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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

I was at the Business Object Summit this week in Boston, where the main emphasis was on linking strategy to execution and a seeming focus on the larger enterprises. All very SAP-inspired, I thought. And very insightful, especially if you're a large enterprise. There have been some comments in the blogs already on these topics. But it was a small conversation over lunch that caught my interest...

Information OnDemand. No, not the annual IBM Conference in Las Vegas, in October. But a rather low key effort from Business Objects with a website to allow companies to access market data and incorporate it into their BI efforts.

There's a definite growing interest these days in combining external data with the contents of the warehouse. But it does raise some concerns, not least about the reliability of the external data and how to create a valid semantic relationship between the two data sets. In the past, companies have addressed these concerns by obtaining key market and other external data from trusted sources like Dunn and Bradstreet, Reuters and others and then ensuring that such data entered the warehouse via a controlled feed designed by Information Architects who could match the two data sets correctly. After all, such external data is another information source for the warehouse and should be managed like any other.

This method works well for large enterprises with a centrally-controlled approach to the warehouse. And where the value-add derived from or risks incurred by using this data are significant, this method is probably still required. But what if you are a small or medium enterprise? Or what if you really only want to do a couple of once off analyses?

Shopping at the Information OnDemand website appears to be the answer! Here you can buy prebuilt, but customizable, reports combining your data with external market and financial data. You can buy one-time snapshots or subscribe for regular updates.

For larger companies, this could provide a safe and cost-effective way of dipping their toe in the big ocean of external data. For smaller companies, it could be all they need. Sounds like a useful idea to me!

The service has been available since September 2007, but I hadn't come across it before. Maybe there are some similar services I should know about, so please feel free to comment.

Posted August 14, 2008 5:14 PM
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