PASS BA Conference Blog


Category: Business Analytics Conference General

Business Analytics? There’s a Virtual Chapter for That

As the new PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter prepares for its third meeting – a gentle, business-focused introduction to Big Data – you can catch up on February’s presentations and plan to make this free training part of your monthly schedule.

Stacia Misner will take the VC’s webcast stage March 14 for “A Big Data Primer” (noon ET/16:00 GMT) to demystify Big Data, look at its implications for traditional data warehousing and reporting, and explore the technology and skill sets you need to successfully implement a Big Data strategy.

“This is going to be a great real-world session,” notes VC leader Melissa Demsak. “You’ll definitely leave with some inspiration and practical steps for tackling your first Big Data project.”

With a mission to provide quality virtual training to business analysts, BA/BI practitioners and architects, and data scientists, the VC’s focus is on creating a community for shared learning and enabling the creation of world-class business analytics solutions based on the Microsoft platform, Melissa explains.

“Our topics will naturally intersect with those presented by several of our sister VCs – Business Intelligence, Big Data, Data Architecture, and Master Data/Data Quality – but we’ll be covering them from an analytics perspective,” she adds. “We’ll also include non-Microsoft solutions and topics outside the traditional SQL Server and BI community, such as data visualization, analytics, and data science.”

The BA VC meetings, scheduled for the second and/or fourth Thursday of every month, will all be recorded and archived for on-demand viewing. Recordings of the group’s first two meetings – Mark Tabladillo’s “A Case for Business Analytics Learning” and Chris Webb’s “What’s New for BI in Excel 2013” – will be available soon.

You can become a member of the BA VC by simply clicking Join next to Business Analytics in the list of VCs on the PASS Virtual Chapters page. “We'll keep you posted of all upcoming meetings, learning opportunities, and the latest and greatest information from Microsoft,” Melissa says. “We also have a special $200 discount code for the PASS Business Analytics Conference coming up in April – if you haven't signed up yet, just use the code BAC941VC when you register for some nice savings."

Interested in speaking at an upcoming BA VC webinar? Email your ideas to, and make sure you follow the VC on Twitter at @passbavc

What’s on My BA Conference List?

Cross-posted from Amy Lewis' blog
By Amy Lewis

With April just around the corner, I’m growing more excited about the PASS Business Analytics (BA) Conference by the day! As a business intelligence professional and confessed data geek, I feel this event has been tailor-made for me. Not only am I looking forward to sessions that will help me find the best approaches to information delivery, but I’m also focused on how to gain more insight from the vast amounts of data floating around my company and available through other channels.

I’ve been involved in the BI community for many years, both as a BI professional and as a leader of the PASS Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter. I’ve been “deep in the weeds” with Integration Services, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services. And now with mobile technology exploding and Big Data getting ever bigger, I have even more “to-learns” to help my company get the most from its data.

So as I plan my schedule, I’m searching the lineup of 60+ amazing sessions looking for those geared toward BI pros looking to gain more insight from Big Data as well as those that can show me how to visually present and consume all this data at my fingertips (on my new Windows Phone :). Here are some sessions on my list:

I’ll be using the conference Schedule Builder to create my personal itinerary and will share it on my blog soon. And because I’m sure I won’t be able to fit in all the great sessions I want to see, I’ll be getting the session recordings to catch those that I miss, review my favorites, and share the event with my team members.

As an extra bonus, I’m staying in Chicago for SQLSaturday #211 the day after the BA Conference. With 40 additional top-notch sessions to choose from, I’ll get even more valuable training – for free! (Note: There is a $10 lunch fee.)

If that wasn’t enough to look forward to, the trip is also a chance for this Midwest girl to “come home” and take a quick side trip to my alma mater, Purdue University, only 2 hours from Chicago. Boiler up!

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: March 1 Update

Catch up on your business intelligence and analytics learning with some of the community's top bloggers. Enjoy these recent blog posts from around the world of data analytics that you may have missed:


PASS BA Conference: Discount and “Hangout” Code

Cross-posted from powerpivot(pro)
By Rob Collie

April in Chicago beats April in Paris this year. Why? Because this April in Chicago is the PASS Business Analytics Conference featuring Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) and yeah, gridheads like me too.

I want you to join me there. PASS has arranged for me to share with you a discount code that you can use when registering for the event. The code is BAC858BL, and it will entitle you to two things:

  1. First, you get $200 off the regular conference price.
  2. Second, you get to spend time with me, Karen Lopez (@datachick), Lara Rubbelke (@SQLGal), and Thomas LaRock (@SQLRockstar) and pick our brains about data, analytics, business, and whatever else you want to talk about. I think this takes the form of a breakfast (commonly referred to as First Coffee) but am still awaiting the details.

Those of us that live and breathe data for a living – particularly those of us who tease insight out of data – are finally going to have a place to connect, share, and learn from one another. The “accidental architect” that Thomas refers to on his blog is a role that resonates with me as well, I’ve seen that progression first hand many times over – most Excel Pros are “accidental” Excel Pros for instance.

You don’t “get there” without understanding all the tools and options available. You don’t get there without leaving your desk and talking with others, sharing experiences, and learning – unless you can get other people to come to your desk, of course, which is pure magic and rarely achieved.

For many folks that journey gets a big jumpstart this April in Chicago. I can’t wait to be there to help get this party started quickly, as C&C once said.

Some Sessions that Caught My Eye…
In response to my last post on this topic, a reader asked me for a list of interesting/relevant sessions to attend. Since the reader is an Excel Pro, I explicitly filtered out all of the backend stuff (including most of the Hadoop-style Big Data sessions). 

Here is the list, and it’s a good one. I rarely find half this many sessions to attend at a conference.

60-Minute Demo: Microsoft BI Tools on SAP Data Excel Charting Tips
Advanced Dashboards Using Excel, Excel Services, and PerformancePoint From Data to Insight – Views from Microsoft Finance
Advancing Analytics at Microsoft Advertising GeoSpatial Analytics Using Microsoft BI
Analytics for Business Strategy Make Cloud BI Work for You
Big Data Analytics with Excel 2013 Office as Your BI Platform
Business Intelligence on Mobile Devices Sports Analytics: Big Data in the Big Time
Drab to Dynamite! Managed Self-Service BI Using Real-World Data SQL Server Predictive Analytics: Customer Stories
Data Visualization with Power View and the Tabular Model The ABCs of Scoring: Why, How, and Getting a Good Grade
Data Discovery and Transformation Experiences for Excel and PowerPivot The Essential 8: Narrative Reporting Techniques
Data Analysis with R and Julia  


Presenting at PASS Business Analytics Conference Chicago, IL, April 10-12

Cross-posted from MarkTab Data Mining
By Mark Tabladillo

I will be presenting a one-day pre-conference and a regular breakout session at the inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference April 10-12 in Chicago, IL. This large conference requires paid registration. This post has details about the one-day pre-conference on April 10 and the regular conference session. Also, I provide a promotional code for a US$200 registration discount. However, first I will provide a general case for business analytics learning.

This term “business analytics” is increasingly being used to emphasize the need for scientific modeling and differentiate with the more common (but still important term) “business intelligence.” I delivered the inaugural session for the PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter (online) with a presentation titled “A Case for Business Analytics Learning.” Thoughts I have in that slide deck support reasons why this conference contributes to your own and your organization’s learning about scientific modeling and analytics.

Pre-Conference Session: A Best Practices Cookbook for Data Mining
I am presenting this one-day pre-conference on April 10 with Artus Krohn-Grimberghe, who is a data mining consultant and faculty member living in Germany. Here is the abstract:

Data mining increasingly fascinates business people and information technology professionals alike, with the promise of finding meaningful patterns, relationships, and opportunities in our continuously growing volumes of data. There are tried and tested best practices you can follow to begin and improve your data mining efforts. You’re invited to a full-day data mining seminar with Mark Tabladillo and Artus Krohn-Grimberghe to see these best practices in action. Aimed at the beginning to intermediate data scientist, this pre-conference workshop builds on Mark and Artus’ experience in teaching university students and advising industry clients. Following a cookbook theme for their presentation, they will be explaining and demonstrating their best practices framework by cooking through a data science example from beginning to end, covering these topics:

  • How to avoid mythology while establishing a data science investigation
  • How to apply the best artistry in data cleansing and transformation (shaping)
  • How to apply best practices for machine learning algorithms
  • How to communicate your data mining story within and beyond your organization

The presenters have designed specific breaks during the workshop where you can discuss and interact with them and other attendees. Note that these best practices transcend Microsoft SQL Server Data Mining, applying equally to other software, such as Matlab, Octave, R, SAS, SPSS, and Weka. After this workshop, you and your data science team will have the knowledge and best practices to approach small to large data mining challenges with confidence.

Regular Breakout Session: Data Analysis with R and Julia
R is a free, open-source environment for statistical analysis and graphing. In its almost 20 years of existence, R has remained popular in both academic and business environments. The newer Julia is a high-level, high-performance dynamic programming language for technical computing, with syntax that is familiar to users of other technical computing environments. This session outlines functional and performance differences between these two software packages. You’ll see demonstrations of best tips for integrating this software with Windows and walk away with guidelines for working with commercial software.

Promotional Discount
The code BAC698MVP will enable you to receive a US$200 discount from the conference registration fee (attendees who’ve already registered cannot retroactively use the discount code). You can find more information about this conference at and register here.

BAC to the Future!

Cross-posted from SQLRockstar
By Thomas LaRock

Yesterday I talked about the Accidental Architect. Today I want to add some additional thoughts.

There is a reason why we end up gravitating towards careers as DBAs or architects: natural curiosity. We want to know how something works. We want to do our best to ensure that a system is built the right way (well, as right as possible based upon all available information).

This natural curiosity means that when someone asks if we know something we choose to say “Not yet” as opposed to “Not my job.”

So it may not be entirely by accident as to how we ended up where we are today. We are also likely to be the type of people who take on a role, do our best to excel in that role, and after three years or so we feel it is time to move on to the next challenge.

So, what *is* your next challenge? I know where my next challenges are: the remaining 80% of the data platform tools that I haven’t learned enough about yet. I’m reviving my mathematical background and diving into data analysis and statistics. I’m also heading into the Cloud, trying to learn more about all the PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS options that are available currently.

I’m also looking to connect, share, and learn with others that are heading in the same direction.

This April in Chicago we will have the first ever PASS Business Analytics Conference where we intend to get together to do just that: connect, share, and learn.

Sound familiar? It should, it’s what PASS is all about.

Here’s my ask of you today.

Go and register for the conference. Use the promotional code BACROCKSTAR and get $200 off the current full registration price. In addition to the discounted price, I am going to arrange for a “meet and greet” while in Chicago for everyone that uses the BACROCKSTAR code. Right now I am thinking of hosting everyone immediately following the welcome reception on Wednesday night at a soon-to-be-determined location.

You can come and ask questions of me, Rob Collie (blog | @powerpivotpro), Karen López (blog | @datachick), and Lara Rubbelke (@SQLGal). Come and ask us where we see significant opportunities for data professionals in the coming years. Come and ask us about the customers we interact with currently and where we see the biggest pain points.

Come connect, share, and learn with the people that are already knee deep in the coming data revolution.

See you in Chicago!

NodeXL Map of #sqlpass and #passbac Connections on Twitter

“We live in a sea of tweets, posts, blogs, and updates,” as Marc Smith says in describing his upcoming BA Conference session, Charting Collections of Social Media Connections with NodeXL

A sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer-mediated interaction, Marc is the Chief Social Scientist at Connected Action and co-founded the Social Media Research Foundation, a non-profit devoted to open tools, data, and scholarship related to social media research.

So what’s an organization to do with the bewildering stream of social media comments? Marc says that with better tools – including the free, open NodeXL, which he started while at Microsoft Research – and a few key concepts from the social sciences, the swarm of favorites, comments, tags, likes, ratings, and links can be brought into clearer focus to reveal key people, topics, and sub-communities.

With the NodeXL add-in for Excel in Office 2007 and 2010, creating a social network map becomes as easy as making a pie chart. NodeXL supports the exploration of social media with import features that pull data from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, web hyperlinks, and personal email indexes.

Check out the cool NodeXL map Marc made of the BA Conference (#passbac) and (#sqlpass) connections on Twitter, and come see how this tool lets non-programmers quickly generate useful network statistics and metrics and create visualizations of network graphs.

 *Maps are updated to February 26, 2013.

Channel 9: Why You Need to Be at the PASS BA Conference

Tune in to today's Channel 9 broadcast as Blain Barton welcomes PASS's Thomas LaRock and Microsoft's Jennifer Moser, Cindy Gross, and Chuck Heinzelman to talk about the upcoming PASS Business Analytics Conference.

The ensemble discusses why the BA Conference is a can't-miss event if your world revolves around data, what you’ll get out of the conference, and how it is  different from any other BI, analytics, or database event in the data community today. Plus, Jennifer announces a late-breaking session addition featuring Yahoo! and how it built one of the world’s largest SQL Server Analysis Services cubes at 24TB.

Haven't registered yet? Get the best rate when you sign up by March 15 - register today!

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: February 22 Update

Been snowed under this month and behind on your reading? Here are some recent blog posts from around the world of data analytics you may have missed:

Why Should You Bother with the PASS BA Conference this April?

Cross-posted from Rob Farley's blog

I mean really? Why should you spend some of your training budget to go to this thing?

Suppose you’re someone in the PASS Community who mainly looks after people’s data. That could involve database administration, performance tuning, helping developers write queries, that kind of thing. What part of “Advanced Analytics and Insights,” “Big Data Innovations and Integration,” “Data Analytics and Visualization,” “Information Delivery and Collaboration,” or “Strategy and Architecture” is relevant to you? It sounds all well and good for the BI team, who’s thinking about cubes and models and report subscriptions and Power something, but that’s not you.

The problem is that as data professionals, we’re no longer just database administrators. The world has become more demanding than that. Maybe it’s because of the financial difficulties that the Western world has been facing. Maybe it’s because we’ve outgrown our jobs as database administrators. Maybe we’re simply being asked for more than we were before.

Now more than ever before, if you’re a data professional, you need to be thinking about more than just transaction logs, corruption checking, and backups. You need to be thinking about the overall data story. You can tune your databases to cope with the large amount of data that’s pouring into them, as more and more systems produce consumable data. You can work with your developers to  help them understand the significance of indexes to be able to get the data out faster. But is this really enough?

Today, we need to be strategic about the data. An increasing number of companies are moving their data to the cloud, where the need for database administrators is not quite the same as it has been in the past. There are a number of tools out there to allow you to manage hundreds, even thousands of database servers, putting pressure on you to be providing more from your role.

And then you get asked into meetings! People more senior than you asking about what can be done with the data. Can you offer more than just a comment about how much they can trust you to make sure their data is available?

This is why you need to be looking at things like the Business Analytics Conference. It’s because you need to know how to make the data that you look after more relevant to the organisation that entrusts you with it. You need to know how to get insight from that data. You need to know how to visualise it effectively. You need to know how to make it visible through portals such as SharePoint.

And you need to know WHY these things are important.

Either that, or you need to call in external consultants who can provide these kind of services. You know how to get in touch. ;)

PS: I should mention that I’m on the PASS board, so I see a lot of stuff about this conference. I’m not part of the organising committee at all, though, and have been remarkably separate from the whole process. I do consider that this conference is about helping people achieve more within the data space, and that’s something I think more people should be taking advantage of.

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