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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!

January 2007 Archives

Quick -- what do you think of when you hear the acronym, ETL? Construction of a data warehouse? Implementing a BI environment?

Well, think again. ETL is no longer just the integration tool for decision making environments...

We've had inklings from various ETL companies that there is more to data integration than just constructing data warehouses or data marts. First came the inclusion of data quality processes to clean up the integrated data. Why? To improve the reliability and consistency of the integrated data. It became more suitable for all sorts of new reporting and analytical needs.

Then we read and heard about the various ETL companies partnering or buying or somehow integrating EII (enterprise information integration) technologies into the traditional ETL packages. Why? Well, to create virtual data integration environments, making operational BI and real-time BI feasible.

And now the latest are full blown integration centers of competency or excellence -- for the entire enterprise with data integration as the keystone. These centers are being used not just to create BI applications but have expanded to take on master data management environments and to even handle the integration of operational systems together. Seems the same skill sets and many of the technologies used to create a data warehouse are exactly the skills and technologies needed to support MDM or operational interfaces.

Yes, ETL has grown up and so has data integration. Those of you who grew up in the BI space, start spreading your wings. You will find that you are desperately needed in almost every aspect of your organization. Start promoting the idea of coordinating all the data integration initiatives in your enterprise. You will find a ready and hungry audience. Bring the disciplines that you learned in building your BI environment with you into these new areas. They will be greatly appreciated, I guarantee it!

Yours in BI and all other forms of data integration success.

Claudia

Technorati Tags: data integration, centers of excellence, competency centers, ETL, BI


Posted January 31, 2007 8:18 AM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

Last year was a banner year for software acquisitions with an astounding 1,726 software companies being gobbled up by their bigger brethren. The reasons for the acquisitions seem to fall into two categories -- the acquiring company's desire for growth or new market opportunities. But are these acquisitions good for the software industry?

It seems we are getting down to the "Final Four" -- Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and SAP -- maybe five if you include HP. These companies have been on a shopping spree like you wouldn't believe. Here are some numbers for you:

Oracle has bought 26 companies including the mega-deals for Siebel, PeopleSoft and Retek.

Microsoft gets second prize with 25 acquisitions in the same time including ProClarity and many other little startups that didn't hit the radar.

And then there is IBM with 22 acquired companies including Ascential, FileNet, and Internet Security Systems...

Apparently, software acquisitions dominate all technology sectors by accounting for 40% of the nearly $300 BILLION (yikes!) spent on M & A activities performed last year. There is significant reason to be concerned but also equal reason to celebrate. A recent article in InformationWeek listed the pros and cons of these voracious acquirers:

On the plus side:

1. A small vendors's new owner may invest more in R&D than the smaller company could do
2. The acquirer may give you access to a larger, more knowledgable support team.
3. Certainly acquisition by a deep pockets company can put a struggling software vendor on more solid ground -- financially-speaking -- and allow it to scale its architecture.
4. Large software companies have shifted their focus back to revenue-growth strategies so they are buying companies that either complement their own set or give them access to new areas. Big companies are stretching their winds, metaphorically.

On the negative side:

1. The acquiring company could put a halt to the innovation that you have come to rely on and simply continue to feed off the maintenance fees as long as you are willing to pay them.
2. The acquiring company may take the acquired software in a completely different direction -- one that no longer supports yours.
3. Of course, the 900 pound gorilla is the whole issue of the software's integration with the other bits and pieces of the acquiring company.
4. What about customer support? These are the folks that are often the first to go from the acquired company leaving a customer to feel unloved.

So is it good or bad? And who are the next acquisition targets?

To the good or bad question --

The article notes that it is certainly easier for IT shops to deal with fewer vendors. I admit it is easier to deal with a single vendor than a hundred little vendors. The mandate for many IT shops to run lean and mean has not substantially changed in recent years and working with fewer vendors means spending less time and money managing the relationship. On the other hand, that means the vendor has a lot of leverage regarding license fees, maintenance contract negotiations, etc., over you. If you are Charles Wang (remember him?), you love this model...

It may be good news for small companies who have struggled to get their technologies in the door of major corporations. Many CIOs and IT shops are loathe to stick their necks for new, "unproven" software companies even if their technologies are brilliant. Coming in under the name of a much larger and well-known company just seems to open doors magically. However, IMHO, I must say that I feel this is ultimately detrimental to innovation. CIOs need to take more risks, "show some guts", and stop playing it so safe. (See a related InformationWeek article on this very topic by clicking here. I may talk about their survey in another blog.) CIOs need to look at the needs of the company and determine what is the best solution regardless of software company size. Fortunately the venture capital folks must feel the same way since their investing is on the rise.

Perhaps a bright spot in the innovation landscape is the software-as-a-service (SaaS) area. SAP is certainly betting heavily on innovation coming from its SaaS partners with its NetWeaver and SOA stance. In case you are not familiar with the model, the idea is for SAP to partner with many smaller vendors whose software services are called by MySAP (SAP's new ERP suite). Bill McDermott (CEO of SAP Americas) has a priceless quote regarding this strategy. He states that the acquisition roadmap followed by their arch-competitor, Oracle, is like "a lung-and-heart transplant where ours is plug and play". My,my...

I guess time will tell. Until then, small software companies, look out. If you are leading the pack with your offerings, you better turn around now and then to see whose about to gobble you up!

So who is likely to be a candidate for acquisition in the BI space? My bets are on:

1. Teradata -- with NCR's recent decision to spin off Teradata, a suitor cannot be far behind (Microsoft or SAP, perhaps?) to gobble up Teradata. (By the way, this also makes NCR a target as well).
2. The data warehouse appliance vendors -- Netezza, DATAllegro, GreenPlum, and the newest entrant, InfoBright. Their time has come as well.

So who do you see next on the block? I'll be interested to hear...

Yours in BI success,

Claudia

Technorati Tags: software acquisition, software consolidation, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, software innovation


Posted January 30, 2007 10:58 AM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

I want Steve Jobs job. He gets to introduce cool new techno-toys to adoring fans at MacWorld. The latest wizardry from the iconoclastic Apple? The iPhone...

Yes, indeed. The long awaited iPhone was introduced today. Well sort of -- the actual iPhone won't be available until this summer but still -- it was a great day for technogeeks.

Here are a few of its features:

The phone is one big rectangular touch screen. All of its functions are activated by touch, but here's the cool factor. When you bring your iPhone close to your face to talk to someone, a proximity sensor will turn off the touch screen so you don't accidentally "face dial". I need something like this for my TV remote -- our cat walks all over it, changing everything...

According to the Apple website, the iPhone is a "phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching." The phone runs the Mac OS X naturally and will also be able to download and play both music and movies - duh -- It's an iPod as well. But its main function, according to Jobs, will be as a phone. Despite all the other bells and whistles, Jobs said the "killer app is making calls." The iPhone will operate on the GSM protocol, but won't have third-generation broadband initially. Never fear -- Jobs promises that 3G capability is coming soon.

The real winner today (besides Apple stockholders -- the stock rose $7.10) is Cingular Wireless. Cingular will be Apple's sole U.S. partner -- you got it -- an exclusive multiyear agreement. Ouch... No other carrier will be able to sell the iPhone through 2009. Happy trails to Cingular!

Now the not-so-good news -- the price tag. There will be 2 models -- a $500 version with 4 gigabytes of memory and a $600 one with 8 gigabytes. OK -- guess I'll wait a bit until the price comes down -- say 2010?

Oh yeah -- one other little tidbit. Apple doesn't own the name iPhone -- Cisco Systems does but probably not for long. The Cisco spokesperson said in a statement obtained by CNN, "Given Apple's numerous requests for permission to use Cisco's iPhone trademark over the past several years and our extensive discussions with them recently, it is our belief that with their announcement today Apple intends to agree to the final documents and public statement that were distributed to them last night and addressed a few remaining items. We expect to receive a signed agreement today."

So, what's your take on this news? Are you already lining up at the Cingular store or will you play "wait and see"? I await your comments.

Yours in BI and cell phone success.

Claudia

Technorati Tags: Apple, iPhone, MacWorld


Posted January 9, 2007 3:51 PM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

It's 2007 -- the year that my passport expires. Passports last for 10 years and a lot has happened since I last renewed mine. The most significant change is the addition of an always-on radio frequency identifier (RFID) to ALL passports issued after January 1, 2007. Don't want the government -- or hackers -- to get your personal information from these chips? Read on...

There is a very short article in January's Wired Magazine about the US State Department's decision to include the tags in all passports to make it easier for officials to get all your personal information -- name, address, birth date, and so on -- lots of statistics that would be very useful in the hands of the wrong people. These new passports will have a distinctive logo on the front and the RFID tag embedded in the back cover. So -- don't want your information broadcasting throughout the world? Think twice before you decide to tamper with your passport. Be forewarned that this act is punishable by 25 years in prison (and I bet you get a tag implanted in your body there!).

However, if you are still determined to rid yourself of this tag, here are some suggestions from the magazine:

1. You could "accidently" leave your passport in your pants pocket when you launder them. The washer will disable the tag but unfortunately it will also probably ruin your passport too. They are paper-based still.

2. You could nuke your passport in the microwave. That would certainly disable the tag but, the article points out, the tag might burst into flames. A scorched patch on the back of your passport is a telltale sign that is just about guaranteed to get you a "special" customs search -- with rubber gloves...

3. The best approach they say? Grab a hammer and smash the thing. Yep, hitting the chip with a blunt object should disable it and not leave obvious tampering marks. A nonfunctional RFID tag does not invalidate your passport so it is still usable. However, again I would bet that you would be more likely to be selected for that extra scrutiny by our government folks...

I dunno -- which is worse -- having your personal information stolen and used in nefarious ways or going through the TSA searches every time you travel internationally? Or worse -- risking 25 years at a government-sponsored "vacation resort"?

There's just gotta be a better way... Wish me luck as I renew my passport!

Yours in BI success.

Claudia

Technorati Tags: RFID, RFID passports, security breach


Posted January 8, 2007 8:24 AM
Permalink | 2 Comments |