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Jill Dyché

There you are! What took you so long? This is my blog and it's about YOU.

Yes, you. Or at least it's about your company. Or people you work with in your company. Or people at other companies that are a lot like you. Or people at other companies that you'd rather not resemble at all. Or it's about your competitors and what they're doing, and whether you're doing it better. You get the idea. There's a swarm of swamis, shrinks, and gurus out there already, but I'm just a consultant who works with lots of clients, and the dirty little secret - shhh! - is my clients share a lot of the same challenges around data management, data governance, and data integration. Many of their stories are universal, and that's where you come in.

I'm hoping you'll pour a cup of tea (if this were another Web site, it would be a tumbler of single-malt, but never mind), open the blog, read a little bit and go, "Jeez, that sounds just like me." Or not. Either way, welcome on in. It really is all about you.

About the author >

Jill is a partner co-founder of Baseline Consulting, a technology and management consulting firm specializing in data integration and business analytics. Jill is the author of three acclaimed business books, the latest of which is Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, co-authored with Evan Levy. Her blog, Inside the Biz, focuses on the business value of IT.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Jill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

February 2008 Archives

In which Jill learns a lot, including a valuable lesson on context.

Once again I've returned from TDWI Las Vegas richer than before. Not because I blew a wad of cash at blackjack, but because I learned some new stuff. And if knowledge is worth a drunk guy named Craig blowing cigar smoke in your ear and yelling "Double Down, Miss Thang !!!" before the cards have even hit the table-well then I'm a rich woman indeed.

Here are some other highlights of the Vegas conference:

  • Friend and ex-client Tracy Austin (she was CIO of Mandalay Resort Group) kicked off the TDWI Executive Summit on Monday with a great talk called "BI from the Top" that set the stage for the audience of heavy-hitters. It's great to hear the BI value proposition from a CIO. Sometimes context is everything.

  • I spoke at the Executive Summit on Tuesday. My topic was Master Data Management for BI Professionals. Unlike past MDM discussions at TDWI, no one asked whether you could do MDM with a data warehouse. And, unlike past TDWI events, the follow-up panel session was populated with executives who had actually delivered MDM. Matthew March of Carrington Mortgage Services, Andrea Ballinger from University of Illinois, and Jim Keene from Harley Davidson each told stories of how MDM had driven business value. I'm glad to see TDWI embracing MDM. Who better?

  • Informatica launched its Data Migration Suite, touted as the only independent software platform designed for data migration. Informatica is bringing its best-of-breed offerings together to provide an extensible platform for data integration between two, three, or dozens of systems. "Data migration is about much more than just moving data from point A to point B; it is about adding value to the data in the process, ultimately making the data work at the expected levels within the targeted application," said Bo Lungulescu, Principal Solutions Marketing Manager for the new offering.

  • I saw my friend Donald Farmer from Microsoft, but alas only from afar. Donald was at the Microsoft booth demoing the company's evolving BI stack. (Gartner recently ranked Microsoft in the Leader quadrant for BI.) Alas I could never get close enough to greet him amidst the throngs of people crowding around him. Whether it was the glow of Donald or the pending release of SQL Server 2008, Microsoft's booth was a hit.

  • Information management vendor Kalido announced that it will be giving away Business Information Modeler, its business software modeling tool, for free. The company is also announcing a new forum for information modelers, establishing itself as a community of practice.

  • My BI from Both Sides class was sold out on Wednesday. I usually prefer teaching this course earlier in the week when it seems like more business people attend TDWI, but I was gratified to find attendees from both business and IT. Eight companies had sent teams "from both sides" and they actually seemed to get along fairly well!

As I said, I learned a lot. And one more thing I learned is never to ask a bunch of drunk men at a poker table, "So are you guys here for business or pleasure?" As I said before, context is everything.

Technorati tag: business intelligence, data warehousing, Microsoft, Informatica, Kalido, TDWI

Posted February 25, 2008 1:37 PM
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In which Jill watches a CRM sales guy push the envelope.

Last year we were working with a client and watched a well-intentioned account rep try to sell some CRM software. To call this guy enthusiastic would be like calling the Queen of England well-groomed. The rep just didn't take no for an answer. (I understand the word "no" doesn't sit well with the Queen either.)

Having encountered at turns passive behavior and rejection from the company's IT management, the account rep turned to the business and began selling hard into the marketing organization. He used all the right buzzwords to get the CMO's attention. The CMO asked me what I thought, and I told her that she should ask the CIO whether there were any incumbent CRM capabilities that resembled what the rep had been pitching.

Turns out there are three incumbent capabilities. That's another way of saying that this company has acquired software from three other vendors to solve the same problem. That's another way of saying that the company has done a pretty poor job communicating between organizations. That's another way of saying the company has over-invested in software.

It's like having three black handbags. Although they're all black, each black bag ideally serves a different purpose. One bag is great for daytime, accommodating a lovely leather wallet in British tan, a cosmetics case, and a Burberry umbrella. Another roomier bag can accommodate a flask of Boodle's and an ample Corgi. And a smaller bag can fit a wad of Euros, a pack of Rothman's, and a condom. (Her Majesty believes in safe sex.)

But if each black bag has the same dimensions, looks the same, and matches the same pair of sensible black shoes, what's the point? So it goes with software--the more you buy, the more diverse and mature your capabilities should be. Every BI, CRM, master data management, or data quality software purchase should drive some sort of improvement, be it in reporting sophistication, data accuracy, sales uplift, or customer satisfaction.

Upon learning that some of her IT budget allocation had paid for redundant software, the CMO called the CIO and uttered a much more colorful version of Queen Victoria's famous pronouncement, "We are not amused."

Technorati tags: business/IT alignment, software investment, business intelligence, data quality

Posted February 18, 2008 1:16 PM
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In which Jill aims squarely at an audience favorite--but rejoices in one of the props.

If you're a regular reader of the Jillblog, then you have a good idea of my taste in movies and it won't surprise you in the least to discover that I hated Steel Magnolias. To call the film a chick flick would be like calling the Airbus 380 superjumbo an alternative to the automobile. The character Shelby was Julia Roberts' breakout role. She dies.

You can be mad at me now for giving away the ending, but trust me: I just saved you 117 minutes you would have never gotten back.

Having said all that, there was one funny party scene where the dessert was a lovely white cake decorated as an armadillo. When the partygoers cut the armadillo in half, the red gooey insides of the decapitated armadillo came spilling out. No one ate cake.

Red velvet cake is deceptive. The tidy white frosting belies the shocking, dense crimson center. And information is the red velvet center of business initiatives. Think about it. Whether it's a customer loyalty program, a new BI effort, master data management, or a compliance project, they all look neat and clean from the outside but when you cut into them it's not what you thought it would be unless you've got some experience already.

There's a bakery in L.A., Doughboys, that is supposed to make the best red velvet cake. "It's to die for," swore a friend of mine from Georgia who should know. I tried it (someone had to) and the frosting is on the inside, which makes the red cake really moist. At this time of year, the bakery makes personal red velvet cakes shaped like a heart. It makes you want to fall in love with someone so you can give them a cake.

But I'll let you in on a secret: California Pizza Kitchen has a red velvet cake that is outstanding. The first bite is so good it will shoot you straight up to heaven. If you see Shelby there, tell her there's half an armadillo looking for her.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Compliance reporting, CRM, master data management, red velvet cake

Posted February 9, 2008 6:47 PM
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In which Hillary and Barack make the case for electronic medical records, and unwittingly pitch the inherent efficiencies of data integration.

This isn't a partisan blog. I've been watching both the Democratic and Republican debates, and there are lessons for business all 'round. But there aren't always lucid links between politics and data.

So I was particularly rapt during last week's Democratic Clinton-Obama debate at L.A.'s Kodak Theater (not co-incidently the home of American Idol, another popular circus), when our old friend Wolf Blitzer raised the topic of health care, speculating on how potential reforms would be funded. In her characteristic earnest and prepared style, Hillary Clinton advocated electronic medical records (EMRs) as one of the ways of paying for reform. She said:

If we had electronic medical records, according to RAND Corporation -- hardly a bastion of liberal thinking (audience laughter)--they have said we would save $77 billion a year. That money can be put into prevention. It could be put into chronic care management. It can be put into making sure that our health care system has enough access so that if you are in a rural community somewhere in California or somewhere in Tennessee or somewhere in Georgia, you'll have access to health care.... So we can begin to be more effective and more sensible about how we cover everybody, and use the money from the top-end tax cuts and from modernizing the system.

Say what you will about Hillary, what's interesting is the way she made the push for EMRs as a way to gain efficiencies, provide greater access, and cut costs. So many of us are making the case for integrating data that rests in silos (and on paper) in our organizations and we've gotten pretty good at discussing the hows of integrating data--be it customer contact information, product calalog data, or patient medical records--but not the whys. While steering clear of the privacy and skilled labor conversations that inevitably accompany discussions of EMRs, Hillary did justice to justifying data integration.

As did Barack, also well-informed about the potential payback of consolidating patient records. But Obama changed it up, and literally: he advocated the need for change management in deploying EMRs, saying:

That's why in either of our plans...you know...if we want to invest in electronic medical records, then we have got to go to rural hospitals who might not be able to afford it and say, we're going to help you buy the computer software and the machinery to make sure that this works. But that investment will pay huge dividends over the long term, and the place where it will pay the biggest dividends is in Medicare and Medicaid.

Any data integration effort is difficult, skill-intensive, and time-consuming. It requires careful planning and rigorous payback analysis. But the two remaining Democratic candidates captured the crux of the data integration challenge in their EMR advocacy by making the critical point: it's worth the effort.

Coda: For those of you who want equal time for the GOP, I watch those debates, too, so stay tuned!

Technorati tags: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Democratic debates, data integration

Posted February 2, 2008 7:37 PM
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