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Claudia Imhoff

Welcome to my blog.

This is another means for me to communicate, educate and participate within the Business Intelligence industry. It is a perfect forum for airing opinions, thoughts, vendor and client updates, problems and questions. To maximize the blog's value, it must be a participative venue. This means I will look forward to hearing from you often, since your input is vital to the blog's success. All I ask is that you treat me, the blog, and everyone who uses it with respect.

So...check it out every week to see what is new and exciting in our ever changing BI world.

About the author >

A thought leader, visionary, and practitioner, Claudia Imhoff, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert on analytics, business intelligence, and the architectures to support these initiatives. Dr. Imhoff has co-authored five books on these subjects and writes articles (totaling more than 150) for technical and business magazines.

She is also the Founder of the Boulder BI Brain Trust, a consortium of independent analysts and consultants (www.BBBT.us). You can follow them on Twitter at #BBBT

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

June 2005 Archives

Yet another high tech "underdog" has decided to take on its Goliath. According to USA Today , Advanced Micro Devices filed an antiturst complaint against its longtime rival, Intel, claiming that Intel used its huge size to coerce customers into choosing Intel's chips over AMD's. This case may finally shed some light on the murky and sometimes less-than-ethical world of chip sales...

This is not new information -- AMD has long complained about the perks that Intel's offers customers to get them to sign up such as big discounts on large orders and the substantial "market development funds" for featuring Intel in ads (you know -- the "Intel Inside logo and earcon).

AMD says these are strong arm tactics giving Intel an unfair advantage. Intel says they are just smart business practices...

In the long run, some analysts think that the lawsuit will not harm Intel and, in fact, may actually give both companies a boost -- all this invaluable publicity for them, don't you know.

Of course, Intel is not taking this lying down. Their President and CEO, Paul Otellini, came back with his own shots, stating the company would not change its business practices and expects any court decision to be resolved in its favor.

"Intel has always respected the laws of the countries in which we operate," Otellini said in a statement. "We compete aggressively and fairly to deliver the best value to consumers. This will not change."

Meanwhile, AMD has not stopped its attacks. The company began running a full-page ad in newspapers today giving the reasons for its antitrust lawsuit and to issue a call to action. The ad, appearing in newspapers from The New York Times to Capitol Hill's Roll Call, expands AMD's legal fight into the realms of public relations and public policy.

Looks like it's going to get a lot nastier before this is all over. No trial date has been set yet.

Yours in BI Success,

CLaudia Imhoff

Posted June 30, 2005 9:23 AM
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There is one task in virtually every BI project that seems to cause the most surprises and to be the biggest schedule buster -- that is estimating how long the ETL or data integration process will take. While the reasons for this are numerous, it seems that a lack of business understanding leads the pack.

My friend, James Schardt, Chief Technologist for Advanced Concepts Center, sent me a suggestion for how he mitigates this serious problem in his DW projects.

From James Schardt:

"Here's the situation: A data model has been developed and the appropriate physical schemas for the DW have been designed. (This may or may not have been done using gathered documented requirements for the DW). The design team has some idea of which source system data records will be used to populate the DW. Now the design team must develop a set of transformations that must properly clean, transform, and/or merge the data into the right location in the DW. The team discovers they simply do not have an understanding of the business to correctly specify many of the more complex transformations. They make assumptions. They get it wrong. The users are not happy with what they get.

When I talk about gathering and documenting requirements for the DW, I mention the "Reverse Engineering" technique. During the Requirements and Analysis phases of DW development, have a couple of developers reverse engineer the important source systems. The result is a conceptual level ER or UML class diagram that forms the basis of bottom-up domain modeling. (This is then combined with top-down domain modeling to form the basis for subsequent data warehouse and ODS design).

While the development team is reverse engineering source systems, they will uncover problems with the data and the structure of the data. When they combine multiple reverse engineered models into an integrated bottom-up domain model, they will uncover many other problems with the operational data sources. But, these problems are discovered during analysis and before starting the design. The DW team has an opportunity to resolve these issues with users before they begin design work. Users have input and more buy-in to what the DW will provide them. We get the users to specify their requirements for clean and integrated data using business rules that make sense to them.

By performing reverse engineering early in the process the developers should be able to perform the ETL development without a lot of surprises."

Please add your comments to James' suggestion or make your own suggestions to this universal BI project schedule killer.

Yours in BI success!


Posted June 24, 2005 1:29 PM
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With the emphasis on IT's critical role in compliance monitoring and reporting, as well as in supporting such initiatives as CRM and Business Performance Monitoring (BPM), perhaps it is finally time to recognize that the CIO must report directly to the CEO - not the CFO as is traditional. The importance of this direct reporting role cannot be stressed enough but, unfortunately, many CIOs have still not made that case in their organizations. A recent article in ComputerWorld lists 8 reasons why a CIO should report to the CEO. Here are some of these reasons.

1. Most companies claim that their IT systems are what differentiate them from their competitors. Since the CEO is the chief strategist (at least, he or she should be), then that person should directly oversee and instruct the individual responsible for aligning the technologies behind that strategy.
2. IT is thought to be an enterprise resource. If anyone, other than the CEO, is in charge of the CIO, then it can be assumed that the technological agenda will be biased or influenced by the goals and objectives of that particular executive. For example, if the CIO reports to the CFO, it’s a sure bet that financial systems will get more attention than, say, marketing or HR ones. It is mandatory that IT develop business applications that are critical to the overall well-being of the enterprise, not those favored by one senior executive.
3. Since most strategic IT implementations like CRM, BI and BPM take long periods of time before their full benefits can be felt, it is necessary that the CIO have an orientation toward the future. He or she must maintain a long-term vision of these future benefits and this can only come from the CEO.
4. Then there are the rising costs of IT. Without direct access to the CEO, the CIO is in a weak position to defend the needed budgetary funding. Without direct input from the CIO, the CEO won’t understand that IT is an investment, not just a cost center to be mitigated.
5. We have long preached that BI and other sweeping initiatives like data quality, compliance, CRM, etc., should be enterprise initiatives. Unless IT is recognized as the strategic driver behind the enterprise, it will be very difficult to get input from all parts of the enterprise in terms of IT’s priorities. If IT reports directly to the CEO, then this becomes very clear to other C-level executives.
6. The IT landscape is littered with failed projects, missed expectations, deadlines, and budgets, and critical shortages in personnel and resources. This is exacerbated by the constant turnover of CIO’s (according to the article, the average CIO tenure is 18 to 36 months). Unless the CIO has the ear of the CEO, he or she will always be a convenient scapegoat when things go badly for IT.

So, given these reasons for the CIO to report directly to the CEO, why are we seeing a rise in CIOs reporting to CFOs? I suppose we could come up with just as many reasons for this trend but it seems to me that the biggest impediment to the CIO becoming one of the CEO’s “inner circle” stems from the CIO’s inability to speak in terms that the business understands. CIOs must stop the technobabble they are so fond of and become business-oriented. Then the CEO will enjoy me

Posted June 21, 2005 7:20 PM
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I received an email the other day from someone working for a large international financial institution. I thought his comments were worth publishing with the hopes that you have some ideas on how a global company can truly get to visionary "single version of the truth" when it comes to global customers. Read on for some enlightening and thought-provoking global issues. And please -- if you have any thoughts on the topics, enter them in the comment area.

As always - yours in BI success!


Dear Mrs. Imhoff,

I have been reading about your Corporate Information Factory (CIF) in many different white papers and articles on the internet. They are all very interesting and well written with lots of valuable information and ideas. First, thank you for this treasure. Second, why don't you also write something about the challenge a global company is up against trying to give the organization the "single view" of their clients? This is always left out, not only in your analysis, but in everyone's research. It seems to me that this is something like a forgotten topic.

Let me try to explain what I mean in more detail: a global company, like [our financial institution], is storing customer information in disparate systems all over the globe. This is a result of numerous mergers and acquisitions and the "silo'd thinking" in many of our business divisions and group.

We have a corporate system which is collecting (or harvesting) the data, matching them to one another to create a global client view (much like the D-U-N-S number) and adding connections between these global clients to supply the bank with the "household view". We have been doing this for credit risk purposes for more than 10 years. The global identifier is assigned once and not changed unless corporate actions is of such a type that we need to. This gives us a very good grasp of our history as well. But unfortunately this is done only for credit risk purposes.

This is all fine for credit risk but already we see a problem: we are not allowed to harvest all client data from all databases in all countries in order to support other business areas like marketing. This means that what we call the Global Client is not really guaranteed to be truly global since we are in danger of missing out on one or more representations of a client in a database from which we receive no data. What do we do then? Basically there is nothing we can do since the legislation in these countries does not allow us to receive, store and work with client data from these countries.

I always argue that companies might be globalized but that the world is not. Meaning that the world must go global first in order for "global organizations" to become truly global.

Would you have any views to share on this "global issue"?

Posted June 20, 2005 12:03 PM
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And it is about time! For years, I and others have been touting the need for business intelligence to move from simple data gathering and reporting to having an active role in business process improvement. Well, we are finally starting to see this progression as a survey of 300 business-technology executives shows.

The survey was performed by InformationWeek Research and reported in an Optimize Magazine article. Certainly some of the old standards are still be chosen as key business objectives for a BI environment -- for example, increased revenues, faster up cycle times, and reports of current sales -- but these actually got the lowest number of respondents. The objectives that got the highest number of votes were monitoring performance metrics, improving business planning, and managing internal performance.

Colin White, my good friend and colleague, has long stated that BI has been way too data-focused and must become more process-centric. He will be pleased to see that this is exactly what is occurring. This will drive the enterprise to achieve what Keith Giles, an analyst at Forrester Research says is a "single version of the business truth". I like that modification to the popular "single version of the truth" saw.

Another interesting question in the survey dealt with the barriers that enterprises still have in adopting BI tools enterprise-wide. I would have guessed that data quality would have been the number one choice. I would have been wrong. It was the number three choice. What were one and two? Training (or a lack of technical expertise among the BI users) was the runaway winner with about 60% of the respondents and technological integration/compatibility coming in second place with a 50% respondent rate. Data quality and no clear ROI were in the low 40's percentage-wise.

Sounds like we need to spend a great deal more time working with the business communities to ensure that they are comfortable with all the fancy new BI tools they just received. We in the IT area tend to ignore this most crucial aspect of any BI implementation -- to our detriment.

Or perhaps we need to focus on building better dashboards or other forms of interfaces to mask the technological wizardry behind the curtains from our business communities...

The very active M & A or consolidation activity we have witnessed recently will be a great help in terms of the technological incompatibility -- or you could use technologies like Microsoft or SAS who grew their own.

Finally one last bit of good news from the survey -- BI spending will increase as companies integrate their BI applications into their business processes. Forty-seven percent of respondents said their budgets would increase and 43% said theirs would same at the current level.

Posted June 16, 2005 3:14 PM
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