Our National Business Gets its First Local Office (Seattle)
If you were paying close attention to my article on the role of consulting firms in the self-service BI revolution, you may remember that we operate on a geographically-independent basis. Since our services deliver rapid results at a much higher benefit-to-cost ratio than traditional BI, our clients don’t feel “stalked,” or like they are signing away their soul when they hire us. As a result, we don’t need to be “wining and dining” them through a long sales cycle, nor do we need to “park” a team of consultants onsite at the client forever.
That inversion of the traditional model has granted us the flexibility to be a truly national practice. We are free to hire the absolute-best available talent, no matter where we find it (at least within the USA, which is a big pool), and we don’t need to drive up our overhead costs by establishing glitzy offices in multiple cities.
That geo-independence will remain a powerful advantage for us, but today we are opening a local office in the Seattle WA area – a bit of a “zig” to go with our “zag.”
“OK, Whatcha Gonna Be DOING in Seattle?”
- Better serving our relationship with Microsoft. Both as a client (we do a lot of work for them already) and as our (obvious) strategic partner.
- Leveraging our unique assets (our people) that we have on the ground out there. See below for more on that.
- Experimenting and Learning. We all come to work every day ENJOYING that we are discovering/inventing a new model for the BI consulting industry. The opportunity to have a “lab” of sorts in the single-hottest location in the world for Power BI has been an irresistible pull for some time now.
- Hardcore “trying on” the Power BI label. Today, even our national practice is doing about a 50/50 mix of Power Pivot vs. Power BI work, but our longstanding name says “Power Pivot” and we’re curious what would happen if we had an entity less closely-tied to one tech or the other. Since Power BI is the “hot thing” in Seattle, while general Power Pivot awareness still stands at around 1% or less overall (thanks to it never being properly marketed, not once), this should be interesting.
“Why Local, Why Now, and Why Seattle?”
So if the national model is working so well for us, why “go local” at all? Good question, glad you, ahem, asked.
In short: a concentration of demand and expertise. The Seattle area, thanks to Microsoft being headquartered there, has a much-higher Power BI awareness “coefficient” than other areas of the country. Heck, we even do a healthy business today already at Microsoft itself, simply helping their internal teams maximize the value they get out of their own platform. But awareness and demand extend well beyond the walls of Microsoft. Even socially, Power BI awareness has quite a “leg up” on national awareness – think just for a moment about how many employees there are of the Power BI engineering teams alone. Now imagine each one of them tells, say, two neighbors on their street. Boom, thousands of companies “infected” with the benevolent virus. (This is one reason why, for so long, Ballmer insisted everyone at MS carry Windows phones – but it helps, a LOT, to have a dramatically-better product than the competition, as is the case with the Power Pivot and Power BI suites).
That awareness, as well as the overall richness of the “tech” talent in my former backyard, ALSO means there’s a very deep well of local Power BI EXPERTISE available in the greater Seattle area. A disproportionate number of our job applicants (to the national practice) hail from the Land of the Seahawks.
This dual concentration of demand and talent warrants a special amount of investment. Which brings me to my next point…
Led by Tom Williams
When the need for P3 Northwest became clear to me, my first big question was, “Who Should Lead It?” Can’t be me for instance, since Indianapolis is currently my home city. We needed someone on the ground there, someone we can trust to spearhead it properly.
“Who do I know… in Seattle… who knows Analytics, knows Excel, and knows Microsoft… who has executive experience, marketing experience, and sales experience… who knows Power BI as well as the so-called competition… and that I personally know and trust?”
BOOM. Tom Williams, people! An old friend and colleague of mine, stretching back to the Microsoft days. I’m thrilled to say that he sees the same potential that we see, and “voted with his feet” – it takes a lot to convince someone like Tom that a sharp turn of the old career wheel is in order, but with someone as sharp and seasoned as he… the opportunity to help re-make an industry – a solidly-credible chance at that – well, the conversation quickly turned to “why haven’t we done this ALREADY?”
Just for fun, let’s review some credentials here:
- Former Product Manager & Program Manager on the Excel team at Microsoft, long before I created my first PivotTable
- Coached me up before my first-ever public software demo – in 1998!
- Has experience starting new companies and building them to fruition
- Strongly proficient with Tableau (not that we will be doing that kind of work, but knowing the competition is a huge plus)
- Was part of the same PowerPivotPro Foundations training class as Matt Allington, in the long-ago year of 2014
Blast from the Past: Tom Trekked to Cleveland to Learn DAX at the Same Time (2014) that Matt Allington Visited!
Not Just Tom…
Scott brings a variety of technical experience across the entire stack – he has literally done everything. SQL, SSIS, C#, C++, DAX, M… you name it, he’s got rich experience. And that experience gives us two big things: first is the obvious one, which is… if we need that kind of thing, he can do it. Need some automated data plumbing to “feed” your overall solution? Custom visualizations? Power BI embedding into your line of business application? We’ve gotcha covered.
But more importantly… he (Scott) has the wisdom to LEAD those sorts of multi-tech, integrated projects. We don’t anticipate him being the primary hands-on “doer” of much of that work, because he ALSO brings a passion for growing and mentoring others. He’s already spent the past several years cultivating a network of talented folks as part of his own company (Tiny Lizard), and we’re excited to tap into that network. (For those who are curious: Tiny Lizard will continue to exist and operate indefinitely as a separate firm – we’re not asking him to close that down any time soon, if ever. As P3 Northwest grows, we’ll mutually re-evaluate the optimal arrangement.)
In tandem, Reid has quickly become my personal “go-to” expert on Power BI itself. As you’ve seen in his recent posts, he brings a unique blend of energy and capability to the PBIX game. I’m admittedly an Excel purist and will likely remain so for a long time, but I can “give” a favorite DAX technique to Reid and he’ll run with it in Power BI, creating something far more compelling than I ever could have imagined. He’s been running webinars for the Microsoft folks and is already known to the “cool kids” on Microsoft campus, but is far from just a “flash” guy – substantive work is arguably where he shines even more. He’s done hundreds of hours of onsite work for Microsoft internal finance and accounting teams this year alone, building solutions that are visible at the highest levels of management.
Reid also brings a passion and experience for teaching, and is in fact a regular instructor at the university level, serving as a guest professor at both the University of Washington and Bellevue College. Given that consulting on self-service BI (like Power Bi and Power Pivot) fundamentally requires a training/instructional component, this is obviously A Big Deal to us. But again, the capability to help grow a team out there in Seattle – this gives us a dual threat capability in Reid, muhaha.
If You Want to Learn More…
They are available to answer any questions, or even just to learn about the tradeoffs between Tableau and Power BI, the long history of data in the Microsoft ecosystem, etc.
Drop him a note: