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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!

Recently in Business Intelligence Category

Steve Mills, IBM Senior VP, has issued an internal memo announcing a significant split of the software group into a solutions and a middleware division. The shake up includes some very senior executives as well.

I just read an exclusive article in Information Week on this shake up. Here are the details:

1. Big change -- Ambuj Goyal is out. He has been shifted laterally to IBM's Systems and Technology Group (ouch) and will report to Rod Atkins, STG's Senior VP.

2. The Solutions group will be headed by Mike Rhodin -- former Lotus executive. Reporting to him will be Rob Ashe, GM of business analytics (former CEO of Cognos) which will include Cognos and SPSS, Alistair Rennie, GM of Lotus, and an unnamed GM for industry solutions (frameworks and enterprise content management)

3. The Middleware group will be headed by Robert LeBlanc (formerly led IBM's software sales and marketing team). His reports are Craig Hayman, GM of application and integration middleware, Arvind Krishna, GM of information management, Danny Sabbah, GM of Rational, and Al Zollar, GM of Tivoli.

These moves will enhance IBM's Smarter Planet iniitiative started last year, according to Mills, by helping the company find high-value and high-growth opportunities.

Wow -- it will take time to digest this major overhaul but I find it interesting that IBM has split the information management from business analytics so completely. Probably a logical split given that information management is so much more than just BI or analytics.

I look forward to your thoughts on this huge change to IBM's organizational structure.

As always, yours in BI


Posted January 13, 2010 11:51 AM
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I just watched a cute video by Nic Smith on the history of Business Intelligence. Granted it was a shill for Microsoft but still it was cute and mostly accurate. However, there was one erroneous attribute that I think most people may not know. The term, "Business Intelligence" was not coined by Howard Dresner as stated in the video -- he did a fine job of making it popular but he did not invent the term. Read on to find out where it was first used...

I love history. In fact, I was a semester away from having a history degree in college (German history was my favorite). Because of this interest, I have always been curious about the origins of things. So since I have been immersed in Business Intelligence (BI) for the past 20+ years, I wondered about the term, BI -- where did it come from, who first used the term, did it have a similar meaning to our current definition? Fortunately for me, I ran into a good friend of mine, Alan Meyer, InfoSphere Marketing for IBM's System z (that's the mainframe for those of you not up on IBM's nomenclature) who sent me an article that is the earliest documented usage of BI in its modern sense that I can find.

So where was BI first used (drum roll please...)?

A paper written by H.P.Luhn in IBM Journal, titled "A Business Intelligence System:. The date was October 1958! Yes -- 61 years ago. Dan Vesset of IDC wrote about it in his article on the 50th birthday of DB2. (You don't look a day over 39...)...

So was Luhn's definition on target? You bet it was. Here are just a few excerpts from the short paper and remember -- these were written over 60 years ago:

Abstract: "An automatic system is being developed to disseminate information to the various sections of any industrial, scientific, or government organization. This intelligence system will utilize data-processing machines for auto-extracting and auto-encoding of documents and for creating interest profiles for each of the 'action points' in an organization."

In the body of the paper: "Information is now being generated and utilized at an ever-increasing rate because of the accelerated pace and scope of human activities and the steady rise in the average level of education. At the same time, the growth of organizations and increased specialization and divisionalization have created new barriers to the flow of information. There is also a growing need for more prompt decisions at levels of responsibility far below those customary in the past. Undoubtedly the most formidable communications problem is the sheer bulk of information that has to be dealt with. In view of the present growth trends, automation appears to offer the most efficient methods for retrieval and dissemination of this information."

"The objective of the system is to supply suitable information to support specific activities carried out by individuals, groups, departments, divisions, or even larger units... To that end, the system concerns itself with the admission of acquisition of new information, its dissemination, storage, retrieval, and transmittal to the action points it servers."

Granted, at this time, the new sources of information were things like paper documents, microfilm, and microfiche but Luhn's ideas are spot on with today's definition of BI. As much as we credit Bill Inmon, Ralph Kimball and, yes, Howard Dresner with coming up with these ideas (and they certainly deserve a lot of credit), I have to say that H.P. Luhn was the originator of many of the ideas behind the data warehouse and the ultimate goal of Business Intelligence. Hats off to this true visionary! Wonder what ever happened to him...


Yours in BI success for another 60 years.



Technorati Tags: Business Intelligence, BI, data warehouse, Add to Technorati Favorites

Posted March 30, 2009 1:51 PM
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For my entire career in BI and data warehousing (going on more than 20 years now), I have heard the expression -- BI should be "easy to use". I suggest that it is time for BI's tag line to change to "easy to consume". Here's why.

At this point in BI's history, it is clear that the technology behind reporting and analytics must be easy to use. Otherwise, who would/could use it? Vendors have spent tremendous time, effort, resources, and money on making their technology the best and easiest at accessing, engineering, controlling, and formating data. We are now able to manipulate tremendous amounts of data -- terabytes and pedabytes -- with "ease".

Unfortunately, what our industry has not focused on particularly well is how the human can comprehend the firehose of data the technology now aims at them.

That is where the "easy to consume" idea comes from. Yes, I have read many articles, blogs, white papers, even twitters, on data visualization and display and we have made some good progress along these fronts. Yet, still today, whenever I get briefed by vendors, they still lead with the worn out slogan that they are easy to use. And the ability to display the data in a more "ergonomic" fashion is useful but not sufficient.

Consuming data is more than just putting it into pretty pictures or colorful splotches. It is more than just an isolated vewing of data points or reports or the manipulation of said reports or pictures. Consuming data requires a fundamental shift for BI implementers toward an understanding of the business processes that occur leading up to and continuing after the "consumption". That is, we must understand how the BI information integrates into the overall business workflow.

This requires that the BI consumption add to the business person's complete and full comprehension of a situation, event, or activity. It must be embedded seamlessly (another worn out slogan -- sorry) into the workflow so business users can perform the next activity with confidence and -- yes -- ease.

Until we change the BI slogan from "easy to use" to "easy to consume", I fear that BI will continue to be relegated to back office analysts or be limited to showing the pretty pictures to non-technical users. Technologists, let's focus on when, where, and how people use information instead of just how easily they can select data, format a report, create a graph, and so on... 

As always -- Yours in BI success! 



Technorati Tags: Business Intelligence, BI, data consumption, Add to Technorati Favorites

Posted February 19, 2009 9:30 AM
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We decorated our Christmas tree last weekend -- and I realized that the decorations were snapshots of our family history -- basically our personal data warehouse. Certainly our tree will never make it into Good Housekeeping or win a prize for best decorations -- you could say it was "eclectic" to be kind -- but it is filled with many, many lovely memories...

I have many friends who have lovely, perfectly decorated trees at this time of the year. Our tree is probably the embarrassment of our neighborhood but to us, it is a microcosm of many Christmases past. Let me explain:

1. First there is the tree skirt -- Wen we were first married almost 22 years ago, we had very little money but more time. To hide the rather ugly tree stand, I sewed a red felt tree skirt -- complete with little bows and other decorations on it. In the intervening years, we continue to use the skirt even though our finances have improved and my free time is now non-existent. The skirt may be worn and rather sad-looking now but somehow it still makes it to cover up the tree stand. It makes us laugh every time we see it...

2. Then there are the lights -- every year we hold our breath to see if they will actually light up when we plug them in. They are about as old as the skirt and we have a few that are dark. One year, I will buy new bulbs and replace the burned out ones -- just not this year.

3. Finally there are the ornaments -- ah, these are the best part. Some are actually quite lovely and were handed down from our parents to us. They are quite fragile and we have lost a few over the years which is a shame. But then there are those that are not -- um -- so pretty. In fact, they are pretty hideous and probably why we would never win the neighborhood tree decorating prize -- if we dared to enter that is. However, they are the ones I truly treasure the most. Let's start with the ones given to us for our first Christmases as a married couple. Our relatives gave us ornaments with sayings on them like "Our first Christmas together", "Holy Moly -- our Second Christmas together", etc. Maybe they were betting that we wouldn't make it that long. Showed them!

Then along came Jess, our daughter, and a whole new set of precious ornaments. We have the usual ones that say "Baby's First, Second and Third Christmas". People stopped after three -- I guess they had made their point by that time or maybe Hallmark didn't make ones after three...

There is the snow man Jess made in kindergarten. It is made from a white tube sock, has a basket on its head instead of a top hat (no clue why...), buttons for eyes, yarn for a mouth, and these scrawny branches for arms. His cotton stuffing which made him quite jolly when new has become rather compacted so he now is somewhat skinny. Nonetheless, he gets a position of honor on the tree (much to my daughter's chagrin) and is packed in his own box to make sure he makes it to the next Christmas.

There are the paper ornaments we made one Christmas when I somehow misplaced the boxes of regular ornaments. I thought the construction paper ornaments and chains were a good substitute -- I had no idea they would live on after that Christmas. What was I thinking? Now they are somewhat faded and the glitter has worn off and yet, there they are on the tree again this year. I must admit that I do occasionally throw one of them away when no one is looking...

There are the strange ones that we made over the years from styrofoam balls, sequins, and feathers. It was our attempt at creating something "pretty" for the tree. They now resemble something that came down with bird flu and managed to survive. These are truly the ugliest things on the tree...

We have beads from God-knows-where hanging on the tree. I have no memory of where they came from and, somehow, can't bring myself to toss them... The gold is worn off and there are beads missing and cracked -- just lovely. And we have some given to us by dear friends -- like ornaments with hand-tied fishing flies in them (Scott, we almost have enough to decorate the tree with just them alone -- many thanks to you and Megan for these), hand-made sleds, Santas, cross-stitched reindeer, and crocheted snowflakes.

Then there are those I collected from my travels all over the world. Wooden snow flakes from Germany; straw figures from Scandinavia, filagreed baskets from London, truly heinous chili peppers from Texas (what WAS I thinking?), blown glass humming birds from Colorado, and so on.

I know -- you are wondering why I don't throw these things out and buy new, shiny, pretty ornaments. I guess the answer is that these represent our family's years of holidays. They are our data warehouse of memories, laughter, some tears, and a lot of love. How could we throw out such history? I guess we will just have to keep the curtains closed so we don't make our neighbors ill -- again. My apologies, neighbors.

So, at this time of best wishes, I guess mine are that you all have a holiday data warehouse filled with wonderful memories and love. And may 2009 be kinder to us than 2008 was!

See ya next year!


Posted December 23, 2008 2:54 PM
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Yep -- it's true. I took the summer off from blogging but now I'm baaaack! And what a time to come back. Dow down 777 points today. Banks and other financial institutions going under right and left. And the one area where there is huge growth turns out to be in the online fraud business. And sadly, these online fraud perpetrators are turning to software as a service (SaaS) to commit their fraud. What is the world coming to?

Read on to see how SaaS is being used to commit acts of fraud.

Internet fraud has finally reached the big time -- that is, it is now such a large business and is so embedded in legitimate online activities, it is getting harder and harder to tell the good guys from the bad ones. Or so says Uri Rivner, RSA Security head of new technologies in a September 25 briefing. There are two trends in fraudulent activities. Here's how the one that uses SaaS works:

Fraudsters are now using a hosted fraud model (perhaps we need a new acronym -- FaaS = fraud as a Service...). He or she can simply order phishing or other criminal business services online and pay a paultry $299 a month to participate "as an investor in order to share in the profits". Rivner says that the $299 a month fee "puts you in the food chain of [identity] harvesters, phony ATM card makers, delivery specialists - a whole infrastructure of criminals". It opens up a whole new career path for criminals. As if we didn't have enough to worry about... The bottom line lesson -- don't trust any of these anonymous people online.

Gee, I hate to see the SaaS model get a black eye from such criminal activities. I suppose it was inevitable that someone would figure out how to use this new technological offering for nefarious purposes.

In case you are interested, the second trend is a variation on an old trick:

It involves new super-Trojans that hijack legitimate bank web sites and fool people into entering personal information into the phony web site. You get the Trojan through the normal means -- download a questionable file and open it. Then when you go to your bank's web site to make a transaction, the Trojan is alerted and waits... for you to log in. As soon as you do, it brings up a false site that looks alarmingly just like your real bank's web site -- except for one difference (spoiler alert to fraudsters). It has two more lines of information it asks for: an ATM account number and your PIN. Once you enter it, you can bet your account will be drained within minutes... Sigh.

Sorry to start off my new season of blogging with such a negative one. But I guess it is better to be forewarned -- and forearmed -- in this season of financial upheaval. It is my fervent hope that you weather the economic storm safely and that we all learn from the disasters occurring on Wall Street. I promise to have happier blogs in the future.

As always, I welcome your comments on this and any other topics. Send me your thoughts on blog material as well. I am always looking for new ideas!

Yours in BI Success,


Technorati Tags: fraud, software as a service, SaaS, Business Intelligence,

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Posted September 29, 2008 2:56 PM
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