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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in William's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

October 2005 Archives

As a couple of comments have indicated (link1, link2), the data mining capabilities of SQL Server 2005 are much improved. SQL Server 2000 had decision tree and clustering algorithms.

SQL Server 2005 adds these 5:
Time Series
Sequence Clustering
Naive Bayes
Association Rules
Neural Nets

Through the efforts of Microsoft in SQL Server 2005 as well as others before them like Polyvista, data mining is well on the way to being out of the back room with the scientists and into the hands of the analyst end-user.

Data mining is often the true analytical end result desired, yet many fear the complexities involved and do patchwork mining step-by-step, often bailing out before achieving the desired result or accepting a result with only the limited data that was able to be included without using true data mining.

Both data mining and desktop OLAP should be presented as first alternatives for end users, depending on the requirements of course. Education of end users will be key to acceptance,

Posted October 24, 2005 1:32 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |

I learned today that my former company, McKnight Associates, Inc., which I sold to CSI, placed 306 in the Inc. 500 for 2005.

This is quite an honor and I'm sure we'll get the appropriate press release out so I'll spare you from that verbage here.

My next challenge is to...

continue that growth with CSI.

Posted October 20, 2005 9:53 AM
Permalink | No Comments |

Occassionally, a vendor will come up with a new feature that you didn't think of, but once you see it, you find immediate application for it. Such is the case with 2 new features in SQL Server 2005's SSIS (Integration Services, the successor to Data Transformation Services). They're called fuzzy lookup and fuzzy grouping.

Many of the transformations in the warehouses I've been associated with are lookups. These range from simple matching to the use of some pretty complex rules for data cleansing. While many of these lookups require complete accuracy, many can accept "close enough". Actually, the right answer is often the close match and determining close requires the most complex logic.

Fuzzy lookup searches for "close" matches using its own logic. It creates similarity and confidence scores. Some combination of the 2 can be used to determine your acceptance systemically.

Fuzzy grouping looks at a group of potential records for loading and determines the probability that two (say, customer names) are actually duplicates.

Lookups and de-duplication is a huge ETL effort and I'm sure many Microsoft DW/BI shops will benefit from fuzzy lookup and fuzzy grouping in SQL Server 2005.

Posted October 19, 2005 8:40 PM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

While most are at least tepidly pleased with the progress of business intelligence and technology initiatives in general this year, future progress is not assured according to some recent indicators. I have (and remain) bullish on our industry, but it is good to take in data points that reflect as well as oppose that position.

Such is an article I read this morning at siliconvalley.com "Confidence at 2 1/2-year low in valley" and this one from echannel on a Forrester report: "Expect a significant drop in IT spending in 2007: Forrester." It begins "According to two new reports from Forrester Research Inc., there will be a significant slowdown in U.S. IT spending growth in 2007 before rebounding to near double-digit growth by the close of the decade."

One area that IS getting a lot of attention is RFID, which is a next big horizon for business intelligence. According to this article "RFID Gaining in Popularity", "Based on a survey of 500 companies, AMR Research expects corporate RFID spending to increase 16% from 2005 to 2006, and 20% from 2006 to 2007, up from the current annual average of just above $500,000." although "RFID Implementation Challenges Persist" according to this article.

Interestingly, the advice in these articles is much the same advice that DW/BI and CRM needed in their early days - have a business case, do iterative development and don't expect generic solutions to work for you out of the box. Some things don't change.

Posted October 17, 2005 9:58 AM
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I do about 10 environment assessments of DW/BI environments per year. I appreciate being able to fine tune or overhaul an environment so it is best able to meet its goals, both short- and long-term. People, process and technology are analyzed as a result.

All too often, I find that some of the optimizations are unrelated to client preconceptions about where they may be. One common optimization comes down to simply time management by the team members.

For example, one interview some time ago was supposed to be at 9:00. It started around 11:00. Read on to learn why...

Pete (name changed) was going to leave his house at 8:30 to get to work by our 9:00 meeting. He got off to a late start since he had misplaced something he needed for the day and had to scour the house (only to discover the file was in his bag all along). He also had to do the dishes that morning. He had forgot his wife was leaving early that day.

Then the gas gauge was empty and he found himself in the morning gas line at the pumps. When he got in, the parking lot was full and he had a "15 minute walk" to the office. He began working on the fires on his desk, trying to quickly accomplish some things before our meeting. He spilled his coffee and when he rose to go get paper towels, he noticed he had some voicemail, which reminded him he promised to call someone at 10:00 (after our meeting).

For some reason, this story came to mind today as I thought about the ripple effect of time mis-management and the importance of corralling the non-reusable asset we all have, time.

Posted October 12, 2005 1:34 PM
Permalink | No Comments |


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