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Ronald Damhof

I have been a BI/DW practitioner for more than 15 years. In the last few years, I have become increasingly annoyed - even frustrated - by the lack of (scientific) rigor in the field of data warehousing and business intelligence. It is not uncommon for the knowledge worker to be disillusioned by the promise of business intelligence and data warehousing because vendors and consulting organizations create their "own" frameworks, definitions, super-duper tools etc.

What the field needs is more connectedness (grounding and objectivity) to the scientific community. The scientific community needs to realize the importance of increasing their level of relevance to the practice of technology.

For the next few years, I have decided to attempt to build a solid bridge between science and technology practitioners. As a dissertation student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I hope to discover ways to accomplish this. With this blog I hope to share some of the things I learn in my search and begin discussions on this topic within the international community.

Your feedback is important to me. Please let me know what you think. My email address is Ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

About the author >

Ronald Damhof is an information management practitioner with more than 15 years of international experience in the field.

His areas of focus include:

  1. Data management, including data quality, data governance and data warehousing;
  2. Enterprise architectural principles;
  3. Exploiting data to its maximum potential for decision support.
Ronald is an Information Quality Certified Professional (International Association for Information and Data Quality one of the first 20 to pass this prestigious exam), Certified Data Vault Grandmaster (only person in the world to have this level of certification), and a Certified Scrum Master. He is a strong advocate of agile and lean principles and practices (e.g., Scrum). You can reach him at +31 6 269 671 84, through his website at http://www.prudenza.nl/ or via email at ronald.damhof@prudenza.nl.

December 2011 Archives

Wednesday November 16th 2011 Ralph Hughes from Ceregenics was in the Netherlands. Ralph is author of the book 'Agile Data Warehousing: Delivering World-Class Business Intelligence Systems Using Scrum and XP'. Ralph is currently under contract to write more books on the topic of agility in data warehouse development.

I had been in contact with Ralph for some time; he wanted to know more about data vault, getting the facts, how it is actually used, what customers use it, how they develop and deploy, how it contributes to agility and how it impacted the business.


Of course, anything can be explained in writing or conceptually, but the 'real proof of the pudding, is in the eating'. Opportunity knocked when Ralph was in the Netherlands for his TDWI course on Agile data warehousing. He asked me whether or not I could arrange some customer visits in Amsterdam. Customers that use and deploy Data Vault and have attained a high agree of agility.

Tom Breur and me were hosts for Ralph and we visited the Free University (client of mine) and BinckBank (client of Tom), both in Amsterdam. Hans Hultgren (Genesee Academy) happened to be in the Netherlands that week and joined us as well. We met with both management and technical team members of the university and BinckBank.

Both clients were particularly interesting because their data warehouses are in production and in a mode of constant change. Both clients showed a remarkable predictability and reliability in coping with these changes. Change equated to 'business as usual'. I remember Ralph asking an engineer 'how long does it take to deploy a new data element to the warehouse?' The engineer replied: 'do you want to know the lead-time including my coffee break?'.

Ralph, Tom, me and Hans were impressed with the accomplishments of these clients in getting their data warehouse deployment in control while constantly adding value/changes to the business in a predictable fashion. 

IMG_7828I will not transcribe the whole interview in this blog - that is simply too much - send me a note if you want to know more. Interesting differences between Free University and BinckBank were the fact that they used different automating techniques and also the level of business key integration differed slightly. Free University used templating (generating XML and import in Business Objects Data Services) for data warehouse automation and the data warehouse was driven by business keys. BinckBank used Quipu for data warehouse automation and the data warehouse was partly driven by business key, and some by surrogate key (see also my presentation on the Data Vault advanced seminar about different Data Vault species). In terms of software development methods, BinckBank used the Scrum method and Free University was based on waterfall/iterative with lots of lean practises being used.

I will try to summarize both visits from the perspective of me and Tom, particularly slanted towards Agile software development, by asking my blog readers, three questions: 

  1. Why is it that you can build and deploy extremely small particles in Data Vault and not in other approaches, without having an increase in the overhead and coordination of these particles? In other words; 'Divide and Conquer to beat the Size / Complexity Dynamic'1
  2. Why is it that you can re-engineer your existing model and guarantee that the changes remain local? Something that is hugely beneficial in data warehouses that - by definition - grow over time.
  3. Why is it that - as your (Data Vault based) data warehouse grows - your costs grow 'merely' in linear fashion initially, and as you approach the end state marginal growth in cost decreases exponentially (as opposed to exponential cost increase for Kimball warehouses)?

I want to thank Free University as well as BinckBank for offering their time, their energy and enthusiasm to the general cause of knowledge sharing. Of course I want to thank Tom Breur and Hans Hultgren for putting in their time as well. 

My special thanks of course to Ralph Hughes as being an open minded, inquisitive and knowledgeable peer. It was great being your host in the Netherlands. 


1 - Gerald M. Weinberg - Quality Software Management - 1992

Photo #1: Left in the corner sits Ralph Hughes, next to him Tom Breur. On the other side the Free University; Jaap Roos (project manager), Dorien Heijting (Data Warehouse Engineer), Erwin Vreeman (Project Lead).

Photo #2: Sitting with the american flag - Ralph Hughes and Hans Hultgren. At the top of the table - BinkBank: Michel Uittenbogaard (Data Warehouse Engineer) and on the right Paul Delgman (BI manager). 

Photo #3: Sitting near the window looking down: me, myself and I

Posted December 9, 2011 12:50 AM
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