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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 In My Humble Opinion... Category

OK -- I have had a whole weekend to simmer down about John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, and his behavior. But it just kept getting worse and this morning, I have just had enough.

Granted we have had many blows to the integrity of the financial services industry to date but the newly disclosed actions of John Thain go way beyond simple greed, corruption and questionable judgment.

Let's start with this: Thain should have known better. After all, he replaced a CEO who embodied the corruption and excesses of the time - Richard Grasso. Grasso, you may remember, got the boot because he approved his stunning pay package - a whopping $187.5 million a year.

But Thain did him one better. In December, before Bank of America could complete its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, Thain hurriedly pushed through gigantic bonuses (somewhere around $4 BILLION!) for himself and his executive cronies. The bonuses are usually paid in January but he forced them to be paid in December. Why before the BofA acquisition? One can only speculate that BofA probably would not have approved of them, given their shock at the fact that the brokerage had lost $15 BILLION in the fourth quarter and more that $27 Billion for the year.

Perhaps it was Thain's end-of-year vacation in Vail that got people up in arms even as his soon-to-be boss at BofA, Ken Lewis, recommended against it.

But no, the icing on the cake? Thain's decision to spend $1.2 MILLION decorating his Manhattan office -- this as Merrill Lynch was hemorrhaging money and layoffs were pending. How nice that he has volunteered to pay for these extravagances, stating, "They were a mistake in the light of the world we live in today. I will therefore reimburse the company for all of the costs incurred."  Ya think???

The era of entitlement at financial companies must change if we are to see any real change for the better. If not, I fear we will read more stories similar to this one. And to Mr. Thain, all I can say is:

 May you rot in an exceptionally hot place.

 Yours in better times in 2009.



Technorati Tags: John Thain, Merrill Lynch, corruption, Add to Technorati Favorites

Posted January 26, 2009 11:00 AM
Permalink | 5 Comments |

Ron Powell (publisher of the B-EYE-Network) sent me an email about a recent survey of 450 Directors of publicly traded companies (with revenues of over $1 billion) conducted by Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Apparently most corporate board members are really good at talking up a good story about how they support aligning IT with the corporate strategies they develop. Unfortunately their actions say otherwise...

Here are some of the key findings from the survey:

1. Ten percent of boards relegate IT matters to a board committee. Geesh -- you mean they don't even talk about these matters in the actual Board meetings? Guess not -- see the next bullet...

2. Only 11 percent of boards even discuss IT at every meeting. Something as critical at IT infrastructure, direction, funding, etc., gets ignored almost 90% of the time?

3. Fourteen percent of the directors say that their boards are "completely and actively involved" in IT strategy. Let's hear it for these intelligent Boards and their repective companies. I wish I knew who they were.

4. At least those that report effectiveness in executing IT strategy admit that it correlates to better financial performance. Perhaps the other 86% of the respondents should sit up and listen.

5. According the the survey, 52% of the respondents say their board will NOT be spending any more time on IT over the next three years than it currently does.

6. Interestingly enough, the results indicated that when the CEO leads the discussion, boards are more involved in IT. The CEO gets it -- even if the rest of the directors don't...

This in the face of overwhelming evidence that there is a significant correlation between the attention paid to IT and corporate performance. Shame, shame!

Kenneth Porrello, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, states "...a gap exists between the emphasis the board appears to place on IT and the steps they are taking to address it. Many directors and senior executives blame this gap on the number of things that have been hitting the board's agenda and a resulting lack of time". Yeah, right -- like excessive executive pay, for example? Maybe investigations into compliance issues?

Mr. Porrello continues "...this excuse is becoming less credible given the growing importance of IT". Yes, indeed, it is important. According to T.K. Kerstetter, President and CEO of Corporate Board Member, "...technology and IT are key business strategies and typically are accompanied by capital budgets reaching as high as a billion dollars in larger companies. The days of not understanding IT in the boardroom are gone, and I expect we will see more CIOs and CTOs invited to serve as board members in the years ahead".

I can only hope his prediction comes true.

Yours in BI (and Board attention) success.


Posted April 8, 2007 2:19 PM
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Ah -- it's early February. The weather is awful, the winter doldrums are in full swing, but there is one bright spot -- the Super Bowl ads. If you are like me, you don't tune in for the game. You are there to see the $2.6 million 30 second ads...

OK -- I admit it -- I am not a great fan of either the Bears or the Colts. And the game was a slog fest in pouring rain. The fans must have wished they were home watching it in a warm, dry room with a 52 inch TV... So what was the high point? The ads, of course. For what they paid for these ads, you had better hope the companies got attention. Here are my favs and raves...

The runaway best ad was run before the first 2 minutes of the game were even played. Many people missed it because it was so early in the game. It was the ad for Blockbuster. If you missed the rabbit and gerbil (hamster?), you missed a truly funny ad. I still laugh every time I view it. Congrats to whatever ad agency came up with that one.

My sentimental favorites? The GM Robot and the Budweiser Dalmatian. Awwwww -- just too cute... The Sprint Broadband and Coke Assembly line were right up there too.

My least favorites? GoDaddy.com gets my vote for worst ad. Runner ups for worst ads are the Sierra Mist and Emerald Nuts ads. Just not funny...

Most controversial or maybe just strangest? Gotta be the Snickers ad (OK, guys, what was your opinion?)

Most disappointing -- most of the Coke ads. They are usually so clever, funny, heart-warming or something. This year, the majority were just hohum...

You can see all the ads by clicking here.

Wanna see the winners and losers from years gone by? CIO Magazine has an article rating the 10 best and worst over the years. Makes for fond memories... Remember Mean Joe Green?

OK -- now it is your turn. Which ones did you love or hate? Cast your vote in the comments area. Can't wait to see what you think.

Yours in BI success.


Technorati Tags: Super Bowl, Super Bowl Ads, Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

Posted February 6, 2007 9:42 AM
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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.


Technorati Tags: RFID, RFID passports, security breach

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

Ah – the much maligned and misunderstood Operational Data Store (ODS)… I am at the Data Warehousing Institute conference in San Diego this week and I heard an astounding thing – a declaration that the ODS was dead. Gee, I must have missed the obit…

Why was the ODS declared dead? Because many people mistakenly believe that the ODS is a staging area for the data warehouse. Whether or not you need a staging area for the raw data coming into a data warehouse is another discussion altogether but let’s stick with the ODS for this blog.

OK – the basics. What is an ODS? In the mid-1990’s, the ODS was introduced by Bill Inmon and myself in our book, “Building the Operational Data Store”. In it, we defined the ODS as a “subject-oriented, integrated, current, volatile collection of data used to support the tactical decision-making process for the enterprise.”

Let’s go through it slowly to make sure everyone gets the definition:

1. Subject-oriented – The ODS is built similarly to the data warehouse in that its data content is focused about different data subjects. Examples of data subjects are customer, product, and order data.

2. Integrated – the data from each subject area is fully integrated – again much like the data in the data warehouse. It is cleaned up as much as is technologically and humanly possible during the ETL process before it is populated into the store.

3. Current – the data in the ODS is as current as we can technologically make it – a significant difference from a traditional data warehouse. Current as in as close to “real time” as we can get. The data probably won’t be synchronous with the operational system source because of the latencies inherent with integration but it will be close.

4. Volatile – major differentiator from a data warehouse. The new or changed data flowing into the ODS updates the appropriate records or fields exactly like you would update a record in an OLTP operational system. For example, when a new customer address is brought in, the old customer address is overwritten. An audit trail is created to trace the change but the old data is gone. If you want the history of the customer’s moves, you will have to either go to the audit trail or the data warehouse where history is preserved in snapshots.

It is this last aspect of the ODS that differentiates it significantly from a data warehouse and puts it in the camp of operational systems. Because of this feature, referential integrity must be fully implemented. Cascading updates and deletes, complete edit checks, and so on are needed just as they are in operational systems.

I just don’t get it. Does this sound like a holding area for extracts from operational systems? Don’t think so… In fact, it sounds an awful lot like the newly invented customer hub (CDI fame) if that hub contains only current customer data. However, the ODS was originally developed to integrate both current master data and current transactional data – the latter inclusion making it broader in purpose than the CDI hub. In any case, it was NEVER defined as a staging area for the data warehouse. I suggest that those calling their staging areas an ODS start calling those components by their rightful name. That would certainly help clear up the confusion.

The ODS’ purpose ranges from producing operational reports to propagating operational data for downstream operational systems to supporting the migration of legacy systems. And, of course, like any other operational database – it can be a source of data for the data warehouse. Perhaps it was ahead of its time when we first introduced it but to malign such a useful component in your arsenal of integration capabilities is just a shame.

Hopefully this short tutorial on what an ODS is has helped dispel the incorrect notions floating around. I feel like Mark Twain who said “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated…” The ODS is not dead – it is alive and kicking more than ever helping companies integrate their operational data for operational BI and master data management.

If you are interested in a white paper I wrote on the ODS (lots more detail about what it is, how to build one, its uses, and how to get going), just send an email at CImhoff@IntelSols.com. I'll be happy to send it to you.

Long live the ODS!

Yours in BI (and ODS) success,


Posted August 23, 2006 10:40 PM
Permalink | 4 Comments |
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