As I sat at 39,000 feet flying back home to Nashville last night, I was struck at the amount of things I have seen, heard, and done in the last 6 days in the South Bay area of California.  I took a little personal detour with my sons over the weekend.  Oh my, what a beautiful place it is.  It was fun to see the headquarters of some of my favorite tools and devices like Evernote and Apple, along with so many recognizable tech brands. I had a great view out of my hotel room of the new Levi’s Stadium for the San Francisco 49’ers.  We had such a great time.

It was also a great joy and privilege to spend the past 3 days at the PASS Business Analytics 2015 Conference connecting with other people that are “in the trenches” with analytics.  I was honored to have a session where I shared our experiences with how companies can prototype analytics and build success and momentum in their “data journey” using familiar and low-cost tools like Excel, Power BI, and Power Update. I’ll write a separate blog on this very soon to try to capture the essence of what I shared in the session.

My takeaways from the conference

Power Query is critical to successful Power Pivot/Power BI solutions
Everyone is talking about it.  Power Query optimizes Power Pivot models and now there is Power Query-like functionality is built into the new Power BI Designer

Adaptive/Agile Analytics is the future
Business Intelligence teams are full of people that are ready to “defect” to business analytics.  They are tired of spending their lives building 1000’s of ETL packages and reports/cubes that no one uses.  They are simply ready for new challenges.  And they need to learn tools that business analysts are using.

Excel has a really bright and hard-working community
I met many people who are slogging it out in Excel every day.  Excel usage in business is around 30,000,000.  It is not just a finance tool
And Ken Puhls (@excelguru) is a beast in Excel.  He shared some very helpful tools.

Many Excel users are still “doing it the hard way”
Many are just now learning about Power BI and often feel that predictive analytics and data science is for others.  They are not sure how to get in to the field.

The future is bright for Microsoft Business Analytics
Standalone Power BI Designer (64-bit) has the best of Power Pivot and Power Query rolled into it, without dependance on Excel (IT teams do not like installing 64-bit Office).  The ability to ingest, model, visualize, and deploy has never been more robust and straightforward.
The community of analytics is growing and VERY interested to see what Microsoft is going to do.

Please share your experiences with the conference.  What did you like/dislike?  What would you have wanted to see more/less of?