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Category: Business Analytics Community

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: March 22 Update

It's been a busy week! Catch your breath and catch up on what's happening in the business intelligence and analytics world with the community's top bloggers, including a special Big Data focus and a Stephen Few editorial to ponder over the weekend:
 

 

'How is your role becoming more analytics focused' Facebook Competition Answers

With under a month to go before the inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference, the industry is buzzing about business intelligence and business analytics. We asked our @passbac and PASS BA Conference Facebook followers how their roles are becoming more analytics focused and awarded five registration passes to the conference for the best answers. Some great insights and experiences were shared, and we’ve compiled them for your interest:

As the only DBA I am the point for our new BA / BI projects. We want to leverage PowerPivot and SharePoint with our existing Data Warehouse. Our goal as a manufacturing company is to better prepare to meet the demands of our customers.

Our DBA services team supports more and more self-service BI each month and is gaining unprecedented momentum as Office 2013 reaches more desktops enterprise wide. We're all asked to do more with less and self-service BI leveraged correctly is going to become the vehicle to meet that goal for our customers.

Using historical data to stock product for manufacturing, using prior sales to project the effect of changing pricing nets on internal costs, monitoring changing trends in the marketplace and the ability to confirm current system invoicing is calculating correctly. Current data requests have doubled in the past year.

I was hired as a Business Analyst to write basic reports and software requirements. My role has morphed into building the tools and infrastructure to provide actionable data to our clients. Knowledge on where they need to take action is what's really needed and basic reports can't accomplish that.

I was hired as a Business Analyst to write basic reports and software requirements. My role has morphed into building the tools and infrastructure to provide actionable data to our clients. Knowledge on where they need to take action is what's really needed and basic reports can't accomplish that.

We are using data and BI to gain insights on how to improve scholastic achievement in K12 Students (I work for a school).

Analytics help us discover the questions we are not asking yet.

We're increasingly getting more and more requests for forward-looking insights rather than rear-view metrics. This involves a lot more data mining and information intelligence than ever before. True data scientist work!

Analytics at our casino are moving more towards not only giving our guests offers, but giving them offers they'll enjoy - and doing so in a manner that takes external factors into account. Different segmentation in revolutionary ways, with a smart, fresh new outlook and appreciation for our data.

At Ernst & Young, we increasingly use analytics to provide business units and supporting risk functions with a comprehensive set of capabilities to analyze and assess business data to support key risk and performance indicators (e.g., control exceptions, potential irregular activities, excessive change activity, KPIs, KRIs).

Digging deeper into healthcare data, I have realized there are a lot of life saving answers buried under the terabytes (growing exponentially with ObamaCare coming) of prescription, encounter, demographic data we work with. I want to do a better job finding patterns, so care providers become proactive, instead of reactive.

I primarily work in the ePrescribing engineering group - writing code for the back-end and also win-form apps for various tools, but the last few years I'm called upon more and more to perform data mining tasks to research data. I looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly data that pops up during production.

I work as a BI Consultant and have seen analytics take over discussions at all organizational levels at my clients. With the ease of use in today’s BI tools applying data and contextual analysis is easier so salespeople, CFO’s and everyone in between is looking for behaviour patterns.

My role is increasingly based on performance measured by numbers. I use analytics to spot trends so small decisions can be made quickly.

We sit upon mountains of data where I work, but we're just beginning to learn how to turn it into true information. This conference would be a HUGE step toward that goal!

Our customer websites used to be nothing but operational grids of data. Now I define the dimensions and let users slice through the information to find trends meaningful to them.

I work @PROS_Inc and analyzing BIG DATA is our bread-and-butter. As we state on our website, "PROS big data analytics software helps you compete and win more effectively."

My role on enhancing data driven BI for processing our daily captured environmental data, performance measurements - will be accelerated attending this conference.

As a small business, Management is always looking for improved efficiency. More and more we are finding that by analyzing our existing data we can spot inefficiencies and track progress on process improvements.

Part of my role is to use analytics to optimize operational systems and processes (smarter operations). Also working on developing analytical dashboards for category managers helping them to monitor sales current status and identify local actions to launch.

Every second we are getting familiar with the incremental Analytics continuum to turn the data into real information and use data in imaginative ways to gain maximum value. Becoming a part of the #passbac conference would definitely help me to find out the story behind data.

I would just love to have the opportunity to attend this event as I feel it would greatly help my beginning in the BI/BA field that I started @2012pass

Employers expect students to be at ease with numbers and to using analytics to make decisions. As a college professor in market research, my courses are increasingly oriented around new technologies and analytic techniques.

So much data, so little time. Need to understand!

Our conversion to a new BI tool empowered myself and my colleagues to know that clear metrics are the reason for a well-developed DBMS.

I am becoming the defacto excel expert at my company. Keep them surprised by making large data pretty. :)

For years I've been telling them the What and the When ... now they're asking me What if? and Why? I need to attend the @passbac conference!

The Affordable Health Care Act has requirements for HealthCare providers participating in the HealthCare Exchanges. As we worked to build the functionality to participate in the exchanges with our partners the need for analytics quickly became apparent. In order to truly measure our health services against others that will be competing in the new exchange market we know that the better we build our BI analytics the better we can complete. With HealthCare data streams (including Medicare), as a provider the primary concern is always with patient care but we can easily leverage some of the BI tools to strip relevant facts and dimensional data from that stream to build our new Analytics system. With the sweet integration of the platform tools, SQL Server 2012, SSIS, SSAS, and Excel 2013 PowerPivot we were able to quickly build a prototype and are now in the process of developing a more robust system using those same tools.

We are a small custom software and consulting company and everyone we work with are finally coming around to the fact that their Data is important and want to know how to use BI tools to analyze and learn from what they have collected. We are trying to educate them and move them toward the latest SQL Server 2012 and Excel 2013 to expose all the new possibilities they can have at their fingertips. I would love to win registration to the PASS BA Conference and learn more about all the new tools.

 

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: March 15 Update

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

McDowell Interview: PASS Business Analytics Conference, Microsoft Data Mining

Excerpt cross-posted from KDnuggets
By Gregory Piatetsky

I interviewed Douglas McDowell about the PASS Business Analytics Conference, SQL Server, Microsoft Data Mining, less known but useful features of SQL, NodeXL, Big Data and more.

Douglas McDowell is the CEO of North America for SolidQ (www.solidq.com). He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SQL Server and serves on the Board of Directors for the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). He is an author and contributing editor for SQL Server Magazine.

I spoke to Douglas ahead of the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago April 10-12. (Note: KDnuggets readers can save $150 when you register for the PASS BA Conference by using the BAC13KDN discount code.)

GP: What is the  PASS Business Analytics Conference?
McD: It's a very exciting time for data professionals as more and more organizations turn to data-driven insights to stay ahead in today's competitive marketplace. Staying up to speed in this constantly changing world of data can be a challenge - that's where the PASS Business Analytics Conference fits in.

The conference was established to meet the needs of a growing Business Analytics community affiliated with Microsoft technologies such as Excel, SharePoint, SQL Server, Parallel Data Warehouse, Azure, Hadoop and more. The event is geared towards data and business analysts, data scientists, architects, and business analytics/business intelligence professionals and covers a wide range of information from data exploration and visualization, predictive analytics, content management and architecture, information strategies, and much more.

GP: What is the role of SQL Server in the Microsoft eco-system?
McD:
As a partner and insider I have listened to Microsoft's vernacular shift from "SQL Server" to "Data Platform" and other similar terms. Some might think it a de-prioritization of SQL Server, but that would be a mistake. Microsoft is focused on the exploding business analytics (BA) needs of clients and understands it requires a complete toolbox of complementing technologies to deliver it all. As far as I can see, SQL Server is and will be a core component to BA for Microsoft going forward. Whether it be in the cloud or on-premise, SQL Server will hold critical features and therefore the Microsoft licensing model for core BA functionality. I see SQL Server getting more robust and more integrated with the rest of the Microsoft BA platform (since SQL Server will not and should not contain everything). ...

Read the full interview

Looking for Big Data Value in All the Wrong Places

Cross-posted from the SQL Server Blog's PASS BAC Preview Series
by Hyoun Park

When Johnny Lee wrote his country classic, Looking for Love (In All The Wrong Places), he wrote with such heart, such pain, and such meaning that you just knew that he was writing about the challenge of creating a business plan for Big Data. For those of you who know the song, you might have missed this detail because you were so caught up in the story. Or perhaps maybe the soothing melody just took you away. But in any case, even a cursory understanding of the lyrics makes it clear that this song was meant to provide guidance to the enterprise analysts and project managers trying to figure out why Big Data is going to help them out.

Just think of the first line, "Well, I spent a lifetime looking for you/Singles bars and good time lovers were never true"

Who hasn't spent a lifetime thinking about how data could help their organization? But the challenges of integrating Big Data into sales, marketing, service, product development, HR, operations, and manufacturing were just too challenging. You could never settle on the correct solution. And when you chose that simple SaaS solution for a one-time need, it never quite worked out the way you expected.

If only there were a roadmap for figuring out how and where to begin in a cost-effective manner. And a way to prioritize how to set a realistic business goal for analytics. And it didn't take a lifetime to find...

"Playin' a fool's game hoping to win/And telling those sweet lies and losing again"

Amen to that. How many promises were analytics supposed to solve? When these analyst firms start throwing around claims like "Analytics pays back $10.66 for every dollar spent," people start to think that kind of return is possible and expected. (OK, I may be guilty for that last statistic.)

But how do you get to that kind of return? How do you play the game of analytics so that this is a realistic business return and not just a sweet lie you tell to your CIO before finding that those returns aren't happening after all?

"I was looking for love in all the wrong places/Looking for love in too many faces/Searching their eyes looking for traces of/What I'm dreaming of"

The vendor landscape for Big Data analytics and data management is enormous. There are a few short lists and short cuts for general analytics deployments, but there are so many specialized tools and new vendors that it is hard to keep up with them. It would be a lot easier if there was a simple way to weed out the contenders from the pretenders without pulling out a full-fledged RfX.

"Hoping to find a friend and a lover/I'll bless the day I discover/another heart ,looking for love."

Somewhere out there is that One True Pairing for your company: Big Data that has the functionality that the IT office wants, the usability that the line-of-business wants, the cost structure that the CFO wants, the support that service and help desk personnel want; and the agility and scalability buzzwords that your executives keep going off about. Should all of these be equally as important? Or are there certain areas where you can skimp on your analytics investment so that you can focus on the areas that truly matter?

"And I was alone then, no love in site/I did everything I could to get me through the night/I don't know where it started or where it might end/I'd turn to a stranger just like a friend."

When you're tasked with building the business case, it sure feels lonely. And you do go out to anyone in Project Management or IT land who has done this before to get some advice. Do I use TCO or ROI and how do I do that without leaving anything out? Am I just looking for some basic business requirements? Will I ever finish this business case or are we just going to end up taking a blind leap into building a data warehouse or implementing a Big Data appliance? Is this going to end up being an all-nighter to figure all this out? Is SQL Server enough or is it time for Hadoop?

"Then you came a-knocking at my heart's door/You're everything I been looking for"

That's the goal, isn't it? Unfortunately, it's probably not going to be as easy as having your analytics solution and all of the value propositions fall in your lap. But there are a number of basic findings that can help you to estimate some of the value propositions you're looking for, such as the keys to maximizing potential ROI, the best way to measure indirect benefits, the four stages of the Analytic Enterprise, the five key components of analytic benefits that Nucleus has identified through over 60 case studies, and attributes that provided Big Data users with an average incremental 241 percent ROI over their existing analytics efforts.

If, like Johnny Lee, you've been trying to build the business case for Big Data in all the wrong ways and in all the wrong places, you should stop by my session at the PASS Business Analytics Conference on April 11th so I can help you find everything you've been looking for in a Big Data business case.

Learn more from Hyoun at his PASS BA Conference session, "Building the Business Case for Big Data."  

 

Win Registration to the PASS BA Conference

This could be your lucky week! With just a month to go, excitement’s in the air around the PASS Business Analytics Conference. We’ve heard that many of you are interested in attending and are looking to get the best rate by registering by this Friday, March 15. But wouldn’t free be even better?

For those who haven't signed up yet, here’s your chance to win registration to what’s going to be an incredible 2 days of business intelligence and analytics learning. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter today through Wednesday (March 11-13), and share how your job function is becoming more analytics focused for your chance to win one of five passes*.

Make sure you’re following the BA Conference on Twitter (@passbac/#passbac) and Facebook to participate. Only one entry per person please, and remember to post your answer by midnight Pacific Time Wednesday, March 13. We’ll announce the winners on Thursday.

Good luck! And even if you don’t win, you can get $200 off registration by using the discount code from your local or virtual PASS chapter or favorite blogger – just remember to register by March 15 for the best rate.

See you in Chicago!
The PASS Business Analytics Team

* Prize includes: One full-conference registration to the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Travel, accommodation, and other expenses not included.

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: March 8 Update

Got 5 minutes? Take a reading break with these blog posts from around the world of business intelligence and data analytics:

Don’t Miss a Thing at the BA Conference – Get the Session Recordings

Can’t possibly attend all the sessions on your PASS Business Analytics Conference must-see list? You can catch those you miss and relive your favorites by ordering the session recordings at the special pre-event attendee rate of $295*.

Including over 60 breakout sessions across five comprehensive topic tracks – plus the Microsoft keynote – the session recordings come on a convenient USB flash drive. Not only are the recordings a valuable resource as you continue your training throughout the year, but they are a great way to share the conference with your teammates.

Don’t miss a thing – make sure you add the recordings as you go through the registration process. Or if you’ve already registered, you can order them today by contacting Shannon Cunningham via email or phone (1-888-714-5544 / 1-303-530-4879) to update your registration record.

Hurry! The pre-event attendee pricing ends Friday, April 12, at 3pm Central Time.

* Plus $15 shipping and handling in the US/Canada; $25 international. Limit 1 USB per attendee at the attendee price. Note: PASS BA Conference presentations are the property of PASS and its presenters. Replication of any form of the drive, content, or presentations contained within is strictly prohibited.

PASS Business Analytics Conference — Why Am I Presenting There?

Cross-posted from The SQL Herald
By Joey D’Antoni

The new PASS Business Analytics Conference is a new concept for PASS — we’ve seen Business Intelligence (BI) User Groups and even SQLSaturdays dedicated to this subset of PASS, but a whole conference? What is driving this demand? I can’t explain the whole industry, but I can at least provide some perspective from what I see in my window.

I don’t intend to start a debate between relational databases and NoSQL datastores — that’s a religious war I have no intention of jumping into. I’m also not going to abuse the terms "big data" and "data" in combination with some body of water (data pond, data lake, data ocean, etc. — seriously, who comes up with this stuff?). What I will talk about is how a relational database isn’t always the right answer for every data set, and how relational databases from major vendors (especially with enough cores to do serious analytic workloads) are REALLY EXPENSIVE. So, especially since a lot of my expertise is in Infrastructure-based solutions, how did I end up presenting at BaCON?

My organization sees the changing landscape of data — and we generate and save TONS of data. We’re not always choosing the best path for our architecture. So given I’m on the architectural team, I started investigating some alternative solutions like Hadoop and Hive for less structured non-transactional data. To make it easy to learn this stuff, it helped to have a use case, where I could take it from start to finish. I’m not by any means an expert in data analysis, but I am fortunate to be presenting with a great friend who is — Stacia Misner (b|t). So what are we going talk about at BaCON?

Our data set represents about a week’s worth of set-top-box data from the largest cable provider in the US. We are going to discuss our data source and how we used Hadoop and then Hive to allow us to perform multiple types of analysis on the data in an extremely nimble fashion. From there, using Power View and some other tools, we see the impacts of various events on metrics such as viewer engagement and channel preferences.

For those of you who are SQL Server and/or Oracle professionals — this is a brave new world, but think of it like learning a new version of something. You are building on an existing skill set — you already do tons of data analysis in your job. This is just another step in the process, and it will be part the skill set of the 21st century data professional.

See You in Chicago

Cross-posted from Dirty Reads
By Rod Colledge

The SQL Server Community, specifically PASS, has provided me with enormous opportunities for professional growth, and so I always look to give back in whatever way I can. In the last 5 years, my focus has been exclusively on Business Intelligence, so when I heard about the PASS Business Analytics Conference being held in April in Chicago, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. I submitted an abstract and was selected to speak, so in April, I’ll be making the 18-hour trip to Chicago with one of my StrataDB colleagues, Mr PopBI, aka Peter O’Gorman.
 
What immediately struck me about the conference is that it uses the phrase “Business Analytics” instead of “Business Intelligence.” “Business Intelligence” is used almost universally these days as a blanket phrase for all sorts of things. So I did some research on the difference between the two terms. "Intelligence" is a synonym for “aptitude,” “clever,” and “brain power" – all of which are fairly generic terms that could really mean whatever you want them to mean. “Analytics,” on the other hand, is a synonym for “investigation,” “scrutiny,” and “breakdown,” which I believe to be much more of a descriptive term for the work we as BI professionals are engaged in.
 
Before you think I’ve set off on a self-indulgent grammar excursion, this is a really important distinction, because what we as BI professionals do, or what we should do, is provide business users with a platform for information discovery – Investigation, Scrutiny, and Breakdown. It’s really important to understand that the sole reason we exist as IT professionals is not just to make lots of money and drink beer, but to support the business users. At the end of the day, they’re the reason why we’re here, and if we forget that, they’ll forget about us. So with this in mind, my session, Self-Service Business Analytics in 2013, is about how we as IT professionals can assist the business using the Microsoft BI platform.

Including the term “Self-Service” in my title was always going to open me up to criticism from my colleagues. Take this blog post for example, Self-Service Business Intelligence: It’s Wrong, Bad and Shouldn’t be Anyone’s Goal. Wow, that’s a broad, sweeping statement! Read the post, however, and the core point is that the business cannot (effectively) perform BI without IT professionals, but the reverse is also true: IT professionals cannot perform BI without the business. This is something that Microsoft has long recognised. Effective BI systems are those that combine the traditional strengths of Corporate BI (Data Quality, Security, Governance, and Performance) with the flexibility and agility of Self-Service BI. Microsoft’s term for this is Managed Self-Service BI.
 
My session will explore the awesome benefits of Managed Self-Service BI – how we, as IT professionals, can work with the business to achieve truly meaningful business outcomes. It is, after all, the whole reason for our existence.

If you’re a BI professional or a business user with a keen interest in analytics, this is the conference to attend in 2013. I’m really pumped about this one, and I’d love to see you there – I might even shout you an (Australian) beer!

  
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