

What’s different about this session? There are plenty of ‘how to’ guides on Power BI on the internet – in fact, the community has produced a ton of insightful and interesting ways to use Power BI. There is a lot of literature on beginner guides, custom visuals, reporting and so on.

What’s different about the Digital Transformation with Power BI for the CEO session is that we will discuss the Why as well as the How. I’m going to help you to create your Golden Record to describe your business, using Power BI.

Anyone can talk about How – how to write a report, how to create custom visuals and so on.

Executives don’t listen to the How. They want to know Why. They hire people to know how. They aren’t listening to the ‘how’ because it probably isn’t the best use of their time. They hire people to know how to do ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Good businesses know what they want to do and how they do it.

Great businesses move past that. They ask the more important question – WHY?

Why it is useful to them?

Why it will change their business?

Why will Power BI help to make their businesses more inventive, pioneering and successful than others?

Why are they able to repeat their success again and again? What metrics really matter in a business?

Inspirational leaders such as Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King started with Why. Listening is a crucial skill. I have started to ask customers what has drawn them to me – why did I win the business? I need constructive feedback so I can continue to win in the future, and learn from my blind spots where I don’t do so well. If you are a consultant, you should try it. It’s humbling, of course, but it means I learn from their perspectives. Since I work for myself, I don’t get peer reviews. When I asked one customer, she thought very carefully and said that they had had a consultant turn up for the day, and he was pretty arrogant, and he leaned heavily on his technical prowess. As she watched him walk out of the door, he has a spring in his step, which told her that he believed that he had got the work. That in itself, she said, told me that he had completely misread them all. He had been so fixated on bludgeoning them with his technical prowess that he wasn’t really listening. They didn’t get back to him – which is a pity, because he would not have learned anything, really. On the other hand, she said, if I had listened and understood, ‘left the ego at the front door’ and she felt that I would embed well with their teams and I was unlikely to inflame existing politics within different teams, whereas the first consultant would simply exacerbate existing divisions. The ‘slogan’ she gave to me (at my request) was was ‘making an impact’ – she felt I would make an impact – and I’ve adopted that as my mental mantra ever since. You know who you are – and thank you for all your faith in me!

Back to the story. Was he more technical than me? Depends how you measure it; I don’t know. However, you can be the most technical person in the world but if people are walking away from you, then you won’t deliver anything. It’s more than just How.

There will be plenty of sessions that tell you ‘how’ and that’s fine – they aren’t necessarily speaking to the C-level suite audience. Jen’s session will help to give you that language, the language of Why, so that you can communicate past the How and onto the Why.

You might give the Executive a brilliant expose on the technical innards of Power BI – but that doesn’t really give them what they need. It doesn’t show that you really understand their business and what they are trying to achieve; fundamentally that means you can’t be confident that you are going to help them to get there.

A C-suite person will know how best to to drive their business and attach a dollar value to their time – and that probably isn’t spending time on writing reports using any technology. That’s where the BI professional comes in – to free the C-level suite from writing their own reports.

Focusing on the Why is what will drive the business forward. Then, it will drive focus, accountability, simplicity and transparency – all essential ingredients for driving the organisation to success.

See you there! Let’s help you to help your organisation to create your organisation’s Golden Record to describe your business, using Power BI.

Doing the Do: the best resource for learning new Business Intelligence and Data Science technology

As a consultant, I get parachuted into difficult problems every day. Often, I figure it out because I have to, and I want to. Usually, nobody else can do it other than me – they are all keeping the fires lit. I get to do the thorny problems that get left burning quietly. I love the challenge of these successes!

How do you get started? The online and offline courses, books, MOOCs, papers, blogs and the forums help, of course. I regularly use several resources for learning but my number one source of learning is:

Doing the ‘do’ – working on practical projects, professional or private

Nothing beats hands-on experience. 

How do you get on the project ladder? Without experience, you can’t get started. So you end up in this difficult situation where you can’t get started, without experience.

Volunteer your time in the workplace – or out of it. It could be a professional project or your ‘data science citizen’ project that you care about. Your boss wants her data? Define the business need, and identify what she actually wants. If it helps, prototype to elicit the real need. Volunteer to try and get the data for her. Take a sample and just get started with descriptive statistics. Look at the simple things first.

Not sure of the business question? Try the AzureML Cheat Sheet for help.

machine-learning-algorithm-cheat-sheet-small_v_0_6-01

Working with dat means that you will be challenged with real situations and you will read and learn more, because you have to do it in order to deliver.

In my latest AzureML course with Opsgility, I take this practical, business-centred approach for AzureML. I show you how to take data, difficult business questions and practical problems, and I show you how to create a successful outcome; even if that outcome is a failed model, it still makes you revise the fundamental business question. It’s a safe environment to get experience.

So, if this is you – what’s the sequence? There are a few sequences or frameworks to try:

  • TDSP (Microsoft)
  • KDD
  • CRISP-DM
  • SEMMA

The ‘headline’ of each framework is given below, as a reference point, so you can see for yourself that they are very different. The main thing is to simply get started.

Team Data Science Process (Microsoft)

tdsp-lifecycle

 

KDD

kdd

 

CRISP-DM

330px-crisp-dm_process_diagram

 

SEMMA

metodo-semma

It’s important not to get too wrapped up on comparing models; this could be analysis paralysis, and that’s not going to help.

I’d suggest you start with the TDSP because of the fine resources, and take it from there.

I’d be interested in your approaches, so please do leave comments below.

Good  luck!

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.

Guthrie_print[1]

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!

ms-datainsights_linkedin-1200x627-1

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.

003b6f66

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.

Data Preparation in AzureML – Where and how?

messy-officeOne question that keeps popping up in  myc customer AzureML projects is ‘How do I conduct data preparation on my data?’ For example, how can we join the data, clean it, and shape it so that it is ready for analytics? Messy data is a problem for every organisation. If you don’t think it is an issue for your organisation, perhaps you haven’t looked hard enough.

To answer the question properly, we need to stand back a little, and see the problem as a part of a larger technology canvas. From the enterprise architecture perspective, that it is best to do data preparation as close to the source as possible. The reason for this is that the cleaned data would act as a good, consistent source for other systems, and you would only have to do it once. You have cleaned data that you can re-use, rather than re-do for every place where you need to use the data.

Let’s say you have a data source, and you want to expose the data in different technologies, such as Power BI, Excel and Tableau. Many organisations have a ‘cottage industry’ style of enterprise architecture, where they have different departments using different technologies. It is difficult to align data and analytics across the business, since the interpretation of the data may be implemented in a manner that is technology-specific rather than business-focused. If you take a ‘cottage industry’ approach, you would have to repeat your data preparation steps across different technologies.

dt960131dhc0

When we come to AzureML, the data preparation perspective isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t a strong data preparation tool like Paxata or Datameer, for example. It’s the democratization of data for the masses, yes, and I see the value it brings to businesses. It’s meant for machine learning and data science, so you should expect to use it for those purposes. It’s not a standalone data preparation tool, although it does help you partway.

The data preparation facilities in AzureML can be found here. If you have to clean up the data in AzureML, my futurology ‘dream’ scenario for AzureML is that Microsoft have weighty data preparation as a task, like other tasks in AzureML. You could click on the task, and then have roll-your-own data preparation pop up in the browser (all browser based) provided by Microsoft or perhaps have Paxata or Datameer pop out as a service, hosted in Azure as part of your Azure portal services. Then, you would go back to AzureML, all in the browser. In the meantime, you would be better trying to follow the principles of cleaning it up close to the course.

crisp-dm_process_diagramDon’t be downhearted if AzureML isn’t giving you the data preparation that you need. Look back to the underlying data, and see what you can do. The answer might be as simple as writing a view in SQL Server. AzureML is for operations and machine learning further downstream. If you are having serious data preparation issues, then perhaps you are not ready for the modelling phase of CRISP-DM so you may want to take some time to think about those issues.

Keeping the golf score card after 20 years in IT; reflections on International Womens’ Day

On International Womens’ Day, I think about my journey how I got here today. Other women may have similar experiences. Unlike Jenni Murray, I believe that you can be trans, proud and a real woman. Just saying.

Over the years, I have had challenges as a female IT consultant. Here are a few choice examples taken from my 20 years working in IT:

– a business contact once rubbed his hand up my leg when he thought I was asleep on a plane next to him. I jumped out of my skin. I realise now that he was trying to figure out if I wore tights or suspenders, and he was looking for the ‘line’. The skinny; I wear black 40 denier tights because I have varicose veins on my legs like a roadmap. They are comfortable and I like them. Oh, and don’t wake me up when I’m sleeping… although I know that he didn’t mean to…..
– Whilst at a conference, some business contacts trying to keep a golf score card and challenging other colleagues to try to get me into bed, using the golf score card to keep track of points when someone spoke to me or double points if I accepted a drink (for example).  I found the golf score card with the names and scores on it when one of them dropped it on the floor. I was extremely humiliated, and realised why folks had been so friendly and welcoming to me. They grabbed the card back, but I wish I still had it – to remind me.
– I’ve had my work actively sabotaged by someone who told my boss that he could not fathom the idea of senior female tech lead and genuinely believed I got the role for being female and to tick boxes;
– I’ve been told to my face that I am ‘not close enough to the kitchen sink’. Unfortunately for them, I was made their technical lead one month later on merit, and they had to put my presence in their pipe and smoke it. I was gracious about it since  I needed them to deliver well for me since the results would prove my worth. They delivered well, and I delivered the whole project on time, on budget,and to spec.
– I’ve had my email mailbox deleted on one site because I was the only female out of 200 plus men, and I ‘destroyed the all male equilibrium’ of the IT department. That was escalated to C-level, and nobody spoke to me after that because I’d complained. You can’t win, can you? I needed to deliver the project, and needed email. I did deliver, on time, on budget, to spec with a kindly Project Manager forwarding me emails to another account so I had everything I needed, and ensured I wasn’t cut off email trails.
– I am usually the victim of someone discrediting me as being too ’emotional’ and/or ‘not technical’.
– I’ve had men refuse to share an office with me in case I am ‘unclean’
– Discussions of female sanitary items; do I prefer ‘wings’ or not?

It’s the small things; for example, not responding to your email on a thread, but to the second-last email on a thread so that your contribution is cut out. Yes, I see you… but so does everyone else. Not clever and easily provable.
Sometimes it is not overt; it can simply be that I’m mansplained, or interrupted constantly.  It’s a case of people simply never having the capability of believing that women can do anything technical and they will glibly reconcile it as other ways e.g. I am a ‘statistical oddity’. I like that, actually.

This doesn’t include the hugs where the hands just goes a little too low, or the colleague who leans towards me a little too close, or who looks at a part of you for a little too long. You don’t have to be attractive or pretty to experience that.

Here are some takeaway actions for you:

Shout louder to get your voice heard. Your voice is a good one. If people are tone deaf at the start, you haven’t lost anything anyway!
Throw your light out farther, and help others do the same. All of the setbacks have made me simply want to throw my light out farther. So, this blog post here was the result of a meeting that day, where I was being discredited subtly 
Be helpful; you’ll be nicer to work beside, you’ll get more projects and more ‘wins’ in the long term. In the situations above, there was usually someone good enough to help. Be that person.

Be communicative; be the person who forwards email trails to anyone who has been actively cut out of it (male or female!)

Be considerate: the person who considers promoting the quiet female on the team. She’s probably good, you know.

Anywhere can be Trump’s Locker Room. Trump’s talk of pussy-grabbing and locker room? He was wrong to say that, and wrong to say it was ‘locker room’. It can be anywhere. Offices, work parties, conferences, anywhere.Be the person who steps in and takes away the ‘golf score card’ when it’s being used to keep a track to see who can get her into bed. Tell them to ‘grow up’. That’s not just locker room talk; that’s everywhere. Be the person who helps to stop it before it starts.

If someone is being victim-blamed as ’emotional’ – the accusation is usually treated the same as a real scandal and people don’t question it. If someone is emotional, is that because they are being bullied, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? Watch out also for people pressing other people’s buttons, and getting others to do the footwork for them by isolating them. Take a look at these guidelines here and if you are unlucky, you’ll come across someone who does a lot of these behaviours; if so, stay away from them but try to limit their impact on others, too.
On the plus side, the people who let me play in their box are usually wonderful people; they accept me and value me for who I am, and what I bring to the table. I think that this is why my projects are successful; many people discriminate right at the start and I don’t get beyond the starting block so they get partialled out. So it’s only the nice people who see past the five feet two frame and look at how I can help them out.

For the people who do give me a chance, they bless me in all sorts of ways. These people are men and women, cis gendered and transgendered. I’d like to thank all of my customers for being genuine and wonderful.

To summarise, I have less of a ‘range’ to play in, and I have to fight more and longer to get heard, and I have to be ten times as good to get to the same place.

Be brilliant – try your best. Own what you do and love. Then, you’ll be brilliant all by yourself.

 

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.