PASS BA Conference Blog


PASS BA Conference: Another First

The inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference made its mark on Chicago and the world of business intelligence and analytics April 10-12, featuring 1,150+ registrations and almost 900 attendees from across 26 countries. Thanks to all our attendees, speakers, volunteers, sponsors, and organizers for making the event such a success!

From amazing keynotes by Microsoft's Kamal Hathi and Amir Netz (watch the streaming replay now) and Freakonomics author Dr. Steven Levitt, to over 60 sessions by 85 of the BI/BA industry’s top experts and a Community Appreciation Party at Lucky Strike, the event delivered world-class training and nonstop networking opportunities. Many attendees also spent a day in one of the BA Conference’s five pre-conference sessions or took advantage of the co-located BigDataCamp meet-up before the Welcome Reception.

Check out all the highlights – including Microsoft’s public preview announcement of 3D mapping tool Project codename “GeoFlow” for Excel - in our community blog post roundups and on our Facebook photostream.

If you missed the conference or just didn’t get to all the sessions you wanted to, you can own the full set of PASS BA Conference session recordings on USB flash drive, including 60+ conference sessions and the Microsoft keynote. Order yours today!

More Business Analytics
Join Microsoft’s Roger Barga, who wasn’t able to make the PASS BA Conference due to weather, for a webinar presentation of “The Unrealized Power of Data,” Thursday, April 25, at noon ET – hosted by the PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter.

From the Blogosphere: PASS BA Conference Day 2 and Beyond

Award-winning economist and Freakonomics author Dr. Steven Levitt set the tone for an amazing last day at the PASS Business Analytics Conference Friday with his "Think Like a Freak" keynote, telling the crowd of data professionals: "You guys are the future. What you're doing is the key to a business' success or failure."

Day 2 featured huge lines at Dr. Levitt's SuperFreakonomics book signing, followed by 30 breakout sessions with the industry's leading BI/BA experts. Catch up on Day 2's happenings and full event recaps with these community articles and posts (more to come):


Microsoft Keynote Takes Music Tour of PowerPivot, Power View, Data Explorer, and Project “GeoFlow”

In a high-energy Day 1 PASS Business Analytics Conference keynote that had attendees laughing throughout, Microsoft BI’s Kamal Hathi and Amir Netz analyzed the Billboard charts and the effects of American Idol twitter activity using Excel 2013’s PowerPivot, Power View, and Data Explorer - and showed off the new public preview of Project codename GeoFlow on an 80-inch Perceptive Pixel touch-screen display.

Focusing on simplicity, Amir said Microsoft wants to do with BI what "PowerPoint did to the slide projector,” making business intelligence cheaper, faster, and easier. BI needs to be something that everyone can use, he added: BI should stand for "Basic Intelligence.”

The opening keynote also included Dell Software Group’s Matt Wolken talking about the promise of analytics and the opportunity for data pros to use analytics to help drive revenue in their organization. “BI is the fastest growing enterprise application,” he noted, adding that companies implementing BI/BA solutions are 13% more profitable that their competitors.

PASS President Bill Graziano led off with a warm welcome to almost 900 attendees and a call for data professionals to come together to connect, share, and learn beyond the BA Conference. “We are asked on a daily basis to do more with data and within our roles as data professionals,” he said. “There’s a real need for knowledge and support for this growing field of business analytics. As a community of professionals, experts, and partners, we can support and learn from each other as the world of data changes around us.”

Below, check out our Day 1 press release and keynote recaps and articles from press and bloggers (updated as new posts go up) and see how to get the preview of the GeoFlow 3D geographical data visualization add-in for Excel. And tune in to the always entertaining and informative #passbac Twitter stream for the latest news and views.

Taking Business Analytics to the Next Level

By Bill Graziano
PASS President

Welcome to an incredible time of learning and networking! I’m so excited you could join us at the inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference to connect with fellow analytics pros, share your experiences, and learn more about the power of data to transform business. Whether you’re a business analyst, data scientist, or BI/BA architect or practitioner, if your life revolves around data, you’re in the right place.

It’s an exhilarating time for data professionals as more and more organizations turn to data-driven insights to stay ahead in today’s competitive marketplace. But staying up to speed in this rapidly changing world of data can be a challenge. How can Big Data, predictive analytics, data visualization, Hadoop, and even the new version of Excel help your organization get the most from its data? The BA Conference is here to help.

Organized by data professionals for data professionals, the BA Conference features more than 70 real-world sessions by 85 top industry experts on today’s hottest analytics topics. With five comprehensive topic tracks, your biggest problem over the next 2 days may be figuring out how to fit in all the presentations on your must-see list. And if you just can’t get to them all, make sure you stop by the registration desk and order the session recordings.

In addition to the amazing sessions lineup, we’re thrilled to bring you thought-leading keynotes by Microsoft BI’s Kamal Hathi and Amir Netz and award-winning economist and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt. I encourage you to take time to talk with our sponsors and exhibitors in the Expo Hall and check out the latest tools and solutions for enriching and simplifying your life in analytics. Then, make sure you visit our Community Zone to explore the many ways you can stay involved in the business analytics community year-round.

Whether at the Welcome Reception, during meals, in the hallways between sessions, or after hours as you enjoy beautiful downtown Chicago, please take full advantage of your time here to connect with the best and brightest minds from around the world of business intelligence and analytics and celebrate the power of data to make a difference.

Together, we can learn to make better data-driven decisions and take our companies to the next level.

Exciting Times for Business Analytics

Cross-posted from the SQL Server Blog's PASS BAC Preview Series
By Marco Russo

We live in exciting times from the point of view of data analysis. Nowadays, the problem is no longer how to find the raw data, but how to handle the pressure of data coming in from so many places. At the end of the day, the goal is always the same, extracting useful knowledge from data. This has been the goal of Business Intelligence (BI) since 1958, when Hans Peter Luhn used this term for the first time. In more than 50 years, the technology evolved, increasing the manageable amount of data and lowering the related costs. However, it always required professionals who were able to create and refresh the data model, empowering end users with canned reports and data navigation tools. A common issue in this process was the gap between people who knew the business and BI developers. In the best case, this gap produced long development times. In the worst case, it led to project failure.

Today, this gap can be drastically reduced. Thanks to Self-Service BI products, if you know your business, you can create a data model without having to ask for a BI professional consultancy. However, a common mistake is thinking that these new technologies are meant to kill the traditional data warehouse approach, i.e. the Corporate BI. In reality, self-service BI is an opportunity to improve the ROI of a properly built data warehouse, even if an optimal architecture might require some adaptation to the data warehouse schema, in order to simplify and optimize the extraction of data for self-service BI purposes.

When we use the term Business Analytics we refer to the exploration and investigation of data. This requires the usage of statistical methods and data visualization, and oftentimes needs adapting the data model. The PASS Business Analytics Conference (PASS BAC) in Chicago this April is the right place to go to learn more about tools, methodology and best practices in the Business Analytics area.

I will speak at the PASS BAC in two sessions about the state of the art in self-service BI:

  • In the session Self-Service Data Modeling, I discuss the challenges of creating a proper data model by using Excel 2013 and PowerPivot. Thanks to the DAX language, it is possible to apply few transformations to the raw data. However, preliminary data preparation might be necessary and users that do not have a knowledge of ETL and SQL need other tools and techniques to adapt their raw data to the required model. I will show how to solve these issues in common scenarios, using tools designed for end users and not for BI developers.
  • The second session, Modern Data Warehousing Strategy, is about changes in the Data Warehouse architecture and modeling required to face the challenges of the self-service approach and the new demand caused by Big Data technologies such as Hadoop (HDInsight). A good data warehouse is still the optimal starting point for any analysis, but we need to update our strategy for data warehouse implementation to fit the requirements of this new era. What kind of data modeling should we use for the data warehouse? What is the role of data marts? Do technologies such as PowerPivot or Analysis Services Tabular affect the way we should model our data? Do columnstore indexes remove the need for an analytical server like Analysis Services? We will discuss these and other questions, offering an updated approach to the data warehouse modeling methodology.

Look at the many other sessions available in the program and join us in Chicago at the PASS Business Analytics Conference!

From the BI/BA Blogosphere: April 5 Update

Only five sleeps until the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Warm up with these blog posts and articles from around the world of business intelligence and analytics, and we'll see you in Chicago next week!

Business Analytics: The Next Generation

By Melissa Demsak
Leader, PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter

When I was growing up in the ‘70s, I desperately wanted my own rotary-style desk phone (preferably in pink) so I could call my best friend next door. Money was tight, and I was too lazy to walk over every time I wanted to chat. So I decided to raid my father’s workshop and make a pulley system out of wood and twine between our bedroom windows to pass notes attached to clothes pins. Obviously, this solution didn’t scale!

Fast forward to today, and the variety of technologies used to harness data – and the sheer volume of data – has exploded. Just a few years back, there was minimal demand for advanced business analytics to derive more business value from data, but with current trends, such analytics are imperative.

So as a data professional, what are you doing to adapt to the fast-changing world of data, which shows no sign of slowing down? As part of my career plan, I will be attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago next week. Here are my top 10 reasons why.

SQLDiva's Top 10 Reasons for Attending the PASS BA Conference

  1. To experience the new “Business Analytics Frontier” – Immersing yourself in the technology and culture of anything new is a sure-fire way to propel yourself to the next level.
  2. To be the First Kid on the Block – Many of the most innovative discussions occur between the first people who embark on a new technology path.
  3. To welcome new speakers into the PASS family – This conference will include bestselling author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics Steven Levitt and others from academia and the data science domains. The exposure to others outside your own experiences is critical for career growth.
  4. To gather real-world use cases and stories – Technology and tools can be somewhat dull, but when you add some great business use cases and stories, the technology comes alive and the creation process is kick-started. 
  5. To grow with PASS – Being involved in PASS has been pivotal to my career and personal growth, and I know PASS can help me continue to grow.
  6. To experience Chicago – I’m excited to explore a new city and dive into Chicago-style deep-dish pizza!
  7. To see old friends and make new ones – When you meet someone who has the same interests and goals as you do, there is a deep bond created that can span years. Many of my more memorable moments have included PASS Friends.
  8. To expand my network – Ever search for days to find the solution to an issue? What if you knew someone you could ask who already had the answer or who knew someone else who did? This and future career opportunities are key reasons for networking. If you are looking for more business analytics professionals to add to your network, this is the place to find them.
  9. To find inspiration for the future – As I leave any PASS conference, I’m filled with a wealth of new knowledge and a sense of urgency to try out new techniques and play with new tools. Even during my most stressful days at work, I daydream back to the inspirational moments at these events.
  10. Why Not?! – I can’t think of a better way to spend a few days than connecting, sharing, and learning with fellow professionals as passionate about data as I am. I hope I see you there!
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