Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
PASS Summit 2014 Day 2 Keynote: A Masterclass In Cloud Databases, And Also A Masterclass In Tech Marketing
The PASS Summit keynote today was given by Dr Rimma Nehme, a colleague of PASS favourite Dr David DeWitt, who gave a great talk on cloud databases. A recording of the keynote will I’m sure be posted somewhere to view if you weren’t able to watch it live – it was an excellent presentation, I learned a lot and I recommend you watch it. However, the technical content of today’s presentation is not what I want to talk about here.
Sitting on the blogger’s table yesterday and today, I realised something about tech marketing in general and the challenges that Microsoft faces in marketing its cloud-first, BI-heavy strategy to its existing SQL Server customers. Let’s imagine you knew nothing about SQL Server, Microsoft, PASS and so on. If you looked at the reactions on Twitter (which I think are representative of the reactions of the SQL Server community as a whole) to yesterday’s keynote and today’s keynote, you would have seen a big difference. Yesterday there was a mixture of supportive comments and the snarking/complaining/moaning that has become common in PASS keynotes. Now it’s hard to put your own opinions on Microsoft’s strategy and how MVPs should behave on Twitter to one side, but if you can then you have to admit that the negative reactions represent a gigantic marketing failure. Some people, a lot of people, are unhappy with the message that Microsoft is putting across. Part of me wants people not to be unhappy – and I’m sure lots of people at Microsoft are equally frustrated – because I can see the logic behind Microsoft’s decisions, but wanting people to change their minds is not the same thing as persuading people to change their minds.
In contrast, the reaction on Twitter to Dr Nehme’s talk today was overwhelmingly positive. The same people who were unhappy yesterday were respectful and attentive today. There was a standing ovation at the end. But what was the topic? The cloud! Isn’t the cloud the root of all evil? Why were the reactions so different? Well, you say, this was technical education, not marketing. It was indeed technical education, but let me be clear: today’s keynote was just as much a marketing presentation as yesterday’s keynote. The difference is that it was highly effective marketing for the cloud, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to ram the cloud down people’s throats. Truly effective marketing is not obvious as marketing; truly effective marketing of this kind is something that the intended audience actively enjoys (and I’m not saying this is done as some kind of cynical deception – today’s audiences are too aware for anything insincere to succeed). Today’s keynote did more for the perception of Microsoft’s cloud strategy in its target audience than anything else I have seen recently. The other confusing aspect of this is that the ineffective marketing here is the work– I assume – of marketing professionals – whereas the effective marketing has been done by someone who is clearly One Of Us (although she mentioned at the beginning of her presentation, I think, that she had an MBA as well as a laundry list of other impressive qualifications) and not a marketing professional.
So what can we, and more importantly Microsoft, learn from this? It’s that if you want to do effective marketing to a technical audience you have to talk tech to them. Speak to them as equals in a language they understand, and provide strong technical reasons to back up what you’re saying. Traditional marketing that relies on theatre and pizzazz and that has no substance is actually counter-productive and damaging. The good news is that Microsoft does have a lot of people who instinctively understand this. I have always felt that Buck Woody is a true technical marketing genius, quite apart from his many other accomplishments. Donald Farmer is too, and that’s why so many people saw his leaving Microsoft as a significant blow for Microsoft BI. I’m not arguing that Microsoft fire its marketing department and let the techies handle marketing itself because that’s clearly never going to happen, I doubt the techies would want to do that job full-time, and let’s face it the techies would be equally inept at marketing but in different ways. What needs to happen is that the marketing professionals at Microsoft understand that their current, very traditional strategy is failing and that it should be replaced with an entirely new approach. The evidence from PASS is that the content itself is not the problem, it’s the way it is being presented.
I’m sitting on the blogger’s table for the PASS Summit 2014 keynote, and this post is a quick summary of all of the BI-related announcements (minor and hopefully major) made this year. The really interesting developments will get their own, dedicated blog posts later…
- Azure Machine Learning is now available to everyone with a Microsoft Account ID with no credit card or subscription necessary http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2014/11/05/microsoft-announces-major-update-to-azure-sql-database-adds-free-tier-to-azure-machine-learning.aspx
- It was announced (again) that Power BI in the cloud will be able to connect back to on-prem SSAS servers via the Data Management Gateway soon
- James Phillips, the new guy in charge of MS BI, showed the same – new – Power BI that he showed at WPC this summer. This is not the Power BI that’s released today, but one with a much nicer dashboard experience and one that can be edited (rearrange charts, change chart types, combine two charts into a single combo-chart) directly from the browser.
- Also in this new Power BI you can connect direct to services like SalesForce or upload Excel spreadsheets direct from the browser – you are building your models in the browser, not in Excel. This is significant for people who don’t have the right version of Excel/Office 365 right now, a very welcome development.
- And all of this is HTML5, no Silverlight thank goodness. So it will work on far more devices.
- Public preview of the new Power BI is coming soon!
This is just a quick post to advertise some upcoming speaking and training dates…
I’ll be at the PASS Summit in Seattle next week, and if you see me around be sure to say hello! I’ll be presenting a deep dive session on MDX scoped assignments at 9:45am on Friday November 7th, and I’ll be signing copies of my new Power Query book on the Apress stand in the exhibition hall at 1pm on Wednesday November 5th.
I will also be live-tweeting (I’m @technitrain on Twitter if you aren’t following me already) and blogging throughout the keynotes each day too. I suspect there will be some big announcements this year – Jen Underwood dropped some hints, and a list of interesting sessions to attend, on her blog last week.
On Wednesday November 12th I’ll be speaking about Power BI at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London, alongside the likes of Jen Stirrup, James Rowland-Jones and assorted celebrities like Professor Brian Cox, Sir Nigel Shadbolt and David Braben (the guy who co-wrote Elite!)
Training in London
There are a whole bunch of new courses up on the Technitrain site, taught by me and various other SQL Server experts (such as James Rowland-Jones, Jamie Thomson, Klaus Aschenbrenner, Andy Leonard and Allan Hirt) from around the world, and covering a wide variety of SQL Server and Microsoft BI topics. There are still places available on my Power Query course on Thursday November 13th if you’re interested in attending.
Training in Aarhus, Denmark
I’ve just put up a bunch of new courses (including a dedicated Power Query course!) on the Technitrain site that will be running this autumn in London. They are:
- SQL Server Integration Services 2012 Design Patterns, with Andy Leonard, 8-11 September 2014
- Super-Scaling SQL Server with Thomas Kejser, 10 October 2014
- Introduction to MDX, with Chris Webb, 13-15 October 2014
- SQL Server Query Tuning Workshop, with Klaus Aschenbrenner, 20-23 October 2014
- Introduction to Power Query, with Chris Webb, 13 November 2014, London
- Microsoft Analytics Platform Workshop, with James Rowland-Jones, 18-21 November 2014
I hope to see some of you there! Don’t forget you can also get 10% off on my MDX training videos and lots of other great MS BI content at Project Botticelli using the discount code TECHNITRAIN2014.
This morning I was wondering whether we’d see any cool new stuff announced at the PASS BA Conference this year, or whether we’d see the same old Power BI demos yet again. It turns out there were a whole load of announcements, some of them very cool indeed – and here’s a brief summary:
- A native Power BI mobile for iOS will be available by the end of the summer. Other platforms (which means Android I guess) will come soon after that.
- SSRS will be available in Power BI sites and will be able to connect back to on-prem data sources. This is big, in my opinion – it will be very attractive for a lot of existing MS BI customers. Also the way to get SSRS reports on mobile?
- Power View in Power BI will be able to connect back to SSAS on premises (just Tabular though, or Multidimensional too?)
- A new KPI editor in the Power BI site will allow you not only create KPIs but arrange them to create dashboards. This looks like the replacement for PerformancePoint.
- Time series forecasting is available in Power View online now. It’s available in charts and you just forecast by dragging the chart forward; outliers can be corrected easily. Will need to check this out later.
- Power View is getting a treemap visualisation.
- Power View is getting a new Data Exploration mode that allows you to edit reports in the browser. This has a lot of cool new stuff, such as the ability to drag data points out of existing charts to create new charts.
Lots to follow up on there… more blog posts on this coming soon, I promise!
In case you missed the announcement yesterday, SQLBits XII will be taking place at the International Centre, Telford, UK on July 17th-19th. SQLBits is the biggest SQL Server and Microsoft BI conference in Europe and will feature precons and sessions from some of the best-known SQL Server experts in the world (I see Brent Ozar and Brian Knight have already submitted sessions, which is cool). And apart from all the amazing technical content it’s a lot of fun – just ask anyone who’s been to a previous SQLBits!
Full details and the link to register can be found on the SQLBits website: http://sqlbits.com/ Hope to see you there…
If you’ve got some training budget burning a hole in your pocket, here’s a quick reminder of some upcoming SSAS and MDX courses I’m teaching:
- Sydney, 23-26 July 2013 – SSAS Multidimensional Cube Design, Performance Tuning and MDX Deep Dive
- Melbourne, 29 July-1 August 2013 – SSAS Multidimensional Cube Design, Performance Tuning and MDX Deep Dive
- London, 26-27 September 2013 – Introduction to SSAS 2013 Tabular Models
- London, 13-15 November 2013 – Introduction to MDX
Hope to see you there! If you’d like to find out about new courses by me and other SQL Server people, you can sign up to the Technitrain newsletter at http://www.technitrain.com