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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!

May 2006 Archives

I have been advising companies on data warehousing, business intelligence, information strategy and master data management for several years. I don't have all the answers, but I do believe I can take a client through the correct process to grow and arrive at the best answer for their challenges where I do not immediately possess an answer. Much of that counseling has really been the process of helping capable individuals come to the necessary conclusions themselves. I believe that leaves behind a better client than before I came - always a goal of mine. If I can improve an individual, or team's, performance and success capability, then that is something the client can benefit from for years.

Due to the personal nature of lots of my consulting, I think I've come to understand why some professionals achieve a high degree of success while others do not. I've noted some fundamental characteristics that I believe to be common among top performers and I want to share them with you over the course of several blogs with the title of "Top Performance."

I've blogged about this before because it's been such a dominant observation of mine, but time management bears repeating first here. Top performers set a high standard for what merits their time. They have a clear sense of what will bring them success or failure. Sometimes, these are written performance goals, but more often than not, they are the unwritten, but expected, goals. If the goals are not understood, top performers understand they cannot waste their time. Instead, they will take the time to define their goals, taking only small detours pursuing targets that may or may not be ultimately deemed worthwhile.

They spend their time on those things that attract value to their goals, being proactive and paranoid about making incremental progress towards those goals with every daily task. If an task does not contribute to the goals, it is quickly disbanded and not repeated. Drama and worry about inconsequential things, or things one has no control over, or things from the past which cannot be changed, is not part of the game plan. If goals are unclear, staying late and working extra hard may actually lead to nothing more than frustration.

I believe that stellar performers have an innate desire for success that transcends their current job title and even company. Continually pulling themselves out of the detail to make sure their activities are aligned with their goals. They embrace change and their quest for knowledge and new skills is constant.

I'll go through some more this week.


Posted May 29, 2006 11:47 AM
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Enterprise Infomation Integration, or EII, is now the province of a multitude of ETL vendors. EII gives the user immediate access to information in disparate data stores. However, other than some light operational message passing, it hasn't had much commercial acceptance and little impact to the data warehouse has been felt. So, at this stage, some are asking if it's going anywhere.

True, it's still immature technology. However, there are a myriad of reasons for the lack of acceptance that would be there even if the technology were mature. It's a paradigm shift in how we've managed data/information for the last 25 years. We're used to moving data where it will be used. Some believe it's the foundation of the enormous DW/BI industry (as opposed to providing business advantage with data/information in whatever architecture fits). Plus, corporations have undertaken an unprecedented number of major projects involving data recently and needed to take on proven approaches in the process.

I think the vendors are onto something here. Ascential (IBM) is focusing efforts there. Informatica has a relationship with EII provider Composite Software, a likely acquisition target by someone at some future point. Other stand-alones are Attunity, MetaMatrix, who added the former head of global markets for Gartner as CEO last month, and Certive, who added the former vice president of engineering at Hyperion Solutions to head engineering last month.

Watch this space.


Posted May 23, 2006 8:09 AM
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I return home from a trip to San Diego this week and receive a call asking about a $5 purchase made in the San Diego airport on my Visa. The agent asked if I made the purchase. I replied yes, I had. This was no problem for me so far since I understand that thieves often make small purchases to test the card before going to Best Buy and loading up. Furthermore, I hadn’t used this card much when traveling so I can see where it may have looked suspicious. I expected the agent to say something like “thanks, we were just checking” or even “we’ll remove the temporary hold we placed on your card, sorry for the inconvenience.” But those comforting words were not in the cards.

Instead, the agent informed me that she had permanently cancelled the card and was sending me a new one with a new number. I immediately thought of the work effort this was going to cause me – being without the Visa for a week, all the online places I have the Visa in my profile and the recurring charges I have hitting the Visa. But there was no turning back. I’m not sure why she bothered to ask me if it was my transaction since she had already decided my fate.

I worked on some of the early credit card fraud detection systems and understand how the process works. In this case, we have an agent who had the ability to make a radical decision, theoretically saved for the most egregious cases of obvious fraud, as in a card that was reported stolen. Instead it was done for a $5 purchase where a simple phone call could have determined no further action was necessary.

Naturally, they lost a customer in this process, but consider also that I was a good customer, charging personal expenses for years on this Visa and visiting the store the card belongs to frequently. A system could have provided more information to this decision or actually have made it much more effectively. I’m also in a critical geographical zone for this store since Wal-Mart has opened its first “upscale” store right across the street from the store I usually visit. This is a process that Wal-Mart could repeat all over the country, to this stores dismay, if it works. But if the store could keep it's best customers, with good promotions to its credit card holders, it may not work. Therefore, CRM could have played a role based on my historical transaction profile as well as a heightened propensity to churn based on my geography.

Instead, a relationship-ending decision was made without benefit of, at the least, a simple process flowchart or any utilization of the information they surely have plenty of, but don’t utilize for customer interactions. I’ve often said getting the data act together is the hard part, but even though less work is necessary to deploy the data for simple, yet crucial applications, sometimes the barrier is simply considering the full-scale customer experience with the company.


Posted May 13, 2006 6:13 PM
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This should be no surprise to us as data professionals, but it seems that the biggest challenge to having a breakthrough in quantum computing is the ability to ETL (extract, transform, load) data inside the computer. Current research, as described in "‘Data-In, Data-Out’ signals Quantum Breakthrough” from newscientist.com, is to encode the quantum state of an atom cloud and move it to another cloud. A photon was used as the temporary holding area as it was transported along a fiber optic cable.

This is another piece of revealed lab findings that highlights some of the work being done for quantum computing. It is progressive, but there’s a long way to go. As Matthew Eisaman, a member of the Harvard team, states in the article, “it is necessary to increase the time that quantum information can be stored from the atom clouds from millionths of a second to thousandths.”


Posted May 3, 2006 12:23 PM
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