Tuesday Grab Bag of Biz and Fun

September 16, 2014

Post by Rob Collie
 
mullet with labels

Today’s Post is Like a Mullet Haircut:  Business in the Front, Party in the Back

Let’s Go!

Series of quick updates today, mixture of pure fun and serious biz, sometimes simultaneously.  In this post:

  1. Download the Draft Index for the Online University – whether you are currently enrolled or not, this may be relevant.  Grab it here.
  2. Live Class in Philly – seats still open for Oct 21-22, more details here.
  3. “Secret Summit” Between Microsoft and Power Pivot early adopters last week.
  4. DAX:  The Power of Paper
  5. Yours Truly taken into police custody for Possession of Industrial-Grade Data Tools

 

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Power BI: Natural Language Q&A–reality or hype?

September 11, 2014

by Avichal Singh

Now that Rob has acquainted us all with the Power BI family, I wanted to take a closer look at one of the relatively new members: Natural Language Question & Answer or simply Q&A.

Rob pointed out in his last post how Microsoft seems to be targeting large enterprises; perhaps as a result we have seen many an impressive demo (watch Amir Netz at WPC 2013 and James Phillips at WPC 2014). But you have to pause and consider whether the features demonstrated are eye-candy or are indeed useful in practical settings.

Q&A is one such feature, which after my first look I had labeled as eye-candy and set aside (speaking with others, I find many are in the same place). All that changed for me when I attended Adam Wilson’s Q&A session at the PASS BACON. Adam not only outlined the workings of Q&A, but also shared tips and tricks and real world implementation stories. After my change of heart, I rushed back to work and cobbled together our first Q&A workbook. Q&A articles on the Power BI MSDN Blog were an immense help as well. Here is what I learnt from implementing Q&A:

  1. One Q&A workbook per subject area
  2. Eat your own dog food
  3. Optimize for Q&A (Cloud Modeling)

Read on or watch the video version.

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What is Power BI?

September 9, 2014

by Rob Collie

Power BI, Definition #1:  An “Umbrella” Term for all of the “Power *” Tools

Power BI, Definition #1:  An “Umbrella” Term for all of the “Power *” Tools
(Click for Full-Size Version)

An Overdue Treatment

I’ve posted before about Power Pivot vs. Power View and then later I added Power Query and other technologies to the explanation, but I’ve never just straight-on tackled the question of “What is Power BI?”  So let’s get that off the list…

…And clean up my prior visuals while we are at it.  (Can you believe that Power Query doesn’t have an icon/logo yet?  Well, boom – I just gave it one.  You’re welcome, Microsoft – although really it was just from one of the buttons already in PQ.)

Unofficial Definition = “Umbrella Term for the ‘Power *’ Tools”

#1, Power BI is an “umbrella” term that is used to describe all of the various “Power” data tools that Microsoft offers us.  This is NOT the definition that you will typically hear from Microsoft, but colloquially, when someone says “Power BI,” there’s a good chance this is what they mean.

Official Definition = “The Cloud Publish & Manage Service from MS”

But I think Microsoft would say, more officially, that Power BI is their paid cloud service for publishing, sharing, managing, and consuming the results of those tools pictured above.

For instance, Microsoft sales reps today are measured, in part, by their customers’ adoption of precisely that online subscription service.  They are NOT measured by how many of their customers are simply using the “free” desktop tools included in the Power BI “umbrella” term.

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CALCULATE ( ) Lessons from Looney Tunes

September 4, 2014

By Matt Allington

In my last post I talked about a mistake I made early on in my DAX learning journey.  In that post I showed a formula that used CALCULATE ( ) to turn a row context into a filter context (AKA context transition).  Here is a quick refresh of the relevant part of that post.

calculate post

Since this post, I have been thinking about CALCULATE ( ) and wondering how to explain “WHY” CALCULATE ( ) creates context transition – this is the topic of today’s post.

I am sure there is a wide age profile of readers of this blog, and at least some of you would remember the Merrie Melodies cartoon “Cheese Chasers” where the dog (Marc) is sitting and using an ACME adding machine to make sense of what he is observing. [I know I said Looney Tunes in the title, but there is not a lot of difference and I thought more people would know what Loony Tunes was]. Before you watch this brief 40 second clip from the cartoon, let me first set the scene.  Everything is backward; the mice don’t eat cheese, the cat WANTS to be chased by the dog – you get the idea.   Spoiler alert – I will refer to the punch line below, so don’t read on until you watch the video if you want the full 1951 immersive experience.

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The Benevolent Virus Spreads to Australia :)

September 3, 2014

Post by Rob Collie

PowerPivot Pro Training Australia

“Scaling Out”

Despite me being arguably the loudest advocate of our favorite technology, it remains true that this Power Pivot thing is much bigger than any one person, and everyone needs help.

I’ve already reached the limits of my own personal travel calendar.  As much as I would LOVE to jetset around the world and teach classes everywhere, well, my family would never see me except for occasional burned-out stopovers at home.

The fortunate position I find myself in is that I’ve met AMAZING people over the years.  When I need help, I have the luxury of consulting the Rolodex of Awesome.

So when the time comes to help spread our most benevolent of viruses to the other side of the world, I’m ridiculously happy to be able to call up people like Matt Allington.

(If you haven’t heard Matt’s story, you should quickly click on his name above, right now, because it will blow your mind – I am still putting mine back together actually.)

 

 

Certified in My Methods

PowerPivot Pro Training Australia

As of Today, Matt Allington is the ONLY Person
I’ve EVER Certified in My Teaching Methods

In July, Matt made the voyage from Down Under to the shores of Lake Erie for an intensive week at PowerPivotPro HQ.  I deprived him of sleep.  I fed him nothing but Ohio food, like 3-pound grilled cheese sandwiches.  I subjected him to relentless DAX torture.  He bent spoons with his mind.

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In-Person Class in Philly, Oct 21-22!

September 2, 2014

Post by Rob Collie

How recent students have described the class

image

Our July Class in Cleveland – 90% of these Fine Folks Came from Out of State!
(And One From Australia!)

Taking it to the East Coast – and Beyond

After running three consecutive classes in Cleveland (April, July, and August), and seeing a packed classroom for the last two, we’ve decided that I should start occasionally venturing out of the Heartland and teaching the class elsewhere too.

This time we’re going to be partnering with Microsoft itself, and teaching in their MTC (Microsoft Technology Center) just outside of Philadelphia.  An exciting step for sure, uniting me (former ‘Softie and Power Pivot’s most passionate advocate), with, you know, the company that makes the product.  Probably should have figured out some way to cooperate sooner, but such is the independent nature of current and former ‘Softies.

Click Here to View Class Details & Registration

Optional Gathering/Dinner on “Middle” Night

image

Some Folks from the August Class Throws the “Excel Gang Sign” at Dinner
(Can You Spot MrExcel Himself, Bill Jelen?)

On the night of the first classroom day, we’ve been running an informal gathering at a local restaurant, and many people reported that it was one of their favorite social outings ever.  Just being surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, mindsets, and problems is a unique experience, especially for the Excel crowd.

So of course we will organize such an outing in Philly as well.  Venue TBD (if you have suggestions, send them our way).

Included:  Thumb Drive and 50% Off Online University

All Students Receive a PowerPivotPro thumbdrive containing the materials from the course:

thumbdrive

And also a 50% off discount code to the online video course.  Past students have found it to be a helpful “reinforcement” to the live class (as well as covering topics that we don’t have time for in two days), so we have decided to offer it as a bundle.

More Info and Registration…

Click Here to View Class Details & Registration


Dynamic Charting In Power Pivot

August 28, 2014

Guest Post by Idan Cohen From Excelando

Rob already blogged about charts with dynamic measures -Using Named Sets for “Asymmetric” pivots, where you can choose the measures to be displayed with a slicer.

But what about dynamic axis?

This clever technique was found by one of my analysts , Gal Vekselman, when a client challenged us.
What is it useful for you ask ??!

For example, I want a chart to display sales by quarter and then change it to sales by month with a press of a button?
Or another useful scenario where I want to see sales by category,  but when choosing a category on the slicer,  the sub categories for this category will be displayed in the chart,  and when choosing a sub category the chart will display the underlying products.  Sounds cool, huh? Well,  it is even cooler.

And the way to do it? Named sets!

Dynamic Monthly Chart Dynamic QuarterlyChart

Use the period selection slicer to quickly change the chart axis, from Month to Quarter

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SUMX of IF: A Perfect Blend of Simple & Sophisticated

August 26, 2014

 
SUMX of IF Used to Make Grand Totals Add Up in Power Pivot DAX

In This Case, Getting the Grand Total Correct for Each Row Required SUMX

It’s that time of year again…

…when my love of spreadsheets actually translates into a love of sports.  Yes, it’s Compulsive Data Crunching Disease season, AKA Fantasy Football Season.

Fantasy football is a game in which the contestants assemble “portfolios” of NFL players in the same manner that you might build a portfolio of stocks and bonds.  Then your portfolio (we call it a “team”) performs well if the real-life NFL players perform well, and poorly if not.  The one difference between this and the stock market is that no two “portfolios” can contain the same NFL player – so if I get Peyton Manning, the other contestants in my league (typically 8-12 people) cannot have him.

I’m participating in a new form of league this year, one in which the contestants get to keep some of the players from prior years.  (In most fantasy football leagues, you start each year from a clean slate).

We’re going to be picking our players this weekend at an “auction” or “draft,” and naturally, I want to scout my opponents ahead of time.  Muhaha.

So, what do my opponents need?

A valid portfolio consists of:

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The Many Faces of VALUES()

August 21, 2014

Guest Post by Scott at Tiny LizardMany Values

Maybe it is a sign of where I am on the Geek Scale compared to Rob, but where he considers EARLIER() to be a pretty hard function to understand, it just doesn’t bother me.  At least it seems to have just one purpose in life.

Now, the VALUES() function on the other hand… well, that’s just some messed up stuff right there!  Not only does nothing about it feel natural and intuitive to me, but it also seems to behave in completely different ways depending on how and where it is used.

Basically, every time I use it, I feel like I either got lucky, pulled a fast one, and that I’m a dirty cheater.  So, at least I got that going for me.

Let’s look at some of the various usages.

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Has Power Pivot Changed Your Life? I Want to Know!

August 19, 2014

This face obviously represents happy.

We Want to Hear Your Cool Stories!

Unprompted Confirmation

In last week’s post I explained why I now “kick off” my training sessions with the bold promise of “Power Pivot will change not only your career, but also your LIFE.”  (Please go back and read that, briefly, if you have not – because this post won’t make as much sense otherwise).

Well, a funny thing has been happening lately – I’ve been getting emails from people saying that it HAS changed their life.  Literally in those words.

Are these people just being nice to me, confirming my bold statement?

Nope, because none of them has heard me say it before – these are people I have never met in person!

In fact, this pattern of emails was the reason why I got started writing last week’s post.  I actually intended to JUST write THIS post, the “has it changed your life” post, but along the way I realized I needed to add the background, so this got split into part two.

Please Share Your Stories!

If you are feeling like this, please leave a commentIf you’ve experienced life change as a result of Power Pivot, please leave a comment at the end of this post!

Or if you’re a bit shy about that, drop me an email.  My address isn’t hard to find or guess.

Take it Away, Rob’s Inbox!

imageThese are real emails from real readers, slightly edited to maintain their privacy.  In all cases, I am bolding the “life changing” portion of the quote:

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Power Pivot: a revolution in slow motion

August 14, 2014

By Avichal Singh

The first time you truly experience Power Pivot – not a demo, not some random public data set or someone else’s data – your own business data all lit up using Power Pivot. It is a transformative experience. And you know there is no turning back.

I remember that moment, I remember thinking this is HUGE, this gets BI in the hands of people who really need it. Power Pivot is surely is going to explode.

Sadly, it does not feel like that is happening :-(

As I have become more involved with the Modern Excel User Group (also on LinkedIn), I have realized that there are way too many people in buckets a) and b) below and not nearly enough in c).

a) Sad smile Unaware. Have not heard of Power Pivot or Power BI
b) Disappointed smile Aware but have not truly experienced the capabilities of Power Pivot
c) Red heart In Love with Power Pivot

Note: Are there stages between b) and c)? Between experiencing Power Pivot and falling in love? Perhaps. But guided by the right hands that path should be really short :-)

Unaware: Don’t know what they are missing

For the unaware group, I do my part; talking to anyone who would lend me an ear, about Power Pivot and Power BI at any event or gathering. But overall we would need to trust the higher powers :-) within Microsoft with that task. However I will make the offerings below to the powers that be:

- Power Pivot should be a free add-in for all versions of Excel 2013, just the way it is for Excel 2010. I feel it even makes good business sense for Microsoft. Power Pivot has the potential to attract a large user base and would solidly anchor Office and Office 365 in the rapidly changing world. These users can then be up sold services like Power BI.

- Power Pivot add-in should be easily discoverable. Both Power View and Power Map have buttons as part of the standard Excel ribbon, which can be used to easily activate these tools. Not so for Power Pivot.
It takes 8 mouse clicks to activate the add-in so you can launch Power Pivot.
File > Options > Add-Ins > Click Dropdown > COM Add-Ins > Go > Select ‘Microsoft Office Power Pivot for Excel 2013’ > Ok
As the first born in the Power BI suite, it is time for Power Pivot to claim it’s rightful place on the standard Excel ribbon and it would fit perfectly under the Data tab.

Currently in Excel 2013 Desired in Excel 2013
Currently in Excel 2013: Powe Map, Power View Desired in Excel 2013: Power Pivot or Data Model

Note: There was a shift in Excel 2013 to weave in Power Pivot so closely with the tool (and call it Data Model) that potentially many users would not even need to learn or use the Power Pivot window. IMHO, that is just keeping people away from all the goodness and richness of Power Pivot. Let them come, let them explore and experience.

Aware but not in Love: Mind the Gap!

While I may feel helpless in making a dent in the Unaware group, I feel impassioned and even obligated to help the Aware but inexperienced group.

I have spoken to many Excel users and noticed that there is a gap between knowing about Power Pivot and actually trying it out yourself to experience its true power. There is a step there that many users simply cannot take. Being on the other side, it baffles me a bit. I feel like yelling “Hey, come on over, the grass IS greener on the other side!”

From Excel to Power Pivot: Mind the gap!

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Vending Machine or Kitchen: Two Kinds of Self-Service

August 12, 2014

Preface:  Breaking the Consulting “Rulebook”

Power Pivot Allows Us to Set a Much Higher Bar - and Then Clear It

This may seem bold:  Starting about six months ago, whenever I find myself in a room with spreadsheet/business/database people, one of the first things I tell them is that Power Pivot won’t just change their work, it will change their LIVES.  That’s right – I tell them, with a straight face, that this business technology will actually make them happier.

That violates one of the unwritten rules of consulting, which is to underpromise and overdeliver – set expectations low enough that no one ever has reason to complain or be disappointed.

I understand why it’s traditionally a good practice to “set the bar low.”  I get it.  I truly do.

“Consumer with Choices” vs. “Empowered Producer” is a BIG Difference

But Power Pivot is different.  Yes, in the truly breakthrough, transformational sense – you knew I was going to say that.  But different in another critical sense as well – it requires (and incents!) the analyst types on the Business side to participate to a degree unlike with any other BI tool.

No matter how they are marketed, every other BI tool I have ever seen treats the business user as a glorified Consumer.  Yes, Business Objects and Cognos for sure, but I’m also looking at you, Tableau and Qlikview and Spotfire.

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