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Post by Rob Collie
A Kindred Spirit Revealed!
Me and Chris Last Week at the Microsoft Offices in D.C.
(Their Electronic Signs Are Awkwardly Truthful.)
For about a year I have been working closely with a Microsoft employee named Chris Finlan, the BI TSP for Microsoft’s Mid Atlantic Sales District. Loosely translated, that means that when it comes to Business Intelligence, he’s the “go to” resource for all of the Enterprise sales teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
On the face of it, that may sound like “well of COURSE you two work closely together – he sells MS BI, and you teach/help people to use it.” But there are a LOT of technologies in the MS BI stack, and we (at PowerPivotPro) are specialists in the New Wave – not just the newer technologies like Power Pivot and Power BI, but also in the way that the tools are positioned, evangelized, and sold.
Even though we’re 100% aligned with Microsoft’s direction, it takes time for habits to change – both for large companies AND the software sales teams who work with them. Neither is particularly incented to take risks – the consequences of a failed experiment are high. So, it’s natural that not everyone has rushed to embrace the New Wave as the total paradigm shift that it is.
The traditional Microsoft BI sales strategy can be loosely characterized as “top down” (pitch/sell the software to the people who write big checks) whereas I think Power Pivot is often better pitched bottom-up (prove its value to a single department or group of users, and the checks come later). Neither is an “incorrect” approach of course, and they are not mutually exclusive. In particular, I’ve long believed that “bottom-up” messaging can be an effective part of a “top-down” engagement.
But changes to the script require a LOT of confidence. The “game” just isn’t set up to reward experimentation. So ultimately, it often requires someone who’s wired a bit differently.
In my world at least, that person first “surfaced” in an email I received about a year ago. Chris just dropped me a note and said “hey I’ve been adapting some of the messaging on your website for use with customers, and it’s been working. Can we have a phone call at some point?”
And at that moment I scrambled for the phone. The rest, as they say, is history. Chris and I talk probably three times a week, cooperate on multiple customer engagements, ran classes in Philly (last year) and DC (last week), hatched Insight Center (more on this below), and generally just pester the hell out of each other all week long.
On to the Interview!
This Man Just Walked Away from His 25-Year Career at Coca-Cola
to Become a Power Pivot Professional.
(And the Short List of Rob’s Favorite People Grows by One)
I Am Not Making This Up
Seriously, this is the Truth. Matt Allington, pictured above, was until recently the BI Director for the entire Asia-Pacific region at Coca-Cola.
And he recently turned in his resignation – to join OUR ranks. He sees the same sort of promise here that I first glimpsed in early 2010 – that “New and Better Way” thing.
This isn’t just an “Excel Pro.” No, this is someone who has “been around the block” with data tools of all shapes and sizes. A savvy and respected leader from the BI profession – and not from a small company.
I’m torn on how to describe my reaction. On one hand, of course, I am not surprised. When you truly believe in something (as I DO with this Power Pivot stuff), you’re never really shocked when someone else agrees with you. If you are, you didn’t really believe all that deeply or honestly right?
But at the same time? HOLY SHIT EVERYONE, the BI Director for Coca-Cola Asia Pacific just jumped ship for the Power Pivot revolution!!!! Anyone know how many synonyms there are for “awesome?” Cuz I think I’m going to use every one of them.
An Unexpected Client Development
Back in September, I got an email from a guy named Matt who wanted some quick help with Power Pivot. Then I noticed Coca-Cola.com as his email address, and THEN I noticed his title. Hey, I was flattered to help.
Brief Intro from Rob: Tim has a great “backstory.” He found out about Power Pivot in the “usual” way – via a completely random coincidence. I taught a private class to a firm here in town a couple years back, and one of the attendees (a guy named Andy) lived a few houses down the street from Tim. Sitting outside at a summer barbecue, Andy mentioned Power Pivot to Tim, Tim said “what’s that?” and six months later Tim was a speaker at our Modern Excel User group. I think he has some very interesting things to say here – very introspective and honest. Worth a read for everyone.
Take it away Tim…
I’ve been thinking lately about Self-Service BI and barriers to entry. Now, when it comes to Self-Service BI, much of the focus is on the technology. Do you want to go with Microsoft, Tableau, something else? It seems to me like most of the content on the subject of Self-Service BI is focused on comparing the different technology offerings. I personally don’t know much about the gory details related to the technology behind these products, but I do think that too much attention is given to the technology and not enough attention is given to the people.
In my opinion, PEOPLE are the biggest barrier to entering the Self-Service BI age, not technology. Note: for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Power Pivot since this is appearing on a Power Pivot blog.
This Picture is a Hint. An Admittedly Annoying Hint That Hounds me on Facebook.
“OK, way to make it super-obvious, Rob. It’s Tableau, right?”
Actually, no. It’s not Tableau. And the Tableau advertisement above basically proves my point.
By far, the biggest “competitor” to Power Pivot is… Excel itself.
In other words, lack of awareness that Power Pivot even EXISTS is still the biggest “competitor” to Power Pivot today.
The Tableau marketing department is smart. They know that “normal” Excel is their chief competitor. And they know that “normal” Excel has some frustrating weaknesses when it comes to data analysis.
So they go right for the throat. I salute and admire their savvy. Which brings me to a movie quote.