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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!


August 2005 Archives

I recently read two very opposing articles regarding IT hiring. One was an InformationWeek article on a report from Robert Half Technology that was incredibly optimistic about the hiring plans of CIOs. This article claims these plans were at the highest levels in three years. The other article appearing on the exact same date in the exact same magazine (InformationWeek) claimed that Gartner Inc. research predicts all is doom and gloom and that the demand for IT workers is in fact shrinking. Seems to me that InformationWeek is getting really mixed signals... In any case, you decide which report you believe -- then let me know, OK?

Let’s start with the good news. According to the Robert Half report, 14 of the CIOs polled expect to add IT staff in third quarter of this year and only 3% expect cutbacks. That’s a net gain of 11% and is the most optimistic hiring expectation from CIOs since third quarter 2002.

It appears the hiring binge is regional. If you live in New England, life is really looking up. Twenty-four percent of the CIOs from New England plan to increase their hiring. The report reports this is possibly due to the recent expansions in the biotech industry in that part of the US. The south central states come in second with 20% of CIOs planning to add staff. Good for you, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

So, you ask, what sorts of IT job skills are in the most demand? Glad you asked. The report states that a whopping 77% of respondents say the highest demand skill is for Microsoft Windows administration (Windows NT, 2000 and XP). Over half said that SQL Server management skills are also in great demand. Almost half said they need wireless network management skills. I could sure use some of that skill at our office!

OK – now for the negative report. Gartner reports in a sister Information Week article that offshore outsourcing is sending thousands of once-desirable IT jobs overseas. They believe (with some percentage of probability, no doubt) that 15% of tech workers will drop out of IT by 2010 – just 5 years from now – mostly because they either can’t get jobs or can get more money or job satisfaction elsewhere. They also predict that worldwide demand for technology developers (apparently even in those countries receiving the outsourcing jobs) will shrink by another stunning 30%.

Gartner further affirms that most people associated with corporate IT departments will move into more line-of-business or “business facing” roles, focusing more on corporate strategy than on technologies and algorithms. Perhaps not a bad move for BI as long as there is still the infrastructure (read that as a data warehouse) in place to stop chaos from occurring.

According to Diane Morello, Gartner’s VP of research, “Employers are starting to want versatilists – people with deep experience with enterprise-wide applications and can parlay it into some larger cross-company projects out there”. So those of you working in enterprise BI environments, guess what? You will be worth gold to your employer!

Given that outsourcing is here to stay, the article goes on to say that Stanford career specialists are suggesting to their IT students that they develop foreign language skills in addition to the technical ones. These will be needed to land jobs as cross-cultural project managers – a position that may become highly desirable and rare in the very near future.

Hmm, sure seems like two very opposite views of the same market...

As always, I look forward to your comments…

Yours in BI success.


Posted August 11, 2005 9:32 PM
Permalink | 4 Comments |

A recent InfoWorld Research Report on Business Intelligence gave very high marks to the use and adoption of BI among its readers. The results found that nearly two-thirds of respondents rated BI as high-to-critical priority for the next few years. This certainly bodes very well for BI in corporations worldwide but there were a few dark clouds looming too. Here are some of the results from the survey.

According to the report, spending on business intelligence software is now more than $8 billion and growing by more than $200 million per year. Given that, it becomes really important to understand what BI features are important to customers and prospects, what business requirements are satisfied with BI implementations, and what hurdles still remain to implementations. Here are some highlights from the report:

Almost half of the respondents already have implemented BI solutions and another quarter are actively evaluating the solutions available today. Vendors, this is good news for you because most seem to be evaluating BI packages.

What features are important? The most important was the ability to drill down into more detailed information with 78% of the respondents rating it as highly important. Sorting and filtering was next in line. Next came a consistent user interface. This has become increasingly important over the years as more and more novice or non-technical business people join the ranks of BI users.

Another feature that was highly sought after was the ability to visualize data. Again with new or novice users, the ability to access and understand massive amounts of data means that visualization becomes a critical component. This goes way beyond the old “ease of use” requirement, doesn't it?

When asked what drove the respondents to build a BI environment, the number one reason was to achieve better quality data. IMHO, compliance is starting to have a significant impact on our BI implementations. This response should certainly make the data quality vendors like FirstLogic, Ascential (now IBM), DataFlux, DataLever, etc., happy!

Other reasons cited for their BI implementations were the need to integrate BI software into their existing infrastructure (perhaps to better do BPM or OPM?), and a third said their BI environment was created for security and user rights management – an interesting utilization for BI…

So – what is holding back the growth of BI in corporations? No surprise here – MONEY. Almost half of the respondents said budget constraints are limiting their ability to roll out BI. CEOs and CFOs – listen up! Loosen up the purse strings and get these critical projects their funding. Obviously you think you need BI so put your money where your requirements are!

Another constraint was the time it takes to implement a BI project. Even though most projects take less than a year to reach production-ready states, it appears that this timeframe is still not fast enough. I hope the demand for BI does not cause project managers to cut corners by cutting out those parts of the architecture needed for sustainability and maintainability – like going straight to the mart and bypassing the warehouse. This shortsightedness will only cripple your BI effort in the long run.

The last constraint mentioned was the user interface – again. More than a third of the respondents said the UI in their current BI solution is not appropriate for all potential users. More than half of the respondents wanted a UI that more resembled a simple search browser. I think this gets back to the changing demographic of BI users to the less technically-oriented ones. It appears that those BI vendors such as SAS and Microsoft who offer a full suite of BI offerings (running the gamut from simple querying and reporting to multi-dimensional analysis to advanced predictive and mining capabilities), all the while maintaining a consistent and simple user interface, may be the winners in the long run.

While these constraints may slow down BI adoption, the good news is that almost half of the InfoWorld respondents stated that their companies will spend MORE on BI next year, and a whopping 70% expect their business user base to increase. What this says to me is that despite a shaky economy, some less than successful implementations here and there, BI on the whole is meeting and actually satisfying a significant business need. Congratulations to all you BI Project Managers. Keep up the good work!

Yours in BI success!


Posted August 9, 2005 10:01 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |

There is nothing like floating down a magnificent river in scenic southern Oregon to stimulate good discussions about Business Intelligence...

That's right. I said floating down a river. For the fourth year, Scott Humphrey , the founder and sponsor of the Pacific Northwest BI Summit, treated a number of innovative BI vendors and four leading BI experts to a highly stimulating and memorable weekend. Continue on to read what we talked about.

Scott designed the Pacific Northwest Business Intelligence Summit to "combine a stimulating exchange of ideas about key issues in the data warehousing, business intelligence and CRM sectors with equally stimulating opportunities for networking with true industry influencers. The setting is relaxed, the sessions are intimate, the
activities exhilarating, the scenery literally breathtaking."

The vendors were FirstLogic, Microsoft, Purisma, Celequest, DATAllegro, Informatica, and Teradata. The media was well represented by Ron Powell, B-EYE-Network, and David Stodder, Intelligent Enterprise, who also served as our moderator. The industry leaders were Colin White, BI Research, Jill Dyche, Baseline Consulting, William McKnight, CSI Consulting, and yours truly, Intelligent Solutions.

Indeed, it lives up to every bit of its billing. Here's what we discussed:

First up was Colin White. His topic dealt with data integration which included the techniques and technologies (e.g., EAI, EII, and ETL) available today. He discussed the preliminary research for his upcoming white paper. The three top issues so far are data quality, inadequate funding, and poor data integration infrastructure. The good news is that funding for data integration is increasing and more and more companies are forming centers of competency to handle this thorny issue.

I was next and my topic was data stewardship. There has been much written about this topic but companies today are still struggling with how to get the function funded, staffed and authorized to make the changes necessary to ensure the quality and consistency of this important corporate asset. It was agreed that data stewardship will not be successful without proper (and vocal) executive support, the authority to change the way the business does business, and not only responsibility for the data but also for those business processes that handle the data.

We then took a break for the rest of the first day to try our hands at kayaking down the Rogue RIver. What a spectacular natural beauty! And I am proud to say that we all made it down in one piece and I only fell out once...

The next day, William McKnight started us off with a lively discourse on Master Data Management (MDM). We talked about leading vendors in this space, how it was perhaps an outgrowth of the older reference data management, hopefully with more success this time around. MDM more often than not starts within a BI project but must move into a more enterprise-wide status. MDM is useful for just about any application or system within the enterprise.

Jill Dyche finished up the morning with another timely topic - Customer Data Integration (CDI). She described how there are two ways approaches to a CDI project: top down -- starting with an enterprise-wide effort and bottom up -- from application orientation. We discussed the idea that perhaps CDI was a subset of overall MDM initiative.

We finished the morning with a discussion of unstructured data and the state of meta data. For unstructured data, we covered its architecture, technological support available today, and how it can be combined with the structured data found in the data warehouse. For meta data, we discussed the current state of technological support for it Unfortunately, there is still not an enterprise-wide mechanism to handle all forms and sources of meta data. Parts of meta data are supported in ETL products and some data quality products.

OK -- that was enough work for the morning. We then spent the afternoon watching a charming and very funny play in Ashland, OR. The evenings were spent eating fabulous food prepared by the Weasku Inn's staff and continuing our discussions from the morning. By the way, Weasku is not a foreign word -- just spread out the name out to We-ask-u Inn. Cute, huh?

Now that is what I call a conference! Thanks, Scott, for putting together such an interesting group of people in a stunning location and topping it off with exciting and fun activities. My hat is off to you!

Yours in BI success,


Posted August 3, 2005 7:03 PM
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