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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!

December 2005 Archives

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. It has been a great pleasure for me to write this blog throughout the year. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it. Thanks for putting up with my rants and raves. I look forward to seeing your comments on future blogs!

Here's to a peaceful, happy, healthy, and prosperous 2006!

Claudia


Posted December 23, 2005 11:53 AM
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Today, IBM announced it was acquiring Bowstreet - the portal company I mentioned in my November 29th blog. As you recall, I was less than flattering about Bowstreet's assertion that all you needed was a portal to integrate all your data sources together -- data warehouses need not apply...

From reading the press release, I am encouraged that IBM sees the portal technology as another piece of their SOA architectural framework rather than as a replacement for a source of truly integrated data. The company states that "Bowstreet will help further IBM's strategy around service oriented architectures (SOA). SOA, as you may know, is a standards-based framework that enables an enterprise to generate a view of the business in which the business rules or delivery of services are "decoupled" from the applications or systems that provide these services. The key to the architecture is the physical separation of the business services or rules from the transport layer or plumbing that delivers them. The application or business process itself becomes a coordinated set of services as well (e.g., processing a customer order, allocating inventory, managing data quality and so on). If interested in more information, please read an article I wrote on this subject by clicking here.

How you physically implement this architecture is, of course, up to you. You must decide what technologies or plumbing must be in place to deliver either business intelligence or business services. And this is where Bowstreet will play. Will you have bundled services called by multiple applications or separate services called independently by the various applications in your SOA? Your choice...

I can only hope that IBM does a better job of understanding that no matter what technology you throw at a problem, you must understand and treat the underlying disease (in many cases, the unintegrated nature of the various sources of data) rather than ignore it and simply treat the symptoms.

Yours in BI success,

Claudia


Posted December 20, 2005 2:26 PM
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I learned a limerick when I was a kid that went something like this:

My face is no shining star.
It is certainly not up to par.
But, my face, I don't mind it,
For I am behind it,
It's the people in front whom I jar.

It seems that the big personality, glamour CEOs are being shown the door. The sentiment of many Board rooms regarding their top executives has shifted from the golden boy or girl to brass tacks, no-nonsense individuals. Given the number of management changes happening these days and the low-keyed personalities of the new replacements, it appears that the era of the "Celebrity" CEO is over.

Ah -- those were heady days when every morning you would read a headline about Carly Fiorina, Jack Welch, Michael Eisner and other famous CEOs. However, the rise in management turnovers over the past 6 months has been rather dramatic and has significantly shifted away from these high profile CEOs to those with proven operating experience and understated personalities. So says the New York Times and CIO Magazine.

In November, 2,209 management changes took place across corporate boards, C-level executives and VPs. This was an increase from the 2,059 changes in October and a significant increase -- almost double -- from six months ago (1,059 top management changes in May). These changes included hirings, firings, resignations, retirements, promotions and lateral moves. Of the 2,209 changes, 259 were CEOs and 17 were CIOs.

The NY Times in its article states that just 10 % of the CEOs of the S&P 500 companies hold an Ivy League degree. That is less than half as many just 15 years ago. It also seems that large companies are willing to hire a younger insider or an executive from a smaller company who has a proven track record (notably Mark Hurd from NCR replacing Carly Fiorina, Roger Iger replacing Michael Eisner, and Dieter Zetsche replacing Jurgen Schrempp at DaimlerChrysler).

Perhaps it should not be such a surprise. This shift really started with all the corporate scandals of 2002 when the star-studded CEOs couldn't buffalo the green eye-shade accountants of the SEC. Boards are choosing leaders with proven abilities to lead -- what a concept. Experience over a marquee name... It is the rare company these days that has executives who are both practical and charismatic leaders. Microsoft, Dell, and Apple come to mind.

Yours in BI success,

Claudia


Posted December 16, 2005 10:18 AM
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I am home -- with a really bad cold. You don't want to know how bad I feel. So I am surrounded by vitamin C, cough medicine, sore throat lozenges, etc., and my favorite non-technical magazines. This is not the time to read hard core IT journals. It is a time to catch up on what is happening outside of work.

So, in my "light" reading, I came across an article on air travel tips from "Real Simple" - one of my favorite off-hours magazines. Because of the large amount of travel that I do normally and the upcoming holiday travel season that many of us must endure, I offer this information in the hopes that it helps you out. The following tips were the ones that I found most interesting but you should read the entire article for other tips.

Tip #1: You show up 45 minutes before your flight but get bumped from that flight -- it happens all the time - usually when you really need to get to your destination on time. What are your rights and what should the airline do? Airlines constantly overbook flights to avoid having a single empty seat from no-shows or cancellations. According to the article's author, George Hobica, you are entitled to monetary compensation if you are involuntarily bumped. If you reach your destination within one to two hours of your origin time, the compensation is $200 or the face value of the segment from which you were bumped (whichever is less). If you are two to four hours late, the compensation rises to double the one way fare up to $400. The airline may offer you a round-trip ticket instead but he (and I) recommend that you take the cash! To reduce the likelihood of getting bumped, he recommends that you arrive at the check-in desk an hour or MORE before your flight. Apparently the airlines tend to start bumping people who check in last. I don't know about you but I have a hard time getting to the airport even 45 minutes before the flight... His other suggestion is to fly JetBlue. They have a firm policy of not overbooking flights - hurrah! By the way, the Department of Transportation's website has monthly reports on airlines' over sale records

Tip #2: You need to cancel or reschedule a nonrefundable ticket -- that cost you $98. Now the airline is charging you up to $100 to change your ticket plus the difference in the fares. Is this legitimate? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. If you want to get a cheap seat, you risk the penalty fee and up charge if things change. The author recommends that you fly a budget carrier such as Southwest to begin with. They are the only carrier that doesn't penalize you for changing a nonrefundable ticket. JetBlue only charges $20 if the changes are made online, $25 if done by an agent. Most airlines will make you pay the difference in fares though.

Tip #3: You miss your connection -- and it is the last one of the day. I wish I had a dollar for the number of times that has happened to me! Here's what you should expect. If the delay was the airlines fault (mechanical problems, late crew, etc.), you should request (politely) overnight lodging, a meal voucher, and transportation to and from your hotel. It is important to know though that there is NO LAW requiring the airline to do this... If the delay was not caused by the airline (bad weather, for example), you may just be out of luck. Next time, try to get a nonstop flight so you don't have to worry about a connection.

Tip #4: My favorite one -- your airline goes out of business after you buy a ticket. Other airlines flying the EXACT same route are required by federal law to give you a standby seat only for no more than an additional $50 each way. The tip from Real Simple? Pay for the ticket with your credit card. You can contest the charge (in writing) and the credit card company must delete it from your bill. Note though - this only works if you contact your credit card company within 60 days of the purchase. If you buy the ticket way in advance, this may not be an option.

I hope these tips help you through the upcoming travel season. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section.

Yours in health and BI success. Cough, cough, sputter, sputter....

Claudia


Posted December 12, 2005 4:10 PM
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Implementing a data warehouse? Creating a BI environment? Need help gathering requirements, managing the project, getting the executives' attention? These are all services offered by external consultants or contract employees. They can help you move forward much faster than you could by yourself. However, just as in all things, if you are not familiar with how to use them, you may not be getting the maximum from your expensive resources. Here are some practical tips on getting the most from these resources.

Katherine Spencer Lee wrote a useful article in Optimize Magazine in which she gave good advice on getting off to a good start with your consultants or contract employees. There seems to be three main themes around these ideas: advanced planning, careful management and excellent communication. Being a consultant for the better part of 2 decades myself, I have added a few of my own thoughts as well. I hope you find these informative:

1. Plan ahead - When you develop your project plan and deliverables, make sure to document what the specific duties of the consultant or contract employee will be. I can't stress this enough. A consultant needs guidance just as much as your employees do about what is needed from him or her.

2. Get staff buy-in - Remember that your staff may resent or even depth charge the consultant. Yes, I have had this happen to me and, believe me, it is not a position I ever want to be in again. Talk it over with your team. WHy are you bringing in the consultant? Are you encouraging your team to collaborate with the resource?

3. Be selective - Many consulting companies present their "best resumes" to get the work. Unfortunately, some companies do what we in the biz fondly call a "Bait and switch" - that is, you get hooked on a nice resume but don't get that person on the team. You get a green person who they hope will learn on your nickel. Ye, I have seen it happen too often. Make sure you get the resume and talk to the actual person who will be assigned the job. NOTE: if you delay or postpone the start date, you may not get the original resource. All consulting companies are opportunistic. If a job for that resource comes up while you are dilly dallying, you may lose him or her. Start the process again when you are ready.

4. Check references - Check with previous clients -- hopefully of the actual resource you are getting. You know what to ask -- Deadlines met? Got along with other team members? Good skill set? Would the reference use the resource again?

5. Get it in writing - You must have a written contract in place BEFORE the resource steps foot into your project. While we have occasionally started a consultant before getting all the paper work in place, it was usually only with a client that we had prior history with. It is to everyone's benefit to get the contract in place before the consultant starts. The contract must have the dates of the engagement, the deliverables expected, the fees, and the right to hire language (if you want that option).

6. Get off to a good start - Introduce the consultant to the project stakeholders - You should also include an organization chart to help the consultant understand who all the players are. The politics of a project can be devastating to your overall success so give the consultant a good heads up about any pot holes or land mines he or she may encounter.

7. Keep everyone in the loop and get feedback - Communicate - communicate -- communicate. The consultant must be aware of all staff meetings and changes in schedule, requirements, or deliverables. It i also important for you to be open to feedback from the consultant. You hired them for their expertise, now listen to it!

8. Ensure the transfer of knowledge - Probably the most important thing to remember about a consultant or contract employee is that he or she will be leaving the project at some point. You must ensure that the person continuously shares knowledge and information with the appropriate team members. They must document -- usually in writing -- why they did what they did and how they did it. A private and candid exit interview about how to improve the project may not be a bad idea either. You may learn things that were not easily picked up.

Maximizing your return on the use of a consultant or contract employee is more a matter of mutual respect and responsibility. In the end, if you have a good consultant, you may wish to convert them to a role of "trusted advisor" for future projects.

Please add your own thoughts on how to get the best return on using consultants. I look forward to reading them.

Yours in BI SUccess.

Claudia


Posted December 9, 2005 4:37 PM
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