Rise of the “Business Modeler”


Get it?  Business Modelers?

This is My Vote

I really enjoyed the response to Tuesday’s post.  A lot of good suggestions, debate, and discussion.

Summary of the responses:

  1. No one likes the word “formuleer.”  OK, I’m cool with that.  I’d made it up anyway.  Yeah that article never had the word formuleer in its title – I doctored the image.
  2. Some people doubt whether we (Excel pros becoming Power Pivot pros) need a new name, and I understand their thinking, but I’ve seen too much of this market to be swayed.
  3. A lot of support for a descriptive name.  As in, nothing fancy like “formuleer” or even “data scientist.”  Just describe what we do.  Make it more substantive than just a buzzword.
  4. A lot of suggested new names along the lines of “BI Developer” and “BI Architect” – and I like those.  They reflect what a Power Pivot pro does.  But we already have those titles in the world today, and they tend to mean “data warehouse and SSRS architect.”  We are different.

In the course of reading all of those comments yesterday, it popped into my head.

We are Business Modelers.

My Reasoning

We don’t build data warehouses, so we should avoid “BI.”  We don’t run experiments, so we aren’t  “scientists.”  We don’t write code, so we aren’t “developers.”

The crux of the “formuleer” suggestion was that we write formulas.  We produce numbers that simply didn’t EXIST before in the business.

imageBut we do more than write formulas of course.  We also relate data sources and tables together.  We splice.  Again, to produce numbers that the business has never had before (but should have had).

And those formulas and linked data sets are MORE than the sum of their parts.  The combination of all of that is what we call a “model.”  It can then be used to answer a wide variety of questions.  Models can be extended and expanded over time. 

A lot of thought goes into the creation of these models.  But you know what else?  They also stimulate thought – they trigger us to ask new and better questions.  More thought comes out than goes in, actually – much like one definition of a star (a body that radiates more light/heat than it absorbs, which Jupiter does!)

And lastly, we are very much grounded in the business.  We are not purely defined by a tech skill.  We are a hybrid.  And that is the secret to the magic – having both domains in a single brain.

What do you think?

So, what do you think about our tentative new title?  Try it on for a little while before answering.

Rob Collie

One of the founding engineers behind Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, and creator of the world’s first cloud Power Pivot service, Rob is one of the foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and next-generation spreadsheet technology.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Colin Michael

    I like it, except for the acronym. Business Data Modeler maybe?

    1. powerpivotpro

      Ya the acronym is unfortunate but perhaps the adults will prevail here and it won’t matter. (Don’t look at me though, I am not one of the adults. So it definitely occurred to me).

      BDM is “taken” – Business Decision Maker. And yes, a Biz Modeler CAN be a BDM as well, but BDM tends to be used as “purchasing decision maker” quite a bit so it’s best we not confuse the two.

      Biz Information Modeler was suggested to me today as well. Just not sure about adding a third word unless it contributes true meaning. “Information” seems potentially redundant.

      1. Fernando Fajardo

        Business Modeler is nice but maybe the highest level, depending on the impact caused in the business. Business Data Modeler I believe provides a better definition. Senior Management are the real business modelers.

  2. frederic gilbert

    I am comfortable with Business Modeler.

    I still have a small hesitation with ‘modeler’ because people don’t know what it means and this would require some explanations albeit short ones as in ‘I make models by stitching multiple business data source together’…

    Well done, Rob!

    1. powerpivotpro

      Thanks Frederic! You very much contributed to the thought process. I was watching all of the discussion closely as you might suspect.

      I think it’s hard to find a term that is truly “self defining.” This one is as close as we can hope for IMO.

  3. betsig250

    Man just imagine if HR decided to put a Senior in front of that job title..

  4. winston snyder

    Hi Rob,

    How about BIM (Business Information Modeler)

    1. Jeroen Holterman

      Business Information Modeler sounds very understandable

    2. Rick Grantham (@BIStrategyGuy)

      I like that one Winston. Business Information Modeler has a ring to it :)

    3. Michaek Amadi

      +1 for Business Information Modeler

  5. Dave

    Rob – Me Likey :)

    I vote for “Business Modeler.” Business data modeler sounds like an SQL’er. We don’t model data….we model the business (using data, of course). It does not pigeonhole….It’s just vague enough to spin anyway you like.

  6. Juanito

    Yes, it sounds good to me – bring it on!
    (BTW I must be very grown-up… I don’t get the acronym thing.)

  7. sam


    Your blog ate up my comment in the previous post.

    “I vote for “DataSmith” – but another PowerPivot Pro http://blog.gobansaor.com/ has laid claims to it already.”

  8. blogisch (@blogisch)

    I haven’t seen much of the discussion, so just my 2 cents, having a love/hate relationship with excel. The term ‘model’ reminds me of my days as a physics teacher where a formula presents a model of the real world. In this sense I understand ‘business modeler’. But ….
    it has a strong connotation for me with users of the framework ‘Business Model Canvas’ in which you can model almost any business. http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com

    For me, formulas often aggregate or enrich data and helps us turn data into information … but how do you name someone who is a pro in data-information transformations?

  9. Chris

    I like it! And “Business Data Modeler” does align well with Microsoft’s renaming of the data relationships as a “data model” in Excel 2013.

    (Personally, I still prefer “PowerPivot model” because it’s more descriptive and doesn’t lead people to think that I am just another database guy. Besides, database people have to write reports. PowerPivot modelers provide decision-makers with ad-hoc information analysis capability)

    My current title is “Sr. Simulation Analyst” (discrete event simulation modeling of factory automation systems and 3D animation). Originally, the company wanted to change the “analyst” part to “engineer”. I fought that.

    For one, I’m not an “engineer” by education; and secondly, a lot of my work involves looking into performance of already existing systems and/or design concepts. I use Excel in that role because of the need to get a quick summary of the data to drive my models on the input side, and Excel’s robust charting capabilities on the output side.

    We used to (10 years ago) have difficulty getting any operational data from potential customers, but now when we ask for 6 months worth their likely to give us 6 years worth! I discovered PowerPivot as a way handle that huge volume of data — fast! I’m trying to get others here to use it, but they’re stuck in their ways… they’d rather (well, they end up) creating duplicate data summaries for each month or each quarter, instead of having a single model that they can just choose how they want to aggregate/view the data.

    PowerPivot is definitely making a difference in my career!


    1. Jeroen Holterman

      Hi Chris, “PowerPivot modelers provide decision-makers with ad-hoc information analysis capability” Nice quote!

      You said: “I’m trying to get others here to use it, but they’re stuck in their ways…”
      That is so recognizable, I hear exactly the same reactions.

  10. gregkramer1

    If economists (or data modelers) could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

    John Maynard Keynes

    The data dentist, while it would keep hubris in check, may not be the super stickiest tag though.

    Maybe Rob should get Bill G’ to weigh in here on a name for people who do this: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323539804578261780648285770

  11. robo74

    I am going to throw one out here. Due to the relationship of using data in Excel to create charts for consumption, call this new realm of the Excel Pro the Data Cartographer.

  12. Leonard Murphy (@phonetictalk)

    I like business data modeler. Personally I still lean towards data analyst. I know that has preconceptions (all job titles do). There are a lot of data analysts that aren’t familiar with Power Pivot. That’s where the revolution is.

  13. Oxenskiold

    I believe that for a Powerpivot Pro there can only be one fully describing title:

    – Filter Moderator –

  14. Peter Scjmidy

    I like Decision Support Modeler. Reports are only of value to a business if they act on them and that means getting the right information to the right person at the right time so that they can make a decision that has a positive business outcome.

  15. Michael T. Bee

    I’m with Leonard. It seems like an evolving role of a business data analyst.

    Names I gave up on (because of the acronyms and my silliness):

    Business Spectrometrist
    Business Investigator-Gatherer
    Decision Intelligence-Gatherer

  16. David Hager (@dhExcel)

    Out in the real world, business modeler is apparently synonymous with associate consultant, a step below a business analyst. http://bit.ly/1735F9V

  17. guitarthrower

    Late to the game on this discussion, but I have a feeling that we are stretching too much here. What we have are sets of skills that allow us fill a variety of roles in a company. Our Excel skills and the methods we use allow us to be great data scientists, business analysts, etc based on how we apply our skills.

  18. Seth Strandin

    I am just starting my journey into PowerPivot but I can’t help but feel that the PPP is a Business Decision Enabler (or possibly BI Decision Enabler).
    Q? Will the world understand what it means or will people in their minds see a machine or a maharishi?
    With the massive brainpower available here I expect that any usable part of this will be brought out and if it won’t fly at least I got it off my mind.

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