Free SQL Data Profiling Tool: Idera SQL Data Profiler

In this tip I will provide an overview of a completely free data profiling tool (at least as of the time of this post) that is easy to use if you are in the Microsoft database stack. You can download the IDERA SQL Profiling tool and immediately put it to work to perform basic column profiling and analyses. The tool will display a summary of the data contained in a selected table and each of its columns. 

Use this tool on the following systems:

  • Microsoft SQL Server: 2008 R2, 2012, 2014, 2016; 2017 Windows & Linux (provisional); Express, Standard, Enterprise editions
  • Microsoft Azure SQL Database
  • Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS)

IDERA SQL Data Profiler has some minor quirks but you can’t beat the price. Check out my review in the video above.

Just remember that data profiling should always be done initially before you start analyzing a new dataset or designing a new visualization. Always start with the basics.

If you find this type of instruction valuable make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel.

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Filter Top N Values with a Slicer in Power BI

In this video you will learn how to filter the top N values shown in your bar chart visualization using a slicer.

  1. This technique uses one measure that generates a number 1-10, that will be applied to a slicer.
  2. Another measure will basically rank all of the values associated with your data bars and only return the values that are less than or equal to the number you select in the slicer.

The comments that I apply to the DAX function should help make it easy to understand. I have to give a shoutout to GilbertQ from the PowerBI community for coming up with the  initial approach which I tweaked for the video.

As always, If you find this type of instruction valuable make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

How to Compare Actuals vs. Forecast in Tableau

Forecasting in Tableau uses a technique known as exponential smoothing. This is when an algorithm tries to find a regular pattern in your data that can be continued into the future.

In this video I’ll share some helpful tips to help you determine which options you should select that will enable Tableau to make the most predictive forecast for your data. By the end of the video you will be able to differentiate between an additive and multiplicative data pattern and to evaluate MASE to measure the accuracy of the forecast.

I’m not talking about this Mase:

Harlem World

Rather, you’ll learn about the mean absolute scaled error (i.e., MASE) and how it helps you judge the quality of the model.

In addition, you’ll also also learn how to compare your actual data to the Tableau forecast in order to judge if the model is doing its job.

If you’ve used the forecasting capabilities in Tableau without knowing about these concepts, you might have generated an inaccurate error riddled forecast. Don’t just set a forecast and forget it. Watch this video and generate better forecasts in Tableau!

Here is additional reading from Tableau on the forecast descriptions (including MASE).

As always, If you find this type of instruction valuable make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel.

How to Generate a Forecast in Power BI

In this video I’ll demonstrate how to use the forecasting analytics option in Power BI. Although Power BI’s forecast algorithm is a black box, it’s more than likely using exponential smoothing to generate results. At a very high level, exponential smoothing is an algorithm that looks for patterns in data and extrapolates that pattern into the future. To help exponential smoothing perform at an optimal level, it is very important to pick an accurate seasonality estimation, as this will have an outsized effect on the time series forecast.

If your data points are at the daily grain, then you’d use 365 as your seasonality value. If your data points are at a monthly grain, then you’d use 12 as your seasonality value. Generally, the more seasonality cycles (e.g., years) that you provide Power BI, the more predictive your forecast will be.

Without giving away the whole video, here is a pro and a con of using forecasting in Power BI.

Con: As I stated earlier the exact algorithm is a black box. Although based upon a Power View blog post, we can reasonably assume exponential smoothing is involved. Furthermore, the results cannot be exported into a spreadsheet and analyzed.

Pro: The ability to “hindcast” allows you to observe if the forecasted values match your actual values. This ability allows you to judge whether the forecast is performing well.

Check out the video; I predict you’ll learn something new.

As always, If you find this type of instruction valuable make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel.

2018 – The Most Popular Posts from AnthonySmoak.com

Two thousand eighteen was the third year in which I’ve been actively blogging here on AnthonySmoak.com. It’s interesting to look back on my first full year of activity in 2016 and compare the blog’s growth in views and visitors.  For my first year of posting back in 2016, I had a little under a 1,000 visitors for the whole year, as compared to 2018 where I had about 28.5 thousand visitors. The past year was also momentous for my Youtube channel as I hit the milestone 1,000 subscribers mark.

I thoroughly enjoy sharing what I learn with people and that’s what keeps me coming back to share more. The positive feedback and the comments I receive from readers and followers make this pastime of mine worth carrying on.

Since I finally have a good sample size of views to draw from, I wanted to share a year in review of the most popular articles here on AnthonySmoak.com for 2018. Although I have a number of Tableau video posts, my most popular posts are related to companies and/or strategy. To my surprise, there seems to be a sizable audience for technology related strategy at Wal-Mart.

I want business intelligence practitioners to come here for their Tableau fix, but I also want business school, management information systems students and anyone else occupying the dual spaces of business and technology (like I’ve done throughout my industry and consulting career) to read my posts on various companies and their uses of technology.

Without further ado, here are my 10 most popular blog posts over the past year.

1. More Than You Want to Know About Wal-Mart’s Technology Strategy Part 1

Popularity Index Score = 100

By far this was my most read blog article of the year and the most popular of all time. It is the first part of a three part series that I wrote that takes a look at a few different areas related to Wal-Mart’s use of technology. This post specifically relates to technology infrastructure and IT staffing.

2. Michael Porter’s Generic Cost Leadership Strategy Explained

Popularity Index Score = 90

This is the first of two posts where I cover the famous business professor’s generic strategies. In this specific post I describe the cost leadership strategy and its advantages and disadvantages. The cost leadership strategy is employed when a company aims to be the lowest cost producer in the market. It enables a business to reap higher than average profitability.

3. Michael Porter’s Generic Differentiation Strategy Explained

Popularity Index Score = 84

At the opposite side of the generic cost leadership strategy is the differentiation strategy. A differentiation strategy advocates that a business must offer products or services that are valuable and unique to buyers above and beyond a low price.

4. How to Conditionally Format Text Cell Color in Tableau

Popularity Index Score = 82

Of all of my Tableau related videos, this is my personal favorite. I spent many hours researching how to perform this trick for a thoroughly ungrateful party I should add (but I won’t get into that). Tableau is not Excel and table data should be used sparingly in Tableau, but if you have to display table data then do it with style. The upside of my struggle to solve this problem is that I was left with a great video to share with my followers. This video is the 2nd most viewed video on my Youtube channel.

5. How to Fix an Import Specification Error in Microsoft Access

Popularity Index Score = 75

This post hearkens back to my days as a data analyst for General Motors where I heavily used Microsoft Access. I have a love/hate relationship with Access in that it can be an effective tool for light data work but it has the ability to frustrate you with seemingly nonsensical errors. In this post I share my findings regarding how to overcome an Import Specification Error (Run-Time error ‘3625’).  One would think that “import steps” and an import specification can be referenced and used the same way in code, but that is not the case.

Articles 6 -10

6. Strategic Analysis of ADP (Popularity Index: 69)
7. Costco’s Underinvestment in Technology Leaves it Vulnerable to Disruption (Popularity Index: 68)
8. More Than You Want to Know About Wal-Mart’s Technology Strategy Part 2 (Popularity Index: 63)
9. The Definitive Walmart E-Commerce and Digital Strategy Post (Popularity Index: 45)
10. More Than You Want to Know About State Street Bank’s Technology Strategy Part 3
 (Popularity Index: 40)

I want to thank everyone who follows AnthonySmoak.com and who also subscribes to me on youtube for their visualization fix. May you have a prosperous year in the making!

Since I’m writing this post on the Martin Luther King holiday I’ll have to close with a quote from Dr. King.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” – Dr. MLK 

I repost some of my articles on Medium
And of course you can subscribe to my Youtube channel

Row and Column Highlighting in Tableau

In this post you’ll learn how to highlight values in your Tableau table using set actions. The dashboard in this video displays the number of total points scored by NBA teams by position in the 2017-2018 season. I will give you step by step instructions on how to implement row and column highlighting on this dataset downloaded from basketballreference.com.

I’ve only made a few minor tweaks but this technique was developed by Tableau Zen Master Matt Chambers. You can check out his blog at sirvizalot.com and follow him at Big shout out to Matt for sharing this technique with the Tableau community!

You can interact with my visualization on Tableau Public:

If you find this type of instruction valuable make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

Make Flashy Maps in Tableau with Mapbox

The default maps in Tableau are just fine but sometimes you need to kick up the flamboyancy factor in your visuals. Integrating maps from Mapbox with Tableau is the perfect way to add some Liberace flash to your development game.

Mapbox is an open source mapping platform for custom designed maps.  By creating an account with Mapbox, you can either design your own maps on the platform or use their preset maps, which are all more impressive than the out of the box option in Tableau.

All you need to do is enter your generated API token (provided by Mapbox) into Tableau’s Map Services interface and you’ll have access to some pretty impressive mapping options.

If you’re interested in Business Intelligence & Tableau subscribe to my  Youtube channel.