Isabelle Van Campenhoudt: “To succeed with Power BI, your data needs to be clean and accurate.”

February 19, 2019

Isabelle Van Campenhoudt

 

Isabelle, you’re one of the leading database and BI experts out there. How has the world of BI changed in the past 10 years?

 As with many other technologies, the most significant changes came from the cloud services apparition and the improved Self-BI offer. Power BI services were key to reaching the right audience: business people. After all, BI means business intelligence. One of my most exciting projects wasn’t actually an IT-led one. If I may make a comparison, we’ve seen the same paradigm switch with the beginning of collaboration tools and the start of SharePoint: giving people their own space to create and share insights.

The cloud is also a ‘get out of jail free’ card as it offers the ability to start a BI project without the need to buy a large appliance directly. You can quietly scale out elastically.

The use of analytics algorithms that we once called data mining is now becoming genuinely democratic with tools such as the Azure Machine Learning studio and the R or Python integration – as well as the SQL server in Azure. It’s no longer uncommon to have data science people working close to BI teams.

Data is definitively the new gold. 🙂 Or it will be eventually.

Although technologies change, the equation remains the same. You need to get the data and do something with it.

What should I do if I want to start a BI project today? There are so many options…

Although technologies change, the equation remains the same. You need to get the data and do something with it. Unfortunately, if you want to achieve the correct result, your data need to be clean and accurate. This challenge remains the hidden part of the iceberg that can sink the boat. Because of it, BI methodology is still the key to success. So if you want to start a BI project, you need experienced BI people with you. Kimball theory is always valid: in a large data warehouse as much as in a small power BI data model. Work with dimensions and measures. Identify your facts. Build your model. Be as clean as possible. Then rely on modern architecture, but in a good way. Are you really in a big data environment? Unlikely. Do you need a lake? Probably, because of the Common Data Model. Do you need an expensive Azure data warehouse? Not so sure.

Apply a simple pattern to your project then stick the right tools in the right places. Don’t be led by the appeal of the fancy newest techs.

The last word is GOVERNANCE. Self-BI empowers users really nicely, but you need the means to do it properly:

  • a ‘single version of the truth’” data set shared across the enterprise with a Common Data Model
  • easy access to prototyping activities through self-BI tools
  • clean delivery through the official app
  • clear traceability of the data: date refreshed, source, owner. 

 


So, what’s Isabelle doing when she’s not delivering database projects or being active in the community?

Interesting question. I like to get my hands dirty, and I do a lot of the stuff at home myself – from baking my own bread to fixing my leaky taps and trying to achieve minimal waste – meaning DIY. I like to think that children learn by example and I have two daughters. I want to show them a strong woman figure, I want them knowing that it is all about their dreams and I want them not to limit themselves because of stereotypes. I’m passionate about the world’s transitions and challenges – climate, refugees, feminism – and I’m also quite active in those sectors. I need to live near a forest as trees are my oxygen. I enjoy an early morning hike on the weekends. I travel a lot for my conferences, and I try to look around each city I visit; I really like old churches and castles.

You are one of the most passionate people I have ever met in the community. What does this community mean for you?

The community is one of the most beautiful parts of my work life. I’ve been working as a freelancer for 10 years (23 work years in total) and it can be very lonely unless you can share with your peers. Sharing knowledge is my passion – I started as a trainer and MCT – and I continue to do it with my customers and in the community. This means that I’m continually learning to create new presentations and new demos. I’m not only a speaker but also a data platform user group leader. To have a fantastic event, you need people to commit. I do. It comes with a reward as I’m able to meet a ton of passionate people and build an excellent network. As a freelancer, this is a really virtuous circle.

You’re one of the people who have been with us almost from the beginning. How do you see the evolution of the Collabsummit?

The Collaboration Summit has always been one of the most organised events I know. I can tell because I’ve participated in a lot of them and even run some as a community leader. I know what it takes to do it. For me, the Collabsummit is very particular because it is a community-driven event but on such a big scale! It keeps growing year after year, I don’t know how they manage to keep their commitment!

It’s truly amazing to see it also evolving with the new technologies and being close to people’s needs. Probably the keys to its success are the fair prices and of course the excellent speakers.  🙂

So, what’s Isabelle doing when she’s not delivering database projects or being active in the community?

Interesting question. I like to get my hands dirty, and I do a lot of the stuff at home myself – from baking my own bread to fixing my leaky taps and trying to achieve minimal waste – meaning DIY. I like to think that children learn by example and I have two daughters. I want to show them a strong woman figure, I want them knowing that it is all about their dreams and I want them not to limit themselves because of stereotypes. I’m passionate about the world’s transitions and challenges – climate, refugees, feminism – and I’m also quite active in those sectors. I need to live near a forest as trees are my oxygen. I enjoy an early morning hike on the weekends. I travel a lot for my conferences, and I try to look around each city I visit; I really like old churches and castles.

Collaboration means two-way communication!

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