Changing Times for Data Professionals

January 23, 2013 – Cross-posted from the PASS Business Analytics Conference Blog
By Chris Webb

One thing that’s always surprised me in the 15 years I’ve worked in the business intelligence industry is how little I’ve been involved in the analysis of the data I’ve been working with. Maybe this was because some of the business users I’ve worked with haven’t been very interested in analysing the data themselves. I deliver a nicely formatted report with a table and a few charts on it. They see whether their sales are going up or down, they get a warm fuzzy feeling (if sales are going up) or some harsh words from their boss (if sales are going down), and that’s it.

I’ve never been happy with this state of affairs, though. Many companies have ignored the potential of the data they’ve captured. What’s more, I feel I’ve been missing out as well – left out of the rewarding process of digging through terabytes of data to unearth some previously unknown insight that could transform my customer’s business.

Fortunately, times are changing. All the recent discussion around “big data” and “data science” is enticing more companies to do something useful with all the data they’ve piled up. This, in turn, presents a challenge and an opportunity to business intelligence professionals like me. The challenge is that now in addition to ensuring that the numbers are correct and the reports are pretty, I also have to be able to help my customers understand their data. I need to know about data visualisation techniques and understand why pie charts are a bad idea and why 3D graphs aren’t cool or clever. I need to know about data mining, how to calculate a forecast using linear regression, and that correlation is not the same thing as causation.

I’ll never know as much about these things as a statistician or a quant on Wall Street, but that’s OK because they’ll never know as much about the systems delivering data to them as I will. But I will need to know enough to be able to talk intelligently to people in these roles – and to be able to provide guidance to my customers when they don’t have skilled data analysts on their staff. This, of course, provides the opportunity for me to become more closely involved with how the business is run and, therefore, more valuable to it.

It’s not just BI pros who will need to move with the times. DBAs, developers, and anyone else in IT who works with data will also be affected by these changes. Having the skills to manage data or move it from place to place won’t be enough in the future; we’re all going to have to work together to add value to our data by helping people understand it. If IT as a whole isn’t willing to contribute to these business goals, it risks being relegated to a non-core function or even outsourced.

All of this is why I’m going to the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago this April. Business analytics is the next stage of evolution in getting the most value from the data we collect and manage, and I want my career to encompass that full life cycle. The BA Conference is a place where traditional BI pros like me and the analysts who work with the data that we deliver can come together and learn more about each other’s responsibilities and how we can all do our jobs better. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn new skills and grow professionally, and I hope you can join me in Chicago and on that continuing journey.

 

El Capítulo Virtual Global en Español les da la Bienvenida

22 de enero 2013 – ¿Estás buscando entrenamiento SQL Server de calidad, en español? No busques más, el nuevo capítulo virtual global en español de PASS lo tiene, con sus dos sesiones en línea mensuales, como la sesión de hoy, “Análisis Predictivo con SQL Analysis Services 2012” impartida por Alan Koo de Puerto Rico.

“Nos emociona mucho poder brindar entrenamiento gratuito, de SQL Server, a todos los hispano hablantes. Hemos tenido asistentes de todo el mundo, incluidos México, Puerto Rico, Perú, Colombia, España, Estados Unidos, Canadá y hasta de China,” señala Miguel Angel Granados Troncoso quién se encarga de la logística de los eventos del capítulo virtual.

El capítulo virtual global en español es en realidad una extensión de lo que se inició en 2009 como una opción de reunión en línea para el Capítulo Virtual de PASS en México. En 2010, el capítulo suspendido las reuniones físicas por completo en favor de las sesiones web, y el otoño pasado, se convirtió en el capítulo global de habla hispana para los profesionales de SQL Server alrededor del mundo.

Próximamente el capítulo virtual contara con la participación de otros reconocidos expertos en SQL Server, como Rafael Salas, José Luis Rivera (quién se encarga de la difusión de los eventos del capítulo virtual) y Héctor Jiménez, el capítulo virtual cubrirá una gran variedad de temas enfocados a SQL Server 2012 entre los que destacan desarrollo y administración de bases de datos, Business Intelligence, big data, alta disponibilidad y más. Las sesiones son grabadas y archivadas en el sitio web del capítulo virtual para que puedan ser vistas posteriormente por los miembros; se pueden registrar al capítulo virtual global en español desde la página de los capítulos virtuales de PASS.

El capítulo virtual trabaja continuamente en un repositorio de recursos de BI y SQL Server en español bajo el liderazgo de Héctor Eugenio Jiménez y la colaboración de Miguel y José en la búsqueda de otros voluntarios que quieran participar en el capítulo. Héctor dejo la siguiente invitación “Si están interesados en contribuir o tienen alguna idea o quieren hacer alguna pregunta, no duden en ponerse en contacto conmigo ya que juntos tenemos muchas oportunidades de apoyar a la comunidad de habla hispana.”

Spanish Virtual Chapter Says, ¡Bienvenidos!

[Read en Español]

January 21, 2013 – Searching for quality SQL Server training in Spanish? Look no further than PASS’s new Global Spanish Virtual Chapter, which is hosting two free web sessions a month, including today’s “Análisis Predictivo con SQL Analysis Services 2012” by Alan Koo of Puerto Rico.

“We’re excited to be able to deliver free SQL Server training for everybody who speaks Spanish,” notes Miguel Granados Troncoso, who handles events logistics for the VC. “We have attendees joining us from all over the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, Colombia, Spain, the US, Canada, and even China.”

The Global Spanish VC is actually an extension of what began in 2009 as an online meeting option for the Mexico PASS Chapter. In 2010, the chapter suspended physical meetings altogether in favor of web sessions, and last fall, it transitioned to a Virtual Chapter for Spanish-speaking SQL Server professionals around the world.

Other well-known SQL Server experts coming up on the VC lineup include Rafael Salas, José Luis Rivera (who serves as the VC's evangelist), and Hector Jiménez, with the VC covering a wide array of topics, including SQL Server 2012, database development and administration, business intelligence, big data, high availability, and more. The sessions are also recorded and archived on the VC website for on-demand replay by members; you can sign up for the VC on the PASS Virtual Chapters page.

The VC is working on building a repository of SQL Server and BI resources in Spanish and the leadership team of VC President Hector Eugenio Jiménez, Miguel, and José is seeking speakers and other volunteers to help manage the group. “If you’re interested in contributing or have any ideas or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me,” invites Hector. “We have so many opportunities to serve the Spanish-speaking community.”
 

AppDev Virtual Chapter Seeking Volunteers

January 7, 2013 – After a year of transition, the PASS Application Development Virtual Chapter is ready for a fresh start, with this week’s call for volunteers and its first meeting of 2013 scheduled for Feb. 8.

The AppDev VC – one of PASS’s earliest virtual chapters – currently has 10,750 subscribers. After suspending meetings mid-way through last year, the VC is looking to get back on track delivering free webcasts and other resources for application developers working with SQL Server, including information on T-SQL, SQL Server Management Objects (SMO), .NET and CLR integration, ORMs, LINQ, best practices, and more.

“SQL Server is a powerful cornerstone to any data-driven application,” notes new VC leader Gabe Villa. “And knowing how to take advantage of its features can decrease development time and increase application performance.”

Kelly Martinez will present the VC’s first meeting this year, covering “ORMs from A to Z to SQL Server ” Feb. 8 at noon MT/19:00 GMT. To start with, the VC will host a webcast the second Friday of every month and looks to grow from there. To keep up with the latest AppDev VC meetings and news, you can subscribe to the VC on the PASS Virtual Chapters page.

“I’m also looking for volunteers to join me in leading the group and updating our website to make it a valuable resource, such as adding exclusive SQL Server development articles and links to the best learning and support sites,” Gabe adds. “I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas.”

Interested in volunteering, or have suggestions for what you'd like to see from the AppDev VC? Email appdev_DL@sqlpass.org and join the discussion on Twitter (@passappdev) and the VC’s new LinkedIn Group.

 

Amendments to PASS Bylaws – Member Review Open Until Feb 8

January 6, 2013 – The PASS Board of Directors has been diligently working the past couple of years to address the needs and issues of a growing worldwide PASS community. A concerted focus on global growth issues began in 2011 with the appointment of international advisors and continued in 2012 with Global Growth proposals being put forward for your input.
 
PASS received valuable feedback from the town hall and community leader meetings and Twitter chats, as well as on the published vision document describing how to reorganize PASS to address the needs of a global SQL Server community. Based on your feedback, many meetings, and legal review, the Board has revised the PASS bylaws to reflect where PASS is today and where it wants to be tomorrow.
 
Now it’s your turn to review the proposed bylaw changes and let us know if you have any comments. You can read:
•         Current bylaws (adopted April 2010)
•         Proposed bylaws (2012)
•         Blackline comparison of the proposed bylaws against the current version
•         Minutes from recent Board meeting

Bylaws define the basic principles of an organization and are important for continuity and guidance, especially for not-for-profit organizations that have changing leadership at the Board level. Bylaws enshrine what is key to PASS’s understanding of itself and how it chooses to operate, and they are not something the Board chooses to open and review lightly.
 
We appreciate you taking the time to review the new bylaws. All comments are welcome until Friday, February 8, 2013. Please send your feedback to governance@sqlpass.org. The Board of Directors will be discussing your feedback on the proposed bylaws at its January in-person meeting, with the final vote slated for February 14, 2013.
 
Once finalized and approved by the Board of Directors, these bylaws will be posted on the PASS Governance page. More detailed descriptions of how the PASS Board and organization conduct daily business are not included in the bylaws but are rather captured in policies documents, which the Board will be finalizing in 2013 and publishing to the community.
 
PASS’s commitment to global growth is not restricted to these bylaw changes. This is just one step on the continuing path toward greater engagement, relevance, and balanced representation for the global SQL Server community. We appreciate your feedback, and we’re excited about where PASS is heading and what we can accomplish together.

PASS Chapters Update Q4 2012

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

Welcome New Chapters

This past quarter several new Chapters have joined the PASS community:

Astrakhan .NET & SQL User Group, Russia, led by Yana Kuranova

SQL Professionals of Northwest Nevada, US, led by Christopher Sherrill

Taiwan SQL Server User Group, China, led by Byron Hu and Pohan Chen

Codificando .NET, Sao Paulo, Brazil, led by Erickson Ricci

PASS Beijing, China, led by Quan Zhang

BIDN, Johannesburg, South Africa, led by Mark Stacey

BITUGA, Portugal led by Paulo Matos

New Zealand BI User Group, led by Reza Rad

We also have had a lot of new Chapter Leaders join us in existing Chapters as well as rebooting some inactive Chapters and we look forward to helping them keep their Chapters thriving. Be sure to reach out to your Regional Mentors and the PASS Community Evangelists for any questions you have, they are here to help you.

Regional Mentor Updates

It has been great to see more and more Chapter Leaders utilizing the great resources we have in Regional Mentors. We have some Regional Mentor changes to announce for January 2013.

Leaving the role of RM for the UK is Chris Testa O’Neill. Chris has done a tremendous job in helping with the awareness and growth of PASS in the UK the past couple of years and we are thankful for his efforts. Taking the reins in the UK and working along with Jonathan Allen in 2013 will be Mark Broadbent. Mark has been a great supporter of PASS as well as a strong Chapter leader and presenter, and most recently hosted his first SQLSaturday in Cambridge. His experiences in these areas will be a great benefit to helping others in his region.

Alexandro Prado is leaving his role as RM for Brazil after much success in spreading PASS communities in that region. Due to the tremendous size and growth potential Brazil, we decided to appoint two RMs to cover that region. Luciano Moreira, of the Chapter in Brasilia, will work along-side with Laerte Junior out of Sao Paulo. Laerte was co-leader of SQLSaturday #100, the first PASS SQL Saturday event in Brazil. We are confident that Luciano and Laerte will make a dynamo team for that country, and we look forward to seeing what will come in 2013.

I’d like to once again thank Alexandro and Chris for their volunteer time commitment as well as their service to PASS in this key role for Chapters. Their efforts in their local regions will be recognized as the foundation that we will build on for years to come.

Updated Chapters Toolset

Chapter leaders have hopefully already heard about improvements we are making in the tools PASS has for Chapters. We are continually rolling out new improvements so be sure to check in often for updates. To see what we’ve been up to, if you are a PASS Chapter leader and have a PASS hosted DNN site, log into your admin page. If you don’t have a PASS Hosted DNN site, head to the dashboard at http://www.sqlpass.org/PASSChapters/ChapterDashboard.aspx. There you can see:

 

Profile/Addresses

We are displaying most of the information we have about your chapter within the dashboard. I would like to request that every chapter leader log in to the dashboard and make sure the information is up-to-date. Some fields are intentionally not user updateable so if a field cannot be updated, and needs to be corrected please send an email to the Community Evangalists with the update you’d like to make. Please pay particular attention to the “Chapter Leaders” tab when making sure the information is correct. In the future we will be relying on this information being up-to-date when making key decisions about Chapters.

Events/Meetings

For Chapters using a PASS hosted website, you can now benefit from the Events module integration. With this new tool you can enter your event/meeting details in one place and it will auto update those details to the Events page of the SQLPASS website, as well as to your home page of your own Chapter website and your event will also show up on myPASS for members associated with your Chapter. Other events module features include local timezone/ical support, prescheduling future meetings, uploading of meeting presentations/resources, auto archiving old events and more. For instructions on how to setup & publish an event, check out our handy guide listed on the Chapter Resources page. We will continue to update this module with more features in the coming months. Future plans include linking to many other sites/marketing avenues as well as better support for RSVP’s and more.

Chapter Emailer

In addition to contacting those members who’ve registered with PASS and are associated with your Chapter, you can now upload your own mailing lists and email those specific lists about your Chapter. Thank you for the great feedback about the Emailer during the Chapter Leader Meeting at Summit. We’re working to ensure many of your concerns will be addressed in future versions of the tool. As myPASS use increases we are seeing more and more PASS members associate themselves with local Chapters so don’t miss out on this opportunity to reach a great pool of potential new members.

myPASS

MyPASS is the new default homepage for all PASS members who are logged in to the main SQLPASS.org site. We designed this page to bring all of the Chapter and Virtual Chapter meeting information into one easy to use interface for your members. While looking at myPASS please check your profile and make sure it is up to date as well. Early in the new year, the Chapter dashboard will be getting the myPASS look and feel. It will show up on the left side as a tab that is visible only to Chapter Leaders

Summit Downloads for Chapter Leaders

Finally some news I know Chapter leaders have been patiently waiting for! Chapter Leaders should now have access to download the Summit 2012 sessions. The following should enable you to begin downloading/streaming the sessions immediately:

  • Go to the Summit 2012 Session listings (you will need to login, or be currently logged in with your PASS Chapter leader Account)

http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/Sessions/BuildSchedule.aspx

  • Click on the “session recording” link next to the session name
  • From there you should see a DOWNLOAD button below the streaming player
  • Note that in order to play this file you may need to update codecs in your media player

 

Introducing Wendy Pastrick

As you may know by now, Wendy Pastrick was elected to the PASS Board of Directors during the last election, and will begin her term on the Board January 1, 2013 by leading the Global Chapters portfolio. PASS’s support of local Chapters through Regional Mentors, Community Evangelists, tools, best practices, and more has grown tremendously over the last few years, but there’s still much to do. I hope you will all welcome Wendy and continue to provide her the same great feedback you always have with me.

Goodbye for now or until we meet again

As my year as Director of Global Chapters is coming to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity thank each of you for helping Chapters as well as recognize the progress we made together this year in helping PASS communities grow stronger. We were able to make some very visible progress during the last year to better support PASS Chapters and their members and with the team we have in place I expect we will maintain that momentum going forward.

I’ll be staying involved with the PASS Community going forward and for now I’ll be focusing on wrapping up some of the Chapter tools changes and working towards a successful handoff of that project. It has been my privilege to work with PASS Chapters