The Data Revolution

The last 9 months have been incredible.   The ‘Circle of Interest’ tool that Jerry Hopkins introduced me to is yielding amazing results.

I’m enjoying the new training career branch that was sprouted by my yearning to practice public speaking.  I’ve connected and met some really interesting people ranging from artists to scientists.

I’ve been itching to write about a Data conference I attended in Sep, I’ve been so busy with things it’s hard to get a chance to work on the blog.

SQL Saturday is a user-community organised event stemming from the Professional Association of SQL Server group (PASS).   They take place all over the world.

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At SQL Saturday you can get face time with MVP’s and other experts at the top of their field and learn about the latest innovations in SQL Server and the cloud.   I refer to it as ‘knowledge soup’.

Lyndsey and I were on a tour of Britain – we hit Cambridge, the cycle city, as the SQL community arrived in town.

I wish the Holiday Inn started breakfast earlier than 7:30 at the weekend.   The first session was 8am which made for a mad dash to Queens College.

I arrived in time for the start of Jen Stirrup’s talk “From Big Data to secret sauce: power your organisation with PowerBI”.

I enjoyed seeing how Big Data can be processed in a self-service way.  Jen as usual delivered a top class talk.  There is no use case in my current business for big data, unless I’m missing a trick.

Next up was Advanced Data Visualisation with Reporting Services from Jen.  I was interested to learn that SSRS can consume DAX queries.  Lots of food for thought.

After a period of networking I joined the audience to see Carmel Gunn’s talk “The Irish Economic Crisis Visualised”.

It was this talk that got my mind buzzing the most – Carmel sourced a bunch of economic data available in the run up to the economic crises and modelled it to create visualisations that told an interesting data story, showing obvious facts that would have helped avoid the crisis, had they been spotted at the time.

A new spark of interest was formed for me – Open Data.  More local to home – my mission to connect and shape business data to create new insights was validated.  I firmly believe there are stories in business data that are waiting to be discovered.

Next up was a light-hearted, entertaining talk by Jen (that girl really does like to talk!)  “Now that’s what I call the worst Visualisation ever”.

I’ve started to talk about colour perception and ink spread back at the office and I’ve banished red from the MI charts.

After lunch with the Cambridge students it was Niko Neugebauer’s talk, “DataExplorer – the reason you might not need SQL Server.”

This was all about self-service Data Integration.  I had previously used Data Explorer (renamed to Power Query) to connect to AdaptivePlans web service as a means to produce on-premise reports.

It was really interesting to see the direction that Data Integration is going.  The data revolution is in full swing.

I enjoyed Nico’s talk. It was full of passion yet retained a level of professionalism throughout.

My brain was filling up at this point.  I went to see John Martin talk about “Data Driven Branding for SSRS”.

This was an interesting technical talk that told how John used expressions to enable report meta-data to be held in a database and then referenced in reports.  The idea being that when Marketing change the font or image a single change can be made in the database to refresh 100’s of reports.   I liked this solution, although, I’m not sure I’ll be making use of it at the current time.   I did make a note to share it with IT and file in my ‘someday folder’.

Next up I made my way over to a classroom where I joined a couple of other speakers to give a lightning talk on “BI Self Service Musings”.  This was much harder than I imagined.   I remember thinking that 10 minutes is a long time.  In all future talks I will value minutes much greater.

The Power Pivot add-in crashed with the bug that requires a log off/on.  No time for that – I opened the video that I had pre-recorded to cover such eventualities.

To conclude the event there was a raffle to give out prizes donated by the sponsors.   Many of the people drawn out first had left early.  It pays to stick around.

I remember thinking that Buck Woody (SQL/Cloud evangelist from Microsoft) would make a good comedian.

All in all it was a great data conference and one that I recommend for anyone with the slightest interest in data or SQL Server.

My special thanks go out to the organisers who gave up their time to facilitate this event.  Especially Mark Broadbent the event lead.   That guy has patience.  Must not forget the rest of the organising team.

Lorraine Broadbent – Project Manager
John Martin
Kevin Chant
Alicia Horner
Peter Baddeley

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/228/eventhome.aspx

http://www.sqlsaturday.com

http://www.sqlpass.org/

About Lee Hawthorn

Business Intelligence Consultant
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