Five actions that you can take if you measure your analytics/business-intelligence solution usage:


In this post, I am going to share five actions that you can take you if measure your analytics/business-intelligence solution usage:

Five actions!

I’ll highly encourage business stakeholders & IT managers to consider measuring the usage of their analytics/business-intelligence solutions. From a technical standpoint, it shouldn’t be a difficult problem since most of the analytics & business intelligence tools will give you user activity logs. So, what’s the benefit of measuring usage? Well, in short, it’s like “eating at your restaurant” – if you’re trying to spread culture of data driven decision-making in your organization, you need to lead by example! And one way you can achieve that is by building a tiny Business Intelligence solution that measures user activity on top of your analytics/business-intelligence solution. if you decide to build that then here are five actions that you can take based on your usage activity:

Let’s broadly classify them in two main categories: Pro-active & Reactive actions.

A. Pro-active actions:

1. Identify “Top” users and get qualitative feedback from them. Understand why they find it valuable & find a way to spread their story to others in the organization

2. Reach out to users who were once active users but lately haven’t logged into the system. Figure out why they stopped using the system.

3. Reach out to inactive users who have never used the system. it’s easy to find inactive users by comparing your user-list with the usage activity logs. Once you have done that, Figure out the root-cause – a. Lack of Training/Documentation b. unfriendly/hard-to-use system c. difficult to navigate; And once you have identified the root-cause, fix it!

B. Reactive actions:

4. If the usage trend if going down then alert your business stakeholders about it and find the root-cause to fix it?

Possible root causes:

- IT System Failure? Fix: make sure that problem in the system never happens again!

- Lack of documentation/Training? Fix: Increase # of training session & documentation

downward trend line chart

5. It’s a great way to prove ROI of an analytics/business-intelligence solution and it can help you secure sponsorship for your future projects!


In this post, you saw five actions that you can take if you measure your usage activity of your analytics/business-intelligene solution.

I hope this was helpful! I had mentioned user training in this article and so if you want to learn a little bit more about it, here are a couple of my posts:



Dashboard – Asset management & planning for a global crisis response team:

Dashboard – Asset management & planning for a global crisis response team:


Asset (Volunteers, Field offices & Equipments) management & planning for a global crisis response team.


Working in a team, we created statistical surveys for field works to collect data about current state & estimated future needs. We also helped them with data gathering & cleaning tasks. After that, we helped them analyze & visualize the data to find actions for executives leading the global crisis response team.

Here’s a mockup of one of the ten data visualization created for them:

Asset Management Global crisis response

News from PASS Summit’14 for Business Analytics Professionals: #sqlpass #summit14

This post is a quick summary for all Business Analytics related updates that I saw at PASS Summit’14:

1. Theme of the Keynote(s)/Session(s) seemed to be around educating the community about the benefits of the NEW(er) tools. I saw demos/material for cloud-based tools like SQL databases, Azure stream analytics, Azure DocumentDB, AzureHDInsight & Azure Machine learning. The core message was pretty clear: A data professional does two things – 1) Guards data OR 2) helps to generate Insights from Data – And they will need to keep up-to-date on the new tools to future-proof their career.

Read more about this here:

2. Coming soon: Power BI will be able to connect to on-premise SSAS data sources (multi-dim & tabular).

3. Coming soon: A better experience to create Power BI dashboards.

Read more about Power BI updates here:

4. Azure Machine Learning adds a free-tier! You won’t need a credit-card/subscription to sign up for this.

5. I also saw sessions proposing new way of thinking about an architecture for “Self Service BI” and “Big Data” which might be worth following because since these are newer tools, it’s definitely worth considering an architecture that’s designed to make the most of the investments in these new tools. That’s it & I’ll leave you with a quote from James Phillips from Day 1’s keynote:

Sales Bookings vs Quota Dashboard for a B2B company:

Sales Bookings vs Quota Dashboard for a B2B company:

Business Goal:

Need a daily report delivered in sales team’s inbox that shows Sales Team’s Bookings vs Quota for current & next month.

Brief Description:

Ability to see Bookings vs Quota in near real-time is a key to effectively manage performance for any sales team. Before the project, analyst(s) would have to manually put together this report and since the report took more than a day to put together they couldn’t afford to run it daily and so they delivered this report bi-weekly/monthly basis to the sales team. After the project, the process was automated and the sales team received an email with a report on a daily basis and this helped them see Bookings vs Quota in near real-time. As a famous saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” (by Peter Drucker) – in this case, the report helped them measure their actual numbers against their goals and helping them improve their sales numbers which directly hits their top-line!

Tools used: SharePoint report subscription, SQL server analysis services, SQL Server Integration services, SQL server reporting services & Excel.


Note: Drill down reports are not shown and the numbers are made up.

Sales Team bookings vs quota dashboard

Examples to help you differentiate between Business Intelligence and Data Science problems:

In this post, I’ll list few examples from various industries to help you differentiate between business intelligence and data science problems.

Sometime back, I blogged about “Business Analytics Continuum” and in the post we saw that Every Organization has DATA but they use their business data at different levels because of their maturity level. Excel (or other transactional reporting tools) is usually the starting point for any organization – it helps them see WHAT happened. They advance to the next stage, where they get capabilities to slice and dice their data – To find out WHY – and usually this capability is delivered using Business Intelligence tools & techniques. Once the data culture spreads – Thanks to a successful Business Intelligence project – then they soon start to outgrow their business intelligence capabilities by asking problems that need predictive capabilities. This is advanced analytics and Data Science stage. To that end, here are 5 examples to help you differentiate between business intelligence and data science problems:

Business Intelligence.(WHAT & WHY) Data Science & advanced analytics.
Bike Rentals
  1. How many bikes did we rent in Q3 2014? How does that compare to Q3 2013?
  2. What is the trend of total bike rentals at week level? Can you break it down by geography?
Can you predict bike rentals on an hourly basis?
Credit Risk
  1. How many customers have a credit risk of ‘C’?
  2. Can you rank customers by their payments due amount that have a credit risk ‘C’?
Can you predict the credit risk of the customer during contract negotiations stage?
Customer relationship management
  1. How many account cancellations occurred this year (broken down by month and customer segmentation)?
  2. How does percentage of account cancellations this year compare to that previous year?
 Can you predict customer churn?
Flight Delays
  1. What is the trend of % of flight delayed this year?
  2. Can you break down flight delays this year by their reasons?
Can you predict whether a scheduled flight will be delayed by more than 15 minutes?
Customer feedback
  1. What is the customer satisfaction % trend this year?
  2. What is the customer satisfaction % broken down by customer segments and product segments?
Can you classify a customer feedback comment into “positive”, “negative” or “neutral”?

I hope this helps!

How to get descriptive statistics in Excel?


you are analyzing a dataset and before modeling/analyzing you need to generate descriptive statistics on a field. you have the data loaded in Excel and wondered if there’s a way to do that in Excel.


There’s an out of the box solution that will support your needs to generate descriptive statistics on a field. Here are the steps:

Note: for the purpose of this blog post, I am using Excel 2013 but data analysis toolpak is available in Excel 2007+.

1. Active “Data Analysis” toolpak.

Follow this steps:  File > Options > Add-ins > Manage: Excel Addins > “GO”

excel data analysis toolpak

2. make sure to check the “analysis toolpak” checkbox.

3. Now you should see a “data analysis” option under the “Data” pane:

Excel Data Analysis Descriptive Statistics

4. Now click on “Data Analysis” and select one of the following options:

Anova, Correlation, Covariance, Descriptive Statistics, Exponential Smoothing, F-Test Two-Sample for Variances, Fourier Analysis, Histogram, Moving Average, Random Number Generation, Rank and Percentile, Regression, Sampling, t-Test, z-Test.

in this case, let’s go with descriptive statistics but you can see that you can perform other tasks as well.

5. Once you click on the descriptive statistics, a dialog box will show up and you will have to enter some data like your input range to generate descriptive statistics. Once you have filled the data needed, click on OK and it should generate descriptive statistics for you in EXCEL!

I hope that helps!


In this post, we saw how to generate descriptive statistics in Microsoft Excel.

Author: Paras Doshi

Business Metric #5 of N: “Conversion rate” (online marketing)


In this post, we will see an important metric in online marketing called “conversion rate”.


so, what is conversion rate?

Conversion rate = (Number of Goals Achieved)/(Total Visitors)

why is this important to track?

In my previous blog on leads (marketing), I mentioned it’s important to track number of people interested in your products/services but along with that it’s important to provide context while reporting on Leads – this is where conversion rate comes into picture and provides the necessary context. Conversion rate can tell us the Quality of the leads & visitors that you get from your online marketing efforts.

Let’s take an example of an e-commerce site:

An e-commerce site decides to increase their monthly online marketing budget and they see a spike in the number of visitors – so that’s great, right? They should continue to increase their marketing budget, right? Well – that might not be true. While the number of visitors may have increased how do we know that increased number of visitors results in increased revenue? It all depends on the quality of the visitors that’s being generated – so how do you quantify the quality of the visitors? That’s right – conversion rate with the goal: number of visitors clicking “buy” button. So you want to make sure that with increased online marketing budget 1) Conversion rate is good or better 2) Number of visitors/leads have grown.

This was a basic scenario helping you appreciate the power of tracking the conversion rate for your online marketing efforts.

Now, If your marketing funnel is more complex then you might also create multiple conversion rate metrics to track conversions at each stage of a marketing funnel. This is VERY powerful. Here’s an Example:

Conversion Rate #1: (Number of Leads)/(Number of Total Visitors)

Note: your marketing team would define a “lead” based on their criteria(s) like downloads a newsletter, submits a contact us form, favorites a product, etc.

Conversion Rate #2: (Number of Actual Customers)/(Number of Leads)

Note: Conversion Rate #1 is great to evaluate effectiveness of marketing campaigns and conversion rate #2 is great to evaluate sales effectiveness.

How can you capture this data?

A good web analytics tool (like Google analytics) should help you track your conversion rates.


In this post, we saw that tracking conversion rate is very important metric to track your online marketing efforts.

Business Metric #4 of N: “Leads” (marketing)


In this post, we will discuss about a common metric used by Sales & Marketing teams called “leads”.


In simple terms,

Leads = number of individuals (or companies) that have expressed an interest in your goods or services.

why do we want to measure this?

For a business to grow, it’s important that the sales & marketing department work to make sure that there is a growing interest in company’s goods or services. It’s important to track this metric to make sure that it’s a positive upward trend!

Word of caution: It’s important to also note that this metric on its own can be misleading. It might be a good idea to also track “conversion ratios” (converting leads or potential customers into actual customers) to make sure that high-quality leads are being generated.

where can you get this data?

Depending on the channel that you use to capture potential customer’s information & the technology maturity of the company, it varies. I’ve seen CRM systems used to report “leads” data and I’ve also seen manual excel files that are used to generate leads report.

Are there any sub-categories?

Yes, it’s usually subdivided into 1) Marketing Qualified Leads and 2) Sales Marketing Leads.

usually, Marketing Qualified lead (MQL) is someone who has shown interest in your product or service but you don’t know if they fulfill your qualifications to buy your products or services. out of all MQL’s, those leads that qualify your criteria and are identified are someone who is ready to buy your products or services becomes your Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and sales department get’s ready to engage with these leads to make them an actual customer.

Marketing Funnel Sales Qualified Lead


In this post, we saw a high level overview of a business metric used in marketing and sales called “leads”.  As mentioned earlier, don’t report on just “leads” – it can be misleading for marketing & sales executives since upward trend in number of leads doesn’t necessarily result in increased sales unless the quality of new leads is same or better. Marketing and sales executives would really appreciate any context  (example: conversions) that you can provide to their “leads” report. I hope that helps!

How does Internet of Things (#IoT) impact data professionals?

Internet enabled computers to be connected with each other.

Internet enabled Mobile Devices to be connected with each other.

Now, Internet will be used to enable physical things to be connected with each other. This is what is called “Internet of things” (IoT).

So what happens?

since more devices are connected with internet – we will able to generate more data! This is usually good if there’s a business vision around how to make sense of data to increase efficiency of all these things.

Here’s a nice case study from Microsoft (focus on the business case – the things in this case is “elevator” to drive reliability)


This is all good news for data professionals! There will be increased demand for professionals who can help businesses make sense of data generated via IoT.

Also beware of the “hype” around this technology. It’s important to take incremental steps to achieve the vision – Instead of trying to analyze data from ALL devices in your organization, start with one physical thing that matter the most for your organization or start with data that you have and take incremental steps to spread data culture in your organization!

Now that Big Data has become a mainstream word in IT and business, we have a new buzzword to learn/talk about IoT – but remember it’s all about making sense of data and your skills would be more valuable than ever!

PASS Business Analytics VC: Insider’s Introduction to Microsoft Azure Machine Learning (#AzureML). #sqlpass


Session Abstract:
Microsoft has introduced a new technology for developing analytics applications in the cloud. The presenter has an insider’s perspective, having actively provided feedback to the Microsoft team which has been developing this technology over the past 2 years. This session will 1) provide an introduction to the Azure technology including licensing, 2) provide demos of using R version 3 with AzureML, and 3) provide best practices for developing applications with Azure Machine Learning.
Speaker BIO:
Mark is a consultant who provides enterprise data science analytics advice and solutions. He uses Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, Microsoft SQL Server Data Mining, SAS, SPSS, R, and Hadoop (among other tools). He works with Microsoft Business Intelligence (SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, SharePoint, Power BI, .NET). He is a SQL Server MVP and has a research doctorate (PhD) from Georgia Tech.


Hope to see you there!

Paras Doshi
Business Analytics Virtual Chapter’s Co-Leader