Guess who is appearing in Joseph Sirosh’s PASS Keynote?

This girl! I am super excited and please allow me to have one little SQUUEEEEEEE! before I tell you what’s happening. Now, this is a lifetime achievement for me, and I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely and deeply honoured I am. I am still in shock!

I am working really hard on my demo and….. I am not going to tell you what it is. You’ll have to watch it. Ok, enough about me and all I’ll say is two things: it’s something that’s never been done at PASS Summit before and secondly, watch the keynote because there may be some discussion about….. I can’t tell you what… only that, it’s a must-watch, must-see, must do keynote event.

We are in a new world of Data and Joseph Sirosh and the team are leading the way. Watching the keynote will mean that you get the news as it happens, and it will help you to keep up with the changes. I do have some news about Dr David DeWitt’s Day Two keynote… so keep watching this space. Today I’d like to talk about the Day One keynote with the brilliant Joseph Sirosh, CVP of Microsoft’s Data Group.

Now, if you haven’t seen Joseph Sirosh present before, then you should. I’ve put some of his earlier sessions here and I recommend that you watch them.

Ignite Conference Session

MLDS Atlanta 2016 Keynote

I hear you asking… what am I doing in it? I’m keeping it a surprise! Well, if you read my earlier blog, you’ll know I transitioned from Artificial Intelligence into Business Intelligence and now I do a hybrid of AI and BI. As a Business Intelligence professional, my customers will ask me for advice when they can’t get the data that they want. Over the past few years, the ‘answer’ to their question has gone far, far beyond the usual on-premise SQL Server, Analysis Services, SSRS combo.

We are now in a new world of data. Join in the fun!

Customers sense that there is a new world of data. The ‘answer’ to the question Can you please help me with my data?‘ is complex, varied and it’s very much aimed at cost sensitivities, too. Often, customers struggle with data because they now have a Big Data problem, or a storage problem, or a data visualisation access problem. Azure is very neat because it can cope with all of these issues. Now, my projects are Business Intelligence and Business Analytics projects… but they are also ‘move data to the cloud’ projects in disguise, and that’s in response to the customer need. So if you are Business Intelligence professional, get enthusiastic about the cloud because it really empowers you with a new generation of exciting things you can do to please your users and data consumers.

As a BI or an analytics professional, cloud makes data more interesting and exciting. It means you can have a lot more data, in more shapes and sizes and access it in different ways. It also means that you can focus on what you are good at, and make your data estate even more interesting by augmenting it with cool features in Azure. For example, you could add in more exciting things such as Apache Tika library as a worker role in Azure to crack through PDFs and do interesting things with the data in there. If you bring it into SSIS, then you can tear it up and down again when you don’t need it.

I’d go as far as to say that, if you are in Business Intelligence at the moment, you will need to learn about cloud sooner or later. Eventually, you’re going to run into Big Data issues. Alternatively, your end consumers are going to want their data on a mobile device, and you will want easy solutions to deliver it to them. Customers are interested in analytics and the new world of data and you will need to hop on the Azure bus to be a part of it.

The truth is; Joseph Sirosh’s keynotes always contain amazing demos. (No pressure, Jen, no pressure….. ) Now, it’s important to note that these demos are not ‘smoke and mirrors’….

The future is here, now. You can have this technology too.

It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s not too far removed from what you have in your organisation. AzureML and Power BI have literally hundreds of examples. I learned AzureML looking at the following book by Wee-Hyong Tok and others, so why not download a free book sample?

https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/card?asin=B00MBL261W&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_c54ayb2VHWST4

How do you proceed? Well, why not try a little homespun POC with some of your own data to learn about it, and then show your boss. I don’t know about you but I learn by breaking things, and I break things all the time when I’m  learning. You could download some Power BI workbooks, use the sample data and then try to recreate them, for example. Or, why not look at the community R Gallery and try to play with the scripts. you broke something? no problem! Just download a fresh copy and try again. You’ll get further next time.

I hope to see you at the PASS keynote! To register, click here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2016/Sessions/Keynotes.aspx 

What I learned from David Bowie, and Statement of Support for Wendy Pastrick for PASS Board of Directors

Firstly, I don’t speak for PASS generally. Denise McInerny has already written a statement of support and you’re welcome to read it. I encourage you to learn about all the candidates campaign platforms on the PASS Elections site and to vote. The voting period is Oct. 5-11.

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“Don’t be the first to do something. Be second.” – David Bowie

 

 

I’ve decided to write this statement because Wendy cares about the same things that I do, and I am going to summarise them here.

EMEA

I’d like more support on the PASS Board for Global Growth. Grant Fritchey has started to take this on board, and I look forward to more support and input from the EMEA perspective on the Board itself, and throughout the community. Ideally, I’d like ‘lessons learned’ to be at the heart of the LATAM onboarding so that it is set up for success.

I’ve been on the Board for nearly three years, and it’s been a consistent heartache for me that PASS isn’t growing in Europe. I have tried my best. I haven’t been able to do as many SQLSaturdays this year after the financial difficulties wrought by the failure of SQLSaturday Edinburgh, and the problems that precipitated. Further, the Board have to declare precons, which is fine, in order to be transparent. However, it’s made me nervous of offering to do PASS precons because I am worried that I will be accused of financially profiting from the community in some way. Since I am nervous of the accusations, it means that I don’t do PASS precons anymore and this compounds my ability to travel. I often do precons for free in return for travel being paid, actually, to help the event do the success, but I’m aware of the perception.

So Wendy has understood that PASS has so much potential to grow outside of North America, and one of her key election missions is to support Global Growth. For me, it’s music to my ears and I’d like to have a friend on the Board right beside me, who prioritises it. I haven’t been able to do this by myself and I hope that Wendy might be more successful in highlighting it.

Business Analytics

I need more support to work on Business Analytics as well. This is the second thing where I am first. Wendy’s been instrumental in delivering something that we will announce shortly but it’s good news. No spoilers here so you will have to wait!

What I learned from David Bowie

In business, sometimes you don’t want to be first. For Europe and BA, I was first, and being first isn’t easy. I need a ‘second’ and I think Wendy can help to break the back of some of the work that needs done in EMEA and in Business Analytics. I need another voice that will be heard, and two voices will carry further.

What is hard about being first

man-489744_960_720To be first is to be brave and a pioneer. Being first means that you have the burden of expectation, and that the target isn’t always clear.

It also means that people can withdraw from you and what you’re doing, because they are not sure if you are going to be successful. It’s easier to get behind the second person because it means that the first person has already absorbed the pain of the initial journey. It also means that there is someone to blame; everyone just blames the person that just left, right?

102636981_smSeymour Cray, father of modern day supercomputers, is quoted as saying “I’m certainly not inventing vector processors. There are three kinds that I know of existing today. Those three were all pioneering processors. One of the problems of being a pioneer is you always make mistakes and I never, never want to be a pioneer. It’s always best to come second when you can look at the mistakes the pioneers made.” If my example serves as anything, it will be to show some of the mistakes and issues that have been clarified through the process, and can be picked up and resolved.

I’ve put this photo here. There are plenty of PASS official ones but I’ve borrowed it from Hope Foley’s blog. It’s a shame that Wendy’s not facing the camera, but this is Wendy the person; joining in, strongly participating in the community, and bringing wisdom, fun, joy and friendship along with her. This is always how I will think of her.

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So I’ll vote for Wendy.

I wish the other candidates well, of course. I’d like to thank them for their courage in going forward. They have done a great thing in putting themselves forwards, and they are winners purely for that.

race

 

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

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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!

 

 

Jen’s PASS Diary: A week in the life of a PASS Non Executive Director

As always, I don’t officially represent PASS here. As you will know, this week the application opens to be on the Board of Directors for PASS. I’ve held my post for two and a half years, and I am not up for election this time. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I also help run the London Power BI User Group, where I am responsible for the sponsors and I help recruit and manage speakers.

If you are considering the role of PASS Director, I thought you might be interested in what a typical week looks like, for a PASS Director.

First things first; please don’t think that the role involves kudos.With PASS, you aren’t building your own empire, but you are building an empire for the community as a whole. This can mean putting PASS first, and putting the team before yourself. If you are doing it because you think it will help build a business, then you need to rethink that. As an independent consultant based in Europe, I have had no business at all from being a PASS Board Director. PASS are still fairly nascent in Europe, and organisations over here don’t seem very interested in that part of my life; they are mainly concerned if I can deliver for them whilst having this commitment.

I certainly do not feel that I have kudos from it, at all. If you have an ’email signature’ career strategy whereby your objective which is led by having more and more titles on your email signature, I can see that the role might be attractive. However, I personally don’t see any kudos from the role itself and I think that I get kudos and thanks for the things that people can see; events, speaking sessions, books, webinars and podcasts. If your career strategy is led by titles, then I think you overstate the importance of hierarchical roles and job titles; people are more interested in what they can hold in their hands, and see, as a consequence of what you do.

So what about the stuff I do, that you can’t see?

I have had three evenings this week, used up with PASS Meetings: Monday, one with the BA team, Thursday, with the Exec, and Friday (Today) I will have another meeting with one of the PASS Summit Sponsors over one of their activities at PASS Summit 2016.  I am going to try and squeeze in a fourth meeting with another PASS HQ member tonight as well, but that has to be confirmed.

I say ‘tonight’ because PASS are based out in the PST timezone, and I am based in London so they are eight hours behind me. So basically, the PASS ‘day’ starts at 5pm for me. I try to hold my meetings from 8pm onwards (12pm PST) because I usually have to travel home, and this can mean problems in participating effectively over Skype. I also try to get ‘family time’ in the early evening and I try to carve out this time so that my family don’t lose out.

Note that this doesn’t include the work I do outside of these meetings:

  • setting up Thought Leadership podcasts for PASS BA
  • creating a BA strategy
  • setting up a PASS BA Advisory board and interacting with the potential members for that
  • preparing for the sponsor Skype meeting on Friday.

It’s a lot of work and it’s stuff that people can’t see, which is why I mention it here.

What am I working on?

200px-strategy_concept-svgA Business Analytics strategy document that outlines where I think PASS should go. This is particularly important now that we are not having a PASS Business Analytics conference in 2017. What does this involve, in terms of skill set?

Defining a strategy is based on knowing:

  • where your organisation is today
  • where you want it to be
  • how you want to get there

The risk of not changing and improving can be as significant as the risks which may affect your plans to develop and grow an organisation. I take after one of Steve Jobs’ Crazy Ones; this is a risk in itself. Although I will never achieve as much as the Crazy Ones in the video, these are the crazy attitudes that I bring with me; the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

There is a lot of ‘noise’ in the data world, and I am particularly concerned with trying to ensure that PASS continues to change and move ahead in terms of efficiency, reputation and meeting the PASS Goals of disseminating high quality community education in data. It is an important exercise since it forms the blueprint of the strategy. To do this, I need to  learn lessons and appreciate what factors may influence the likely success in delivering your goals and success for PASS. This is what forms the basis of my thinking for BA.

Defining a strategy is a process, and this is one key area where a PASS Director adds value to the organisation. The objective of the process is to pull together the activities of the various areas of PASS that touchpoint BA, so that it is in a good spot to achieve its organisational objectives. Once the strategy is in place, it will help to specify how PASS organises to incorporate BA, set objectives and point community and team members towards those objectives through a commonly held vision.

traditional-vennYou’ll notice that this isn’t a technical skill; this is all people and process. As a Business Intelligence professional, I think about the people and the process, too. I’ve said before that Business Intelligence is often change management in disguise, and part of defining a strategy is that change management necessarily follows. I lean towards a more agile delivery, and I am working with PASS right now to point the ship towards a more agile delivery where the BA Strategy definition and process is concerned. It’s not enough just to be agile; you have to pay attention to people and process, too, and it can be more difficult when the people are volunteers who don’t need to do anything that you ask of them. It’s a sensitive balancing act.

To achieve this well, the execution process needs to be separated from the creative process of generating the strategy. As a ‘doer’, it can be hard to excise yourself from the execution and it is tempting to do that, because you see short term results. However, I am focused on long-term results, and strategy definition is a longer-term process that looks further into the distance, and has the objective of pointing the organisation towards that vision.

To summarise,  hope that gives some insight into what I have been doing this week. Any questions, let me know!

 

 

 

Jen’s PASS Diary: The Happy Prince and the Swallow

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Picture Credit: checanty

Oscar Wilde was well known for his writing for adults, but he’s probably less well known for his excellent children’s writing, too. He tackles strong themes, and they are well worth the read for adults as well as children. In one short story, The Happy Prince, Wilde writes a rather sad tale about a statue of a Happy Prince, who is somewhat misnamed because he’s never really known true happiness. In the tale, there is a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt. Saddened by what he saw around him, The Happy Prince tasked the swallow with giving everyone the jewels of himself, until, eventually, there was only the basic iron left. The swallow flies around, giving out the precious stones in the statue, but eventually dies, breaking the Happy Prince’s heart. There’s more to it than that, and it’s a sad tale, and for various reasons it has always been special to me.

I think that being on the PASS Board is a bit like being both the Happy Prince and the Swallow. Like everyone, I have talents, experience and wisdom in some areas, and not others. I happen to try to use my talents, small as they are, for the benefit of SQLFamily. I have won both of my PASS elections outright as the winner with the most votes. This means that SQLFamily gave me a position, but also a mandate to try and help the community via PASS. I am a volunteer and I try my best, and I give my ‘jewels’ away for free where I think they are best needing to be spent, and I am also the messenger that takes them there.

It’s a lot of work, however, inside the tent. I’d like to explain a little about how much effort I put in normally. Since I’m in Europe, attending PASS calls means that I’m on the phone late in the evenings. If I have a few calls a week, then that takes out a few of my evenings. It all adds up, and anyone in IT knows it’s not just about the meeting, there is work outside of that as well. If I was based in the US, I’d take the calls during my working day; however, it’s a different story when you have your evenings taken out. I’m just putting that here so people understand that being on the Board, from this part of the world, is actually a huge commitment and this is my third year of doing it. Fortunately I am single so it’s not impacting time with a spouse, although it does impact my newly-found Netflix addiction.

What am I working on? A few things:

There’s a difference between PASS BA the event, and PASS BA the strategy. Both require a lot of work. Vision is ‘why’, strategy is ‘what’, and execution is ‘how’. The strategy is a follow on from a vision, a mission statement of where PASS would like to go. This diagram might help, and I sit along all three of these elements:

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Credit: Goulston Group‘s image.

The PASS Mission Statement has to translate into a strategy, which then translates into execution plans. Execution is crucial, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a strategy. A strategy is all about making a decision about where to play, and the way to play. A strategy tackles more fundamental questions:

  1. What organisation should PASS be?
  2. How does this add value to PASS?
  3. Who are the target audience for the PASS BA proposition?
  4. What are your value propositions for the BA audience?
  5. What capabilities are essential to adding value to the PASS BA organisation, and differentiating their value proposition?

In future blog posts, I will try to speak to each of these questions from my input as the PASS Business Analytics portfolio holder. A strategy provides a foundation for decision-making. It’s a garden for growth and where to cut costs, and determining priorities. The strategy gives a signpost and a guide to prevent drift, or scope creep. Personally, I have never seen scope ‘creep’ – it usually gallops! So there is a lot to think about, as I try to help PASS continue to be successful, and move forward to further success.

A strategy is particularly critical in volatile environments, and there is none more volatile than the world of data at the moment. You just need to see the Apache top level projects at the moment. Apache Spark is à la mode, but now there is also Apache Flink and Apache Arrow to consider, which also play in some of Spark’s space. Also, you could consider Apache Apex which is designed to improve the performance and speed of big data components that work together as part of a larger system. How would an architect decide, and put these bits together?

I am continuing to make sure that my voice is heard and I’ve already made the following points:

  • Strategy – I have been working a lot on the PASS BA strategy. More details on this will be ongoing, but here are some details which I’ve previously posted. I’m supporting the team as we move forward to tell our story, and that’s involved a lot of research and teamwork. Thank you Teresa C for your help 🙂
  • PASS are working on the BA Marathon, as promised in the last blog post. I’ve been having input on that.
  • I’ve raised the question of greater engagement and activity outside of the US. I’ve sent through my thoughts and ideas, and hopefully that will lead into more growth in that area, through strategy and execution. This is crucial; growing PASS will mean greater support and engagement outside of the US. My EMEA seat is supposed to give the ‘voice’ outside of the US to the rest of the Board, and I’ve already made these points on a number of occasion. In my own capacity, I spoke at SQLSaturday Vienna, SQLBits and I’m speaking at SQLSaturday Paris and SQLSaturday Dublin in June. I’m also speaking at Digital Pragmatism: Delivering Real World Improvements in Mental Health. I also spoke at Microsoft TechDays, a UK event.
  • Also, I’m supporting SQL Server Geeks in my own capacity and I’m delivering a precon for the team out there in India to help support their wonderful event and community. How much do I believe in the SQL Server Geeks event? I have 100% faith in the team out there – and SQL Server Geeks is going to be the highlight of my year.I’m delighted to see the growth in the community there. Amit Bansal, Manohar Punna and the team are doing a wonderful job. Pinal Dave runs a wonderful blog out of India. These are only a few people in that part of the world who are doing wonderful things, and they all contribute to make the Data Platform world better, both in person and online.

So, that’s a roundup. As always, please feel free to get in touch at jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org

 

 

 

 

 

The world of Analytics: are you crossing the Rubicon or sitting on the Acheron?

d1e285a119ddeb540bfd58333b40512049 years BC, the commander of the 13th Legion stood at the River Rubicon, and paused. The dilemma was over whether or not to enter Italy. for a man who had built a career on surmounting crisis point over crisis point, this move would change the Roman world forever. Taking the army into Italy, and onto Rome, was an act of treason against the Roman Republic. At the time, generals were forced to disband their armies before entering Italy, since they were not allowed to hold imperium, or right to command, which belonged to Roman Governors. By crossing the Rubicon, Julius Caesar was taking imperium illegally, and would cause civil war. With the words alea iacta est, (the die is cast),  Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the world of data, we have crossed the Rubicon which now includes analytics; both streaming, real time analytics as well as longer-term business analytics. There is a world of hype out there – big data? Fast Data? Bueller? Bueller? The industry is moving so fast, it’s hard to know what technology to throw your career behind. However, some things will stay the same, in spite of technology. Intellectual curiosity. Business Acumen. Critical thinking. Communication. Data skills. Data cleansing. The ability to question what you are told. Other skills: R. Statistics. Numeracy. SQL.

However, just because things are moving fast, it does not mean that we can ignore it. It’s easy to take the safe option and say that it’s better to wait until the industry slows down so we can see the embers of what’s left, and then take a decision. This is akin to sitting on the banks of the Acheron. According to Greek mythology and Homer’s poems, the Acheron is one of the five rivers of the Underworld. In Dante’s Inferno, here’s a quote from Canto 3:

On the other side of Acheron lies Limbo and the court of King Minos. Charon ferries the shades of the damned across the Acheron. A dreary fog hangs over the water, and lightning strikes light up the sky above it. On its shores lie those who lived with neither infamy or praise, denied entry into the Inferno or Paradise.

For those who do wait and nothing, they are seated on the banks of the Acheron, which is viewed as a marginal place.

In this world of data-driven analytics, organisations can’t afford to sit on the Acheron; the Rubicon has already been crossed, and organisations need to get their feet wet.

This is why the PASS strategy on Business Analytics is so crucial – we are doing something to be part of this world. PASS are not sitting on the Acheron but instead, PASS are crossing the Rubicon to be part of this new world. It’s important to separate the strategy of Business Analytics from the execution of one Business Analytics event; the strategy is a forward thinking vision, and you can read more set out it here.

More than ever, PASS has to keep up with the data world, and move fast and nimbly in order to support the community’s growing needs.Yes, sure, there is hype; but the people still need to learn to navigate the hype to make the principles and strucures of analytical thinking and the data world actionable and relevant to their organisations. Connect, learn, share… right?

PASS are getting their feet wet by serving this new community, as well as supporting the existing community. Is it a brave thing? Yes. My contact details are here, and I look forward to hearing from you. I don’t speak for PASS officially since I’m not on the Exec, but I hope you’ve found this background to be useful in understanding the strategy context.

 

Jen’s Diary: Why are PASS doing Business Analytics at all?

As always, I don’t speak for PASS. This is a braindump from the heart. I realise that we haven’t communicated about BA as much as some members might like. It’s a hard balance – I don’t want to spam people, and I don’t want to get it too light, either. If you want to sign up for PASS BA news, here’s the link. So I have to apologise here, and hold my hands up for that one. I’ll endeavour to ensure we have a better BA communications plan in place, and i’m meeting the team on Friday to discuss how we can make that happen.

In the meantime, I’d like to blog about BA today. How did we get here, and where are we going? Why are PASS interested in Business Analytics at all? To answer this question, let’s look at the history of Business Intelligence, what Business Analytics means, and how PASS can be part of the story. Let’s start with the history lesson. What are the stages of Business Intelligence?

First generation Business Intelligence – this was the world of corporate Business Intelligence. You’ll know this by the phrase ‘the single source of truth’. This was a very technical discipline, focused on the data warehouse. It was dominated by Kimball methodology, or Imon methodology, dependent on the business requirement. However, the business got lost in all this somewhere, and they reverted to the default position of using Excel as a tool to work with Excel exports, and subverting the IT departments by storing data in email. Microsoft did – and still do – cater for the first generation of business intelligence. It has diversified into new cloud products, of course, but SQL Server still rocks. You’ll have seen that Gartner identified SQL Server as the number one RDBMS for 2015. Kudos to the team! For an overview, the Computer Weekly article is interesting.

Second generation Business Intelligence – the industry pivoted to bring the Business back into Business Intelligence. You’ll know this by the phrase ‘self-service business intelligence’. Here, the business user was serviced with clean data sources that they could mash and merge together, and they were empowered to connect to these sources. In the Microsoft sphere, this involved a proliferation of tabular models, PowerPivot as well as continued use of analysis services multidimensional models. As before, Excel remained the default position for working with data. PASS Summit 2015 has a lot of content in both of these areas.

So far, so good. PASS serves a community need by offering high quality, community education on all of these technologies. Sorted, right?

Wrong. The world of data keeps moving. Let’s look at the projected growth of Big Data by Forbes.

Well, the world of business intelligence isn’t over yet; we now have business analytics on the horizon and the world of data is changing fast. We need to keep up! But what do we do with all this data? This is the realm of Business Analytics, and why is it different from BI? The value of business analytics lies in its ability to deliver better outcomes. It’s a different perspective. Note from our first generation and our second generation BI times, technology was at the forefront of the discussion. In business analytics, we talk about organizational change, enabled by technology. In this sphere, we have to quantify and communicate value as the outcome, not the technology as a means to get there. So what comes next?

Third generation of business intelligence – self-service analytics. Data visualisation software has been at the forefront of second generation Business Intelligence, and it has taken a priority. Here, the position is taken that businesses will understand that they need data visualisation technologies as well as analytical tools, to use the data for different purposes.

How is Business Analytics an extension of Business Intelligence? Let’s look at some basic business questions, and see how they fall as BI or BA. Images belong to Gartner so all kudos and copyright to the team over there.

What happened?

If the promise of business intelligence is to be believed, then we have our clean data sources, and we can describe the current state of the business. Gartner call this descriptive analytics, and it answers the question: What happened? This level is our bread-and-butter business intelligence, with an emphasis on the time frame until this current point in time.

Why did it happen?

We can also understand, to a degree, why we are where we are. This is called diagnostic analytics, and it can help pinpoint issues in the organisation. Business Intelligence is a great domain for understanding the organisation until this point in time. However, it’s a rearview impressio of the data. What happens next? Now, we start to get into the remit of Business Analytics:

What will happen?

Businesses want to know what will happen next. Gartner call this predictive analytics, and this perception occurs when we want to try and look for predictive patterns in the data. Once we understand what will happen next, what is the next question?

How can we make this happen?

This is the power of prescriptive analytics; it tells us what we should do, and it is the holy grail of analytics. It uses business intelligence data in order to understand the right path to take, and it builds on the other types of analytics.

Business Intelligence and Business Analytics are a continuum. Analytics is focused more on a forward motion of the data, and a focus on value. People talk about ROI, TCO, making good business decisions based on strong data. First generation and second generation are not going away. A cursory look around a lot of organisations will tell you that. The Third Generation, however, is where organisations start to struggle a bit. PASS can help folks navigate their way towards this new generation of data in the 21st century.

How do we measure value? It is not just about storing the data, protecting it and securing it. These DBA functions are extremely valuable and the business would not function without them – full stop.  So how do we take this data and use it as a way of moving the organisation? We can work with the existing data to improve it; understand and produce the right measures of return, profiling, or other benefits such as team work. Further, analytics is multi-disciplinary. It straddles the organisation, and it has side effects that you can’t see, immediately. This is ‘long term vision’ not ‘operational, reactive, here-and-now’. Analytics can effect change within the organisation, as the process of doing analytics itself means that the organization solves a business problem, which it then seeks to re-apply across different silos within the organization.

SQL Server, on the other hand, is a technology. It is an on-premise relational database technology, which is aimed at a very specific task. This is a different, technologically based perspective. The perspectives in data are changing, as this Gartner illustration taken from here shows:

Why do we need a separate event? We need to meet different people’s attitudes towards data. DBAs have a great attitude; protect, cherish, secure data. BAs also have a great attitude: use, mix, apply learnings from data. You could see BA as a ‘special interest group’ which offers people a different choice. There may not be enough of this material for them at PASS Summit, so they get their own event. If someone wants to go ahead and have a PASS SQLSaturday event which is ‘special interest’ and focuses solely on, say, performance or disaster recovery, for example, then I don’t personally have a problem with that.  I’d let them rock on with it. It might bring in new members, and it offers a more niche offering to people who may or may not attend PASS because they don’t feel that there’s enough specialised, in depth, hard-core down-to-the-metal disaster recovery material in there for them. Business Analytics is the same, by analogy. Hundreds and hundreds of people attended my 3 hour session on R last year; so there is an interest. I see the BA event as a ‘little sister’ to the PASS ‘big brother’ – related, but not quite the same.

Why Analytics in particular? It’s about PASS growth. To grow, it can be painful, and you take a risk. However, I want to be sure that PASS is still growing to meet future needs of the members, as well as attracting new members to the fold However, the feetfall we see at PASS BA, plus our industry-recognised expert speakers, tell us that we are growing in the right direction. Let’s take a look at our keynote speaker, Jer Thorpe, has done work with NASA, the MOMA in New York, he was Data artist in residence at the New York Times and he’s now set up. The Office for Creative Research & adjunct professor at ITP. Last year, we had Mico Yuk, who is author of Dataviz for Dummies, as well as heading up her own consultancy team over at BI Brainz. They are industry experts in their own right, and I’m delighted to add them as part of our growing PASS family who love data.

The PASS BA event also addresses the issue of new and emerging data leaders. How do you help drive your organisation towards becoming a data-oriented organisation? This means that you talk a new language; we talk about new criteria for measuring value, working out return on investment, cross-department communication, and communication of ideas, conclusions to people throughout the organisation, even at the C-level executives. PASS BA is also looking at the career trajectories of these people as well as DBA-oriented folks, and PASS BA is out there putting the ‘Professional’ aspect into the event. We have a separate track, Communicate and Lead, which is all about data leadership and professional development. A whole track – the little sister is smartly bringing the Professional back, folks, and it’s part of our hallmark.

PASS is part of this story of data in the 21st Century. The ‘little sister’ still adds value to the bigger PASS membership, and is an area of growth for the family of PASS.

Any questions, I’m at jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org or please do come to the Board Q&A and ask questions there. If you can’t make it, tweet me at jenstirrup and I’ll see if I can catch them during the Q&A.