PASS Summit Notes for my AzureML, R and Power BI Presentation

I’m going to have fun with my AzureML session today at PASS Summit! More will follow on this post later; I am racing off to the keynote so I don’t have long 🙂

I heard some folks weren’t sure whether to attend my session or Chris Webb’s session. I’m honestly flattered but I’m not in the same league as Chris! I’ve posted my notes here so that folks can go off and attend Chris’ session, if they are stuck between the two.

Here is the order of things:

  • Slide Deck
  • How do you choose a machine learning algorithm?
  • How do you carry out an AzureML project?
  • AzureML Experiment 
  • R Code

So, the slide deck is here:

  • AzureML Experiment 

You can see this experiment in the AzureML Gallery. You may have to sign up for a Windows Live account to get a free AzureML studio account, and I recommend that you do.

  • How do you choose a machine learning algorithm?

Kudos to Microsoft – this is their cheatsheet and I recommend that you look at the original page.

Here is some more information on the topic from Microsoft, and I recommend that you follow it.

How do you carry out an AzureML project?

Try the CRISP-DM Framework for a start

See the Modelling Agency for the original source. https://the-modeling-agency.com/crisp-dm.pdf

CRISP-DM Process Diagram.png
CRISP-DM Process Diagram” by Kenneth JensenOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

R Code

Here’s a sample R code. I know it is simple, and there are better ways of doing this. However, remember that this is for instructional purposes in front of +/- 500 people so I want to be sure everyone has a grounding before we talk more complicated things.

You may have to install the libraries first, if you haven’t done so.

library(data.table)
library(ggplot2)
library(xtable)
library(rpart)
require(xtable)
require(data.table)
require(ggplot2)
require(rpart)

summary(adult.data)
class(adult.data)

# Let’s rename the columns
names(adult.data)[1]<-“age”
names(adult.data)[2]<-“workclass”
names(adult.data)[3]<-“fnlwgt”
names(adult.data)[4]<-“education”
names(adult.data)[5]<-“education.num”
names(adult.data)[6]<-“marital.status”
names(adult.data)[7]<-“occupation”
names(adult.data)[8]<-“relationship”
names(adult.data)[9]<-“race”
names(adult.data)[10]<-“sex”
names(adult.data)[11]<-“capital.gain”
names(adult.data)[12]<-“capital.loss”
names(adult.data)[13]<-“hours.per.week”
names(adult.data)[14]<-“country”
names(adult.data)[15]<-“earning_level”

# Let’s see if the columns renamed well
# What is the maximum age of the adult?
# How much data is missing?
summary(adult.data)

# How many rows do we have?
# 32561 rows, 15 columns
dim(adult.data)

# There are lots of different ways to deal with missing data
# That would be a session in itself!
# For demo purposes, we are simply going to replace question marks, and remove rows which have anything missing.

adult.data$workclass <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$workclass))
adult.data$education <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$education))
adult.data$marital.status <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$marital.status))
adult.data$occupation <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$occupation))
adult.data$relationship <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$relationship))
adult.data$race <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$race))
adult.data$sex <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$sex, fixed = TRUE))
adult.data$country <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA, adult.data$country))

is.na(adult.data) = adult.data==’?’
is.na(adult.data) = adult.data==’ ?’
adult.tidydata = na.omit(adult.data)

# Let’s check out our new data set, called adult.tidydata
summary(adult.tidydata)

# How many rows do we have?
# 32561 rows, 15 columns
dim(adult.tidydata)

# Let’s visualise the data
boxplot(adult.tidydata$education.num~adult.tidydata$earning_level,outline=F,xlab=”Income Level”,ylab=”Education Level”,main=”Income Vs Education”)

prop.table(table(adult.tidydata$earning_level,adult.tidydata$occupation),2)
for (i in 1:ncol(adult.tidydata)-2) {
if (is.factor(adult.tidydata[,i])){
pl =ggplot(adult.tidydata,aes_string(colnames(adult.tidydata)[i],fill=”earning_level”))+geom_bar(position=”dodge”) + theme(axis.text.x=element_text(angle=75))
print(pl)
}

}

evalq({
plot <- ggplot(data = adult.tidydata, aes(x = hours.per.week, y = education.num,
colour = hours.per.week))
plot <- plot + geom_point(alpha = 1/10)
plot <- plot + ggtitle(“Hours per Week vs Level of Education”)
plot <- plot + stat_smooth(method = “lm”, se = FALSE, colour = “red”, size = 1)
plot <- plot + xlab(“Education Level”) + ylab(“Hours per Week worked”)
plot <- plot + theme(legend.position = “none”)
plot
})

That’s all for now! More later.

Jen xx

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.

Jen’s Diary: Top 5 free online tools for organising yourself at PASS Summit, Live! 360 or any other conference!

As always, I don’t speak officially for PASS. This is a personal braindump.

I’m presenting at PASS Summit and Live! 360 in Orlando, so self-organising is a hot topic for me!

For diary purposes, I have been doing lots of work on PASS BAC with the team, as you can imagine. I’d like to thank the PASS team here: Vicki, Angie, Anika, Teresa, Georgia and Judy to name a few. If you want ‘behind the scenes’ tweets, please follow Anika on Twitter to know more about the running of PASS. It’s no mean feat – 6 thousand or so SQL Server fans in one place! – and the team keep everyone happy.

As you know, the PASS BAC first wave of speakers has gone out. If you have any questions, please fire them at me: jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org. More on this later! I’m humbled by the amount of industry expertise that we have in our community, and everyone who submitted is simply amazing. Thank you to everyone for their faith and belief in what we are trying to achieve, and thank you to the people who have had faith in us and have bought their tickets so far without even seeing the full agenda! PASS BAC is going to be a blast again, and I hope you’ll join us. You can register here.

Ok, now onto the clickbait that you really wanted to see. Here are some handy tools which I’m using to organize my time at PASS Summit.

Evernote – I prefer it to OneNote because, when I search my browser for items, it also brings up my Evernote notes about the same topic. Neat, huh? I use it for taking notes and I ‘snip’ everything. I use the local version which syncs to my online version, and I can read the offline local version whilst I’m on the plane. How good is that? Think of it as an offline Google or Bing repository to help you to actually read the things you marked as ‘to read later’.

 Sunrise Calendar I have tried using online tools for YEARS but this is the only one that works for me. It takes my nine calendars (yes, I am that busy!) and synchronises them in one place. I can see things in different timezones (I work BST/GMT, and then onto PST). I cannot do without this calendar now. Go and take a look, and you’ll find yourself organized in no time. You’ll need this for preventing yourself from becoming quadruple booked, as I do. These guys deserve a freakin’ award. Seriously. It is owned by Microsoft but why the hell they don’t advertise this, I have no idea. It’s so simple and it does what I need it to do. Guys – deep thanks from me.

IMAG0494Watch this video on  Productivity and take the bits from it that are useful for you. This 20 minute video has helped me so much, and it’s left its mark on me.  I hope it will help you to see how you can be more productive. It has helped me, and in some ways helped to heal me of things that were hard to let go. It’s been a hard lesson and I am humble enough to admit I’m still learning it. Good luck with it. All I do, is carry around a little SQLBits notebook that I’ve had, and I brain dump into it by writing everything down. It works. Trust me. How is this free? Well, make sure you visit the sponsor gallery at PASS Summit, and see if you can score a little notebook from one of the sponsors. It may help you more than you think!

TripIt – I am travelling across timezones and I need everything in one place. I also want to see when my friends come in. TripIt is soooo good at telling me about delays before the airlines do, that I pay for TripIt Pro. You can find Tripit here ( t ¦ w )

Packpoint save me from forgetting things. This is for Android, but I’m sure you can find something else for your favourite mobile OS. Basically, you tell PackPoint where you are going, and for how long. If you are TripIt customer (see above) it syncs everything for you so can pick your trip. If you are one of these people who forgets business cards and little things like that, give it a try. You can find your packing list online as well as on your phone, and tick things off as you go.

I hope to see you there!

Love,

Jen x

Jen’s PASS Diary: I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ever thanks.

thank-you-quote1[1]Thank you for electing me for a second term as a Director-At-Large for PASS!

I’m delighted to serve alongside Tim Ford (t) again. I can’t emphasise this enough: Tim does an awesome job of the SQLSaturday portfolio. That. Is. Hard. Work.

I’d also like to welcome Ryan J. Adams (t) as the newly elected director. I’m looking forward to working with him and learning from his great community experience.

I’m sad that Amy Lewis (t) will no longer be on the Board; Amy was so welcoming to me from my first PASS Summit visit in 2011, when I didn’t really know anybody and I’d just travelled thousands of miles from home to Seattle, and I didn’t really know anybody. I will never forget her kindness to me. Amy is one of the kindest, strongest and most generous people I’ve met and she will continue to inspire me. Amy – *hugs*. If you see Amy at PASS Summit, please say ‘thank you’ for all that she does.

As for me? Well……

Yep. What he said. That’s me.

PASSElectionResultI’ve had lots of commentary about being the only European candidate. I really don’t know what to say. I was very surprised that it was only my name on the ballot sheet. What people don’t seem to realise is that there is an OPEN seat so a European could have won that. By definition, it’s OPEN and it’s not restricted to any geography. Let’s take an example. If we’d had two Europeans win two seats this year: EMEA and the OPEN seat. Let’s pretend a European wins next year. That means we’d have three Europeans on the Board, doing what it is we normally do when were in the US: complain about the tea and American beer (hint: they serve both too cold). I have no idea why I was the only candidate from this region but it’s clear that we need more folks to step up to the plate from over here. There are tons of hugely talented candidates – not just from Europe – and I’d encourage people to start thinking now about perhaps throwing their hat in the ring for the next time.

So, if you’re thinking that you might put yourself forward, here are some words for you, regardless of where you live.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

(Variation of a quote by Marianne Williamson, taken from the film Coach Carter.)

Jen’s PASS Diary: SQLSaturday Edinburgh: My heartfelt thanks go to…

SQLSaturday Edinburgh went ahead last Saturday, June 13th, and everyone had a great day. It’s clear that people in the community believe in what I am doing. They voted with their feet to attend, to speak, and to sponsor. We had high quality speakers delivering world-class content – 8 MVPs, 2 Microsoft staff, and the remainder are international speakers – and we know that Content is King.

Basically, SQLSaturday Edinburgh Business Intelligence edition was the turning point for the Business Analytics and Business Intelligence ( SQL Server based ) community in the UK.

  • Our event only had five people who had spoken at SQLBits (Carmel Gunn, Bob Duffy, Gary Short, Chris Webb and Satya Jayanty).
  • three of our speakers (Mark Wilcock, Chris Webb and Bob Phillips) all spoke at PASS Business Analytics Conference last April in San Jose, and they all spoke at PASS SQLSaturday London Business Analytics in November 2014.
  • The other speakers have delivered sessions internationally in their field of expertise: Visio, SharePoint, CRM, and this was the first time they’d spoken at a SQL event.

We tried to be more BI and BA focused, and did it work? The feedback so far is a resounding YES. We didn’t try to squeeze the formula for other SQL events onto this one, jam some R in there, and announce it as an analytics event. The content was focused on what we do with data, why, and what the business value is.There will be more on this in future posts. In the meantime, however, I have a lot of thank yous!

I also want to say a heartfelt thank you to the volunteers, without whom, the event would not have happened.

  • Malcolm Smith
  • Izabela Borzecka
  • Robert French
  • Melissa Coates ( Twitter ) who helped by collating templates from her events to use.
  • Prathy Kamasani ( Twitter ) who is just simply amazing. Her smile lifts me and she has really helped to keep me going with her sunny attitude and unfailing support.
  • Rodney Kidd ( Twitter ) has been a rock and a great listener, as well as a helpful, kind gentleman.

Prathy, Rodney – I cannot thank you enough, and your friendship and support will stay with me forever. Thank you.

I want to thank the following sponsors for putting themselves forward to support me in what I’m doing for the Business Intelligence and emerging Business Analytics community in the UK. Without them, there would be no event. Fact.

SQLSaturday Edinburgh 388 Sponsors

I also want to thank our amazing SQLSaturday speakers. If you’d like to download their slides, you will find them on the site.

The speakers were, in order of appearance:

Jon Woodward ( Twitter / Website )

Iain Elder (Twitter)

David Parker ( Website )

Chris Webb ( Website / Twitter )

Ian MacDonald ( Website )

Adam Vero ( Website )

Bob Duffy ( Website / Twitter )

Carmel Gunn ( Website / Twitter )

Peyman Blumstengel ( Website )

Murali Nagaraj ( Website )

Peter Baddeley ( Website / Twitter )

Tom Sykes ( Twitter )

Niall MacLeod ( Website / Twitter )

Mark Wilcock ( Website / Twitter )

Bob Phillips ( Twitter )

Dave Lawrence ( Website / Twitter )

Tim Jones ( Website / Twitter )

Jean-Pierre Riehl ( Twitter / Website )

Gary Short ( Twitter / Website )

Satya Jayanty ( Twitter / Website )

Ric Howe ( Twitter / Website )

If I have missed anyone, it will be a genuine oversight due to a very tired little Jen missing things out!

I owe people emails so please forgive me until I catch my breath! Please bear with me. I’m doing my best.

Love always,

Jen Stirrup

Jen’s Pass Diary: Reflections and a plea for help for the ‘little guy’.

This blog does not represent PASS. Here, I discuss a few threads:

  • PASS HQ Meeting
  • A plea for help for SQLSaturday Edinburgh along with some SQLBits commentary
  • A plea for the little guy – my thoughts on Business Analytics and Business Intelligence
  • and a well wish to someone dear to me
  • PASS HQ Meeting

I have attended another Board meeting in Vancouver this week. It was split into two parts: a main Board meeting, and then separate ‘side sessions’ with key HQ team members.

What’s it like at PASS HQ? Well, they have a friendly office dog who is always looking for cuddles and tidbits! Pets aside, the team work incredibly hard. As a consultant, I walk into customer sites a lot, and I can say that the sense of ‘sqlfamily’ and community is felt throughout the team there, in the same way as community members also show a spirit of community. I really enjoyed my few days there, and I’d like to thank the team for their warm Canadian welcome and their ongoing support.

What happened at the PASS Board meeting? Well, lots was discussed, and you should await your PASS Connector newsletters, and your BA newsletters, for more information. All I can say for now, is that there is a *lot* of news coming and I hope that the community will appreciate it.

  • A plea for help for SQLSaturday Edinburgh along with some SQLBits commentary

I’m running SQLSaturday Edinburgh Business Intelligence Edition on 13th of June and I desperately need volunteers! If you’d like to register for the event, please register here. If you can help, please email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com Activities include: registration desk, room monitoring, PASS sponsor desk. I’m glad to say that I have a few volunteers, and I will thank them specifically after the event has occurred. So watch this space.

The SQLBits committee have decided to hold a team meeting on the same day as SQLSaturday Edinburgh. I’m as excited as anyone else about any SQL Server community news coming from the SQLBits team. However, this does mean I have lost some key volunteers who are headed to the SQLBits community team day, rather than come to SQLSaturday Edinburgh. I can totally understand their decision: SQLBits has ‘sex appeal’ and it is a much bigger event. SQLBits is a fantastic event, which I’ve been glad to be part of as a speaker and support it in different ways (more below).

In comparison, my SQLSaturday is a small event, so much so, that nobody realised the clash in dates when they organised their team meeting. I’m not part of the Committee – although I have volunteered to help them in this capacity for a long time – so I was not aware of this clash. I wish them all the best, but it does mean that I’m down some great experienced volunteers, and I am appealing to the tech community for help, assistance and love in trying to make sure that SQLSaturday Edinburgh Business Intelligence goes well operationally on the day for the SQLSaturday Edinburgh organising committee of one person – me! It does serve a real community need in Scotland. Not everyone attends SQLBits – England can seem as far away to Scottish people, as Scotland is to a lot of English people. The event is an unusual mix of rural locals, some of whom will travel for hours via boats from the isles. On the other hand, we get delegates flying in for the BI and BA angle, who come in from all over Europe. I am working hard, in term of my PASS Board activities, in doing things for the European community in particular, and the fledgling BI and BA community here in Europe and in the US via the PASS Business Analytics Conference which I helped to lead.

I am a Committee of one person for SQLSaturday Edinburgh – there is no failover here – and I hope that people will help, but until I ask for help, I’m not going to get any. So here we are! I hope that any potential volunteers will be as excited about this community as I am. Every little helps, as they say, so if you could help with small things like room monitoring or on the PASS booth, that would be fantastic.

  • A plea for the little guy – my thoughts on Business Analytics and Business Intelligence

I believe I am doing some ground-breaking work in doing Business Analytics and Business Intelligence dedicated events in Edinburgh (and London! – more news later!). We are trying something new this year. I have recruited cross product group MVPs and speakers from C#, Access, Visio, SharePoint and Excel as well as SQL Server and Azure. The underlying focus is on BA / BI but I am emphasising the ‘practical’ aspect of data by reaching out to different product groups, with the common theme being data. CRM, for example, is rich in data even if it isn’t traditional SQL Server BI. It’s a BI / BA event so that immediately cuts out DBA oriented content. I believe that the DBA audience is well served in the UK, with SQLBits, SQLRelay so I am not worried about this community missing out. I am worried about the ‘little guy’ who needs to nail data together, and find the promised insights from data and Big Data that Cx level executives are expecting. These Big Data promises need to be delivered by someone, and that person needs training, education, and a community for them to ‘learn, share and connect’. I am trying to work towards that globally as part of PASS, and particularly here in Europe. You will see more news about this from PASS official channels and I will keep it for that – for now, just know that I am bursting to share news!

Again, it is a risk to try this, but I think we will offer enough range within the topics to expand the audience, particularly since we are not actively seeking DBA content. We’re simply expanding in a different, data platform direction.

I hope that this blog isn’t perceived as a complaint about SQLBits or the team- it isn’t. It’s just that SQLSaturday Edinburgh is right down to the wire, and I only found out about this issue a few weeks ago. So I am getting desperate for volunteers and I wasn’t going to share this news at all, however, my efforts to turn up volunteers haven’t been met so I’m hoping for help for this ‘little guy’ too!

What will I do if I don’t get volunteers? I have the option to hire a delegate management package from the SQLSaturday Edinburgh venue. All will not be lost, but I didn’t budget for this emergency measure when I planned SQLSaturday Edinburgh. If I am stuck, I will do this, but obviously community events are run on a very tight budget and I am hoping to avoid this measure.

  • and a well wish to someone dear to me

I am, and have been, a long-term SQLBits supporter since SQLBits 2. I continue to wish them all the best in all that they do. Also, as my previous business partner is part of the SQLBits committee, I indirectly supported the event in terms of time off, my speaking, DitBits and so on, to help to make it happen. I was glad to do that, I don’t regret it for a minute. Here, please note that I wish Allan Mitchell the best wishes for his future ventures and adventures, and I wish this for him from the bottom of my heart.

Jen’s Diary: What does Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of Revolution Analytics mean for PASS?

Caveat: This blog does not represent the views of PASS or the PASS Board. These opinions are solely mine.

The world of data and analytics keeps heating up. Tableau, for example, keeps growing and winning. In fact, Tableau continues to grow total and licence revenue 75% year over year, with its total revenue grew to $142.9 million in the FY4 of 2014.There’s a huge shift in the market towards analytics, and it shows in the numbers. Lets take a look at some of the interesting things Microsoft have done recently, and see how it relates to PASS:

  • Acquired Revolution Analytics, an R-language-focused advanced analytics firm, will bring customers tools for prediction and big-data analytics.
  • Acquired Datazen, a provider of data visualization and key performance indicator data on Windows, iOS and Android devices. This is great from the cross-platform perspective, and we’ll look at this in a later blog. For now, let’s discuss Revolution and Microsoft.

Why it was good for Microsoft to acquire Revolution Analytics

The acquisition shows that Microsoft is bolstering its portfolio of advanced analytics tools. R is becoming increasingly common as a skill set, and businesses are more comfortable about using open source technology such as R. It is also accessible software, and a great tool for doing analytics. I’m hoping that this will help organisations to recognise and conduct advanced analytics, and it will improve the analytics capability in HDInsight.

Microsoft has got pockets of advanced analytics capabilities built into Microsoft SQL Server, and in particular, SQL Server Analysis Services, and also in the SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW). Microsoft also has the Azure Machine Learning Service (Azure ML) which uses R in MLStudio. However, it does not have an advanced analytics studio, and the approach can come across as piecemeal for those who are new to it. The acquisition of Revolution Analytics will give Microsoft on-premises tools for data scientists, data miners, and analysts, and cloud and big data analytics for the same crowd.

Here’s what I’d like Microsoft to do with R:

  • Please give some love to SSRS by infusing it with R. There is a codeplex download that will help you to produce R visualisations in SSRS. I’d like to see more and easier integration, which doesn’t require a lot of hacking about.
  • Power Query has limited statistical capability at the moment. It could be expanded to include R. I am not keen for Microsoft to develop yet another programming language and R could be a part of the Power Query story.
  • Self-service analytics. We’ve all seen the self-service business intelligence communications. What about helping people to self-serve analytics as well, once they’ve cracked self-service BI? I’d like to see R made easier to use for everyone. I sense that will be a long way off, but it is an opportunity.
  • Please change the R facility in MLStudio. It’s better to use RStudio to create your R script, then upload it.

What issues do I see in the Revolution Analytics acquisition?

Microsoft is a huge organisation. Where will it sit within the organisation? Any acquisition involves a change management process. Change management is always hard. R touches different parts of the technology stack. This could be further impacted by the open source model that R has been developed under. Fortunately Revolution seem to have thought of some of these issues already: how does it scale, for example? This acquisition will need to be carefully envisioned, communicated and implemented, and I really do wish them every success with it.

What does this mean for PASS?

I hold the PASS Business Analytics Portfolio, and our PASS Business Analytics Conference is being held next week. Please use code BFFJS to get the conference for a discount rate, if you are interested in going.

I think the PASS strategy of becoming more data platform focused is the right one. PASS exist to provide technical community education to data professionals, and I think PASS are well placed to move on the analytics journey that we see in the industry. I already held a series on R for the Data Science Virtual Chapter, and I’m confident you’ll see more material on this and related topics. There are sessions on R at the PASS BA Conference as well. The addition of Revolution Analytics and Datazen is great for Microsoft, and it means that the need for learning in these areas is more urgent, not less. That does not mean that i think that everyone should learn analytics. I don’t. However, I do think PASS can help those who are part of the journey, if they want (or need) to be.

I’m personally glad PASS are doing the PASS Business Analytics Conference because I believe it is a step in the right direction, in the analytics journey we see for the people who want to learn analytics, the businesses who want to use it, and the burgeoning technology. I agree with Brent Ozar ( b / t ) in that I don’t think that the role of the DBA is going away. I do think that, for small / medium businesses, some folks might find that they become the ‘data’ person rather than the DBA being a skill on its own. I envisage that PASS will continue to serve the DBA-specialist-guru as well as the BI-to-analytics people, as well as those who become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for everything data in their small organisation (DBA / BA / Analytics), as well as the DBA-and-Cloud person. It’s about giving people opportunity to learn what they want and need to learn, in order to keep up with the rate of change we see in the industry.

Please feel free to comment below.

Your friend,

Jen Stirrup

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