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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.

W.Edwars Deming once said: "The customer is the most important part of the production line."

In terms of engineering information-assets (getting relevant data to the end-user and doing valuable stuff with it) this still holds big value, but...there is a misconception I would like to stipulate. The misconception that users in an organization are 'customers'. I hear that quite a lot and I find it disturbing and dangerous.

Please, please, please...do not...do never treat the recipients or users of information assets within your organization a customer. These so-called customers are paid by the same people as you, whether you are an engineer, designer, architect, manager or the freakin coffee machine. You and this so-calledcustomer are part of an organisation....

According to wikipedia, an organisation is a social entity that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment. 

... joined by collective goals - that is why you are organised in a single entity called 'organisation'. Customer are those people or entities in the external environment - outside the organisation. Got it? 

These users, that are sometimes referred to as 'customers' are, as Deming intended, a vital part of the production process of Information assets. But with users there is more....They need to be involved and are as accountable as anyone in the organisation involved in making relevant information-assets with scarce resources.

These users can not say 'I am a customer, thou have to listen to me' or 'the data sucks, you gotta fix it' or 'the data does not reconcile, I will never use this again' or 'I know we have tool X, but I just acquired tool Y'. It is a jointly effort with joint accountabilities between engineer and user, where both are joint in the common goals of the organization.

So, if you are a BICC manager, an ETL developer, a data modeler, a BI consultant or whatever, and someone comes up to you saying 'I am a customer and I want X' - you know what to say.

Stop treating internal users of information assets as customers. 


Posted June 23, 2013 4:21 AM
Permalink | 2 Comments |



Great point. This is perhaps one of biggest issues with DWBI programs today. Success depends in large part on the collaboration between the business and technical resources. This means recognizing that we are all on the same team.

Quick semantic differentiator:

External Customers = Customers
External Providers = Vendors

Internal Customers = Colleagues
Internal Providers = Colleagues

Vendors provide services to Customers.

Colleagues collaborate with each other.

We should approach our collaboration with professionalism and treat each other with respect. If we seek to echo the same levels of attention and care that we afford our customers then that would be great (mutually of course, both parties in equal measure).

I don't think that the idea of treating internal users as customers was ever intended to kill the collaboration among colleagues working together towards a common goal. Let's put the focus back on partnership. This will become increasingly important as new DWBI capabilities blur the lines between business and technical resources.

Interesting article. I've never referred to users as 'customers' really, but equally, it wasn't as a result of a conscious decision. So, thinking about things in this way is helpful in making a deliberate decision on how to interact with stakeholders.
But it is in-keeping with a general view that delivering BI works best when viewed as a 'partnership' between supplier and user. And it's also in-keeping with Agile / SCRUM principles of ensuring SME involvement, etc.

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