Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Before getting started, my upcoming speaking schedule:

Jan-14-2017 SQL Saturday Nashville – Two Talks 🙂 – “Super Mutants in No-Mans Land” & “The 20% of DAX that Gets you 80% of the Way There”

URL: http://www.sqlsaturday.com/581/eventhome.aspx


Jan-17-2017 Steel City SQL Server User Group – “Get Up to Speed on Microsoft BI in 2017”

URL: https://www.meetup.com/SteelCitySQL/events/236299411/


Feb-06-2017 Birmingham Modern Excel & Power BI User Group – “Kickoff Meeting!”

URL: https://www.meetup.com/Birmingham-Modern-Excel-Power-BI-User-Group/events/236568437/

Looking Back: 2016, what a year!

If you’ve spent any time on social media in the last few months, you know it’s a common refrain that 2016 was the worst year ever – terrorism, celebrity deaths, political upsets just to start. Through that lens, looking at those things we don’t have a lot of control over, 2016 was rough. At the same time there are things to celebrate and I need to write a little bit about my personal journey last year and what’s up for 2017.

Ferniany/Senseman Inc.

Top of the list for 2016 – we got married. Top of the list for 2017, it’s been two months and we’re still glad we did it.  Getting married is a significant blip in a story that’s mostly played out in our daily habits of thoughtfulness and accountability.  There no good pictures for that part, but that’s the part that matters.

View More: http://cottonandcloverphoto.pass.us/sensemanwedding

Moving on from a Company of One

I left my cubicle in late 2015 and started a company here in Birmingham – Ten Thousand Things. It was a company of one.  I was consulting, selling, and selling, and selling, and invoicing. That’s how it goes in a company of one – it was too small for me.  In June, Rob asked me to join PowerPivotPro in a more full-time capacity and I said yes.  No more company of one; now I’ve got a whole tribe. Better survival odds in this jungle. My current role is VP of Operations and we’re working to connect with the next 10 million Power Pivot & Power BI users.

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Reference: https://powerpivotpro.com/

Our Local Lives Need Love

As a consultant with clients all over the country, and the world, it’s easy to lose touch with your local community.  Home can be a place you rest your head before you get on the airplane again, and that’s not really home. I made commitments in my community in 2016 that I didn’t prioritize and my airplane life took over – that’s not going to be the case in 2017.  While I can’t promise that I’ll stay in Birmingham forever, wherever we are our local problems are more tangible than our national and international issues – much more solvable than national deficits, tribal conflicts in the middle east, [insert too big problem here].  The trick is to connect a local action with a larger challenge.

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Prioritization Happens

Along the same lines as “our local lives need love” my biggest takeaway from 2016 is that prioritization happens whether we’re prioritizing or not – we either consciously put our priorities in order or we fall back on our defaults, our old habits, the habits that choose us.  That second option makes me deeply uncomfortable.  My wife tells me I’m a rebel and she’s right – there is a rebellion that must be had within ourselves, against ourselves, for our best selves.

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Reference: http://www.raptitude.com/2012/07/most-lives-are-lived-by-default/

From Early Adopters to Mass Early Adoption

There are probably around 25 million intermediate/advanced Excel users in North America – these are my people and they’re the people that are likely to get a lot of value from Power Query, Power Pivot, Power BI.  My best guess is that 5 million early adopters (out of this 25) have engaged with these tools since 2010.  Those other 20 million are the reason I left my job in late 2015 to do this all the time.  I think another 10 million people from this group will engage with these tools over the next three years, which would triple the  size of the community.  This isn’t early adoption any more, this is the beginning of mass adoption for Power Pivot, Power Query, & Power BI, and it started in 2016.

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Looking Ahead: 2017, another year!

My two goals in 2017 are to be more thoughtful and to surprise myself.  There’s lots of smaller personal goals wrapped up in that. I’m just gonna mix up my personal reflections with what I see going in my career.  This year is going to be a new kind of adventure for me 🙂

More Time Connecting with Humans, Less With Machines

Where we place our attention is where we place our value. Looking ahead at the next year I want less screen time and more constructive social time.  The feeling of being alone together has crept into my life and I don’t like it.  I’m not getting off social media or doing anything drastic like that 🙂 I am trying to minimize the queues in my environment that nudge me toward bad habits.  Makes no sense, to me, to try to turn off the noise – I will try to live with it as a human.

Reference: http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html

Getting Power Pivot Ready for Prime Time

It still amazes me that Power Pivot isn’t turned on by default in Excel, even in Excel 2016. I understand why, after having talked with members of the Excel team and seen Power Pivot out in the field – the truth is Power Pivot isn’t a very stable product.  I mean that doesn’t stop me or millions of other people from using it everyday to change the world, but it has its hiccups.  The Excel team is very focused on improving the stability and performance of Power Pivot – my hope is this work leads to the team deciding to turn Power Pivot on by default in the next version of Excel.  Nothing would do more to drive awareness and adoption than having that nice Power Pivot menu sitting right there on the ribbon.  Looking forward to this by the end of the year.

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Power BI Reaching for Tableau Parity

The Power BI has hired a lot of people over the past 18 months and those people have been working furiously to bring the product up to parity with the rest of the market. One of the unstated goals for the Power BI team is to match Power BI, feature by feature, with Tableau – to level the playing field on functionality.  The truth is Power BI already has more functionality than Tableau but not in the visualization layer – in the layer that sizzles Tableau is still ahead.  Look forward to Microsoft making an announcement around the middle of 2017 that they have reached feature parity with Tableau.

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Birmingham Power BI User Group

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, why not now! Very pleased to get the Birmingham, AL Modern Excel & Power BI User Group going this year.  There are a lot of people probably within a few miles of me that are sharing the same journey with these new Microsoft tools.  We should probably get together and get to know each other.  I haven’t mentioned it to Rob yet, but PowerPivotPro will be paying for all the pizza and soft drinks 🙂 One thing I really want to work on with this group is the mentality that “the tools don’t matter” – I hear it from one of my best clients all the time.  Sure we’re practitioners of a particular toolkit but our goals aren’t technical – our goals are to help organizations make better decisions using data.

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Reference: https://www.meetup.com/Birmingham-Modern-Excel-Power-BI-User-Group/

That’s it, Happy New Year!

powerpivotpro.com, going on two million

The PowerPivotPro Google Analytics data really tells the story of the company. Starting from scratch in 2010 we’ve connected with close to 2 million users over the last 6 years, and we’ve done it all by giving away our best advice, for free. Thank you internet. 🙂

We’ve been very fortunate that Rob, Avi, and many others have developed great content that’s connected with the emerging Power Pivot community, and with that first two million on the horizon we’re starting to have this conversation …

How are we going to connect with the next two million Power Pivot users?

The question brings a lot of focus to one of our goals of empowering every Excel analyst to get to the next level with Power Pivot & Power Query. It’s not a small goal but we’ve taken a big step and built a platform that’s going to let us get there.

Moving into Q4 this year we’re going into a new phase of hustle mode and bringing in some new talents to help us engage with more people on the Power Pivot & Power BI journey. Look forward to sharing more later. 🙂

Austin is VP of Operations & Growth at PowerPivotPro — check us out http://www.powerpivotpro.com

four weeks of content hustle

I’ve been asking people on my PowerPivotPro team what / how much content we should be putting out on the web. I didn’t get the answers I wanted (i.e. “one thoughtful piece a week” was a common answer). My gut instinct is that if we’ve got valuable or entertaining things to say then we can share more often, we can share everyday. What’s beautiful about social media is that you put yourself out there (for just the cost of hustle) and everyone else decides if what you have to say is valuable. If you’re just producing noise then over time you’re gonna get crickets in response — same goes for your business.

So last week I decided I was going to do four weeks of everyday content creation, over the month of August. Here’s where I threw it down on our team Slack channel:

posted on July 31, 2016

And what do I get in my email the next day on August 1? A message from Gary Vaynerchuk. Is this a security breach, something in the water, the zeitgeist?

Whatever it is, it just felt right. I saw Gary speak in Birmingham a few weeks ago at SlossTech. How would I sum up that talk and everything I’ve seen about Gary Vaynerchuk? Authenticity. That’s a trait that means a lot to me. Here’s the link for the talk if you’re interested (LINK).

I don’t claim to be currently operating at my full hustle potential but that’s where I’m headed, and if you’re headed there too then cheers to us. Not sure if I have a month’s worth of valuable things to say but not for me to worry about, you’ll be the judge.

Austin is VP of Operations & Growth at PowerPivotPro — check us out http://www.powerpivotpro.com