(scottish) sql bob blog

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Some thoughts of your typical data shepard / data groomer / data dance teacher sort of person.


#SQLGLA 2017 - User group adventures

On the the 10th of November 2017 the Glasgow SQL server user group ran #SQLGLA.  This was a half day event, primarily for SQL server professionals in Scotland.  Although we did have some visitors for further afield.  Namely our four MVP speakers, William Durkin, Chrissy LeMaire, Andre Kamman and Rob Sewell.

Now the event is completed, we have gathered and compiled the feedback.  Now I feel that there is time to think about the event.  It's been a bit a rollercoaster ride, with the full complement of good bits and scary bits. Much of the thanks for making this entire event a success goes to my co-organiser Craig Porteous.  Without Craig this event would not have come off at all.

It would be fair to say that both Craig and myself had visions of very few people coming.  Other than the speakers, volunteers and ourselves.  People did come and as often happens at these, people you did not expect arrived and those we expected did not arrive.  All part of the learning curve.  My memories of the actual day are, we arrived at the venue, we all ran up and down stairs, realized what we had forgotten to bring, set up the venue ready for our guests.  People arrived, attendees, speakers, sponsors.  Speakers, spoke, people mingled, chatted, had tea, coffee, sandwiches, then drank beer, & wine.  We cleared up, said good bye.  Some people head off to the pub to continue the fun.  It was a fantastic day, all the objectives we had aimed for were achieved.

As we know these events do not run themselves.  There is a dedicated team of selfless people who make these events happen.  Craig Porteous my co-organiser put a massive amount of work into making this event happen.  Even more his selfless decision to have one more drink at the SQL Bits party meant he met William Durkin, and the conversation resulted in the event :-).  We were also very kindly blessed with two very enthusiastic and industrious volunteers Edith and Paul.  Who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and just did what needed to be done.

This event was a huge learning experience for Craig and myself.  This event combined with running the user group has taught me more than a few lessons.  Some of which we have learned, some I am sure we are still learning.  Now the event is over, and I have sometime to look back, I will blog about some of the lessons.  About running a user group and a larger event such as #SQLGLA.


We all make mistakes
It happens to us all.  Speaking personally, I do not want to admit to them, or in some cases, I keep making the same ones.  Yes, we all make mistakes its part of life.  In my experience, these can become war stories.  When you talk about the time you <insert horror story here>.  Yes, and I am putting up my hand to say that like anyone else I have made mistakes, some days it feels like that I have made more mistakes than done things right!

What's so hard about making mistakes for me?  The embarrassment of it, maybe I did not know something, or yes that thing that I did well, yes, I did know better.  It's not easy for me to admit mistakes.  Just ask my long-suffering partner (thank goodness, she does not read my blog!).  Yes, I do like to be right and do it the right way.  Admitting that I was wrong, or did something stupid, takes it out of me, it's not easy. 

Hopefully, in my professional life, I am a little better at dealing with my mistakes.  A few years ago, one of my jobs was with a large consultancy company.  I was the person responsible for producing reports for the service desk.  From time to time there were errors with the reports that I was responsible for producing.  During that time, I developed a strategy which I still use to deal with mistakes. 

1) Take responsibility 
It's not easy to put your hand to say you have made a mistake.  On the other hand, how to do you learn from mistakes?  For me, part of growing is learning to take the bad with the good.  Also personally speaking I have more respect for someone who has what it takes to say when they have made a mistake.  Even if you have not made the mistake you find, then take make it your responsibility to fix that mistake.   If I do this then my primary focus is to get the issue resolved and move on.  Finger pointing or the blaming someone is not part of this.
 
2) Find the challenge  
What when wrong?  How did it happen?  Be able to explain what happened, in simple non-technical language that anyone can understand.   Also be confident that you can explain in technical terms to your peers.

3) Fix it 
Get your hands dirty, get involved in fixing the issue.   Help find a solution to rectify the challenge or work with the people fixing the challenge if you can.  For me, I have and do still learn so much just from fixing mistakes. 

4) Prevent it! 
Better to have a fence at the cliff edge than a hospital at the bottom.  What will stop it happening the mistake happening again?  An extra check of something, a checklist of things to do in the same situation. 

Is there something I missed, do you have a different strategy.  Maybe you disagree? Let me know, every day is school day for me :-)


Power BI no more

I've been working with my current company for over two years now.  During that time, on my own initiative, I decided to review the BI market to see what tool(s) that the company should be looking at adopting.  There are quite a few restrictions, data privacy, our clients are very cautious about their data.  So must be an on-premise server and yes I have asked lots of questions about this.  Also, our clients are mostly non-profit or charities, the budget is a massive consideration.  

PowerBI has been my tool of choice for reporting.  It is used for a POC (proof of concept) project reporting service desk incidents to our clients.  It is fantastic we had a Pro account, we shared the reports with our clients.  We loved it, the clients loved it. During the next two years, I invested time, energy, effort, working on other POC projects.  At the same time showing the relevant directors why we should look at Power BI for future development.  The deal breaker was an on-prem server, no negotiation on that point.  The start of 2017 exciting news, on-premise server was coming  Which version would get it, how much would it cost, could we use it.  Answers from Microsoft, zero, zilch, nada, nothing, brick wall impression.

So we waited and waited and waited.  Then, Power BI premium.  By the time I had digested the news, it felt like someone had kicked me black and blue.  There is no point in even approaching our Managing Director with a minimum of £3k per month for this project.  Our budget is not even in the same country, let alone same ballpark.  Next, our sharing reports with other free accounts using Power BI Pro, at least for some of our client has gone. Now have it, now you don't.

Your company might be a large enterprise, then these costs are reasonable, we are not a large enterprise.  So in essence over two years investment of my time down the drain, time to start again.  Now I am in the process of contacting clients for the POC project to show them how to access the reports, as the can no longer use their own Power BI accounts.  Disappointed would be a mild word to use to describe my feelings.

Very recently Tableau announced a price change.  Long story short, my line manager saw the new pricing structure, complete with on-premise server, per user cost of $35 per month, PowerBI cannot compete with that deal.  What will happen now is my company most likely to become a Tableau customer, Microsoft's loss.  The tools released at the data summit (June 2017) now places PowerBI toe to toe with Tableau.  Sadly I believe that Power BI will likely loose in the long run due to the pricing currently in place.  Whilst I understand the business logic and reasoning pursuing this model.  Microsoft has also demonstrated very clearly they do not understand the market in the way that Tableau seems to, which is reflected in their pricing structure.  Great for me, another toolset to add to my CV.  As I see it, Tableau leaves PowerBI dead in the water for customers like my company.  There is NO competition, Tableau has this market to themselves.  Which is bad news for me as a customer. 

Microsoft has got it right before, yes I will stand up, shout, cheerlead, and applaud when they do get it right.  As my tweet to James Phillps / Power BI team expressed.  When Microsoft get it wrong I need to be just as vocal, and I believe they have got it wrong, with the pricing in a big way, at least from where I am standing.  Yes I will continue to let people know about PowerBI, it not be with the same enthusiasm, that makes me sad :-(

Last but not least a more personal public apology to Chris Web (@Technitrain) was on the end of my rant via Twitter regarding pricing, sorry Chris, my bad.