Power BI and the Trajectory of Your Life

By Avi Singh [Twitter]

At a recent client visit, I found myself thinking of trajectories.

A small shift now can change the trajectory of the rest of your life

After the class, I was chatting with one of the attendees. Here is what I learned:

  • The attendee, let’s call him ‘John’, has been working for many years at this revered institution.
  • He had been using Excel, but he thanked ‘Dan’ who several years ago had introduced him to Excel Pivot Tables
  • That changed his trajectory. And many years later, here he was, sitting in my Power Pivot class…
  • And I wondered…how it would shift the trajectory of the rest of his life
Read the Rest

Grab Bag: Job Opps, Sold Out in Indy, and a Vibrant Power BI Discussion

Post by Rob Collie

Power BI Job Opps, Power Pivot Class Sold Out, Power BI Discussion

Four quick topics today:

  1. Mini-application for for PowerPivotPro jobs
  2. Specific job opp in Seattle area
  3. Indy class sold out
  4. Last week’s Power BI post and the (even more interesting) followup discussion

1) “Mini-Application” Form for PowerPivotPro Jobs

Back in January I mentioned that we’d be expanding the PowerPivotPro team this year.  The calendar tends to zip by under our feet rather quickly, and here we are in August, but we’ve quietly been growing the team, slowly, in the intervening months.

Now however it’s time to lay the groundwork for the next growth phase.  Microsoft is getting serious about Power BI, which is right in our wheelhouse (since it’s built on the Power Pivot and Power Query engines, and philosophically is very much “of our religion.”)  So we’ve got to be ready for the next surge in client demand.

Read the Rest

Are Your Official Data Tools an “Arranged Marriage?”

Post by Rob Collie


A Recent Trip to the Hospital Highlighted the Folly of The Way Things Work

That Oh So Sneaky “Adoption Problem”

I spend a lot of time talking to software vendors. One vendor specifically of course, whose name rhymes with “Bike Row Loft.”  But all software vendors share one basic habit, which is that they’re constantly asking, “How do we get more customers to BUY our tools?”

But I also spend a lot of time talking to their customers.  And while the vendors expect their customers’ most pressing question to be “which software tools do I buy,” the reality I see is FAR different.

Buying software is just the FIRST step down a very difficult road.  You choose the software from Vendor X, announce the decision to your organization, send Vendor X a check…  and that’s the starting gun.


Yeah, Vendor X sees that as the END of the story.  And so do their competitors, Vendor Y and Vendor Z, who slink away defeated.  But you, the purchaser of the tools, well, your story is just beginning isn’t it?

Now you have to get your PEOPLE to start USING the new tools.  And to KEEP using them.  I’ve discovered that this is by FAR a much bigger problem than choosing the tool. 

“The New Operating Room Sucks, Who Designs These Things?”

Read the Rest

Power BI Designer vs. Excel: What’s Microsoft Up To?

Post by Rob Collie

Power BI Designer:  A Good Thing for the Power Pivot Revolutionary in Your Life

This is Power BI Designer, a New Product from Microsoft, and It’s Relevant to ALL of Us.

Major Seismic Activity out of “Mount Redmond”

Some of you may have seen it already, but just in case you haven’t:  in recent months, Microsoft has been touting a preview of what it calls Power BI Designer.  You can download it here for free, and install it right next to all of your other tools, TODAY.

I’ve held off, a LONG time, in writing about Designer.  Because I wasn’t yet sure what to make of it.  I’ve been wary of it, critical of its existence.  It’s taken many, MANY off-the-record conversations with my former colleagues at Microsoft, and a lot of reflection, but now I am ready to talk about it, and even endorse it – with a few caveats near the very end of this post.

The Many Desktop Applications of Power BI

My Start Menu is Getting Crowded with Data Tools:
Excel 2010, Excel 2013, Power BI Designer, and Power Update

Designer is Clearly…  Familiar to Us

Once you install it, you immediately start noticing some similarities to things we know and love:

Power BI Designer Basically Contains Power Query, It's Just Not Called That

Same Basic List of Data Sources We See in Power Query

And then the ribbon has some old friends for us as well…

Read the Rest

No More Apologies: Excel is the World’s Best Data Tool, Period.

Post by Rob Collie


NASA JPL is Using Modern Excel to Perform Financial Analysis On Their
Space Projects, Because Modern Excel is the Best.
(That’s me with Opportunity’s “sister” during a training engagement this Spring)

Too Hot for the Official Excel Blog!


This Post Was Originally Written for the Official MS Excel Blog But Never Went Live
(Their PR Censors Deleted 70% of it and wanted big changes to the rest, so I’m posting here instead)

A couple months ago I was asked if I’d like to do a post for the official Excel.  Heck YES, I said.  (Duh).

And then I realized, I couldn’t let such an opportunity go to waste.  I had to Go Big with this one.  Roll the dice.  Use it as a chance to change the entire conversation around Excel – in ways that Microsoft itself SHOULD be doing, but hasn’t.

So many products now use “we’re better than Excel” as their entire marketing campaign.  I’m swarmed by these ads on Facebook.  And none of these other products are better.  In fact, none of them are even close to being AS good as Excel, much less better.

Read the Rest

A New Take on “Data Quality?”

Post by Rob Collie


Bad Data DOES Lead to Bad Results.  But Good Data Can STILL Lead to Bad Results.

Garbage in, Garbage out.  We’re all familiar with this.  If you’re being given junky source data, it’s going to be hard to perform ANY meaningful analysis or reporting on said data until the quality of the inputs is addressed.

The term “Data Quality” has come to mean precisely that – the quality of your inputs.

But at my recent PASS BA presentation on the Bottom Line, I was talking at length about how we often generate poor outputs – our reports and dashboards often leave much to be desired, because we ourselves, the producers of the work, need to be better.

It’s one of my most-emphasized themes:  we’ve been given this amazing new toolset (Power Pivot and the rest of the Power BI stack).  We shouldn’t just use it to produce the same stuff we produced for decades (even though we can do so much faster and more efficiently than before).

We should strive for more meaningful metrics for instance – metrics that remove noise and produce a clearer picture than the age-old default of “raw dollars.” 

A product may be generating more dollars than last year for instance, but that could be misleading.  Is it generating more profit (it may also be more expensive for us to acquire this year)?  Is it generating more profit per store (we may have increased the number of stores that sell it)?  Per day (maybe it was introduced in May of last year, but this year it’s been available since Jan 1)? 

Read the Rest

Our Road Ahead

Post by Rob Collie


If you believe in redemption
I’m calling to you from another dimension

-The Flobots

Turn the Corner, Press the Accelerator

This post will have a definite “personal” flavor to it, but also a strong professional flavor – of what you should expect from us over the coming year.  Personal and Professional are ALWAYS closely intertwined, and I’m less squeamish about blurring that line in 2015 than in 2009, when we started this journey.  Running my own business has taught me this, but really, it was always true.  I was just less aware of it when I worked at Microsoft.  Now matter how you slice it, it’s our lives.

A few days ago, I resolved a long-running personal matter.  It’s… done.  Just looking at those two words – “it’s done’’ – wow, I’m still letting the new reality settle in.  It’s going to take awhile perhaps.  But we’re going to move forward aggressively now.  A new lease on everything.  And we’re not going to waste it.

Lemony Snicket’s Series of UnFortunate Events

steering wheel

And I can’t help but ask myself
How much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer



Read the Rest

Interview with Chris Finlan of Microsoft

Post by Rob Collie

A Kindred Spirit Revealed!

Rob Collie of PowerPivotPro and Chris Finlan of Microsoft

Me and Chris Last Week at the Microsoft Offices in D.C.
(Their Electronic Signs Are Awkwardly Truthful.)

For about a year I have been working closely with a Microsoft employee named Chris Finlan, the BI TSP for Microsoft’s Mid Atlantic Sales District.  Loosely translated, that means that when it comes to Business Intelligence, he’s the “go to” resource for all of the Enterprise sales teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

On the face of it, that may sound like “well of COURSE you two work closely together – he sells MS BI, and you teach/help people to use it.”  But there are a LOT of technologies in the MS BI stack, and we (at PowerPivotPro) are specialists in the New Wave – not just the newer technologies like Power Pivot and Power BI, but also in the way that the tools are positioned, evangelized, and sold.

Even though we’re 100% aligned with Microsoft’s direction, it takes time for habits to change – both for large companies AND the software sales teams who work with them.  Neither is particularly incented to take risks – the consequences of a failed experiment are high.  So, it’s natural that not everyone has rushed to embrace the New Wave as the total paradigm shift that it is.

The traditional Microsoft BI sales strategy can be loosely characterized as “top down” (pitch/sell the software to the people who write big checks) whereas I think Power Pivot is often better pitched bottom-up (prove its value to a single department or group of users, and the checks come later).  Neither is an “incorrect” approach of course, and they are not mutually exclusive.  In particular, I’ve long believed that “bottom-up” messaging can be an effective part of a “top-down” engagement.

But changes to the script require a LOT of confidence.  The “game” just isn’t set up to reward experimentation.  So ultimately, it often requires someone who’s wired a bit differently.

Rob's Face When he Got Chris's EmailIn my world at least, that person first “surfaced” in an email I received about a year ago.  Chris just dropped me a note and said “hey I’ve been adapting some of the messaging on your website for use with customers, and it’s been working.  Can we have a phone call at some point?”

And at that moment I scrambled for the phone.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Chris and I talk probably three times a week, cooperate on multiple customer engagements, ran classes in Philly (last year) and DC (last week), hatched Insight Center (more on this below), and generally just pester the hell out of each other all week long.

On to the Interview!

Read the Rest