Category Archives: Business Analytics

Successful Data Insights using Less than Modern Technologies

I had the opportunity to attend a local AWC meeting that brought women and technology together for a night of networking, learning and spirits!  And with a topic like “Data in the Environment: GIS Applications for Source Water Protection”, I couldn’t pass it up!

The Speaker had responsibilities for providing decision making tools used for New Jersey source water protection and open space acquisition for the Water Supply Authority.  She provided an introduction to Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies and case studies that help in the decision making process for open space acquisition.  Her intensity for this topic and her 15 year dedication for this career was quite noticeable. As she expressed the importance of protecting source water, I couldn’t help but look down and reflect on what it took to put the simple glass of water in front of me on the table.

As the case studies ensued, we learned about the different layers that constructed the GIS visualizations of specific land parcels which supported decision making.  The layers included data attributes related to geography, roads, source water type, contaminates, owners and many other topic areas.  The attributes and their specific concentration was then related to colors in the mapping tool.

All of this leads up to the moment that any data professional/technologist waits for:  Where did the data come from, How is the data procured and What Technology is used.  So as the presenter “Pulled back the curtain”, I sheepishly tried to contain my snarky reaction and to avoid eye contact with my fellow Microsoft SQL Server pals at the table.  A 2000’s version Microsoft Access was used to store data and the inclusion of attributes was signifies by the word ‘IN’.   I took a long deep breath and went on to ask “So how long does it take to create the visualization for a parcel of land”?  The response was “About one day” and another attendee chimed in with a “That’s not bad”!  I squirm uncomfortably in my chair and attempt to come up with an elaborate reason for exiting the meeting.

Another attendee asks how often the data is refreshed and how it’s aligned with the geospatial shape files and I decide to hang in there.  The presenter indicated that some data is refreshed every 5 years.  I think I have now discovered one of the slowest moving industries ever.  Well at least I discovered an industry that had a transaction frequency slower that Real Estate (my current industry).  I start to ask a question about national open data initiatives for sharing water source and I’m abruptly censored by a friend who indicates “Melissa, your data geek is showing”!

I left this meeting with more questions than answers, but maybe that’s the point of getting out and learning about how others do their job!  I’d love to hear your feedback on the following questions:


How many businesses are still using Access?  Especially government-like organizations?

How many still think Access is adequate?

Should the successful use of old technology be applauded or shamed?

How many important decisions are being made by using antiquated technology?

How can we use this opportunity to educate and consult?

If funding for modern tools like Microsoft Power BI or Tableau were available, would these business upgrade?


Interesting GIS/MAP Resources:
Web Soil Survey | NRCS – USDA:
EPA Mapper:
Historical Aerials:
Common Census Map Project:


Business Analytics: The Next Generation

When I was growing up in the ‘70s, I desperately wanted my own rotary-style desk phone (preferably in pink) so I could call my best friend next door. Money was tight, and I was too lazy to walk over every time I wanted to chat. So I decided to raid my father’s workshop and make a pulley system out of wood and twine between our bedroom windows to pass notes attached to clothes pins. Obviously, this solution didn’t scale!

Fast forward to today, and the variety of technologies used to harness data – and the sheer volume of data – has exploded. Just a few years back, there was minimal demand for advanced business analytics to derive more business value from data, but with current trends, such analytics are imperative.

So as a data professional, what are you doing to adapt to the fast-changing world of data, which shows no sign of slowing down? As part of my career plan, I will be attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago next week. Here are my top 10 reasons why.

SQLDiva’s Top 10 Reasons for Attending the PASS BA Conference

  1. To experience the new “Business Analytics Frontier” – Immersing yourself in the technology and culture of anything new is a sure-fire way to propel yourself to the next level.
  2. To be the First Kid on the Block – Many of the most innovative discussions occur between the first people who embark on a new technology path.
  3. To welcome new speakers into the PASS family – This conference will include bestselling author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics Steven Levitt and others from academia and the data science domains. The exposure to others outside your own experiences is critical for career growth.
  4. To gather real-world use cases and stories – Technology and tools can be somewhat dull, but when you add some great business use cases and stories, the technology comes alive and the creation process is kick-started.
  5. To grow with PASS – Being involved in PASS has been pivotal to my career and personal growth, and I know PASS can help me continue to grow.
  6. To experience Chicago – I’m excited to explore a new city and dive into Chicago-style deep-dish pizza!
  7. To see old friends and make new ones – When you meet someone who has the same interests and goals as you do, there is a deep bond created that can span years. Many of my more memorable moments have included PASS Friends.
  8. To expand my network – Ever search for days to find the solution to an issue? What if you knew someone you could ask who already had the answer or who knew someone else who did? This and future career opportunities are key reasons for networking. If you are looking for more business analytics professionals to add to your network, this is the place to find them.
  9. To find inspiration for the future – As I leave any PASS conference, I’m filled with a wealth of new knowledge and a sense of urgency to try out new techniques and play with new tools. Even during my most stressful days at work, I daydream back to the inspirational moments at these events.
  10. Why Not?! – I can’t think of a better way to spend a few days than connecting, sharing, and learning with fellow professionals as passionate about data as I am. I hope I see you there!