A New Kind of Secret Formula: BI Director Leaves Coca-Cola to Become Power Pivot Professional

Matt Allington

This Man Just Walked Away from His 25-Year Career at Coca-Cola
to Become a Power Pivot Professional.
(And the Short List of Rob’s Favorite People Grows by One)

I Am Not Making This Up

Seriously, this is the Truth.  Matt Allington, pictured above, was until recently the BI Director for the entire Asia-Pacific region at Coca-Cola.

And he recently turned in his resignation – to join OUR ranks.  He sees the same sort of promise here that I first glimpsed in early 2010 – that “New and Better Way” thing.

From Coca-Cola to PowerPivotThis isn’t just an “Excel Pro.”  No, this is someone who has “been around the block” with data tools of all shapes and sizes.  A savvy and respected leader from the BI profession – and not from a small company.

I’m torn on how to describe my reaction.  On one hand, of course, I am not surprised.  When you truly believe in something (as I DO with this Power Pivot stuff), you’re never really shocked when someone else agrees with you.  If you are, you didn’t really believe all that deeply or honestly right?

But at the same time?  HOLY SHIT EVERYONE, the BI Director for Coca-Cola Asia Pacific just jumped ship for the Power Pivot revolution!!!!  Anyone know how many synonyms there are for “awesome?”  Cuz I think I’m going to use every one of them.

An Unexpected Client Development

Back in September, I got an email from a guy named Matt who wanted some quick help with Power Pivot.  Then I noticed Coca-Cola.com as his email address, and THEN I noticed his title.  Hey, I was flattered to help.

 

What came next though was entirely ordinary.  I did just a few hours of consulting for him spread out over several months.  We invoiced Coke, they paid, and I filed the whole thing under No Big Deal.

imageThen, a bombshell email.  Something to the effect of “hey Rob it’s Matt and I think I’m gonna quit my job and start doing what you do.”

I had ZERO clue that he was considering such a move.  This was as “out of the blue” as it gets.  I’ve briefly talked to Matt about what was going on in his head between our last hour of consulting and that shocker of an email, but never as thoroughly as I would like.

Rather than keep the story to myself, I thought we’d kill two birds with one stone and let Matt tell his story here on the blog today.

So, Matt – what the heck man?  What was your thought process behind the scenes, when did the idea strike you, how were you sure you wanted to make this move…  give us the whole story OK?

From Custom Coke Cans to PowerPivot Pro.

From Custom Coke Cans to Power Pivot ProMatt:  Thanks Rob, happy to share the story!  I’ve worked at Coca-Cola for more than half my life – both Sales and IT.  I have a wicked Coke habit (Coke Zero actually) – more “cans per day” than I care to share publicly.   That’s what happens when you have a free Coke fridge in your office for 25 years!  I have always used Excel to help me be successful in my job, yet despite being a heavy Excel user, I completely missed the launch of PowerPivot in 2010 simply because I didn’t have the need for PowerPivot at that time.

As APAC BI Director, I discovered PowerPivot and a Huge Opportunity.

In 2013 I took on the role as BI Director for Coca-Cola in Asia Pacific.  As I started to explore what my customers wanted and what we (IT) were delivering, I inevitably stumbled on the PowerPivot revolution.  I have to say I was stunned at how good this tool was, and also the fact that I had never heard of it before despite it being 3 years old already!  But what I quickly learnt was that there were so many other people out there that also didn’t know about PowerPivot either.  People that could really use this tool (like my power-user customers) were just like me – not aware at all that PowerPivot existed.  Now that was starting to look like an opportunity.

As a Student of PowerPivot, I learnt that there is a lot to learn

But I was only just getting started on my journey of discovery.  I then bought a really good book – your book actually Rob – DAX Formulas for PowerPivot.  As I started to read this book, the world of possibilities was starting to dawn on me as I started to join 2 key concepts together – a problem and a solution.

First the problem. My role in BI at Coca-Cola is/was to ensure that my team delivers high quality, scalable, robust and highly available Enterprise BI solutions that meet the business needs (read:  “slow and expensive”).

Yet my journey of discovery with my customers identified something else – another complementary need.  There is also a need for agile and affordable solutions that are not a great fit to this expensive Enterprise BI model.  What I was discovering was there is a place for BOTH enterprise strength and “Agile and Affordable BI” (as I now call it), and the latter was not being met.  Now for the solution – enter stage left PowerPivot available as a plug in (for free) in Excel, the “super software” that has sat on everyone’s computer for the last 20 years.

Microsoft has Nailed it with its Excel Centric BI Strategy

imageI have been an expert Excel user all my life (well more correctly all of Excel’s life).  In fact I fell in love with the power of spreadsheets back in 1989 as I taught myself to program macros in Lotus 123.

In my view Microsoft has really nailed it with this MS BI strategy, and particularly with PowerPivot.  Bring in the SQL Server team to create a new super tool for the super tool is brilliant!  Microsoft is leveraging 2 of its greatest strengths with this strategy – its expertise in data modeling from SQL Server and its ubiquitous strength with the deployed client base of Excel.

Through my career I have seen a LOT of BI software – most of them expensive, and I don’t just mean software licencing costs.  The expense of BI solutions hides in many places, from development and deployment costs, speed to value, maintenance costs, hardware costs, support costs and most expensive of all “lack of usage”.  One common theme I have seen over the years is that most data ultimately ends up in Excel.  Microsoft knows this, and that is one of the reasons I think this is a brilliant strategy.

There is a lot to learn about PowerPivot if you want to be an expert

The next defining moment in my mental journey to become a Freelance PowerPivot Professional was the 4 hours of training that you referred to earlier Rob.  I found it very difficult to find PowerPivot experts in Australia, particularly on how to effectively use DAX.   I liked your book and wanted to extend my learning and that of my team.  I learnt 2 new things from my 4 hours of dedicated Rob training.  Firstly I had completely under estimated how doubly brilliant PowerPivot was.

But more importantly 4 weeks after the training had finished, I learnt what is possibly the most important lessons of all.  You can’t learn PowerPivot in a day, and you also can’t then pick it up 4 weeks later and expect to be an expert.  If you want to be a PowerPivot Pro, it is a case of “use it or lose it”.  Of course the skills can be learnt by any user who is so inclined, but if you want to be an expert, that is a different thing all together.

So begins my exciting journey as a PowerPivot Pro

So here I am.  I have 30+ years’ experience in using data, firstly as a business user and more recently as an IT professional delivering solutions to business users.  There is this massive opportunity for Agile & Affordable BI solutions that is currently not met by enterprise strength BI, and there is this “new” PowerPivot product that is so powerful that you need an expert to get the most from it.    Well that was enough for me to quit my successful career at The Coca-Cola Company and carve out a career for myself as a PowerPivot Trainer, Consultant and solution provider instead.

To Be Continued…

Back to Rob here.  We’ve run out of room to say everything here, but Matt’s new company is going to be collaborating with PowerPivotPro, and that deserves some “ink” of its own in the near future.

For now, I encourage you to go verify that Matt is indeed real and so is his new company, Excelerator Custom Business Solutions:

Matt’s Website: http://exceleratorcbs.com.au/

Matt’s LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattallington

11 Responses to A New Kind of Secret Formula: BI Director Leaves Coca-Cola to Become Power Pivot Professional

  1. Willem says:

    That does it, I am quitting my day-job! ;-)

  2. gregkramer1 says:

    Rob\Matt,

    Very inspiring post!!

    I’m glad that Rob posted the links to Matt’s website and LinkedIn profile because I suspect that teh stuffy/pretentious/disbelieving ‘BI Pro’s’ would otherwise think that Rob had resorted to fiction to catalyze the Power Pivot revolution :-)

  3. A very positive development for agile BI. I’ve been discouraged with “self-service” BI, which is mostly unable to deliver. Agile BI is the sweet spot between the huge, over-organized software solution and the individual chaos of “let’s export some data to Excel and see what we can do with it”. A little data warehousing, some SSRS and an Power Pivot pro with access to SharePoint and Boom! Everybody has access to critical BI.

    • Tim Rodman says:

      I haven’t heard the term “agile BI” before, but it sounds like a great way to describe the sweet spot between “dictator BI” and “anarchy BI.”

      Best of luck to you Matt. I think that you’re in a great position to deliver “agile BI” for your clients based on your experience at Coca-Cola.

  4. Jeff Lingen says:

    I applaud the courage and foresight. I agree with Matt’s assessment about becoming an expert – it takes more then just learning the formulas. Power pivot continues to amaze me as it seems to evolve and redefine its self and fit into seemingly endless use cases. Its pretty impressive how a single tool can provide so much value. Good luck Matt.

  5. Dave says:

    Vive la revolution!

  6. Welcome to the r-evolution

  7. Having worked with Matt for many years at Coke I can tell you that this is a very positive endorsement of the value of Power Pivot. Matt’s clients will be served well by his experience across Sales & IT as he’s been using an Agile BI approach for many years in order to help the business drive revenue, profits.& better decision making.

  8. David B says:

    Good luck Matt! I recently left my job to work with BI because I found PowerPivot to be so much fun. Im sure you will find great success and hopefully this will mean lots of insightful posts on this blog.

  9. Rob says:

    Good luck Matt! Wishing you the best and envious as heck.

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