Is the SAP #DataGenius Webinar Series worth attending?

In-depth analysis of the who and what to help you make an informed decision

SAP’s recent move to bring some of the best minds in the data visualization industry to teach via a series of webinars is brilliant, but without proper execution can pose some challenges.

man listening intently, and the blog title

First the good, and then we’ll address three issues with their approach.

Disclaimer: Though we are closely associated with the SAP Analytics team, this blog post (as with everything we do) is entirely objective and brutally honest.

checkmark Top Notch Data Visualization Speakers

There is no doubt that SAP went for the cream de la creme when it came to the speakers for their #datagenius webinar series. Not only are we big fans of all of the speakers, but we also recorded interviews with some of them for our upcoming Analytics on Fire Podcast (register to be notified first).

For those still deciding whether or not to attend, below is some advice on what to expect from each speaker and how to maximize this free learning experience.

    1. Wayne Eckerson (@weckerson) – Former BI Analyst, Wealth of Best Practices Knowledge

      How he became famous: Wayne recently founded the Eckerson Group but is the well-known author of Performance Dashboards, a keynote speaker, and seasoned business intelligence analyst. His has a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to how successful customers approach business intelligence. You can find his work in the form of articles and white papers by conducting a simple google search.

      Key Benefits: Wayne has lots of real-world customer use cases from being a former analyst. One key takeaway from our upcoming podcast interview with him was his emphasis that the BI industry is repeating history. He questioned if the pursuit of a single source of truth is realistic in the new data discovery world? His first #datagenius webinar was a hit!

      What to Ask:  How to use data visualizations to make your BI project successful and increase user adoption?

    2. Albert Cairo (@albertocairo) – Social Media Aficionado, Hottest DataViz Author!

      How he became famous: As a professor, famous author of the Functional Art, global speaker, and blogger, Alberto focuses on data visualization for journalism. Well known for his 23K+ Twitter followers, he is also one of the humblest of the group.

      Key Benefits: During our podcast interview with Alberto (be first to be notified), we uncovered that prior to writing his first book, he had no idea that business intelligence existed! More focused on journalism, he stressed how the use of data visualization was a key component to getting a high ‘click thru’ or ‘viewing’ rate for journalists. In the business intelligence world, we call this ‘user adoption’.

      What to Ask: Request use cases that show how journalists drive clicks and viewing rates (aka user adoption) using data visualizations such as infographics. As the challenges with low user adoption are the same for journalism and BI,  some of their not-so-traditional techniques may be a game changer for BI folks. As a professor, Alberto also has many techniques to help his students think more visually. We recommend asking him about them!

    3. David McCandless (@infobeautiful) – TEDx Speaker (2mil+ views), Crazy Big Data Visuals

      How he became famous: On the rise of his brilliant TEDx Talk (2mil+ views to-date), and author of the eye-opening book, Knowledge is Beautiful, McCandless also works with organizations to help them visualize big data related to world issues such as natural disasters and tracking widespread diseases like Ebola.

      Key Benefits: We ran into David at the recent SAP SAPPHIRE conference. We were instantly impressed with his big data SAP Lumira visualizations. While his typical data visualizations are far fetched for most of us ‘regular folks’, his thought process is one we can all learn from. Below is a quick video we did together where he explains this (sorry for the background noise).

      What to Ask:  Ask him how to visualize big data! He has a gift for it. For the SAP customers who are struggling with Lumira, ask him about his first-time experience. When we met at SAPPHIRE, it was the first time he had seen or used the tool. He made SAP Lumira ‘talk’! 

    4. Rolf Hichert (@rolfhichert) – Creator of Famous BI Success Poster, Data Viz Best Practices

      How he became famous: Besides being the most animated German we know, we currently live and die by Hichert’s famous BI Success poster. Recently rebranding his organization to International Business Communication Standards (IBCS), Hichert is well known and respected in Europe.

      Key Benefits: One thing we love about Hichert is his ability to simplify and condense his data visualization best practices into a single poster! His level of simplicity is genius!

      What to Ask: Ask him how to avoid some of the pitfalls that most BI professionals have when it comes to designing data visualizations (particularly in a conservative environment). Don’t forget to purchase his Success poster ahead of time and bring your questions about his 119 data visualization best practices.


1. Why is the webinar series so drawn out?

While we assume SAP intentions is to run a long campaign to gain as many leads as possible, it would have been nice to attend a half day #DataGenius Data Viz Success Online Summit. We fear that over time the drop off rate in between webinars may reduce the momentum. We for one would have been happy to host a panel with all four data viz gurus seeing that we know most of them. But hey, we applaud SAP for pulling it together.

2. What are the specific webinar topics?

One thing we noticed in the original post was the lack of topics for each webinar in the series. SAP assumes because it’s a data viz series, one would know what to expect from each speaker. We highly recommend they provide specific webinar titles for each webinar so that attendees will be well prepared. Sample topics we hope to see covered are:

      • How to Get Started with Big Data Visualization (in SAP Lumira or Design Studio) – McCandless
      • How to use Data Visualization to Increase User Adoption – Alberto / Eckerson
      • Hichert 10 Principles for BI Success – Hichert
      • How to build Data Visualizations for Mobile Devices? – TBD

3. Will these webinars really make SAP Lumira more credible?

Now for the elephant in the room! While it’s no secret that SAP Lumira is a ‘work in progress’, we expect to see each expert display good data viz examples built in SAP Lumira like McCandless did at SAPPHIRE. While this will not make the actual product ready for primetime, it will help to open the imagination of SAP’s customers to its possibilities. This is a requirement for this to be a success for customers.

That’s our two cents. We’d like to hear your thoughts below.

What do you want to learn from these webinars?

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Meet Mico Yuk

As the founder and CEO of BI Brainz, Mico has been in the Business Intelligence industry for 8 years. Besides leading a team of some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, she continues to share her passion for Analytics through the BI Brainz Academy, blogs, social media and global keynotes and trainings. In her time off, she enjoys being a beach bum and buying red bottom shoes.

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