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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!

October 2008 Archives


In which Jill changes her mind and decides that too much information could be a bad thing after all.

I thought I knew my neighbors. But last Sunday morning when I was walking the dogs, my neighbor up the hill flung open her front door and shouted to the woman next door, "HEY! THE DOCTOR SAYS IT'S NOT A YEAST INFECTION AFTER ALL!"

That's when I realized that I really don't know anybody all that well.

IT management at one of our current clients, a consumer packaged goods company, thought they knew their retail channel pretty well. But when a brand exec announced his intention to capture data streaming from their retailers to actually measure channel profitability at the store level, well, let's just say that the IT folks didn't recognize him. Never mind the intention to segment channels by profitability in order to re-calibrate ad spending.

But guess what? We were already in the process of provisioning channel master data via an MDM hub to reconcile the data as it streamed in. We had the data. The IT team was almost ready to support the new business request, without all the drama and back-and-forth so endemic to the company's business-IT (non)alignment. Stay tuned, I'll fill you in on more of the details as the project moves forward. And if you miss anything, just call my neighbor up the hill. (Just be careful what you wish for.)

Technorati tag: MDM, master data management, customer segmentation, customer profitability

Posted October 28, 2008 12:51 PM
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In which Jill watches the seasons change in New York.

Presentations at the MDM Summit conference this week in New York featured some unlikely success stories. Speakers described how the hardest part of MDM was getting the business to buy in. Audience members asked questions about how to explain technical topics to their business constituents. Several vendors presented functions and features lists. (The savvy ones didn't talk about their products at all, but about how their solutions have driven change for their customers.) One speaker claimed that her company's MDM effort "started with the organization."

This only proves my point that MDM's success is often directly tied to a company's specific definition of what it should be. Companies should know the problem(s) they're solving before they acquire MDM. I served on the keynote panel with Aaron Zornes and Dan Power on Sunday night. "Don't go into the light!" I counseled an audience member when she asked if her company could retrofit its data warehouse into an MDM hub.

Maybe you consider MDM as reference data standardization. Perhaps you're captivated by the power of fast matching and linking. Maybe your MDM solution resolves the identities of an individual. Maybe it ensures that data is reconciled and corrected at the system of origin. Or maybe it serves as a "service" to disparate applications seeking a single version of truth about customers or products. However you use MDM, there's no template for it. But the hard, customized, culture-shaped work--as we heard in New York--is starting to drive change.

Technorati tags: MDM Summit, master data management

Posted October 22, 2008 7:34 PM
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In which Jill observes that a data warehouse appliance is in the eye(s) of the beholder(s).

With this week's Teradata Partners user event coming on the heels of Microsoft's BI conference , comparisons are inevitable. Both events reported attendance of around 2500. Both focused on the evolution of their respective database platforms. Both mirrored the Zeitgeist: Microsoft handed out Palm Treos running Windows Mobile, letting attendees try mobile BI; Teradata went paperless for the first time--complete with recycled conference bags--and tracked attendees with RFID. And both acknowledged and subsequently marginalized the competition.

I've been to umpteen Teradata Partners conferences and there's one sure thing: the raving fans. Teradata has the most loyal group of customers of any data warehouse vendor. These people are doing strategic and differentiating work with their data warehouses, and they're smitten. Complementary CRM and supply chain solutions, industry data models, and BI partnerships enrich the Teradata product set and entrench the customer base.

Cynics cite Teradata's early dismissal of the data warehouse appliance space, followed by a flurry of development activity culminating in the so-called Extreme Appliance, Teradata's answer to Oracle's Exadata, Netezza's data warehouse appliance, ParAccel's Analytic Database, and Microsoft's DATAllegro, among others.

But data warehouse appliance customers aren't looking for business solutions, they're looking for lower-cost platforms. The question isn't whether Teradata can build its own appliance. It's whether Teradata is ready to engage the commodity purchaser. A seasoned sales force accustomed to long sales cycles and high margins will need to adjust its high-end solution-focused pitch. And there's an escalating emphasis on Teradata's professional services, which comprise a growing percentage of the company's overall revenues.

So are things changing in the industry? Yep. The biggest change I've seen lately is a sea of Microsoft users watching a data warehouse process a trillion-row query in seconds. Startled by the explosion of business data at their companies, these people are lifting their heads from their SharePoint applications and waking up to the world of shared nothing and massively parallel. They are the data warehouse customers of the future.

The question is: Whose?

Technorati tag: Teradata Partners, Microsoft BI, Oracle Exadata, Paraccel, Paraccel Analytic Database, Netezza, Datallegro

Posted October 16, 2008 2:05 PM
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In which what happened in Vegas used to stay in Vegas--'til this blog.

Figured a few games of craps would be part of my agenda at DataFlux IDEAS (International Data Event and Symposium) 2008. But I actually attended some sessions at IDEAS. The sessions represented a great blend of current best practices and new, er...ideas. Instead of simply reviewing highlights, I've noted some of the more quote-able quotes from the conference:

--Kelly Williams, ex-Baseline colleague and current software company executive, talked about vetting all of the major data quality vendors and choosing DataFlux, and how his team's data-enabling architecture impacted the business. Quote-able quote: "Sales no longer complains about the quality of its data. They can now worry about other things."

--Jean-Marc Brusson at global water treatment concern Nalco reviewed how his company took data quality global and discussed the role that data governance played in that expansion. Nalco is now using DataFlux as a core component of a global MDM infrastructure. Quote-able quote: "IT facilitates--and sometimes serves as the gatekeeper for--our company's data governance effort. In doing this we increase the productivity of the entire company."

--In her talk, "Data Quality at the Roots," Susan Herrmann from Berkshire Life covered how data quality was bigger than just the company's BI systems. Quote-able quote: "We're not fixing data in the data warehouse just so it can be inconsistent with our source systems--we're not limiting it to ETL. We're fixing the data in our source systems."

--In his panel discussion with DataFlux CEO Tony Fisher and Mike Ferguson of Intelligent Business Strategies, Baseline Senior Consultant Frank Dravis discussed the differences between Enterprise Information Management, data quality, and data governance. Quote-able quote: "EIM is a practice, and data governance is an overarching framework. Data governance feeds EIM, and better data is just one of the results."

--Want to see a dry sense of humor in action? Talk to Daniel Teachey or Dan Soceanu from DataFlux. Both are hilarious and flat-smart about their company's value proposition, so it was no surprise to see them cover customer innovations, focusing on developments with product master data, impressive ROI statistics, unstructured data, and the business impact of data quality. Quote-able quote from Daniel: "Our best customers are companies that may have had DataFlux products for a while but keep doing new stuff with us."

The presenters were buzzworthy in their own right, but the big news was the Project Unity announcement. Unity gives DataFlux end-to-end data management functionality, encompassing the areas of data quality, data integration, and MDM. The initiative means that parent company SAS will be transferring key data-skilled personnel over to DataFlux, in effect circumscribing the parent company as the BI and analytics powerhouse, and DataFlux as the information-enabling "engine."

This has tremendous market implications for both companies, letting each do what it does best, the result a sensible gestalt. Project Unity does nothing less than elucidate the gamut of each company's delivery capabilities. In DataFlux's case, it will propel them forward. I'd bet on it.

Technorati tag: DataFlux IDEAS, SAS, Tony Fisher, Frank Dravis, MDM, data quality, data integration

Posted October 10, 2008 7:28 PM
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In which the new and the old converge in Seattle.

At this week's Microsoft BI Conference, everything old was new again, and vice versa. The conference was a lesson in dichotomy, which might have been the plan all along.

The faces have certainly changed from last year's conference. There's a new crop of executives running the BI show, and the Monday morning keynote sessions emphasized BI as a thread interwoven throughout the Microsoft tapestry of products. Stephen Elop, President of Microsoft's Business Division--which includes BI--put his finger on it when he said, "The Microsoft experience is familiar, which will alleviate the barriers to adoption."

Fresh execs notwithstanding, the conference veered into platform discussions that have been well-trodden by other vendors. With the July acquisition of data warehouse appliance vendor DATAllegro, topics like scalability, shared-nothing, reliability, scalability, and star-join performance, changed data capture, and scalability made the event sound more like a Teradata reunion.

Did I mention scalability? Microsoft announced that it could load a terabyte of data in under thirty minutes (which raises a lot of questions about both the format of the source data and the destination on the platform, but why quibble when larger MPP competitors don't come close?). Unveiling Project Madison, DATAllegro alum Jesse Fountain demoed live queries against a 150-terabyte database, complete with flashing processor indicators, leaving attendees to consider the prospect of a single integrated platform for cross-functional, enterprise data. It's been done. But never by Microsoft, and that may be the only thing that matters to the 2000 people who watched.

The venerable and prolific Donald Farmer introduced Project Gemini, deftly explaining functionality that had people leaning forward in their chairs. Using a standard desktop server, Farmer opened an Excel spreadsheet containing 20 million rows, busting established paradigms wide open. (On Tuesday he and his team showed 101 million rows in the same client on the same machine.) Farmer sorted, filtered, and mashed up data from inside and outside Excel, referenced in-line data cleansing and data mining, and showed embedded social tools for collaboration. This was self-service BI writ large and validated by delighted applause. (Note to unwitting Microsoft BI executives: You're new, so you might not know that Farmer is the de-facto Face of BI for Microsoft. Change that at your peril.)

Given the new scale discussions you certainly can't argue with Microsoft's pricing. SQL Server 2008 provides business performance management, drill-down, trending, and collaboration capabilities, among other functions, for hundreds--not thousands--of dollars per user. Microsoft announcing no price hikes was a subtle swipe at Oracle, which announced price increases at its OpenWorld conference and earlier this summer.

Microsoft's subsequent track sessions were largely developer-focused and demo-heavy. In one session, when asked how many attendees had a data quality tool, three people out of a good two hundred raised their hands. Later, half raised their hands when asked if they were interested in predictive analytics, suggesting that SQL Server 2008 has earned all the attention after all.

Technorati tags: Microsoft BI 2008 conference, Microsoft BI, SQL Server 2008, DATAllegro, Donald Farmer

Posted October 8, 2008 1:31 PM
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