Cortana Analytics Workshop – Decks, Videos & More

For those of you who missed it, the first Cortana Analytics Workshop, held in Redmond last month, was a smashing success. The sold-out event saw attendees from over 300 companies and 35 different countries, including many Microsoft System Integrator (SI) and Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partners. In this post we capture a flavor of the event and share links to all online workshop related resources.

The Workshop featured a strong line-up of five keynote speakers:

1. In his opening keynote, Joseph Sirosh spoke about the Future of Analytics. He talked about how an ‘intelligent cloud’ is eating both software and data, and helping businesses transform massive amounts of data into actionable intelligence. Joseph shared Microsoft’s vision for cloud based analytics that is agile, simple & beautiful, and how the Cortana Analytics Suite puts customers on that path.

Check out Joseph’s video by clicking here or on the image below. In it, you will learn about key Cortana Analytics differentiators and customer stories such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock and North American Eagle. The talk also includes interesting demos, including a simulated retail kiosk that uses Microsoft’s face APIs, sentiment analysis and recommendations to produce some rather interesting results.

2. Next, Jason Wilcox, Partner Director of Software Engineering, presented a keynote titled Demystifying Cortana Analytics. In it, Jason talked about Microsoft’s analytics learnings from Bing, the huge infrastructure and process bets we have made on Search (which is essentially a Big Data problem), and the resulting beneficial outcomes for Microsoft such as Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gains as well the creation of brand new assets such as Azure Data Lake, now offered as a managed service in the cloud.

Jason also discussed the kinds of questions companies are asking of their data, the often convoluted processes for getting those questions answered today, and how Cortana Analytics streamlines that process, end-to-end. To watch Jason’s talk, click on the image below:

3. During the first day closing keynote, James Phillips talked about Power BI 2.0 in the context of the Visualization & Dashboard capabilities of Cortana Analytics. As James put it, the software bridge that connects businesses to customers has gotten progressively stronger over time – initially it was because of the web, later mobile, and now IoT. Along this journey, tons more data are getting generated, resulting in an unprecedented “data dividend” that awaits companies that embrace the opportunity.

Power BI acts as a single pane of glass to make sense of all this data and gain deeper insights. With Cortana Analytics, Microsoft is the only full-coverage vendor with solutions for all classes of data – transactional, big data, streaming – be it on-premises or in the cloud. Watch James by clicking below:

4. Raghu Ramakrishnan kicked off the second day of the Workshop with a keynote on Big Data at Microsoft. Raghu talked about how, in a short time span, the world has gone from data storage scarcity to abundance, from highly modeled schemas to flexible storage, from mere reporting to insights, predictions and actions. Data is now no longer incidental but central. These new capabilities require big data solutions to store any type of data, efficiently perform analysis at different speeds (e.g. batch vs. interactive vs. streaming) and to do so elastically, at scale. Microsoft’s stack provides all these capabilities in the cloud: Azure Data Lake is a fully managed store designed for analytics, HDInsight delivers the full Hadoop ecosystem as a managed service on Windows and Linux, and Azure SQL Data Warehouse is the first fully  managed elastic relational data warehouse-as-a-service. Hear Raghu by clicking below:

5. Switching gears, Marcus Ash chose to focus his closing keynote on Assistive Intelligence and how we are now able to endow humans with superpowers based on machine strengths. Marcus talked about the nuances, challenges and benefits of modeling AIs on human assistants, as we’re doing with Cortana. Natural interactions require more than mere natural language – AI systems need to be highly contextual, consistent, trustworthy and even emotional. There was the interesting side note that it helps when AIs take on a personality of their own because, as it turns out, human beings are actually much more tolerant of mistakes made by such systems. And AI systems too learn from such mistakes, just the way we humans do. To watch Marcus’ take on our AI -powered future, click below:

By way of attendee profile, about half our Workshop attendees were either Data Scientists or Developers, and – even though the Workshop was about technical readiness, 30% of attendees were business decision makers (BDMs). The rest of the audience did not characterize themselves as any of above, but suffice to say that a majority of them were technology professionals of different stripes, seeking out easier-to-use tools for their big data analytics needs. 

Other noteworthy highlights:

  • Over 30 talks and 8 hands-on tutorials were delivered on a wide range of topics, technical and business -focused.
  • During hugely popular tutorial sessions, attendees got to build their first Azure ML experiment, use Cortana Analytics Solution Accelerators, create Power BI dashboards, unlock real-time insights from IoT, experience Revolution R Enterprise, explore natural language support in Cortana Analytics, and much more.
  • Presenters were either from Microsoft or one of our partners, and their expertise spanned the entire gamut of the Microsoft Data Platform. Attendees took advantage of “Exec Connect” sessions to enjoy informal discussions with our leaders and experts on a wide range of topics.
  • During a set of special Design/UX research sessions, attendees could share their design insights on our products and services, inputs that are being used to inform upcoming releases.
  • Finally, no conference like this is complete without a good dose of fun, of course, and our attendees had their share of opportunities to socialize with peers, establish new professional connections and chill out at after-party events.

Here are the pointers to all our conference materials:

Video recordings of all sessions are available via the Cortana Analytics Workshop site on Channel 9.

Slide decks including all keynotes are available from the Cortana Analytics website here (note that this site requires registration in order to download the conference PDFs).

To get a flavor for the live event, check out our Twitter hashtag, #CortanaWorkshop. Better yet, stay tuned to all future announcements by following our official twitter channel and by subscribing to this blog. We hope to see many of you in person at our 2016 conference, details of which will be posted here once finalized.

Cortana Analytics Team