PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015: Day 1

If you're involved in the analysis of data as a data engineer, data analyst or data scientist and you're using the tools from the Microsoft stack, chances are you are in Santa Clara California attending the 2015 PASS Business Analytics Conference. Just in case you've missed out, let me share my experience with the event.

The first day's keynote was delivered by Carlo Ratti of MIT. His keynote was tour-de-force of everything that big data, the internet of things, data analysis and data visualization is all about. We saw a widely varied series of data analysis that went from mundane tracking of volume and location of cell phone calls in the city of Rome as the World Cup was played and the celebrations afterwards to the tracking of credit card use across the nation of Spain in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The data didn't just show behaviors of individuals or groups, although it did do that. It also showed how people made connections to each other. It showed patterns of behavior that would allow for prediction of behavior. The information taken from these large data sources and turned into active visualizations across time and space were simply fascinating. It was an utterly aspirational call to action to take data and do more than just tell us how many widgets were sold last week.

Plus, the Copenhagen Wheel is really cool and I want one.

With the stage set by the keynote, something that every keynote ought to do for an event, the attendees were able to scatter to sessions in five different tracks. The tracks were: Analyze & Interpret, Communicate & Lead, Discover & Integrate, Unlocking Big Data, Visualize & Inform. These sessions were given by a collection of industry leaders that include data scientists, data analysts, data engineers, and just plain old Excel, Business Intelligence and DBA types.

I attended multiple sessions and was impressed with the caliber and scope of the information being presented. Most interesting for me was the fact that there was so much cross-over and inter-dependency between the needs of big data, spreadsheets, and traditional data storage. Some of the information and technology needs presented here at the BAC will define the future for some data professionals and hardcore DBAs. It's pretty exciting stuff.

One of the most fascinating pieces of insight that I received from the event is that, for a lot people, the processes around data are broken. There were lots of sessions on the need to clean data, which implies that we need to do a better job at data collection in order to support this wild new world. There were also a lot of people creating a lot of spreadsheets, again, suggesting that our databases and data stores aren't quite supporting that central point of truth that we need them to be. The needs for good data for predictive analytics can't be over-emphasized and it means a lot of work for all data professionals.

After the first day, I'm very much looking forward to Day 2.

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