Raw Data By P3 Adaptive
“MVPness” Doesn’t Sound Quite Right w/ MS MVP Ed HansberryListen Now:
With a background in finance and a history of great communication and a passion for problem-solving, Ed Hansberry, an Assistant Director with P3 Adaptive, embodies the spirit of P3 Adaptive.
Ed was recently awarded his 13th Microsoft MVP Award so of course, we wanted to know more about his achievement, his passions, his adaptability, and most of all, his insights on change so we invited him to join us today for a chat. Early on, in the conversation, Rob and Ed delve into defining change and that led to a lively discussion on the process of change, the successful process of change, and the difference between them. Here’s a hint, it’s always the people! Knowing that people drive success, Ed extensively volunteers his time in the Microsoft Power BI User Community supporting users around the world with problems and questions around Power BI and, since he has been recognized as a Super User by Microsoft, we really can say that helping people is his superpower. He is leading change one question at a time.
This episode isn’t just about change, though, the evolution of technology and software is embedded throughout the conversation from cube functions to the hidden power of the innocuously named OLAP dropdown in Excel. And finally, we get some great insight on formerly cutting-edge technology that has since gone obsolete. We hear a firsthand account of the tragic end of the Microsoft phone. You never know what you will learn when the conversation starts to flow.
As always, be sure to leave a review on your favorite podcast platform and tell a friend about Raw Data by P3 Adaptive, where data meets the human element.
Also on this episode:
Rob Collie (00:00:00): Hello, friends. Today's guest is Ed Hansberry. You may know him in the community as Microsoft MVP, Ed Hansberry. At P3, we think of him that way too, but we also think of him as Associate Director Ed Hansberry. In a way, this conversation kind of felt like a council of elders two of the older, if not the oldest, people at P3. Oldest? No, what am I saying? Most experienced, wisened, well-seasoned. We of course reflect a bit on how far we've come as a community and even a little bit as a company, we talk about internet news readers. If you know what an internet news reader is, that definitely puts you in a certain age bracket, spoiler alert, Ed and I both know. We talk about his earliest MVP experience as a member of the Microsoft mobile phone and mobile devices platform, but it turns out he was a data person all along.
Rob Collie (00:00:52): So whatever, he's always been a data MVP. We talk about his top three favorite visuals in Power BI and why they're all the same thing. We talk a bit about how the nature of just taking on ad hoc challenges, whether those come from clients or from users on an internet forum, how those really sharpen your capabilities in any technical space, but certainly in the Power BI domain. We talk about one of the big lies in data.
Rob Collie (00:01:18): And of course, I also asked him about his experience in this ever evolving associate director role, which is an interesting hybrid between pure consultant and manager/leader. And I have to mention this, because it just cracked us up in postproduction. If you want to describe the property of being an MVP of having MVP status and you want to turn that into a noun, let me just suggest that you don't want to put the suffix -ness on the end of the term MVP, had no idea at the time that I said it. I didn't mean to say it, but I did. And we all had such a laugh about it afterwards, including Ed, that we decided to even incorporate it into the title of this episode. All right, with the inadvertent 12 year old jokes out of the way, let's get into it.
Announcer (00:02:06): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?
Announcer (00:02:10): This is the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive podcast, with your host Rob Collie. Find out what the experts at P3 Adaptive can do for your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Raw Data by P3 Adaptive is data with the human element.
Rob Collie (00:02:33): Welcome to the show, Ed Hansberry. Thank you so much for being here at 13 years of MVP.
Ed Hansberry (00:02:40): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:02:41): Your first MVP award in 2010 or 2009?
Ed Hansberry (00:02:45): No, 2000.
Rob Collie (00:02:47): Oh.
Ed Hansberry (00:02:47): So there's a break because I was an MVP for the mobile devices, Pocket PC, Windows phone, that whole thing, between 2000 and 2011.
Rob Collie (00:02:59): Okay.
Ed Hansberry (00:02:59): And then that whole division got shut down. So I was no longer in MVP.
Rob Collie (00:03:03): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:03:03): And then I came back as a Power BI MVP in 2020. So there's a break there.
Rob Collie (00:03:09): Interesting. Okay. So the mobile device and phone and all of that from 2000?
Ed Hansberry (00:03:16): That was the year Pocket PC came out.
Rob Collie (00:03:18): Oh, that's amazing. So in 2000 I was still working on something I think, was probably winding down, working on something called Office Designer that never shipped. It was a terrible idea that absorbed tremendous amount of R&D and then just got killed and mercifully so. A friend of mine who worked on that Zeke Kutch-
Ed Hansberry (00:03:38): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:03:39): Went on to work on a team you're talking about, did you get to interact with him some?
Ed Hansberry (00:03:44): I know Zeke. Yeah. So it's been a long time, but yeah, he would be in the meetings, we'd have the MVP Summit every year, every year and a half, whatever it was. And he was always one of the PMs getting grilled by us because we thought we knew better.
Rob Collie (00:03:56): Well, usually you do. That's my experience with the MVPs. I mean the MVPs in my days, they didn't live our trade offs on the product team. That was one thing we definitely in terms of knowledge, if you will, something that the product team definitely had that the MVPs didn't. The MVPs could see each issue in its own little silo and get frustrated by them, rightfully. It's funny, when you spend all day building race cars, you don't get to spend all day driving them. And so of course the people who spend huge chunks of their day driving the cars that you build are going to come back and tell you, I'm not a car person, but I'm going to fake it. "Yeah. The transmission gets a little stiff in turn three." Or insert car metaphor here. I think it's been well documented, even on this show, that the MVPs, by and large, at least certainly a core group of them, end up knowing the product in a way better than the product team.
Ed Hansberry (00:04:50): I think that's true, but I think we also have to recognize that the MVPs typically are not the target audience. We want all these super nerdy specific geek things, that would confuse the heck out of the general public, just getting started with Power BI or Windows phone back then it just, they push back and they're like, "Yeah, that sounds really great, but that's going to confuse everybody, so no."
Rob Collie (00:05:13): That's true. Yeah. That's the other perspective, right? The product team has to... An old mentor of mine called it, "You have to order a pizza for 300 million people and it's one pizza, they've all got to like it."
Ed Hansberry (00:05:29): So it's a cheese pizza.
Rob Collie (00:05:30): Yeah. So yeah, what kind of sauce? Oh, I don't know. We're screwed. Again, I guess that falls under, in a way it falls under the heading of trade offs. So Ed, how long have you been part of the P3 crew? How long have you been here?
Ed Hansberry (00:05:41): Just over a year. I started in May 2021.
Rob Collie (00:05:45): Just over a year. Super senior, Considering how fast we're growing. As part of that growth, I think you've recently taken on a slightly different, not 100% different, but a slightly different job. What we call the AD role here, the associate director. One of the themes on this show when we talk to people who on our team, Alex, this past week, when we hired Alex, we didn't expect to be getting someone who was going to end up basically managing the vast majority of our digital presence. We got a web developer. Over and over and over again, we hire people who are good at the thing that we hired them for, but they're more than that. Did you expect to change roles at all and so quickly?
Ed Hansberry (00:06:28): When I came in, it was as a PC, a principal consultant. And for me, at least it was just 100%, you're in Power BI doing DAX and publishing models and doing whatever it is in the workspace. But then when I was asked to become an AD, there's a little bit more administrative work to it and I've managed departments before. So this is not like it's new, I used to be a director of finance and it was a large organization and many people.
Ed Hansberry (00:06:53): So I knew how management works and what you do. So there is some of that here. Right now I'm focusing on helping onboard new people, which you might not think that's a big deal, but at P3 it is a big deal right now because you're hiring them as fast as you can get them in the door, through the interview process, but there's a lot of processes that need improving or things of that nature, training needs to be updated. So I'm getting involved in those aspects. So to me, the way I look at it is, I'm just the grease that's helping some of the gears get along a little bit better.
Rob Collie (00:07:29): Yeah. The AD role is many different things or at least multiple different things for us. One way to look at the AD role is that it's a two-way audition for the director role at the company, which is much more of a management role. What would you say your time allocation is between AD organizational activities versus hands on consulting? Is it 80, 20? Still 80% PC?
Ed Hansberry (00:07:56): I would say it's between 80 and 90%. I'm still doing PC work, and the other 10 to 20% is that AD role.
Rob Collie (00:08:03): By the way, as you said, you've been a manager before, I caught. When you said you've been a director of finance, that's how you know that you were senior, is in that department is because you pronounced it finance. Yeah. You might have started as a financial analyst, but by the time you made it to director, it was finance.
Ed Hansberry (00:08:22): It's finance. Yes. There's a couple of words like that, finance. Economics is another one. Economics doesn't work, so there's a few words that as an accountant, I pronounce correctly.
Rob Collie (00:08:30): You have to... Yeah. Kilometer and kilometer.
Ed Hansberry (00:08:32): Kilometers. Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:08:33): You've got to be careful with these things. Is it Caribbean or Caribbean?
Ed Hansberry (00:08:36): That's Caribbean.
Rob Collie (00:08:37): Yeah. One of them sounds way cooler. Right? It's definitely Caribbean
Ed Hansberry (00:08:41): Sounds a little more highbrow.
Rob Collie (00:08:42): Anyway. Let's be blunt, unhappy or happy about having taken on the AD role? Would you reverse it?
Ed Hansberry (00:08:48): So I would not reverse it. I'm still getting acclimated to it. So I'm not going to say that it's just been all sunshine and rainbows. I'm trying to get into it and figure out what I'm supposed to do. And some things I'm not doing quite right. But then there's other things that I'm like, "Okay, I can fit into this." And so P3 has four or five ADs, and we're all not going to be doing the same thing, which is good.
Rob Collie (00:09:12): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:09:12): I'm trying to find my space and there are some things I'm doing that I really love and other things I'm like, "Okay, this is just part of it." But as I'm finding my place in that and the other four or five ADs, whatever the total count is, as we all find our place, I think it's going to get better. So would I reverse it? No. Do I wish it were six months from now? Yes.
Rob Collie (00:09:33): Me too. That's how everything is. Something that I used to say all the time, like on team meetings and it might be something I haven't said at all or frequently in the last year plus, since you've been here. Is that at this company, we're discovering the template for how to run this business as much as we're following it. And so the AD role itself is still relatively new at our organization, and we're also, in its relatively short history, we're already discovering that we want to define it a little bit differently or at least loosen its definition a bit. I don't know whether you have any interest or ambition to someday try out the director role at this company. I wouldn't want the AD role to be viewed as just that, as just a stepping stone. I think I was the oldest person at the company until you came along.
Rob Collie (00:10:24): So I used to be able to play like the, "Oh, well, old man joke." And you took that from me, but to have someone like you with so much experience, more involved than what you would typically be as an individual contributor, is just a great deal for the organization, finding more and more ways to get that involvement from people is an ongoing mission for us. And so yeah, I completely agree with you and can sympathize, that the AD role is probably designed to be multiple different things over time. So it's not even going to be, at equilibrium it won't be one thing, but we're definitely not at equilibrium either, we're still figuring it out and I'm appreciative that you're part of that. So yeah, six months, let's just hit fast forward.
Ed Hansberry (00:11:11): Yeah. Just hit the fast forward button on the remote. That's one of the things I love about being at P3. Yeah. I am the old guy on the block now, so sorry I took that away. I'm the old man yelling at clouds sometimes. There's such a vibrancy at the organization. Part of that is just because people love the technology. Great, I love being around those kind of people, but part of it is youth and they're just like, "What can we do? And how do we do this? And I'm trying to figure this out." And just talking to them and watching their eyes light up. And it's like, "Oh yeah, I didn't think about that." So I love jumping in those kind of conversations. And so that's why I'm probably more active in Slack than the average person, because I just enjoy jumping into that kind of stuff.
Rob Collie (00:11:50): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:11:50): I've got other places I need to work on, but communicating and helping out people, that's kind of what I enjoyed. It's how it became an MVP. So it's all related
Rob Collie (00:12:01): In a way. We almost backed into Adaptive as our noun in our name because of frankly .com domain parking, it's like every possible combination of words and symbols and everything, it's just crazy how parked and camped everything is. But when that one emerged through the haze as available, it felt like the death star had left this one port unguarded, the entire world of domains had been so carefully parked to prevent any interesting domain name to be chosen for the company, but they left that one unguarded. There were things that were available, you could start the bidding at $10,000 and hope that they would even take it. And then there was this one sitting there, for just an off the shelf price. And again, it just felt like a massive oversight on the part of the domain trolls, but that word Adaptive means so much, it does fit us so well, the more time goes by the more I think, "That was exactly the right name."
Rob Collie (00:13:07): You mentioned youth, well, one of the hallmarks of youth is adaptivity. The saying, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, if you remain adaptive, that's one of the most important, I think at least, in the marketplace. It's one of the most important aspects of youth. So this is just a long winded way of saying Ed, "You and I really aren't so old after all. We remain adaptive. We bring experience with that." I mean, come on, doesn't get any better than that, experienced, add activity.
Ed Hansberry (00:13:39): And you just got a word of [inaudible 00:13:41] I think.
Rob Collie (00:13:42): Maybe. Yeah. That's probably. You never really know how the [inaudible 00:13:46] model, it strips things down to its roots so that you don't get credit for a plural, for example, of the word you've already used. So it's probably not going to flag that one, adapt was already... We'll see. It moves in mysterious ways, the [inaudible 00:14:00] model, it's like an AI. You don't really know how it works, but you just trust that it does, you hope that it does
Ed Hansberry (00:14:06): Well. That's one of the things I like about doing what I'm doing and doing it at P3. I don't remember staying at most jobs more than four or five years because it just gets to be the same thing. Now that I'm just doing this full time, Power BI, consulting. It's never going to be the same thing because I'm going to move between different clients, the technology's rapidly developing and there's opportunities, the company's growing. So like you said, I have no desire today to be a director, if you offered it to me today, not only am I not qualified, I would say no, but I don't know where I'm going to be in two or three years. So we'll have that discussion at that point.
Rob Collie (00:14:42): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:14:43): There's room to grow and room to move. And so, like you said, it's just about being adaptive and I'm really enjoying that aspect of it.
Rob Collie (00:14:51): I was on a call recently with a prospective client. I don't do those very often anymore. So you could tell that they've been to the consulting rodeo. They were wary of us in the same way that they should be wary of every consulting firm, you let these people in the door and they're going to drain you of all of your time and money. That's what's going to happen. And as you could see them being defensive about it, he said something in particular, this was like the CEO of this company and said something like, "I do not want to pay P3 to come in here and do things that we could do for ourselves."
Rob Collie (00:15:28): And I was like, "Okay, let me tell you something. Let me just level with you. Our people don't like doing that stuff. It wears them out. If we have our team doing that kind of thing, our attrition is going to become a problem. If you can be doing something for yourself, that means it's going to be boring to our team. So don't worry. We're going to be trying to get you whatever level of self sufficiency is comfortable for you. Because part of what they dig about being here is the stimulation of the new of the challenging." And I know that had to seems the weirdest thing in the world for him to hear, if you've hired 50 consulting outfits in your career, which I'm sure he has, how many of those worked out the way he hoped they would? None.
Ed Hansberry (00:16:15): Very low number.
Rob Collie (00:16:16): I hope that got through to him. I have to circle back and see if it did. I had to drop, when it was time to actually find out if they were in or not, I was gone. All right. I knew, but had forgotten that your MVP streak had a break in the middle. You're very protective of your Wordle streaks, am I correct with that?
Ed Hansberry (00:16:37): No, I didn't play Wordle.
Rob Collie (00:16:40): I thought that all of the security measures that we are increasingly implementing over time, we're going to interfere with your Wordle streak and talk about ordering pizza for everybody. We've got to keep everything secure, but not ruin Ed's Wordle streak, you don't even play Wordle. What's going on here?
Ed Hansberry (00:17:01): It's not Wordle. I have an Apple Watch and so I close, for people to have an Apple Watch, you can close your bands. So there's a movement band, a stand band and an activity band. And I've done that now over 1500 days straight. And when I install the security software on my iPhone, it started complaining about iCloud. And I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to try this for a couple days." And it kept complaining and I'm like, "I'm not breaking my Apple Watch streak." So I uninstalled all that software.
Rob Collie (00:17:30): I see. Okay.
Ed Hansberry (00:17:30): So that's what it is.
Rob Collie (00:17:32): So I just heard streak, being the day and age we live in, I just converted it to Wordle streak.
Ed Hansberry (00:17:37): So it is 1,522 days.
Rob Collie (00:17:41): Of putting on the watch?
Ed Hansberry (00:17:42): Well, of putting on the watch and doing all the things to get the, you have 12 hours of standing, burn so many calories a day, and so many minutes of exercise.
Rob Collie (00:17:53): Dang, even just getting sick could really put this in jeopardy.
Ed Hansberry (00:17:57): That's why it's only 1,522 days, because 1,523 days ago, I had a fever and I could not complete my bands, and so I lost it that day and started over.
Rob Collie (00:18:08): Oh no. That's almost four years ago?
Ed Hansberry (00:18:11): Exactly. Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:18:12): Oh my gosh.
Ed Hansberry (00:18:16): So I try to stay very healthy.
Rob Collie (00:18:17): I bet. Four years of anything, anything that's active as opposed to passive, four years of breathing, check. Eating? Yeah. Okay. Fine. But what else? I don't know how many four year streaks I have of anything. So I had forgotten that it was a Windows Phone, how the heck did you get into that in the year 2000?
Ed Hansberry (00:18:40): So I had started playing with it a little bit earlier, back in the late '90s, it was called Windows CE. And it was a competitor to the Palm Pilot. So that was when that whole thing was coming about. And it was just a nerdy tool, it was a geek tool, and I could have music on there. That was a revolutionary thing, you could actually put music on this thing. It had a headphone jack, it predated the iPod. It was super clunky. I mean, they were huge, they were slow. You had to really want to put music on there because the memory was low, you get like a 25 gig card and it was hundreds of dollars, but it was just one of those things, I've always loved technology toys. And so I did that, and then I got involved in the Microsoft forums. And back then, that was the only way you could become an MVP, was helping other people with their devices. And so in 2000 I was awarded the MVP and I kept it for 11 years until that whole division burned to the ground.
Rob Collie (00:19:38): Yeah. Until it was given the same mercy killing that Office Designer got. But at least Office Designer, again, no one even ever heard of it, I had an IPaq,
Ed Hansberry (00:19:51): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:19:52): Compact IPaq. So even the IPaq, that sort of thing, that naming scheme, did Apple rip that off? With iPod and iPhone and iPad, did the IPaq, did that predate, I have no idea, but it seems fishy doesn't it?
Ed Hansberry (00:20:08): It predated the iPod, but it did not predate the iMac, which was [inaudible 00:20:14] original. Remember the original egg shaped thing? So-
Rob Collie (00:20:17): Okay.
Ed Hansberry (00:20:17): I think back then everybody was either putting .com or I in front of their names. So I think they were all ripping each other off.
Rob Collie (00:20:24): Yeah. So now it'd be like phone.io, would be the way we... Would phone.io would be what they called it today. Yeah. I had a manager who went, at Microsoft, when we're working on Office Designer and who very controversially used the morale budget to buy all of his program managers IPaqs. And so in our hallway, half of the program managers, the ones who reported to this guy are walking around with IPaqs and the other half of them aren't right. So there's this haves and haves nots culture. And so it puts a lot of pressure on the other manager to do the same. And maybe we didn't want to spend the morale budget that way and whatever it was over, next thing everybody had IPaqs. I tried, I carried that thing to meetings for, I don't know, a month and a half.
Rob Collie (00:21:10): And all that really in the end convinced me of was how much better it would be if I could bring my laptop to meetings. Because around the same time was when we started getting the PCM CIA cards you could plug into the side of your laptop that had the wifi adapter in them, the wifi antenna would stick out the side of your laptop. But we were the coolest people on earth to have that, no one had wifi, we had it. And I would walk around with that thing just because it was cool, it was a flex. You're at the airport, there's no wifi at the airport back then. Yeah, you leave the card in. So people ask you about it.
Ed Hansberry (00:21:47): Well, that's kind of the way I was because I had the IPaq and there was a sleeve that you could put on the IPaq that accepted a PCM CIA card. And so I had a wifi card in that, but now this thing is as big as a shoe.
Rob Collie (00:22:01): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:22:01): But I'm wireless. So yeah, same kind of flex.
Rob Collie (00:22:05): It was amazing. Eventually I just gave up on the iPaq, gave it to someone else at Microsoft. The age of wielding a laptop at meetings was born. We were still struggling with this, the only thing I noticed about a laptop, I haven't worked in an in-person office since 2009. It's been a long time since I've worked in an office, but you take a laptop to a meeting. The only problem with it was that psychologically having that screen up puts a barrier between you and the person you're talking to. There's now a physical, almost like a dividing bar, like at the grocery store, like on the conveyor belt.
Rob Collie (00:22:38): And there's a place for you to point your eyes in between you that breaks the personal connection. So at that moment I'm like, "Oh, I would really prefer a laptop that I could write on and hold it like a tablet." But by the time good tablets showed up and I wouldn't had a chance to test that theory, I wasn't working in an office anymore. So back to laptop, it went. So you rode that, wow, 11 years as a Microsoft mobile device MVP. For the last few years of that, did it feel like you were on the Titanic?
Ed Hansberry (00:23:09): Yeah. It got really bad the last few years and Microsoft, I think, shot themselves in the foot. It had evolved from Windows CE through Pocket PC to Windows Phone until it got to version six, which was really good. And then somebody decided, "Let's reboot it and do seven." Well, the problem is none of the apps, none of the processes, none of the anythings worked when they went from six to seven. So they shot all the developers bright in the foot, and then they did it again when they went to Windows Mobile 8 and I'm like, "That's it. I can see this is just going down." And meanwhile, Apple had launched the iPhone in what? 2007. And so Apple is just skyrocketing, Microsoft just keeps rebooting. Then they bought Nokia, which I didn't fully understand that.And that ship sank very quickly. And then it was over and then I bought an iPhone
Rob Collie (00:24:00): Game over. You hung on till the end though.
Ed Hansberry (00:24:03): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:24:03): Tenacity
Ed Hansberry (00:24:04): It's for the swag.
Rob Collie (00:24:06): Yeah. I did it all for the swag. Mobile device swag though is another level of swag.
Ed Hansberry (00:24:12): It's cool. It's another level. It was always technology.
Rob Collie (00:24:14): Yeah. Yeah. All right. So how do you end up jumping that track from the Windows mobile world, ended up over here in the Power platform world. What connects those dots, without knowing the story that seems random and improbable?
Ed Hansberry (00:24:29): Well, so my background is I'm an accountant and so I had always been using Excel, and before that Lotus 123, but I had always been interested in data. So I had to learn Microsoft Access because Excel couldn't handle the amount of data that I wanted to analyze. So I learned how to combine Excel and Access together back in the '90s. So the whole mobile device was a side technology, cool. It was a hobby. Exactly. But I had always been Excel and Access and writing VBA and doing queries and all that kind of stuff. So it was a natural flow in the early 2010s when Power Pivot and Power Query came out and I'm like, "Oh, I can get rid of VBA." And then Power BI comes out. So that was the natural flow, and then I just jumped on the Power BI bandwagon and that's how that evolved.
Rob Collie (00:25:20): I like that story. I like that a lot. That feels good. You were always one of us. You're not a late comer to that story, you were there before me. But the Windows Phone was enough to get you to, I guess, were you blogging about it? Is that how you got to MVP status? How did they mint MVPs in 2000?
Ed Hansberry (00:25:41): As far as I know, there was only one way and back then Microsoft had their NNTP server, remember that? So that old technology, that went the way of [inaudible 00:25:50] and all that. But I was heavily involved in the news groups and they were about, I don't know, 12 to 15 news groups that Microsoft hosted, just for their mobile devices. So it's programming and apps and whatever. And I was very active in those. And I think at that time, every single MVP was because they were on the news groups. They didn't start accepting blogs and videos and all that stuff until a few years later.
Rob Collie (00:26:14): Yeah. 2000 seems pretty early for blogs, not that there weren't any. Every time I hear NNTP, which is not very often anymore, that's the news protocol, internet news-
Ed Hansberry (00:26:27): Network news transfer protocol, I think is what it stands for.
Rob Collie (00:26:30): Yeah.Which didn't even really mean news in practice. It meant forums and discussion groups and stuff like that, but we called it news. But every time I hear NNTP, the first thing I think is NNTN, which was the abbreviation for HBO's Not Necessarily The News, which was a comedy show about the news, lampooning things, also the source of the word sniglet. You don't remember sniglets?
Ed Hansberry (00:26:57): No, that I don't remember.
Rob Collie (00:26:59): So sniglets were words for things that we all know about, but don't have a word for, like repeatedly jamming the elevator button, you press it once that's good enough, but you very frequently sit there and just punch it like multiple times as if it's going to speed it up, and they called that l-acceleration
Ed Hansberry (00:27:19): And that's a sniglet?
Rob Collie (00:27:19): Yeah. But you had to have been a subscriber to HBO, within that two year period before they canceled that show, to have been exposed to this part of the cultural scene as it were. NNTP and NTN, not the same thing. So then Power Pivot comes along. Now we're talking. To the best you can remember, when and how did you hear about Power Pivot?
Ed Hansberry (00:27:39): So probably a little late by some standards. It was 2013, 2014 that I really started getting into both of those Power Pivot and Power Query. And unfortunately I learned Power Pivot first, which for me was a very frustrating experience because I couldn't figure out how to filter the data properly. And then I'm like, "Oh wait, I can put Power Query with this thing." And once I got the two to talk to each other, then it was magical. Everything I used to do in Access, creating queries and views and whatever, I did all that in Power Query. Then I brought it into Power Pivot because I understood tables. I hated pivot tables in Excel because it was an endless source of vlookups to get it into the big table. I didn't know the term fact table and dim table back then, but I knew what they were.
Rob Collie (00:28:24): Yeah. There's a perfect example, it's almost like the sniglet thing. Before you hear terms for fact table and dimension table, there are these things in your life. You absolutely know, it's a concept you know, you have no symbol for it though. There's no verbal symbol to represent it, no noun. When I used teach classes, I would call them data and look up tables almost as an act of rebellion against the fact and dimension. Then I asked the class, "Do you know why we call these things fact and dimension instead of data and look up?" Usually someone gets it, which is because it sounds cooler, it just sounds cooler to call it fact and dimension. It's a nerd thing, but it's also like a mote. It raises the bar on even approaching these concepts. But yeah, of course, anyone that's ever written a vlookup knows the difference between these two tables.
Rob Collie (00:29:14): You don't have any doubt where you're going to write the vlookup and what you're going to pull from and where you're going to put it. Even though you don't have names for the source and the destination. vlookuping to make franken tables, to feed pivot tables is gross. But you, Ed, you said you hated pivot tables before that, I feel like that's putting the blame in the wrong places. No, it's not. No, it's not. It's putting the blame in the right place because pivots could only be fed by one table. It is totally pivot's fault. Yep.
Ed Hansberry (00:29:44): I didn't hate pivot tables. I hated building the data to get to a pivot table.
Rob Collie (00:29:49): I was being pedantic and silly. I was just picking a fight that isn't really there. I do that a lot.
Ed Hansberry (00:29:54): We can talk about specific features of pivot tables I hated.
Rob Collie (00:29:59): All right, bring it on. Because at one point in time I was responsible for not fixing those problems.
Ed Hansberry (00:30:05): Who was the person that was responsible for creating the default view, where it was compact, and so you drag it in and everything's in this little hierarchy instead of a table format?
Rob Collie (00:30:14): I have an acrobatic move here that I'm going to share with you. When someone likes that feature, it was me. When someone doesn't like that feature, it was Alan Faulting. But no listen, for better and worse, I was there for that whole thing and had the ability to fight against things that I didn't like. Alan reported to me, I was more closely aware of what was going on with pivot tables than probably anything on my team, because it was the flagship of what I was responsible for. So I don't get to dodge anything here, but I'm also going to tell you, like I tell Bill Gillon all the time, all you accounting types, you hate the compact access, but for the rest of humanity, compact access is a godsend because it actually made pivot tables easy on the eyes to look at for the first time ever. This is me defending it. Part of our mission, and that release, was not just to improve pivot tables, but to expand their footprint in the user base.
Rob Collie (00:31:13): And one of our rallying cries was more and more, we needed pivot tables to not feel like work and more and more feel like the magical thing that they are and compact access, we actually did focus groups with users who didn't know how to use pivot tables, but did consume them. The producer consumer dynamic that's been around forever. Consuming pivot tables was hard for people, it felt like doing math, just reading them. They didn't like it. And then those same people when exposed to compact access were suddenly like, "Oh this is nice." Trade offs, it comes at a tremendous cost. There's so many things that get worse. I agree. Every complaint you have about compact access, I have to plead no contest, it's just true.
Ed Hansberry (00:31:56): Well, the one good thing that came out of the compact access though is a few years ago, Microsoft added the ability to set your default. So now you can customize it and so I banished the compact access on all of my reports and tables and everything. So now they look like tables.
Rob Collie (00:32:12): That's a backhanded compliment if there ever was one the best thing about compact access is that they gave us the ability to turn it off.
Ed Hansberry (00:32:20): That's right.
Rob Collie (00:32:24): Yeah. Bill and I can argue about that. Anytime we sit down, it doesn't matter. It's like if we just get bored, if we're just sitting around, we have nothing to talk about after a while. I just say we could talk about compact access and the next 30 minutes is taken care of.
Ed Hansberry (00:32:38): Gets him fired up.
Rob Collie (00:32:41): But yeah, I mean, it's even worse in some ways than you think. Primary objection to compact access, and just to be clear for those who are listening who've never seen a pivot table and never use it. The classic view of pivot tables, if you had multiple fields nested on rows of your matrix. So pivot table's basically a matrix in Excel. Matrix is the pivot table of Power BI. And if you put more than one field on rows, well now you have this nesting thing and this drilling and drill up and drill down dynamic, which everybody loves. But in Excel, classic view, each field that you put on there would indent a full additional column in Excel. So if you had country, city, zip code. Country would be like in column A, city would be column B, zip code would be column C, and then compact access would suddenly cram all three of those into column A, but with three spaces of spacing to achieve the indent. The number one objection, why should I say it? What's the number one objection to compact access, Ed?
Ed Hansberry (00:33:44): Well, where it puts the totals. I can't stand the totals at the top. As an accountant there is no greater sin.
Rob Collie (00:33:52): Sub totals at the top of the group, which is where human beings would expect to find them, but it's not where accountants would expect to find them. Is that-
Ed Hansberry (00:34:00): Exactly.
Rob Collie (00:34:01): Yeah. Okay. So that's the bottom. Yeah. Okay. I can see it. Bill's number one objection is the column thing, to build the column is sacred. And so to have the same column overloaded for multiple different types of data, like the name of a city, or it's even worse when it's like county in city, you might not be able to tell the difference anymore, because they're both taxed and they both sound like they could be a city, and you got to pay attention to that indenting to know where you are. That's his number one objection. But even as a software designer, this led to so many problems, what do you put as the column header above the compact access? It's got multiple fields in it, so you can't put the name of the field there anymore, you can't put country. So we put row labels.
Rob Collie (00:34:51): Was the ultimate cop out. And years later I go back to Alan and I'm like, "Alan, why didn't we put the names of the fields and string them together with [inaudible 00:35:02] or something like that?" Of course, we had thought of that. It didn't work. And Alan didn't even want to engage with this, "Rob, you know we went through this so many times. Just let it die, Rob." And then the other crazy one is when you go to filter the compact access, there's a dropdown in the filter, you drop down the dropdown to get the filter. And then within the dropdown, there's another dropdown where you pick which field you're going to be filtering. And by the way, whichever level you had selected at the time, by accident, it'll pre-select that in the dropdown. So you have no idea what's going on.
Ed Hansberry (00:35:37): I had forgotten. It's been so long since I've used compact access.
Rob Collie (00:35:40): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:35:40): Because I just immediately switch and I had forgotten.
Rob Collie (00:35:42): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:35:42): That's a-
Rob Collie (00:35:43): Yeah. When you make a matrix today in Power BI, does it default to compact access, Ed?
Ed Hansberry (00:35:49): It does. And for some reason it works a little bit better in Power BI. And I think that the... I can have the totals at the bottom where they belong, which is helpful.
Rob Collie (00:35:58): Not by default?
Ed Hansberry (00:35:59): Are they at the top? Because my template is set to put them at the bottom.
Rob Collie (00:36:02): I see. So I think really given that you've changed the defaults, really the number one reason why it seems better in Power BI is that you don't have a long history of working with it one way and then have that taken away by default, that had to be really annoying.
Ed Hansberry (00:36:15): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:36:18): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:36:19): My favorite three visuals in Power BI are the matrix, the matrix, and then the matrix. As an accountant, those are the ones I use.
Rob Collie (00:36:29): Okay. You don't like table so much?
Ed Hansberry (00:36:32): If I'm troubleshooting, but otherwise why not just make the matrix out of it?
Rob Collie (00:36:35): Yeah. That's a good line. Matrix, matrix and matrix. Let me think here. Bar chart? No.
Ed Hansberry (00:36:41): Not an accountant. We don't [inaudible 00:36:44], that's all fluff.
Rob Collie (00:36:45): I don't want to be that guy that goes on some visualization rant and starts invoking Tufte, like a glowing book somewhere there's someone walking down an aisle holding one of Tufte's books over their head, like how a priest holds the Bible over their head as they walk down the isle. And we don't need to be this obsessed with visualization as if it's like this be all, end all science. But I mean, we like charts, it is easier to see a trend in a line chart than in a matrix.
Ed Hansberry (00:37:13): For a quick overview, absolutely. But think about what people do. I would hazard to guess the number one thing people do with Power BI is they drill down to what they want, and then they export the CSV and they pull it in Excel and they do something else with it, probably a pivot table.
Rob Collie (00:37:28): That is such a cynical, cynical view, Ed. Yes. When you're doing it wrong, that's what you're going to end up doing. So that's rule number one, is when you're doing it wrong, you're going to be exporting to Excel out of Power BI and rule number two is the majority of the world is doing it wrong at all times. In that sense, absolutely. I mean, think of all the places that we've even personally seen an organization using Power BI as if it's just the new reporting services, which is again, just the jumping off point for export. But as we brought report implementation closer and closer and closer together with the actual subject matter experts, which is definitely a convergence that is at least a going trend. It's not like it's happened, we're drifting that direction, fortunately. You get closer and closer between the person who would be exporting to Excel and the person who's making the report and this is one of the beauties of Power BI of course, is that the reasons why you would export to do that last mile, it's much more feasible and achievable to implement that last mile activity.
Rob Collie (00:38:35): All of it, not just each individual thing, but a lot of that last mile activity can be absorbed into the data model and the report itself, which was always theoretically possible. But when you were doing the take a number with IT to get the report changed and IT was going to be implementing it using SQL, you were just never going to get there. Whereas now it's at least reachable. So can we agree? I feel like an attorney conducting a deposition here, can we agree that ideally you would be absorbing overtime more and more and more and more of that last mile activity to be powered by export into the report and into the model itself?
Ed Hansberry (00:39:14): Absolutely. When I have a user that says, "I need to be able to export this." My question is, why? What is it you're doing?
Rob Collie (00:39:22): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:39:22): And then, okay, what if I gave you another page on the report that gave you the final answer? I tell this to clients and people I work with and people I train all the time, a user has a process and there's A, B, C, D, and E and F steps. And they come to you and they say, "I need a report that gives me this." And you find out that report was step C and then they export that, and then they manually do steps, D, E and F. And I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no. Let's step back. Show me F and let's figure out how to get you all the way to F so you don't do anything but look at the final result."
Ed Hansberry (00:39:55): But it's getting people to understand what the technology's capable of and doing that last mile for them. But they don't even envision it sometimes because they don't understand the overall concept of the product. And so it's getting them out of their old thing where they're exporting CSVs out of mainframe systems and horrible reporting tools and building it. We can do all that now in the final product or at least 99% of it in the final product.
Rob Collie (00:40:20): Yeah. I think I have a little bit of a bad habit of when I say things like, "We see organizations using Power BI as the new reporting services." That's not a good thing, just be clear. I tend to put most of that responsibility on IT's doorstep for just adopting it that way, saying, "Oh, we know reporting services. This is the new thing for Microsoft. We're going to plug it into exactly that niche." There is absolutely though, a business side share of that responsibility in that they don't want to change their MO either, the Excel people, there's a wide range of Excel people, there's a couple of dimensions on which to measure people in terms of whether they're going to make a change.
Rob Collie (00:41:03): One of them is how stubborn they are, period. That's one axis. I would rate myself pretty stubborn, I'd rate high on the stubborn resistant to change axis. But on the other axis, there's the how much are you tired of doing repetitive work? And how much is that an insult to you? I think I'm also very sensitive to that. So it's those two sides of me would be at war. If I were in the Excel person's shoes and Power BI came along, the stubborn part of me would want to go back to export, immediately, but I'd be haunted by this other part of me, it's like, "Yeah, but that sucks." Bringing people on side from the business and getting them to understand even just the art of the possible is a big deal. Sometimes people volunteer for it, other times you have to light them up a little bit.
Ed Hansberry (00:41:51): I think too, the technology, analyze in Excel has been there for a few years and it's been okay. It has really gotten good over the last maybe two years. And so now you can show people, 'Okay, you're right. We can't build a report that has 400 pages for everybody's personal customized view." But what if you just created a pivot table in Excel, connected directly to the data model, it all just works. You wake up in the morning, you hit refresh and it's done in 30 seconds. And so getting them out of that old mentality of, "I will just exported and recreate my report." So you still give them that and they're comfortable in Excel. You have some people who are never going to leave Excel. I don't care what you do. You bring Power BI right into it, but that's an education process.
Rob Collie (00:42:31): Yeah. I mean, analyze in Excel, it isn't export. You are linked to the live model, but you still get that last mile customization. Like if you want to put those calculations in the margin that aren't going to quite update particularly well, when the structure of the pivot table changes, okay fine, you can do this. Even those, I would want to cherry pick and try to pull them into the model somehow over time, of course. Analyze in Excel is crazy now, I asked Callum, this is a couple months ago now, but I asked Callum some questions about our business, it was relatively detailed and he hit me back with a spreadsheet linked to our Power BI model with a pivot table.
Rob Collie (00:43:12): And at first I was thinking, "Oh, come on. You did this as a novelty, just to show me we could do it." But split second later realized, "No, he did this because this is exactly the best thing for this particular purpose, is to give me a pivot table in this case." And then I went on to use the pivot tables, he didn't anticipate this, but I went on to use the pivot table's manual editing of MDX sets to give me what I wanted, which is like, that feature's not available anywhere other than Excel, crazy hyper specific filtering, takes certain months out of certain calendar years, but leave them in others.
Ed Hansberry (00:43:46): You wrote that MDX yourself?
Rob Collie (00:43:48): Oh God, no, no, no. Don't be silly, man. No. So there's a feature in Excel pivot tables, when they're connected to an SSAS model, this feature was originally built for integration with SSAS multidimensional, where I think it actually hides under the olab drop down and it's names and sets or something like that, and you can create set based on row items. So whatever you've got on rows right now of your pivot table or columns, you can pick whichever you want. It'll give you this really nifty graphical UI that allows you to add rows, delete rows. These are things where you could put the grand total at the top of the pivot, if you wanted. You should check that feature out, man. I guarantee you will find some use for it, it'll be narrow, it'll be specific. It won't be a broad application thing, but you'll find something to do with that feature.
Rob Collie (00:44:39): You'll be like, "Oh my God, I can't believe this has been hiding under that button that Rob named olab tools, back in the day, you bastard." Which by the way, is the menu item, that when I bring up the pivot table ribbon, I used to ask classes, "What's the last button you would ever click under any circumstances on this ribbon tab, and maybe in any software ever?" No one ever fails, they always get it, it's always olab tools. That is the last button you would ever click in your life, and there's some good stuff under there, like convert to cube formulas and things like that.
Ed Hansberry (00:45:15): Yeah. Now I use the cube formulas.
Rob Collie (00:45:17): Do you ever edit cube formulas manually to parameterize them in things, you ever get that deep?
Ed Hansberry (00:45:24): Yes, I have. I've done that. I've actually written some cube formulas manually before I figured out how to do the... There is a way to convert certain cell references to a cube formula, and that's a lot easier trying to get the single quote marks in the right place. It's so tedious.
Rob Collie (00:45:40): But it auto completes, which is cool when you're live against the model. On some previous podcast, I think we decided that cube formulas were the card visual of Excel. I need a number and Excel didn't have that.
Ed Hansberry (00:45:56): That's exactly what I would use it for. You'd have your nice pivot table with maybe a couple of charts. And then you had like maybe five or six cells that had here's your net income and here's this and the other. So yeah, exactly right, they're cards.
Rob Collie (00:46:07): So one of the questions I was originally planning to ask you, I was originally formulating the question with the belief that you'd been basically a DAX MVP since 2010, that wasn't the case. It doesn't matter though. The question's still relevant, because you joined the story in like 2014-ish. What's it been like evolving with this platform? Most people who are using these tools have not been using them as long as you have. I mean, even at our company, which skews towards early adopters, we are definitely not a random sampling of the Power BI population, but even amongst our company, I think you'd be in the top five of earliest to the party. Completely wide open softball of a question, what's it been like experiencing this thing as it's been growing and evolving over time?
Ed Hansberry (00:46:54): It's just been keeping up with the features, when it first came out, whether it was Power Pivot or Power BI, it was this self-contained thing. And I know you could always connect to SSAS in the background, but really you're developing on your desktop. It's the self-service thing. And now with the service, it has grown so much and there is a fire hose of new features, things like the new hybrid tables and the composite models. And it's grown so much beyond desktop. Desktop is now this very small component of the whole Power BI world. Whereas before, desktop was the Power BI world and it's my job and I still cannot keep up with all the new features, much less know how to use every single little feature.
Rob Collie (00:47:37): Sure.
Ed Hansberry (00:47:37): Just a matter of knowing they exist. I'll Google it later. There's so much. I don't know how the team develops it so quickly.
Rob Collie (00:47:44): They just have lots and lots and lots of people.
Ed Hansberry (00:47:47): It's an army.
Rob Collie (00:47:49): Yeah. I mean, compared to where do you draw the boundary of what development teams at Microsoft are Power BI teams? The fact that is an incredibly vague line, an ambiguous line to draw. For example, just to show you how far out it goes, given that Power BI operates off of the Office admin experience, when Office adds an administration feature that ends up being relevant to Power BI, do we get to count them? Are they a part of the Power BI team? Because pretty soon like everybody at Microsoft, if you keep allowing the leaks, you've got probably thousands and thousands of people that are involved, like the SharePoint team, there's touch points there, there's overlap, there's overlap on the Access side where apparently they're doing some Dataverse integration. And is Dataverse a Power BI feature? I don't know. Of course it is. And yeah, basically the whole company.
Ed Hansberry (00:48:41): It pretty much is. And technically I'm not a Power BI MVP, I'm a data platform MVP, so it's under this larger umbrella. So you got SQL and Azure and Synapse and all these technologies, and there are no lines. It's very blurry between the products.
Rob Collie (00:48:57): The thing you're talking about, about keeping up with all of the connected functionality is why, among other reasons, but if I wanted to become an MVP again, I would really struggle because I have not been keeping up. It's ironic, there was a point in time, probably true, that I was the only person in the world who was an MVP at Microsoft based solely on what we would now call Power BI. It was the only person who was only doing DAX even that window where I was the only person who was an MVP because of that, that's a relatively short window. It's telling that that person we're describing, now knows what? I probably know 15% of the platform, and I've been diluted down to 15%. I don't know less than I used to. It's just the pie's gotten so much bigger. I completely agree. Keeping up is crazy.
Ed Hansberry (00:49:45): It requires a lot of reading and a lot of study, just playing around with it, just to see what's there.
Rob Collie (00:49:50): And I think you've been very effective at that because just based on an intuitive gut sampling of our internal Slack conversations on the P3 ask a friend channel, you seem to be offering more answers than questions. You're a net producer of answers.
Ed Hansberry (00:50:08): That's just kind of the nature of being an MVP. I mean, my primary award reason is my participation in the Microsoft Power BI community, which is an answers forum, so it's not because of my blogging and it's not because of the podcasts and the user groups I do. Although those contribute, it's primarily because of that, and that's just what I do. And that's how I became an MVP for the Windows Phone division, it was helping people. That's just the thing I enjoy doing.
Rob Collie (00:50:39): Yeah, but we don't use the NNTP protocol anymore for those forums. Do we?
Ed Hansberry (00:50:42): Unfortunately, no we don't.
Rob Collie (00:50:42): Damn it.
Ed Hansberry (00:50:45): Fire up an NNTP server.
Rob Collie (00:50:46): What were the names of some of those NNTP readers we had back then?
Ed Hansberry (00:50:49): Gravity was a big one, but I used Fort Agent, was mine. And it was a nice, nice program.
Rob Collie (00:50:57): Oh yeah. Yeah. That's a real nerd flex. I once owned a paid for NNTP reader. What would be today's equivalent of that?
Ed Hansberry (00:51:10): I guess paying for my own PPU license would be that same kind of flex.
Rob Collie (00:51:14): Yeah. Yeah. Let's take it to the social media sphere, I guess it would be Twitter Blue, but even that wouldn't quite do it. No, even that's not enough.
Ed Hansberry (00:51:23): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:51:24): That isn't hardcore enough. Yeah. There might not be a parallel. It's a flex without parallel.
Ed Hansberry (00:51:29): It was just its own generational thing.
Rob Collie (00:51:30): That's so funny. For a while there, it was just keeping up with DAX functions. Oh look, they gave us distinct count, how cool is that? That was incremental and easy to keep up with. Fielding questions, random out of the blue questions is an amazing challenge. It's a brain stretching exercise and it's fun. Some reasonably large percentage of the blog post that I made over the years, on the website were in response to reader questions, can you make it do this? I remember someone saying, "Can you make a slicer be an and slicer so that the things you're displaying have to meet all of the criteria selected on the slicer, as opposed to being the union?" Slicers are basically or, as you make selections on a slicer, it's an or logic in the filtering. "Can you turn it into an and?"
Rob Collie (00:52:25): I'm like, "Hmm, I don't know." I don't remember how I did it, it was probably ugly, but I did it. I'm sure it was disconnected slicers of some sort, that was the answer to everything back in the day. Oh, disconnect the table. No problem. Yeah. Stuff like that really had a lot to do with my development as a professional in the space.
Ed Hansberry (00:52:42): I've told people, if you want to truly learn Power BI, go start answering questions, because people ask the craziest things that they need an answer for. They don't want it, their boss has said, "I need this report." And so you're trying to figure out how you would do it. And so it's some of the wildest stuff you've seen and that's how you're going to learn what the product's capable of, far more than just reading or studying.
Rob Collie (00:53:08): Yeah. And the real world is incredibly unforgiving in its sequence. When you start taking questions like that, it's not going to slowly ramp up the difficulty. They're going to be throwing that ring in the deep end of the pool, actually more often than the shallow end because the heart of the problem is the more likely they're asking the question.
Ed Hansberry (00:53:26): Yeah. If it was easy, they'd figure it out themselves.
Rob Collie (00:53:29): That's right. I mean, every now and then there's like a layup, you're like, "Oh, okay. I'll answer that one." But now back to the hard ones, are there any particular challenges like the and slicer, and again, I'm talking 10 years ago now. I'm not bragging, this is ancient technology at this point. Are there any particular challenges that people have come up with that you've fielded on the forums that you look back on and go, "Oh yes, that was a good one."
Ed Hansberry (00:53:54): You get back to the disconnected slicer, there's still a lot of people that are asking, "How can I do this? And switch out the value of measures." And so the switch pattern is still a very common use case. Now you've got things like calculation groups, the new field parameters. And you think, "Man, that used to be so complex. And now it's click, click, click, and you're done."
Rob Collie (00:54:14): Is there any part of you that is just disappointed that we now have field parameters? I'm net positive, for sure. But part of me died a little inside. That wild west of rolling your own solution that not being necessary anymore, there was a little bit of a pang of regret, little bit of a bittersweet taste to it.
Ed Hansberry (00:54:33): When I left my old job to become a full-time Power BI consultant, you see these new features and you're like, "Holy crap. They're going to put me out of a job." Because they're making all this stuff so easy. Now I could write the DAX and do all this stuff and impress people. And now they're like, "Well, I can just do it myself." There's always something, but you look at this new stuff and you're like, "What am I going to do for a living?" Because they're just making it so easy.
Rob Collie (00:54:56): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (00:54:57): But it's never quite that easy.
Rob Collie (00:54:58): No, it's... I think this is something I said a long time ago on a blog post, is one of the great lies in data software is that any piece of software is going to make data problems easy. It's never going to happen. By the time it happens, general AI will have replaced all human activity, that's when it's going to happen. When we have Skynet, fine. But until then, it's just a marketing pitch. Look how easy it is, as if it's not going to take any thinking, it's not going to take any expertise, it's not going to take any precision. Come on. It's always going to take those things.
Ed Hansberry (00:55:37): I think Microsoft used to have a slogan, something like five minutes to wow. And they would pull in an Excel file and drag a few fields and boom, bar chart. Awesome. Well, that's true, but now ask a very simple question about that bar chart and all of sudden it's like, "Okay, I got to do a calculate and I got to remove a filter and I got to do a this and a that." And all of a sudden it goes way beyond the five minutes to wow.
Rob Collie (00:55:59): Yeah. I mean a more realistic, but still super impressive tagline would be five minutes to anywhere, anything at all, having results of any sort, whatsoever, within five minutes is a tremendous win. Being able to modify something in five minutes, to deliver on something it didn't previously deliver on is also a tremendous win. And honestly, five minutes is very rarely achievable even for those things, it's five minutes under demo circumstances when you've carefully crafted the data in a certain way. And everybody that provides the data is cooperative and all those other real world frictionless, it's like the frictionless surface in physics. Okay, well not outside the textbook anyway, doesn't exist, but hey, it's a good marketing slogan.
Ed Hansberry (00:56:45): Gets them to download the product.
Rob Collie (00:56:47): That's right. So one of the observations I've had about Tableau, which is that I think they are the single greatest example of pulling that lie off as a company. That company is basically built on that lie. It's valuation, it's usage, everything was built on that lie. They were expensive enough as a product that they could afford to basically send a team to build that frictionless demo for each big account and Microsoft software isn't priced that way. The only people who make those demos for Microsoft are basically a mirror and then MVPs. That's the audience, but in terms of paid sales people, we've run into organizations that had full-time Tableau employees parked in chairs in their building for years and never paid directly anyway, for having your own center of excellence, that's deployed there.
Rob Collie (00:57:39): All you have to do is pay the ridiculous price tag of the software, but that lie, that data would be easy, did advance the industry. Interactivity became something that we all demand. And I was trying to push interactivity for years. Look what you can do with a pivot table, click a slicer and get a different answer. How cool is that? Even trying to get the world to like that and understand it and embrace, it was a difficult thing to push and now the world pulls it, they demand it. So all of my grumpiness towards Tableau over the years, I've made my peace with it. It's like, "No, you gave us a tremendous gift. You made the world demand interactivity. Thank you." What a great service to humanity. Have you ever used Tableau?
Ed Hansberry (00:58:23): No, I mean basic, but I couldn't write a basic report using Tableau. You had to work at a company that had it. There was no Tableau community edition. It was Power BI, anybody can download and it's free. So I've used a lot of free tools like that, just to play around with. But Tableau, you got to fork over cash before you can even get in the door. I think that's a big difference between Tableau and Power BI. Tableau is top down, comes from the organization, they have got to spend money. Power BI is bottom up, it's a back door tool. And well now we're doing it, now the IT department kind of has to support it because the whole finance department is based on all this free stuff that was brought in through the back door.
Rob Collie (00:59:00): Yeah, I agree. And that's something that Donald Farmer it's been a while now, since he's been on the show, but he pointed out that Power BI has now also become a top down tool. Again, maybe thanks to tools like Tableau that got top down and were super expensive, and then eventually those same top down decisions, they revisited them and said, "Why are we paying this much for this? When we could get Power BI for a fraction of it." And so Power BI has replaced a lot of Tableau, from the top down without really any deep analysis of what the benefits will be, other than it costs less per license. Again, it's one of those mixed bag stories. Okay, good. Good but bad in that it's going to be deployed in the same role that Tableau was, which is not good because Tableau lacks data modeling and doesn't have DAX it's franken tables on visual steroids.
Ed Hansberry (00:59:59): Yeah. And I have worked with a number of reports in Power BI and you just look at it and you're like, "This came from Tableau, didn't it?" Because it's one table and I'm like, "Nope, you have to burn this to the ground and start over."
Rob Collie (01:00:12): Yeah. Tableau in some ways like interactive reporting services, the query design, the narrow silo query design that powers reporting services reports is very, very, very similar, if not the same thing as what is required to power each individual Tableau report. Oh, you wanted something a little different? You wanted a different metrics or different level of granularity? Well, that's going to be a new SQL work item, isn't it?
Ed Hansberry (01:00:35): It's whole new view.
Rob Collie (01:00:36): Yeah. Look, we came not to bury Tableau, but to honor it. Thank you for setting the table so effectively, we'll take it from here. Like the FBI that shows up in some cheesy '80s movie and is dismissive of the local police department. "Oh, okay. We got it. We'll take it from here." Any particular favorite feature, turn ons and turnoffs things you really like about the platform these days, things you don't like about the platform these days?
Ed Hansberry (01:01:03): Right now, I love how Microsoft has embraced third party tools. I mean, I like Power BI Desktop, and it has its purpose, but I honestly spend more time in things like Tabular Editor and DAX Studio. And not only does Microsoft allow it, their articles on the website say, "If you want to do this, do it this way. Do it with Tabular Editor." They don't try to force people to Visual Studio anymore. And I love that because the third party people are rapid developing, they're really changing basic features and just making the intelligence better and doing whatever it is they're doing. It just makes the overall ecosystem of working within the product, to me, much better than being locked into this single thing.
Rob Collie (01:01:48): I agree. It's been suggested on the show before or asked, why doesn't Microsoft take Tabular Editor and build it in. I have my answer. Have you ever pondered that? These third party tools are so good, why not build them in? You've gone down that mental rabbit hole?
Ed Hansberry (01:02:07): Yeah. I've had discussions about that. I think part of it is Microsoft, believe it or not, only has so much money dedicated to the Power BI platform. Why would they spend time today copying, lets call it Tabular Editor. Why would they copy Tabular Editor? When Tabular Editor already exists, they can spend that money doing new stuff. And I think that's what they're doing. It's like, "You know what? That already exists. Use it. We embrace it. It's in our toolbar. Go use it. We're doing this other thing. We're changing the engine, how the engine works and we're adding field parameters and we're adding composite models. We're doing things that third parties can't do."
Rob Collie (01:02:46): Yeah. Yeah. So I happen to know via insider knowledge, the exact amount of money. They have a limited amount of money to spend on this stuff. I happen to know the exact amount. Do you know how much they have to spend on all this stuff? They have all the money.
Rob Collie (01:03:05): They have practically infinite money, but what they don't have is team capacity. You can have infinite money and still not be able to deploy it, that money, in the ways that you would ideally want to. Oh, you might want another team that's responsible for building a completely new formula editing experience and you might have the money to pay for it. But now you got to go get that team. Where are you going to find those people? And how long is it going to take to ramp them up? Both on what's going on in the world, they've probably never seen DAX before and then onboarding them to the Microsoft culture and what it's like to work there. And so money doesn't take you, when you're Microsoft anyway, you're already at the limits of what money can do because they have all of it.
Ed Hansberry (01:03:48): Yeah. And when we ask about features and why aren't they doing this? Why aren't they doing that? They're very careful to use the term resources, and I think they're largely talking about human resources because you just can't go hire a bunch of software engineers and all of a sudden they're changing the [inaudible 01:04:05] or model. It's not going to work.
Rob Collie (01:04:06): Now it's a separate question. Of course my joke earlier about insider knowledge, I have next to zero insider knowledge anymore. It's a good setup for a joke, but that's basically it, it's a more provocative question to ask. Why don't they just buy it? Buy the product, buy Tabular Editor? And by way of buying it actually buy the team that builds it, and then bake it in. That has to have at least come up at Microsoft, again, I have no knowledge. I've never asked anybody. This is a fun thing to conspiracy theory from the outside. Why hasn't that happened? It might be a big part, just like what you said, they don't actually have a problem right now. The people who need Tabular Editor can go get it. How much better would it be if these third party tools actually did get embedded into the main product, would it be? I don't even really know, because I hate installing new software. So I don't use Tabular Editor. Believe it or not, I still write DAX in the product. How much better would it be if they incorporated these third party tools?
Ed Hansberry (01:05:11): I know for a fact they've talked about buying it because they're smart people, of course they've talked about buying it. That has come up many times. But then as a user, think about how many times Microsoft has bought a piece of software that you enjoyed using and it became a Microsoft product.
Rob Collie (01:05:27): Yeah.
Ed Hansberry (01:05:28): How many times does that work out for the end user? I'm hoping those discussions stay discussions.
Rob Collie (01:05:35): That's perfect. That's perfect. Oh, you like Pro Clarity, do you? Well, we'll fix your little red wagon.
Ed Hansberry (01:05:44): Yep.
Rob Collie (01:05:45): That's a good point. They could ruin it. Couldn't they? You want to think that maybe not, but this is an interesting game. I like playing this sort of game. So this is something I'm trying to teach my son, my teenage son. He doesn't listen to the show, I can be transparent. He has a really strong case of late teens, know it all-itis. So presented with this situation, which he's not close to, he's not paying attention to Power BI, if he saw this, he'd be like, "It's just so dumb. So dumb. I don't understand why they haven't bought it and put it in the product. They're just dumb." He'd just reign derision on the whole thing.
Rob Collie (01:06:22): And I try to say to him, "Look, let's play a different game. Let's pretend what they're doing makes sense. And figure out why it makes sense. It's like a benefit of the doubt game because there are a lot of people involved in this situation that know more than we do and know more than you specifically, son. So let's try to come up with the explanation. And if you can't come up with one, if you do your best and you can't come up with one, maybe then you're right. Maybe then the party in question deserves that derisive take." If you play it in good faith, you can usually start to come up with some good reasons why. I find these sorts of exercises to be valuable. Even if you're never going to validate one way or another. Life tip, play the assume it makes sense and then try to explain it game, in all cases and still withhold your right to be critical, but go through the process first, do your best.
Ed Hansberry (01:07:18): I assume I know the answers and I assume I know the best way. And then you start talking to somebody that's in the know and you're like, "Oh, I hadn't considered that. And I hadn't considered that."
Rob Collie (01:07:26): It's like pre sympathy. So I went and talked to them, I've been down this road before and I eventually talked to people and they go, "No, it's not as simple. Listen to blah, blah, blah." You go, "Oh, okay." You learn to short circuit that game after a while, you're like, "Okay, I'm going to go talk to them." And then what are they going to say? Oh, I know what they're going to say. As soon as you role play, you start to figure out what the reasons are, but you've got to engage with the game. There you go. Life lessons with Raw Data. Now we're really getting deep. What else should we talk about?
Ed Hansberry (01:07:53): How do companies deal with processes and scalability? And let's use P3 as an example, where were you, eight years ago, five years ago, three years ago and today? And the things that you were doing eight years ago would crash and burn with 50 people. And it's the same thing we do with our clients, they were &10 million companies, 100 million, now they're billion dollar companies. When do you say let's just burn it down and start this process over versus when do we keep putting more bandaid and spit and bailing wire on it?
Rob Collie (01:08:33): Yeah, certainly one thing we've benefited from the whole way is that continually, as we've added people, we've always added people who were flexible. So we've never had to burn anything down, we've been able to morph and it's a Testament to the people that we have on the team and even just the hiring practices and the culture around that, the people that we have sitting around this campfire, aren't allergic to change. As long as they understand it, you need a flexible team and you need transparency in the message a flexible team isn't just going to absorb change just over and over and over again and just take it on faith. We've had as a leadership philosophy, we've had transparency for a long time, when we do make a change, we try to explain to everybody what it's like sitting in our chairs, what we're seeing and why we need to make the change.
Rob Collie (01:09:26): The whole crew, top to bottom is receptive to that. Not everyone is receptive to change. Many organizations are staffed with people who are not receptive to change. They're trying as hard as they can to avoid it. And in those situations, how do you evolve? Very difficult. So we've had some raw material that has made some things possible here that wouldn't be possible most places. And I'm very cognizant of and grateful for those things. Okay. That's a long preamble, but I think it's an important one, it's worth acknowledging because everything that follows after this might sound like my teenage son, like, "Come on, it's so easy. Why doesn't everybody do it?" You've got to have those core ingredients first, which not everybody has. You said, the things you were doing eight years ago, they would crash and burn today. Oh my gosh. Yeah. That's being kind. The things we were doing eight years ago crashed and burned a couple years later.
Rob Collie (01:10:20): So I've covered this so many times on the show. And so I won't belabor it, designing good processes and even more importantly, implementing them, rolling them out, supporting them is just not a strength of mine. I believe I have a number of strengths that are elsewhere. Maybe I said this on the podcast with Callum, maybe I didn't. We had something resembling like an executive retreat in 2017 and Callum wanted to talk a lot about planning. And I was so dismissive of it. Yeah, whatever I was hitting a bet with the Mike Tyson metaphor, "Yeah. Plan is what you have before contact with the enemy. Plans never last more than a week." That kind of thing. There's obviously some truth in that for sure, but in a way I think when he was saying planning, he was trying to get at the idea of better processes.
Rob Collie (01:11:11): We've needed those. So how do you adapt? Okay, so I've already established, you need certain core ingredients. I think you need some transparency from leadership and you need an adaptable crew. The whole culture needs to be okay with change, but we have used a tremendous amount of our own platform to build our own company. A lot of the things that leadership is looking at and individual consultants are looking at and managers are looking at, their Power BI reports. This is how we steer. We have all kinds of lightweight integrations between systems. We're using the Power platform as a life support system for this creature we've made. And I have come to view process, and that covers a lot of ground. The word process, there's technology involved, there's workflows involved, there's people involved, there's management involved. There's all kinds of things.
Rob Collie (01:12:00): I have come to view process as a form of intellectual property, akin to software, as we develop new and better processes and try them out. And sometimes they're not better, you got to be willing to say, "Nope, that didn't work. We'll try something different." Admitting failure is another big, big part of this. If you view this as an investment in your own future success, in the same way that Microsoft views adding a future to Excel as an investment in their future success. For me, it's mostly mindset. And of course, I'm going to tell you that it's all these mindset things. Because I don't have a brain like Callum's brain. Callum would give a different answer to this because he actually is much more hands on, he engages with this problem as a puzzle to solve. And then he goes and solves it like a Rubik's cube.
Rob Collie (01:12:47): And by comparison, I hold the Rubik's cube in my hand and look at the judge and say, "Hey, can I break it? Can I take it apart and solve it that way? Can I cheat?" The old saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast, if you get all these other things right, these initial conditions right. Transparency, you have flexibility, you have the willingness to admit mistakes, you view process improvements as a capital expenditure, an investment in the company. If you have all of these mindsets, the actual doing of these things gets so much easier. And if you don't have these things, the actual improvement that you'd want to make becomes impossible, but there is a tenacity, almost like a magic to it. I stand back and I watch the way that Helen in particular thinks about our business. And I'm just like, "Oh, I am so grateful this person is here." Long winding answer, might be devoid of the actual solid core of a magical answer that we were looking for, but I just don't have that answer.
Ed Hansberry (01:13:43): I think people under appreciate how much people are part of that answer. We're all Power BI people or now we're hiring some Power apps people and Power Automate. So we're really branching out because it's more than just one thing. And you've got the Azure and all that, but these are people that are leading edge with technology. So they're used to change because the product's changing all the time, you have to learn. That works along with the processes of the company. So I know that what I was doing a year ago at P3 are not quite the same way we're doing it now. Things are changing because the company's larger. And I know it's going to be different 12 months from now, and it's going to keep evolving. Like you said, it's morphing. You don't rip it out and start over with certain things, it morphs. Have you read the book Who Moved My Cheese?
Rob Collie (01:14:30): No, osmotically absorbed bits and pieces of it.
Ed Hansberry (01:14:34): It's a classic book. It's probably 20, 25 years old, but it's about this exact thing. And you've got people that don't adapt, they eventually die. They can't survive. But I think that's something that P3 has done. And I look at organizations and I can look at specific organizations and I can look at the departments that are thriving because that's the mindset. You have people that are willing to adapt, you have to be transparent. You can't just change for the sake of change, because that just drives people crazy. But then you look at other departments and you're like, "That's where they put all the people who don't want change." And you can tell what's stagnating and you don't go into that department because you're not going to get anything out of it. You want to work in this other department because that's where the things are happening.
Rob Collie (01:15:16): Have you ever seen the problem of on a flat roof, a commercial roof with a wall around it? Why do leaves pile up in the corners? If you go look at a roof like this, you would initially come to the conclusion that corners exert some sort of gravity, that corners are leaf attracts. What it really is, they call it a random walk, so the leaf just blows all over the place, but eventually it just randomly finds itself in the corner. And once it's in the corner, it's much less likely that it's going to come under wind pressure to move. It's just where it just stops, but if it stops anywhere else, wind is going to move it. So you're saying about all these other departments, the flexible departments, if you've got inflexible people, they're going to continue the random walk.
Ed Hansberry (01:16:00): They're going to find themselves in the corner.
Rob Collie (01:16:02): They're they're going to find a corner. It's related to the Peter principle, you keep moving up until you're not good anymore.
Ed Hansberry (01:16:11): And that's where you stay.
Rob Collie (01:16:15): Yeah. Like I said before, about wisdom and the things you learn the hard way. I see all of that in such a different light than I did even three years ago. It's always been a little bit of kryptonite to me, solving those kinds of problems. But I think for a long time, I fell for the time honored human flaw of the things you're not good at. You tell yourself they're not important. Subconsciously you dismiss them, bad habit. And so I'm super grateful every time that I wake up from one of those self-imposed nightmares, like, "Oh no, no, no. Just because I'm not good at it, doesn't mean it's not important. And oh my gosh, other people here who are good at it." That collaboration thing.
Rob Collie (01:16:55): That again, I used to kind of snare at, "Oh my gosh. Why would I ever do that?" The whole teamwork thing, collaboration, all that, it's not some cheesy cliche. It's just the hard, honest truth. Working together, divide and conquer. And again, random walk, is that people end up navigating and migrating to the things that they're good at. So it's not just that you've got six people, they're not the same people, they're not six fungible people, they're six people that all have different strengths and weaknesses. And if you're careful about allowing people to move around until they find the right optimal task mix for themselves, you're going to end up with just a hyper optimized operation. I love leaning into those sorts of things. So here's a question I had for you. I think you're the only data platform MVP at P3.
Ed Hansberry (01:17:44): Correct.I believe so.
Rob Collie (01:17:44): Okay. All right. In the world of SharePoint, there used to be a whole bunch of companies whose entire business model, it seemed to be hire MVPs. That was their business model. And then basically have the MVPs essentially do the marketing for the company. Those businesses never worked. They always had a short shelf life. As an MVP, you have a bit of a platform, you could choose to go solo. It'd be easier to be a solo consultant as an MVP than as a non MVP.
Rob Collie (01:18:18): And really that's how this company started in some way. I mean, it wasn't because of my MVP badge, it was because of the things I was doing to get the MVP badge. That's how we really got started hundreds of years ago. Were you freelance before coming here? What's that trade off like? And I don't think we ever ask you to use your MVP-ness for company benefit. It's not part of our business model. We need to not rely on that. I've seen how that works. It doesn't right. That's you, your MVP thing is buy you for you. We're not going to try to claim some sort of ownership over it. What's that trade off been like?
Ed Hansberry (01:18:54): So I was solo for the first year, that's fine, but I like having a group of people to work with. So even if I'm doing a solo thing with a particular client, I still have other resources that recognize the urgency of certain things. I mean, I can go to forums, I have groups of with other MVPs, but they all have day jobs and lives. So they're not waiting for Ed to ask another stupid question that they can help answer. So I have to ask a friend in at P3 and people know when a question pops up there, we're not just talking to hear ourselves talk. There's something that needs to be answered and-
Rob Collie (01:19:35): It's time sensitive.
Ed Hansberry (01:19:36): Yeah. And I'm having a brain fart. So I don't know how to answer this question. And so I like being a part of a team that has that type of resource. So I would much rather do that as part of a relatively small group. I would not want to work at a consulting company and we could name names that have 10,000 employees. That's not my thing. It's being part of a small agile group. I much prefer that than being solo and doing the marketing and doing the billing and all that other stuff. So that's why there's not a lot of companies out there like that, P3 has a certain reputation for that. And that was one of the ones that I targeted when I'm like, "You know what? I like doing the consulting. I don't like being the only one. So where am I going to figure out where I want to go?" And that's how I first knocked on the door about a year and a half ago.
Rob Collie (01:20:27): Hey Luke, operationally, write that down. So he doesn't want to work at a 10,000 person company. So the max size for P3 is hereby set at 9,999, so that we can retain Ed. It's like the max number of rows in Excel, when they were like, "64,000, who will ever need that many rows? Just set the number way high, but less than 10k." In the code, where we put that cap on our company size, put in the comments, "Otherwise Ed leaves."
Ed Hansberry (01:20:56): Right. It's an LSF statement.
Rob Collie (01:21:00): We don't want that. Yeah. Ed, we have it on good authority that we're still under the cap.
Ed Hansberry (01:21:05): Yep.
Rob Collie (01:21:06): I had not thought about the time sensitivity of support. I'd certainly thought about if you'd asked me to answer that question for you, I would've said all the back office stuff, the marketing, the sales, the billing and all that kind of stuff. And it's funny, as you were saying that, I started to realize that in some sense, I created this company so that I didn't have to do that stuff. When we started, it was just me and my wife. So it was me doing the evangelism and outreach and the consulting and training, mostly front office stuff. And then we had the everything Rob doesn't want to do bucket, all of that just got assigned to Jocelyn. It wasn't like she liked it either. She was a Microsoft product manager like me, originally, flexible, but not like she liked that stuff. So she was the accountant for a while. And over time, that role of all the things Rob doesn't want to do just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and needed more and more people.
Rob Collie (01:21:59): So it was even selfish, like, "Oh yeah. Yeah, we need a back office." And I totally get it.
Ed Hansberry (01:22:05): Yep.
Rob Collie (01:22:07): There wasn't a P3 when I was out there. So I had to make one.
Ed Hansberry (01:22:12): Had to create it. Had to solve your own problem.
Rob Collie (01:22:14): Yeah. There's something also I think, reading between the lines, something emotionally human satisfying of having a team. I'm really glad we did this and hey, congratulations on 13 MVP awards.
Ed Hansberry (01:22:26): Thank you.
Rob Collie (01:22:27): That's cool. And your 4,000 day or four year.
Ed Hansberry (01:22:33): Yeah, four year. We'll say that.
Rob Collie (01:22:35): Four year-ish streak on the watch, long may it reign. Thanks for doing this.
Ed Hansberry (01:22:39): I've enjoyed it. This has been fun.
Speaker 2 (01:22:40): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 adaptive podcast. Let the experts at P3 Adaptive help your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Have a data day.
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