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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!

As the worldwide banking crisis continues to escalate, one has to wonder-where was the Business Intelligence in all of this? What happened to Data Quality and Data Management?

First, we had the interesting revelation that the individual banks and lending institutions all seemed to be blissfully unaware of the extent to which they were exposed by lending in the sub-prime mortgage market. It's difficult to imagine how the information available to decision makers in these companies could have been so scarce or so uninformative. Most, if not all, financial institutions have had extensive and expensive data warehouses in place for many years now. Business Intelligence should easily have warned of the dangers. Was the increasing level of risk unmeasured, overlooked or simply ignored?

More recently, we've had the spectacle of banks being unwilling to extend short-term lending facilities to one another for fear that the borrowing institutions could go belly-up in the next few days! Could the lenders not know? Unfortunately, in this case, the answer is probably that they couldn't. Despite the fact that the worldwide financial market is tightly and instantly interconnected at a transaction level, the truth is that the underlying data remains disconnected and dispersed. Data Management and Data Quality have simply not been considered. Proper business governance in the financial markets as a whole is impossible without a well-defined and credible data foundation.

So, assuming that we can survive the crisis without a meltdown, what has been happening should be a clarion call to Data Management professionals in the financial industry particularly but also beyond. We need to recognize the interconnected and increasingly fragile web of data dependencies that hold the business world together. It's time to get out there and apply the principles we know and preach already. And we had better get moving quickly.


Posted September 28, 2008 7:52 PM
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