Want to learn how to light up Big Data Analytics using Apache Spark in Azure?

Businesses struggle with many different aspects of data and technology. It can be difficult to know what technology to choose. Also, it can be hard to know where to turn, when there are so many buzzwords in the mix: analytics, big data and open source. My session at PASS Summit is essentially talking about these things, using Azure and Apache Spark as a backdrop.

Vendors tend to tell their version of events, as you might expect, so it becomes really hard to get advice on how to have a proper blueprint to get you up and running. In this session, I will examine strategies for using open source technologies to improve existing common Business Intelligence issues, using Apache Spark as our backdrop to delivering open source Big Data analytics.

Once we have looked at the strategies, we will look at your choices on how to make the most of the open source technology. For example, how can we make the most of the investment? How can we speed things up? How can we manipulate data?

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These business questions are translated into technical terms. We will explore how we can parallelize your computations across nodes of a Hadoop cluster, once your clusters are set up. We will look combine use of SparkR for data manipulation with ScaleR for model development in Hadoop Spark. At the time of writing, this scenario requires that you maintain separate Spark sessions, only running one session at a time, and exchange data via CSV files. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll see an R Server release, when SparkR and ScaleR can share a Spark session and so share Spark DataFrames. Hopefully that’s out prior to the session so we can see it, but, nevertheless, we will still look at how ScaleR works with Spark and how we can use Sparkly and SparkR within a ScaleR workflow.

Join my session at PASS Summit 2017 to learn more about open source with Azure for Business Intelligence, with a focus on Azure Spark.

Microsoft Data Insights – Digital Transformation with Power BI for the CEO

I’m holding a series of training courses around the UK, more details will be published. In the first instance, on 15th September, I’ll be holding a day-long practical workshop on Working with Business Data for Busy Executives in SME Organisations in Hertfordshire, England. The cost will be £100 pounds plus VAT, food and workshop materials included, and you can also network and share experiences with other attendees who will also be running businesses, like you.

I don’t believe in a ‘stack ’em high’ approach, which doesn’t give a pleasant experience for learning. So, classes will be restricted to 12 people only, unless otherwise stated. This means that you will get a good amount of attention.

I’m doing the Executive MBA at the University of Hertfordshire Business School, I’ve also been a NED (Non Executive Director) for PASS, who are based in the United States.  As I’ve been spending time leading organisations, I’m keen to share this knowledge and expertise with the community from a data-driven, data leader perspective. The following blog post will give you a flavor of the workshop. along with some of my thoughts on Microsoft Data Insights Summit. If you have any questions, please pop them in the comments box and I’ll read them from there.

Here are my slides from Microsoft Data Insights Summary, combined with some of the slides from the keynote by James Phillips, held in June 2017.

Slide1

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I have extensive experience in Tableau as well as Power BI. However, most of my consulting data visualisation is in Power BI suite of products. Why is that?

Tableau is wonderful at data visualisation, as is Power BI, of course. However, for enterprise customers, where I’m building a data warehouse, I prefer having analytics closer to the data source, perhaps in a data warehouse or data lake. I like to think about the overall business intelligence architecture. Tableau is superb at data visualisation and it also cleans and integrates data, but to a much lesser extend, which is why they partner so well with Alteryx. I don’t like cleaning data or doing repeatable analytics so close to the end reporting layer and business people seem to want to do it there, without thinking of issues such as robustness, repeat-ability and longevity in the analytical formula that they are creating. I prefer to hand off clean data and analytical formula to the reporting tool as far as possible.

I’m not thinking about Business Intelligence in terms of a spot solution for data visualisation or reporting, for example. I’m looking at the whole canvas. I prefer to clean the data and have it all fixed closer to the source, so that I can get the same number for the same report, regardless of the reporting technology that I use. With Power BI, I can stay within the Microsoft playpen of technologies. I do note however that Tableau Server is in Azure and if you are looking at analytics, that’s another option so that the analytics formula isn’t contained in disparate workbooks. Instead, they are published to Tableau Server and people can should download their workbooks there, for ‘one version of the truth’.

As an external consultant, I work with Power BI because I think it has an astonishing reach technically as well as geographically. Some of my customers are global and I really need the certainty of global resiliency.. Gone are the days when Microsoft had a lot of disparate reporting technologies that didn’t talk to one another very well and we had lots of different interfaces that used to overlap. Customers got really confused about what to use. For example, do you put your KPIs in Analysis Services, or in Reporting Services? Now:

The answer is always Power BI! Take a look:

Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Apart from Data Visualization, what is Power BI useful for?

Power BI is particularly useful for:

  • businesses that are acquiring other businesses and they need somewhere to put the data, and keep the business running in the meantime
  • cost savings
  • GDPR – if you don’t know what this is, you need to contact me to find out more. Microsoft are in the forefront of working with customers to make sure that they are compliant.

Do I still see Tableau?

Yes – some of my customers don’t need public cloud because they pop up their own data centres if and when and where they need them. So, for them, they tend to stick with what they know, and what works for them.

What Business Intelligence tools do I see less of?

I see Qlikview less and less, as customers look to align their reporting and they can replicate their Qlik scripts in SQL Server and SSRS.

I also don’t see Pyramid Analytics appearing much, and I don’t get asked often about them. According to the Gartner report, 2017 may represent a critical period for the company and, rightly or wrongly, the Gartner Magic Quadrant does carry enormous weight when customers are looking for solutions. With many solutions, customers don’t use the full range of features contained in any technical solution, and Pyramid are going to have to work hard to explain how they compare / compete with the Power BI on-premise solution, which is going to go from strength to strength.

However, for others, particularly in the SME market, the Azure offering is extremely compelling. Power BI and Azure together mean that you can focus on the business, rather than working on the technology to support the business. I can also see that more and more data is going into the cloud, and I am part of projects where I am doing exactly that – cloud business intelligence. Cloud Business Intelligence is a real growth offering for me and I plan to keep being ahead of the curve.

Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Are people using Power BI or is it simply good Microsoft Marketing?

People are using it, yes. Here are the numbers, produced by James Phillips during the Power BI Keynote: Microsoft Data Insights Summit

Power BI and the C-Suite

Given it’s reach within the organisation, Power BI can reach the C-suite level as well as the rest of us, in the organisation. Before continuing, it’s probably worth reading about linear vs exponential business growth models e.g. HBR.

 

You can watch the video below, or read on for some of the headlines:

Here are some headlines:

Gross and Net Profit

Net profit

Progress Towards Targets

Revenues and revenue growth rate

Expenses

Employee Engagement

Let’s get started!

Gross and Net Profit

Slide18 Why do CEOs care? As part of the Digital Transformation process, the CEO must develop a guiding philosophy about how he or she can best add value whilst showing ongoing strategic assessment and planning. However, it is difficult for them to allocate time to the collection, cultivation and analysis of data. Instead, they need to focus on strategic decisions, and they need data to run their business, to understand how their customers behave and measure what really matters to the organization. Power BI can help to bring clarity and predictability to the CEO, and this session is aimed at CEOs, and those who support them with data, in order to see how they can be empowered by Power BI, and see it as a key asset within the organisations short and long term future. Slide16

Net Profit

This goes without saying, but keeping an eye on net profit at all times is essential for business leaders. This might be visualized as a line graph or quarterly chart. However you decide to represent the data, it needs to provide detailed, regularly updated information. You can get added value by allowing this data to be broken down.
With Power BI, you’d be able to tap your chart and see real-time data on profits by region, product type or team. First you calculate your gross profit, then your expenses, subtract expenses from gross profit, and you have net profit.

Calculate Gross Profit first:
Gross profit, also called gross margin, shows you how much money you made from selling a product.
It subtracts the selling price from your wholesale cost to calculate the difference. It does not take into account expenses from rent, personnel, supplies, taxes or interest. Gross profit is a required step toward calculating the company’s income or net profit.

Progress Towards Targets

You can use EXPON.DIST function in Microsoft Excel to help measure progress towards your targets.
Use EXPON.DIST to model the time between events, such as how long from the order placement takes to actual delivery. For example, you can use EXPON.DIST to determine the probability that the process takes at most 1 minute.

Revenues and revenue growth rate

By being able to instantly visualize how fast (or otherwise) your business is growing its revenues, it’s much easier to find out what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Need to lose some dead weight? Invest in a growing department? Respond to a new trend among consumers? Tracking your revenues closely is crucial and will help with those decisions. A line graph would again be particularly clear in this instance.

Slide22 Slide21

Think of a Rubik’s cube – people instinctively know how to use them, and to arrange the cube into colors. We also interact with colour and data in the same way; intuitively and quickly.

Expenses

Whether it’s staff, machinery, IT or property, your expenses are one of the biggest drains on your long term success. A dashboard can break these down instantly so you can see where your biggest outgoings are, and then make decisions about what’s costing too much.

Revenue per employee
Revenue per employee is a little like Return on Investment. Are your people actually making enough revenue to justify hiring them? Are they working at 100% capacity or is there room for them to work more, instead of employing new workers? A revenue per employee dashboard helps you make these choices rationally.

Employee Engagement

Measured by an anonymous survey, employee engagement is a key BI factor for any CEO. If your people are motivated, enthusiastic and giving their work 100%, you can be sure your company will grow. By contrast, unengaged colleagues will be a detriment to productivity. It’s essential to keep regular tabs on how employees are feeling about their work.

 

Summary

As part of the Digital Transformation process, the CEO must develop a guiding philosophy about how he or she can best add value whilst showing ongoing strategic assessment and planning. However, it is difficult for them to allocate time to the collection, cultivation and analysis of data. Instead, they need to focus on strategic decisions, and they need data to run their business, to understand how their customers behave and measure what really matters to the organization.
Power BI can help to bring clarity and predictability to the CEO, and this session is aimed at CEOs, and those who support them with data, in order to see how they can be empowered by Power BI, and see it as a key asset within the organisations short and long term future.

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 

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!

 

 

I’m speaking at Live! 360 Orlando

LSPK77

I’ll be speaking at Live! 360 Orlando, December 5-9. Surrounded by your fellow industry professionals, Live! 360 provides you with immediately usable training and education that will help make you the ‘go to’ expert in your organisation.

SPECIAL OFFER: As a speaker, I can extend $500 savings on the 5-day package. Register here: http://bit.ly/LSPK77_Home

I’ll be presenting the following sessions:

·         A Blueprint for Business Intelligence with SQL Server 2016

·         Agile Analytics with AzureML and R

·         Big Data’s Missing V: Visualization. How Do You BigViz Your Big Data?

 Join me and your fellow industry professionals for 5 days of immediately usable training.  Register today (make sure you use my special code LSPK77 to save $500) to guarantee your space! http://bit.ly/LSPK77_Home

All roads lead to Live! 360: the ultimate education destination! Bring the issues that keep you up at night and prepare to leave this event with the answers, guidance and training you need.  Register now: http://bit.ly/LSPK77_REG

SQL Server 2016 Business Intelligence and Dataviz Masterclass

Join me in Edinburgh on 10th June for a one day Masterclass in SQL Server 2016 Business Intelligence and Data Visualisation!
You’ll get takeaway notes and experience hands-on labs that focus on:

  • Power BI
  • Excel
  • R
  • AzureML
  • SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS),
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Datazen

SQLSat Edinburgh agenda

There will be an emphasis on practical applications that mean you can make a difference in your organization, fast. Throughout the day, we will weave best practice data visualization theory so that, regardless of the technology, you will be able to apply the theory to make your data more meaningful and actionable.
You’ll get takeaway notes and experience hands-on labs to maximize your learning.

See you there!