Online Analysis Services Course: Developing a Tabular Model

Check out the excellent, new online course by Peter Myers and Chris Randall for Microsoft Learning Experiences (LeX). Lean how to develop tabular data models with SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services. The complete course is available on edX at no cost to audit, or you can highlight your new knowledge and skills with a Verified Certificate for a small charge. Enrolment is available at edX.

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Analysis Services Team Blog

Reducing Time-to-Insight with Automated Written Narratives by Wordsmith

rsz bigstock 155688092 Reducing Time to Insight with Automated Written Narratives by Wordsmith

In January, TIBCO and Automated Insights announced a partnership to bring automated narrative explanations to TIBCO Spotfire dashboards. The integration of Automated Insights’ natural language generation platform, Wordsmith, with TIBCO’s Spotfire data visualization and analytics software, enables customers to make faster, more cohesive conclusions and decisions for their companies.

With the integration of Spotfire and Wordsmith, narratives that summarize and explain dashboards can be automated, reducing the time between the creation of data visualizations and actionable insight. The unique methods of data aggregation and dissection provided by TIBCO’s Spotfire platform enables users to quickly turn those findings into appealing, effective visualizations. By connecting Wordsmith, Spotfire users can enhance dashboards with written narratives that ensure every person in the organization gathers the same understanding from these visualizations.

By complementing Spotfire’s visualizations with written text, important metrics are made clear and highlighted based on the needs of each department, or even individual teams within departments. The narratives display directly in the Spotfire dashboard, and are customizable to the company’s internal lexicon. If the user drills down to specific metrics or filters in the dashboard, the narrative will change dynamically to summarize the highlighted portions of the visualization.

Why is this important? It eliminates naturally occurring discrepancies within the interpretation of a visualization between individuals within a company and provides uniformity in the understanding of the company’s key metrics. It also increases the time data analysts have for higher value projects because they no longer have to write individual explanations for every visualization, department, or each unique combination of data filters in the dashboard.

Additionally, the integration of the two platforms incorporates a virtual data analyst into every Spotfire dashboard, leading to faster and smarter decision-making processes that don’t waste internal resources. Connecting the two platforms creates increased efficiency of analytics teams, reducing the time between dashboard creation and interpretation through manual reporting.  It also reduces the time between data aggregation in Spotfire visualizations and action taken by executive members after deriving meaning from these dashboards. No matter the data analytics and interpretive expertise of the user, the text will adapt to the viewers selected filters and adjust the narrative to extract the desired insights.

As a result, your best analysts will have more time to tackle high value projects that was previously spent writing internal reporting documents for every scenario and reader.

Now, TIBCO Spotfire users can use their best data analyst’s expertise in their dashboards to ensure cohesive understanding of key metrics across the company. This integration of TIBCO’s Spotfire platform with Automated Insights’ Wordsmith enhances visualization dashboards with written summaries of key metrics, improving the business intelligence industry’s efficiency and effectiveness in acting upon important insights.

Learn more (and test out a free trial or schedule a demo!) about both pieces of this exciting partnership—TIBCO Spotfire and Automated Insights’ Wordsmith.

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The TIBCO Blog

How Are Drones Influencing The Business World?

drone How Are Drones Influencing The Business World?

Achieving quantum leaps through disruption and using data in new contexts, in ways designed for more than just Generation Y — indeed, the digital transformation affects us all. It’s time for a detailed look at its key aspects.

Data finding its way into new settings

Archiving all of a company’s internal information until the end of time is generally a good idea, as it gives the boss the security that nothing will be lost. Meanwhile, enabling him or her to create bar graphs and pie charts based on sales trends – preferably in real time, of course – is even better.

But the best scenario of all is when the boss can incorporate data from external sources. All of a sudden, information on factors as seemingly mundane as the weather start helping to improve interpretations of fluctuations in sales and to make precise modifications to the company’s offerings. When the gusts of autumn begin to blow, for example, energy providers scale back solar production and crank up their windmills. Here, external data provides a foundation for processes and decisions that were previously unattainable.

Quantum leaps possible through disruption

While these advancements involve changes in existing workflows, there are also much more radical approaches that eschew conventional structures entirely.

“The aggressive use of data is transforming business models, facilitating new products and services, creating new processes, generating greater utility, and ushering in a new culture of management,” states Professor Walter Brenner of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, regarding the effects of digitalization.

Harnessing these benefits requires the application of innovative information and communication technology, especially the kind termed “disruptive.” A complete departure from existing structures may not necessarily be the actual goal, but it can occur as a consequence of this process.

Having had to contend with “only” one new technology at a time in the past, be it PCs, SAP software, SQL databases, or the Internet itself, companies are now facing an array of concurrent topics, such as the Internet of Things, social media, third-generation e-business, and tablets and smartphones. Professor Brenner thus believes that every good — and perhaps disruptive — idea can result in a “quantum leap in terms of data.”

Products and services shaped by customers

It has already been nearly seven years since the release of an app that enables customers to order and pay for taxis. Initially introduced in Berlin, Germany, mytaxi makes it possible to avoid waiting on hold for the next phone representative and pay by credit card while giving drivers greater independence from taxi dispatch centers. In addition, analyses of user data can lead to the creation of new services, such as for people who consistently order taxis at around the same time of day.

“Successful models focus on providing utility to the customer,” Professor Brenner explains. “In the beginning, at least, everything else is secondary.”

In this regard, the private taxi agency Uber is a fair bit more radical. It bypasses the entire taxi industry and hires private individuals interested in making themselves and their vehicles available for rides on the Uber platform. Similarly, Airbnb runs a platform travelers can use to book private accommodations instead of hotel rooms.

Long-established companies are also undergoing profound changes. The German publishing house Axel Springer SE, for instance, has acquired a number of startups, launched an online dating platform, and released an app with which users can collect points at retail. Chairman and CEO Matthias Döpfner also has an interest in getting the company’s newspapers and other periodicals back into the black based on payment models, of course, but these endeavors are somewhat at odds with the traditional notion of publishing houses being involved solely in publishing.

The impact of digitalization transcends Generation Y

Digitalization is effecting changes in nearly every industry. Retailers will likely have no choice but to integrate their sales channels into an omnichannel approach. Seeking to make their data services as attractive as possible, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have joined forces to purchase the digital map service HERE. Mechanical engineering companies are outfitting their equipment with sensors to reduce downtime and achieve further product improvements.

“The specific potential and risks at hand determine how and by what means each individual company approaches the subject of digitalization,” Professor Brenner reveals. The resulting services will ultimately benefit every customer – not just those belonging to Generation Y, who present a certain basic affinity for digital methods.

“Think of cars that notify the service center when their brakes or drive belts need to be replaced, offer parking assistance, or even handle parking for you,” Brenner offers. “This can be a big help to elderly people in particular.”

Chief digital officers: team members, not miracle workers

Making the transition to the digital future is something that involves not only a CEO or a head of marketing or IT, but the entire company. Though these individuals do play an important role as proponents of digital models, it also takes more than just a chief digital officer alone.

For Professor Brenner, appointing a single person to the board of a DAX company to oversee digitalization is basically absurd. “Unless you’re talking about Da Vinci or Leibnitz born again, nobody could handle such a task,” he states.

In Brenner’s view, this is a topic for each and every department, and responsibilities should be assigned much like on a soccer field: “You’ve got a coach and the players – and the fans, as well, who are more or less what it’s all about.”

Here, the CIO neither competes with the CDO nor assumes an elevated position in the process of digital transformation. Implementing new databases like SAP HANA or Hadoop, leveraging sensor data in both technical and commercially viable ways, these are the tasks CIOs will face going forward.

“There are some fantastic jobs out there,” Brenner affirms.

Want more insight on managing digital transformation? See Three Keys To Winning In A World Of Disruption.

Image via Shutterstock


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Digitalist Magazine

Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights

eye 300x141 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About InsightsAs we resume our Dynamics 365 Deep Dive journey, we focus on Insights. The motto in real estate is “location, location, location.” Let’s see how Microsoft, one of the leaders in applying artificial and machine learning intelligence to their Sales, Marketing, and Service applications, makes a case for “Insights, Insights, Insights” being their new catchphrase.

I commend Microsoft for spurring on the competition by applying very useful technology to customer-facing applications; that being said, the word Insights is a little overdone here. In this blog, we will discuss each of these and its benefits so as to provide you with a more thorough understanding of what it all means.

Let’s see how intuitive Insights can be!

Insights – Powered by InsideView

Insights, formerly known as Customer Insights – Powered by InsideView, provides the Dynamics 365 user with comprehensive company and contact data, timely news and social feeds, along with a substantial network of professional connections that can be used to your strategic advantage during the marketing and selling process to be stay connected, sell smarter, and thrive.

Insights has been on the market for a few years and continues to see improvements. In the most recent version, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) see significant updates. Here is the improved “card” view:
dynamics 365 insights inside view Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights
The expanded Insights view:
microsoft dynamics 365 insight inside view expanded 625x226 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights

Social Insights

Social Insights merges Microsoft Social Engagement with Dynamics 365. Social Insights from Social Engagement gives you the ability to analyze social media data to identify emerging trends, be they positive, negative, or neutral, in people’s comments. You have the option of drilling down into data so you can see what people have said, and immediately act on it:
microsoft dynamics 365 social insights 625x505 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights
microsoft dynamics 365 social insights screenshot 625x407 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights

Customer Insights

The ability to combine data from a variety of sources and generate knowledge and insight are key functions of Customer Insights, a cloud-based SaaS service. What this does is allow you to build a holistic 360° customer view. Customer Insights provides the option to connect to transactional data sources along with customers’ model profiles and interactions. This function enables organizations the ability to create insights through KPIs about their business. In its current version, Customer Insights involves substantial setup and does require an Azure subscription. While this one is still in its early stages, it will be very significant:

microsoft dynamics 365 customer insights 625x487 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights

Relationship Insights

The ideal end-goal is to develop personalized, productive relationships with both your customers and your prospects. To achieve this goal, the most recent version of Dynamics 365 constantly analyzes a vast collection of stored customer-interactions in your Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Exchange systems. This allows you to gain a better understanding of your business relationships, enables you to evaluate your activities in relation to prior successes, giving you the ability to choose that next best action:
microsoft dynamics 365 relationship insights Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights
microsoft dynamics 365 relationship insights screenshot 625x445 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights
Relationship Insights includes four components:

  • Relationship Analytics – natural language processing in visual mode that evaluates the sentiment of email and various communications sent by your customers and prospects. Predictive intelligence scrutinizes signals such as prospect email responses and amount of lead interactions, comparing them to patterns gathered from previous successful sales.
  • Relationship Assistant – actionable cards tailor-made for each user’s specific role. Your sales team, for example, might only see items like scheduled calls, travel itineraries, and due dates for proposals. Whereas, your customer support people would see support tickets, germane emails, and outage notices, with all information prioritized for action determined by relationship health.
  • Auto Capture – automatically track your emails, tasks, and activities while integrating with Microsoft Exchange. With Auto Capture, users can channel external data into Dynamics 365, automatically creating and updating custom records. No code writing necessary. Routine activities like emails and social actions are generated based on rules users specify for their contacts and communications. Custom activities can be created as well.
  • Email Engagement – allows you to track what occurs with your emails once they are sent. It provides these three capabilities:
  • Compose and Send: Send and track opens and clicks of recipients. This feature lets users schedule email sends when business intelligence data shows the period a prospect is most likely to open their email. The feature will instantly set reminders to follow up on unopened messages at the appropriate time.
  • Tracking and Analytics: Get information on how, when, and where recipients engage with your emails. Whether your recipient is reading your messages on the go from their mobile device or bright and early at their desk, you’ll know.
  • Mobile Email Application: Track attachments, view email statistics, and monitor the timeline of your activity all on your smartphone or tablet:
    email engagement with microsoft dynamics 365 625x291 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights

Organization Insights

Organization Insights (for Dynamics 365 online only) liberates organizations, allowing them to drive end-user adoption, troubleshoot with ease, all while ensuring better performance within their Dynamics 365 instance.
organization insights with microsoft dynamics 365 625x299 Microsoft Dynamics 365: All About Insights
So, what’s the motto? Insights, Insights, Insights for Dynamics 365!

Join is for our webcast, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Deep Dive, Part 4: It’s all about Insights, Insights, Insights webinar on April 20th as we do a live, deep-dive demonstration of what you can do with these new capabilities.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Plane fitting for arbitrary number of points

 Plane fitting for arbitrary number of points

I want to come up with a function, which when given a set of points of arbitrary length, will return a plane which best fits my data. I have tried using FindFit for 5-dimensional data, but I get the following error:

FindFit::fitc: Number of coordinates (1) is not equal to the number of variables (3). 

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Recent Questions – Mathematica Stack Exchange

Why FICO Was Named a Leader in Predictive Analytics

Great news, FICO was named as a leader in the March 2017 report, The Forrester Wave™: Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning Solutions, Q1 2017. This is an honor, and it underscores for us the value and positive business impact our analytic solutions continue to deliver.

Forrester Graphic Predictive Analytics Machine Learning Wave 300x240 Why FICO Was Named a Leader in Predictive Analytics

These types of technology evaluations are really useful for organizations needing guidance as they enter into new strategic ventures. With plenty of attention on the promise of advanced analytics and machine learning, this report from Forrester is very timely. The report highlights:

  • The Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning (PAML) Solutions market is “hot,” with Forrester forecasting “a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the PAML market through 2021.”
  • The true essence and core value of predictive analytics, stating “enterprises that can make probabilistic predictions about customers, business processes, and operations will have an edge over enterprises that can’t.”
  • Machine learning is fundamental to artificial intelligence.

When you talk to data scientists and business leaders and hear their real-world stories, one begins to comprehend the possibilities that come with advanced analytics or data science. So, to compliment this Forrester Wave report, I thought I would share a few FICO case studies that demonstrate the value and competitive advantage predictive analytics can provide.

Airline Predicts and Solves Problems Before Crews Are Grounded and Customers Are Unhappy

Managing an airline that serves 100 million customers annually – with more than 3,900 daily departures during peak travel season to more than 100 destinations globally – is no small undertaking. And when regular operations become irregular, the task of keeping customers happy, flights on time and crews supported is daunting.

This is why airlines, like Southwest, have extensive contingency plans for irregular operations. Southwest has The Baker, a recovery optimization engine that turned the best practices of its irregular operations (IROPS) team into complex algorithms that solve potential challenges like maintenance problems or volatile weather, while minimizing the impact to passengers and crews.

Southwest can not only react to problems within minutes, but it can also get ahead of potential disruptions hours in advance and evaluate multiple scenarios. The Baker has helped Southwest improve on-time performance and customer satisfaction, while lowering flight diversions, tarmac delays and crew changes.

This is predictive analytics in action, and it has made a significant impact at Southwest, helping the airline gain advantage in a highly aggressive and competitive market.

Meaningful, Personalized Connections with Customers at the Grocery Store

Virtually any customer engagement can be improved with the power to predict. In the case of a major grocery retailer FICO works with, using analytics to deeply understand customers helped the retailer provide a highly personalized experience that encouraged loyalty and increased profitability.

The grocery retailer wanted to predict the propensity of a customer to purchase particular products and then prescribe the best offer. This required a multidimensional understanding of each of its 9 million loyalty program members, as well as taking into consideration business objectives and constraints.

With FICO’s advanced predictive analytics, the grocer was able to take its 380 billion possible offer combinations and deliver 20 tailored, relevant offers to each member every week.

Predictive Analytics Revolutionize the Energy Industry

Another great FICO customer example is SolarCity, a leading solar energy provider working to create an ideal way to store solar energy and then use it when demand is high. Electric demand can vary widely, based on things like changes in the weather, inconsistent supply or seasonal consumer patterns. With advanced predictive analytics, SolarCity is able to track and forecast complex scenarios for selling aggregated energy.

It’s fascinating that the same technology that is helping Southwest minimize flight delays and a grocery retailer deliver highly personalized offers to customers is also helping optimize a solar energy grid. Hopefully these real-world examples add a little perspective as you read the March 2017 Forrester Wave™ for Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning Solutions.

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Cumulative Update #2 for SQL Server 2016 SP1

The 2nd cumulative update release for SQL Server 2016 SP1 is now available for download at the Microsoft Downloads site. Please note that registration is no longer required to download Cumulative updates.

To learn more about the release or servicing model, please visit:

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SQL Server Release Services

WATCH: New Trailer Of Animated Feature Film ‘Captain Underpants’ With Kevin Hart!

 WATCH: New Trailer Of Animated Feature Film ‘Captain Underpants’ With Kevin Hart!

DreamWorks Animation has released the first trailer for their upcoming film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which is based on the worldwide sensation and bestselling book series. The film stars an A-list cast of comedy superstars headed by Kevin Hart and Ed Helms.

This raucously subversive comedy for the entire family tells the story of two overly imaginative pranksters named George and Harold, who hypnotize their principal into thinking he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

Watch the first trailer below.

Dave Chappelle Recalls Helping LeBron James Do Stand-Up Comedy

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The Humor Mill

HTC To Sell Mobile Phone Factory In Shanghai

HTC is planning to sell its mobile phone manufacturing plant in Shanghai, and the money gained will be invested into the virtual reality operations of the business.

HTC’s board of directors has decided to sell its Shanghai manufacturing plant to a Chinese mainland company for USD91 million, which is about CNY630 million, with the aim of allocating more money to expand its VR business. HTC emphasized that the sale of the plant would not affect the overall business of its mobile phone unit. The buyer of the factory is reportedly Xingbao Information Technology.

HTC’s Shanghai mobile phone manufacturing plant was built in 2009 with an area of 114,000 square meters and it is mainly engaged in making smartphones sold in mainland China. In 2011, the factory boasted monthly production of two million units. However, with the decline of HTC’s mobile phone business, many product lines of this factory went idle.

HTC sold one factory in Taoyuan, Taiwan in December 2015 for USD183 million. At present, the company still has three factories in Taoyuan.

In 2016, the company’s operating revenue was NTD78.16 billion, a year-on-year decline of 35%, and it was the lowest point over the past 11 years. The company’s operating revenue once reached NTD465.8 billion in 2011.

VR is the future hope for HTC. In 2016, the company’s high-end VR product HTC Vive realized sales of 450,000 units. Statistics from the market research firm Canalys show that China is the world’s second largest market for high-end VR devices in 2016 with a total shipment of about 300,000 units, of which 17.7% were HTC Vive, ranking first in this marketplace.

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Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows

Business Process Flows have been around for a while in Dynamics CRM (now Dynamics 365 of course), since 2013 in fact. They are very useful in helping organisations model their processes in CRM and help guide users through stages of the process.

However, there are some limitations which are important to understand before embarking on configuring any BPFs. I’ll cover one of them here, namely moving between entities.

Many business processes need to cover more than one entity (i.e. record type) in CRM. The process may start with an account and then move to a case, or start with a contact and move to an opportunity etc.

There are some out of the box BPFs which cross over from one entity to another, e.g. the ‘Lead to Opportunity Sales Process’, shown below:

image thumb Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows

The first stage of this process, the ‘Qualify’ stage, is on the lead, but the later stages are on the opportunity. You can’t access the later stages until you define which opportunity you are using, hence the locks on those stages.

When you create a custom BPF, you can join any 2 entities, as long as both are enabled for BPFs. When you do, you can define the relationship that the BPF has to use for that entity join. So, for example I could have a BPF which started on a Case record and then moved to an Opportunity record. The screenshot below shows the BPF configuration screen, with Stage 2 selected:

image thumb 1 Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows

The ‘Relationship’ field, which is defining the relationship the Opportunity in this stage has with the Case in Stage 1, shows ‘None’ and if you select the dropdown, no other option is available. This is because there is no relationship between Cases and Opportunities. There are none out of the box and I haven’t created any custom one. (By the way, the same limitation exists on the old BPF designer).

For BPFs, what this means is that when I move from the Case to the Opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to move the process to an existing Opportunity.

image thumb 2 Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows
As you can see here, when I select the ‘Next Stage’ (Stage 1 is on the Case, and Stage 2 is on the Opportunity), it tells me that no Opportunity records exist, but does give me the chance to create one.

So, in what situations can you go from one entity to an existing record on another entity using a BPF? To do that a 1-to-many relationship has to exist, i.e. the entity in the stage before the entity change has to be the parent entity and the entity in the stage after the entity change has to be the child entity. So, if you have created a BPF which goes from, say, Account to Contact, when you are designing this BPF in CRM, you get the chance to select the existing 1-to-many relationship called ‘Company Name’ which exists out of the box:

image thumb 3 Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows
Now, when I go into an account, and move it to the contact stage of the BPF, CRM asks me which existing contact I want to use, and shows me the contact s related to that account through the Company Name relationship.

image thumb 4 Dynamics 365 Multi Entity Business Process Flows

I can still create a new contact if I want to, and move the BPF on to that new contact.

So, in summary, in order to go from one record to another existing record in a BPF, you can only go through a 1-to-many relationship. You can’t go through a many-to-many and you can’t go through a many-to-1.

There is one exception to this. When you start in one entity and go to a child entity in a subsequent stage and then back to the primary entity in a later stage, you can go back to the record from the first stage, but only that record, e.g. Stage 1 is for Account, Stage 2 is for Contact, using the Company Name relationship, and Stage 3 is for Account again. When you set up the BPF, on Stage 3, if you select Account, you can’t select any relationship. When you use the BPF, if you started at ABC Ltd in Stage 1 then went to Joe Bloggs who works for ABC Ltd in Stage 2, when you click on Next Stage from Stage 2, you are taken straight to ABC Ltd.

This is both good and bad. Good that you can go from child to parent in later stages, but bad that you can only go to the record from the earlier stage. So, in the example, if you wanted to go to an account which is different than the Account in the earlier stage, you wouldn’t be able to do it.

A further limitation worth mentioning is that you can’t go from parent to child on a self-referential relationship, e.g. you can’t go from a parent account to a child account in a BPF.

There are other limitations on BPFs, which I hope to blog on in future. BPF’s are still a great CRM feature though and can really help your users, so don’t be shy in giving them a try!

Happy CRMing everyone!

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Magnetism Solutions Dynamics CRM Blog