The PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 is for Data Analysts, Data Scientists and Data Engineers who work primarily within the Microsoft set of tools, whether locally or on Azure. Today was the end of the second and final day. of the conference. It was a very interesting event. I posted of my experience on the first day here. Day two was just as interesting.
The start of the day was a keynote presentation from Mico Yuk of BiBrainz. Where yesterday's keynote was somewhat pie-in-the-sky for a lot of people, Mico's presentation was grounded in what people can actually get done within their organizations immediately. Her presentation was wide ranging and covered a lot of topics, but I can sum it up in a single word; dopamine. Mico's message was focused on the importance of the image as a mechanism of storytelling and the foundation within science of how the cognitive centers of the brain respond positively to images through the release of dopamine to make us feel good. Futher, Mico outlined the need of using image-based storyboards to develop dashboards in order to have a better understanding of the flow and intent of the dashboard. All this is to both help make the dashboards prettier, releasing that dopamine, but also to make them actually useful and important for the business, again, probably releasing dopamine. It was a funny and interesting presentation that clearly communicated the goals that Mico laid out at the start.
Once again, the keynote helped set a positive message for the rest of the day.
Once more a large selection of speakers provided a variety of presentations focusing on the needs of the analyst and those who support them.
The one point I'll make today is about the attendees. I spent a lot of time talking to people at the event to find out why they were there and how they found out about it. There was a really interesting mix of people. A pretty healthy majority of the people were business focused, not technology focused. They broke pretty evenly between management, analysts and data scientists. Then there were the more classic business intelligence people working with Analysis Services and other standard tools. Finally there were what I've started calling data engineers, the DBAs and other data pros who provide all the infrastructure that makes the magic happen. It felt like a very unique mix of people.
Talking to these people, their needs were actually shockingly familiar. There was a real sense that people were walling themselves off from one another. The IT people keep telling the business people that they can't have access to the data. The business people won't tell the IT people what data sources they actually need. No one is talking to the data analysts. Further, while all these people are working hard, building data sources, dashboards, and future projections, the lack of communication is keeping this work from being properly implemented and used. Over and over I heard a problem space that sounds exactly like what I've been dealing with in the DevOps movement. Increase communication.
Tear down institutional walls. Improve process. Most importantly, provide measurements on top of everything to prove it's use and worth so that you can build and improve on what was delivered. I can't help but wonder if DevOps is going to expand to cover these more business specific needs, or if there's going to be another movement, similar to DevOps, but focused on data analysis.
If PASS puts this event on again, I'd like to see more sessions focused around the methods for eliminating institutional walls and fostering communication and teamwork. They've got the right people in the building. Let's get them talking to each other to solve this problem.