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Archive for November, 2014

Minnesota Microsoft BI User Group 2014 Q4 Meeting–Dec 2

Posted by denglishbi on November 25, 2014

The fourth quarter and final meeting of the year is coming up next week for the MN Microsoft BI User Group.  This meeting will have two presentations, the first one on Azure Machine Learning and the second one is a case study on monitoring Analysis Services usage.  Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed.


MN Microsoft BI User Group 2014 Q4 Meeting

Sponsored by:


Date: Tuesday, December 2, 2014image

Check In: 2:30 PM Event Time: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Location: Microsoft Technology Center – 3601 76th St W, Suite 600 Edina MN 55435 (in LOW 1, 2, and 3)

Please Register Now (Please register so that we can have your name badge pre-printed)


  • 2:30-3:00 : Registration
  • 3:00-3:15 : Microsoft BI User Group Updates & Announcements
  • 3:15-4:15 : Predictive Analytics for the Masses: Azure ML
  • 4:15-4:30 : Break
  • 4:30-5:30 : Case Study: Monitoring SSAS Usage with Extended Events
  • 5:30-6:00 : Happy Hour at Pinstripes – Meeting will adjourn with a special networking opportunity hosted by Slalom Consulting. Join everyone at Pinstripes Edina at 3849 Gallagher Drive for refreshments, fun and networking.


Session 1: Predictive Analytics for the Masses: Azure ML

Predictive Analytics generally has the strongest ROI attached to it, but is unfortunately usually one of the last analytical capabilities on the modern enterprise’s Analytical Roadmap. Part of this is due to the fact that predicting the future generally requires some foundational data pieces and tools to be in place. The advent of the Cloud has disrupted many commonly held historical approaches as it can greatly reduce the time to market for the foundational pieces.

The Machine Learning product will be reviewed and a demonstration of the ML set-up and “how to” model 1-3 scenarios will also be covered.

Speaker: Joe Berg and Matthew Lawrence

Joe Berg is a Managing Director with Slalom Consulting and is responsible for the National Information Management & Analytics (IM&A). Joe has spent over 8 years working on business intelligence and data warehouse platforms as a consultant for Microsoft. In addition to his implementation and leadership roles on these projects, Joe has led a variety of successful engagements helping some of the worlds largest organizations develop a world-class Business Intelligence and Analytics capability.

Matthew Lawrence is an accomplished analytics professional with vast experience across many Fortune 500 companies using predictive and descriptive modeling skills in a variety of technical environments to solve a host of business problems. He has led successful analytics engagements from vision to implementation across technology platforms in a variety of data environments. He is skilled at asking the questions to get to the heart of the matter to uncover relationships that lead to actionable insight.

Session 2: Case Study: Monitoring SSAS Usage with Extended Events

How do you measure the success of a Self Service Business Intelligence initiative? While the answer to that question has several components, a vital one is Adoption. Are people using the assets created for that initiative? Since Business Intelligence is using data to make better decisions, why not use data to help answer this question? At Capella University, we did just that.

This case study will describe how we used Analysis Services Extended Events to track the usage of Tabular Models that Capella built for Self Service BI users. We will demonstrate the following:

  • The business case for capturing asset usage
  • The particular goals Capella had in this case
  • How easy it is to get started with SSAS Extended Events (far easier than it looks)
  • The end-to-end solution created: from the event trace itself thru to the Power Pivot model created for analysis
  • Lessons learned (some learned the hard way)

We hope you will come away from this presentation with less trepidation around SSAS Extended Events as well as a foundation you can use for your own solution.

Speakers: Prashant Tolia and Mark Vaillancourt

Prashant Tolia is the Senior Technical Architect for the Information Delivery department at Capella University. He has over 16 years of experience in IT and a passion for Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. Prashant earned his MBA form Capella and holds certifications as an Oracle DBA and in Cognos BI suite. In his current role, Prashant ensures that all technical solutions are cost effective, appropriate, and adhere to Capella standards and best practices.

Mark Vaillancourt is a SQL Server MVP and a Business Intelligence Enterprise Consultant for Digineer, a Microsoft partner based in Plymouth, MN. He has been working with SQL Server since 2007 and holds the MCITP – Business Intelligence Developer 2008 certification. With a background in Theater and Improvised Comedy, Mark makes sure that his presentations are both informative and fun.

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PASS Summit 2014 Follow Up & Pictures

Posted by denglishbi on November 19, 2014

This month I headed out to the PASS Summit 2014 Conference which is the largest gathering of SQL Server and BI Professionals.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this year because the Microsoft MVP Summit was also held that same week.  So it had been a few years since I had attended the PASS Summit and I was excited to go back.  I really appreciated the coordination of the two events and the fact that Microsoft was able to adjust the schedule for the SQL Server MVPs up one day to be able to attend, it was quite remarkable to partake in both events.  I also have to thank my company, Superior Consulting Services, for providing me the opportunity to attend as well.image

The first major event that I participated in at the conference was the #sqllongrun.  Adam Machanic (b|t) organized an 11 or 14 mile run event this year in Seattle.  It has been a goal of mine to run a 1/2 marathon, so I decided that this was going to be it!  Unfortunately with my schedule I didn’t get to train as much as I probably should have, but I pushed myself the week prior to the event and I was quite impressed with my results.  It turns out that not only did I run a 1/2 marathon, but I went a couple of miles more because apparently I didn’t start my watch at the start, sorry Reeves Smith (b|t), but I greatly appreciate your support and running the extra mile at the end with me when I thought I had only ran 12 miles!


What a great event and looking forward to my next 1/2 marathon now that I have a benchmark, thanks to Adam for organizing, SQL Sentry for sponsoring, and everyone that participate for your support and encouragement!

Now on to the main event, but not until we do a few more runs, right? I ended up running each morning with some of the other #SQLFamily members such as Ted Krueger (b|t) and Tim Radney (b|t). Each day I ran a 5k with the exception of Thursday (took one day off for rest).  I also took part in the #sqlrun organized by Jes Borland (b|t) and thanks SQL Sentry for sponsoring.

So the main event, the PASS Summit.


Day 1

On Wednesday we found out from the PASS President Thomas LaRock (b|t) that there were 50 countries, 2000 companies, and around 5900 attendees at the conference, simply amazing!  Currently there are 285 PASS Chapters, 27 Virtual Chapters, and there were 86 SQLSaturday events this year, over 1.3 million hours of training provided by the community, awesome!!!  I was really looking forward to the Day 1 keynote to hear each of the three core leaders of the Microsoft Data Platform talk – T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, James Phillips, and Joseph Sirosh.

Ranga was up first and he covers the Capture + Manage side of the image below.  He came to Microsoft from SAP. In the Pier 1 Imports demos during his portion we saw Azure Search (34:37), Azure DocumentDB (along with elastic scaling) (37:59), and Azure SQL Database Geo Replication (in just a few clicks! 44:18). They also showed a video of Dell.com with SQL 2014 use of in-memory OLTP to increase performance and remove blocking(53:00). In addition there was a technology sneak peek at an in-memory columnstore nonclustered index on an in-memory table(1:02:00)! It didn’t stop there, Ranga and his team continued on with the demos showing how to stretch an on-premise SQL database table to Azure (1:04:00)!

Joseph was up next and he covers the Transform + Analyze portions.  He actually came to Microsoft from Amazon. He talked about Azure Data Factory (like SSIS in the cloud), Azure Stream Analytics, and Azure Machine Learning (this is now free for anyone to try with a Microsoft account, no subscription or credit card information required – https://studio.azureml.net). They showed demos with Pier 1 Imports again doing a demo of in-store analytics using Kinect as a senor to gather data where shoppers are spending their time and what products they are looking at, pretty cool (1:16:50)! Using this data they used Azure Data Factory to pull it in using a pipeline to orchestrate the data(1:18:45). On top of that they used Azure Stream Analytics to analyze the top 5 products in realtime (from the Kinect sensors)(1:21:00). Then it was off to the future using Azure Machine Learning to be able to recommend products for next purchase (1:24:00). The last part of the demo was using the Pier 1 Imports mobile app using voice and Cortana recommended products based on your profile and used Azure Machine Learning to do the recommendations and then asked where to find the products in the store (even displaying an in-store map!)(1:25:53).

James was up last and he covers Visualize + Decide. He came to Microsoft from one of his startups Couchbase. He pre-announced being able to connect from Power BI back to on-premise SSAS data. Live Power BI Dashboards were demoed – see below (1:36:30). The dashboards have built-in Q&A and through the dashboards you can connect to data and pull information in to create more datasets, reports, and items to pin to create dashboards.  The results of Q&A questions could also be pinned as well. More visualizations have been added included combo charts, tree maps, sunburst, filled map, and gauges.  All of the dashboarding was done in HTML5!

Microsoft Data PlatformPower BI Dashboard

The day did not stop there, I checked out the community zone, some great sessions, and got special seating up front because of my PASS Outstanding Volunteer recognition. I even attended the PASS Virtual Chapter meeting and met my Paras Doshi (b|t) who is the other chapter leader for the PASS Business Analytics VC with me! Paras is awesome to have on the team, simply amazing, can’t say enough, great asset to have and really looking forward to next year to see what we can do next!

WP_20141105_001WP_20141106_08_29_24_ProDan & Paras

Day 2

My friend Adam Jorgensen (b|t) the PASS Executive Vice President of Finance kicked off the keynote on day 2 and discussed plans and revenue, incredible that the PASS Summit brings in $5.9M.  Denise McInerney (b|t) the PASS VP of Marketing also talked and went her personal growth story going from attending a local event up to where she is today, amazing! They announced the PASSion Award winner, Andrey Korshikov (b|t), congrats! Then Rimma Nehme gave the big talk on Cloud Databases 101 (21:55). Her humor and slides were outstanding and made the content easy to relate to and enjoyable, thanks! Who can’t understand the cloud services when you compare it to PIZZA (see image below)! Now DBAs that are learning and using the cloud based services can update their titles to Cloud DBA, time to soak it in and make the most out of this opportunity while it is really kicking in high gear now with the hybrid solutions.


While I was out there I also noticed a couple of great books in the bookstore that I was able to contribute to


I wish I could have stayed around for Day 3, lots of more great sessions that I had to miss out on, I had to get home to my family, it had been a long and exciting week with the MVP and PASS Summit events.

Let the countdown begin, PASS Summit 2015 will be October 27-30 next year!  Register now and the rate is only $1195 (over 1/2 off until January 11)!



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PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter November Meeting – 13 Excel features that Database developers should know about

Posted by denglishbi on November 12, 2014

The next PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter meeting is coming up and in fact it is tomorrow!  This month we welcome Microsoft SQL Server MVP Kevin Goff who is going to go over the baker’s dozen Excel features that database developers should know about.

November 13 – The 13 Excel Features that Database Developers should know aboutBAVCLogo (1)

Abstract – In the beginning, SQL Developers viewed Excel as the enemy – vowing to take every data entry spreadsheet and turn it into a beautiful relational database application with validations. But times have changed, and Excel has come back around, but in a different light. Business users rely on Excel for analytics out of the data we provide them (and even for data where we can’t give them a clean version). Even if developers don’t use Excel themselves, they owe it to themselves and their companies/clients to be aware of the many Excel features for “slicing and dicing” data. In this presentation, I’ll show 13 different features in Excel where knowledge will help developers to speak the same language as their users – everything from Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query and Power Map features to advanced Excel formulas and Excel “what-if” functionality. And who knows – maybe a few developers will walk away with some ideas for using Excel for some of their personal development projects!

Bio – Kevin S. Goff (http://www.kevinsgoff.net) is a Microsoft SQL Server MVP Database architect/developer/speaker/author Regular columnist for CoDe Magazine on .NET, SQL Server, and Business Intelligence topics Frequent speaker at community events in the Mid-Atlantic region. Host of BDBI Radio (http://www.bdbiradio.com), a weekly webcast on SQL/BI topics.


Just a reminder if you want to stay in touch with the PASS BA Virtual Chapter here are some ways:




If you are interested in speaking we are always looking for speakers, please leave a comment or send me an email at denglishbi@gmail.com

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