Opinion: Constant churn breaks community learning for software applications

A current trend that I can’t say that I love is constant churn within software applications. I have no interest to go back to the days where we got a new version of SQL Server or Power BI, etc. every few years.

It’s also not a case of who moved my cheese?

In fact, I thrive on change. However, I’ve now become really concerned about how anyone:

  • Learns to use a complex application
  • Remembers how to use a complex application when they don’t use it daily

I first really struck this issue with Azure. If I was teaching a class that used Azure, I could check every single lab on Sunday night, then Monday morning, the students would find it had all changed. That’s OK for an experienced person, but not OK for a learner.

I love the rate of change for Power BI. We’re endlessly getting wonderful new things. But I have to say that every class that I teach on this is like a new experience. I’ve got another one this coming Tuesday. I used to look forward to them but now I have a major hesitation every time, as I wonder what parts of the labs will have broken.

This is now an ongoing challenge for all this type of software though. I helped create some labs for VSTS very recently, and when I look at the product now, it barely resembles the one that I built the labs on.

Is it better? Probably yes.

But even though it might have been a few months ago, it feels like just the other week, and yet, not only has the UI changed, entire concepts have been added or removed, and the order that things are done in has changed substantially.

I don’t know the answer to this but the current rate of churn is a substantial issue.

I gather the plan with the DevOps guys is to put a set of labs on GitHub, and let people who are doing the labs point out the issues day by day as they strike them. Again, for experienced users that might work. But for newcomers, I really wonder if that’s what they’ll think.

Will they realize the app must have changed, and it’s all different, or will they just think the product is too hard to use. Either way, they’ll be very frustrated.

Image by JeShoots

And while initial learning the product is one thing, I’m worried about it longer-term. A product like VSTS lets you set up automation and you hope you won’t need to change it constantly. But if every time you go to make a change, you’re struggling to use it like you’re a newbie again, that’s a problem.

Finally, I’m really concerned about ongoing support.

The vast majority of support of software applications today happens from community resources like blogs, webcasts, etc.

Will they continue to be created at the same pace if the authors know they’ll be irrelevant or wrong within a very short time? How will end-users learn to do things when none of the online examples they find still work?

I wish I knew the answer to this.

Opinion: You have to live and breathe the technology to be good at it

Digital Transformation and Cloud Transformation are phrases that I hear bandied around at nearly every large organization that I currently doing consulting work for.

Yet, in so many cases, I can’t see the organization achieving the changes required. This is for two core reasons:

  • The first is that the culture within the organizations is a major hurdle. There just isn’t enough flexibility to think outside the box about alternative ways to work.
  • Worse (and probably more concerning), I see these companies taking advice on how to make these transformations from companies who don’t themselves “get it”.

An organization that is cloud-antagonistic internally, and stuck in an endless IT management quagmire, isn’t likely to make a good cloud transformation, and they’re certainly not going to be a successful partner to be able to help you to make a successful cloud migration or to implement a cloud transformation within your company.

An organization that doesn’t use business intelligence (BI) or analytics internally isn’t going to be able to help you make that transition either.

If the organization is claiming to be proficient in an area of technology, ask them about the use that they are making themselves of those same technologies. As a simple example, ask them about their internal analytics that they can see on their own phones.

To be any good at any of these areas of technology, companies need to live and breathe them daily. If they don’t, find someone to help you who does.

SDU Podcast: Show 72 with guest Power BI General Manager Kamal Hathi

I had the great pleasure to record another SQL Down Under podcast last week with the Power BI general manager Kamal Hathi.

In the show, Kamal and I discuss the current state and potential futures for Power BI, its relationship to SQL Server Reporting Services, and its development and extensibility models.

You’ll find the show here: http://www.sqldownunder.com/Podcasts

I hope you enjoy it.

Note: We had a few unexpected audio issues with the recording. Sorry about that. We’ll do better next time 🙂 It’s still pretty good and I’ll still think you’ll find it interesting.

Happy Birthday Power BI from all of us

It’s hard to believe that it’s only a year, given how far Power BI has come.

Many of us in the community got together under the lead of Paul Turley and Adam Saxton and created a short video for Power BI’s birthday.

Looks good:

 

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https://youtu.be/An_8wf4RwBw

So to James Phillips, and all the Power BI team, happy birthday from Down Under, Power BI !

 

(Good to see some locals in there too Smile)

R Tools for Visual Studio

In recent months, I’ve been brushing up my R skills. I’ve had a few areas of interest in this:

* R in Azure Machine Learning

* R in relation to Power BI and general analytics

* R embedded (somewhat) in SQL Server 2016

As a client tool, I’ve been using RStudio. It’s been good and very simple but it’s a completely separate environment. So I was excited when I saw there was to be a preview of new R tooling for Visual Studio.

I’ve been using a pre-release version of R Tools for Visual Studio for a short while but I’ve already come to quite like it. It’s great to have this embedded directly within Visual Studio. I can do everything that I used to do in RStudio but really like the level of Intellisense, etc. that I pick up when I’m working in R Tools for Visual Studio.

So today I was pleased to see the announcement that these tools have gone public. You’ll find more info here in today’s post from Shahrokh Mortazavi in the Azure Machine Learning blog: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/machinelearning/2016/03/09/announcing-r-tools-for-visual-studio-2/

Extra Power BI single day course in Melbourne May 10th

We normally run our Power BI Core Skills class as the 2nd day of the week in our 5 day BI Core Skills.

We’ve had extra demand for the Power BI day so we’ve added an extra one in Melbourne on May 10th. Details are here: http://www.sqldownunder.com/Training/Courses/20

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Early bird pricing ends April 26th.

SQL Down Under–Show 65–Jen Underwood and Power BI

Hi Folks,

We’ve taken a fairly long break but now back into the swing for SQL Server 2016 and Power BI.

The first of the new series of shows is a show on the current state of Power BI with Jen Underwood.

You’ll find it here: http://www.sqldownunder.com/Podcasts

or subscribe download like any other podcast. Feed link is: http://www.sqldownunder.com/SQLDownUnderMP3Feed.xml.

Enjoy!

Regards,

Greg

FIX: Internal service error when refreshing Personal Gateway for Power BI

We recently started working with the new Personal Data Management Gateway for Power BI. Overall, we really like it but the error messages in most of Power BI have left much to be desired.

One error that we were encountering made us feel like the service was flaky as it seemed to happen randomly. When we tried to refresh a dataset, we got this error:

 

RefreshError

 

The Power BI team came to the rescue and worked out what was happening. Turns out that you cannot currently refresh more than once every 5 minutes. That also includes within 5 minutes of your initial upload. Unfortunately, this is the error returned when you attempt it.

Apparently this 5 minute limit is going to be removed soon and hopefully that will be one less error we might see.