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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 2008 Archives

Fall conference season is a wrap for me except for my virtual presentation next week for the online DAMA-NCR Wilshire Symposium "Leveraging Information Asset Management." I'm presenting "Incorporating Syndicated Data into your Information Management environment" on Wednesday, November 5 at 12:30 ET.

Observations from the field will continue in the blog.

Technorati tags: DAMA, Syndicated Data

Posted October 31, 2008 11:31 AM
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With a title like "It's a Data World After All!", I had to attend because I couldn't agree more with the principle. I'd also like to attend a presentation with a counter point of view - if you know of any.

Anyway, this session was by Pat Wilson at Disney, from just down the street. She's on the data warehouse team. The premise was that the approach to gathering requirements for a data project is different from other projects. Like many companies using analytics, Disney makes hotel offers based on your answers to their questions with the offers that are most likely to succeed.

She went through some BI basics and made a good point about not collecting data for which you were unaware of the eventual usage and to avoid the "kitchen sink" requirement which goes like "just give us everything, we'll use what we need." Also avoid the "mind reader" approach which goes like "just give us what we want, we'll know what to do with it." Also avoid the "trial and error" approach which goes like "we'll know it's right when we see it."

I think this presentation could correlate each scenario above to a Disney character. May I suggest, respectively, Goofy, Evil Queen, and Sleepy.

The (great) overall point is get DEEPER with your requirements for these projects and don' t accept the shallow "requirements" the business tries to get away with. It's a recipe for failure. She recommended an approach that follows along with this model:


I definitely agree with everything said here. It tracked pretty closely to my "ROI and Focus" blog in terms of why the data warehouse team exists and my article on Requirements Gathering (search Google for "McKnight Data Warehouse Requirements Analysis").

Technorati tags: Business rules, Business Rules Forum, Business Requirements

Posted October 29, 2008 8:31 AM
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I was at the Business Rules Forum in Orlando yesterday to present and take in a few seminars otherwise. I'll report on a few here. First, I'll report on "Beyond Subject Matter Expertise" by Steve Demuth at ILOG.

What does business DNA look like? Process is heart and soul of how things get done. Then, decisions go into those processes. Similar to how we've evolved, you can change DNA without becoming a new business.

Process describes the how of the core activities of the enterprise. A decision determines the what of enterprise activity and it's typically automatable or human, but not a mixture.

Automated decisions are ubiquitous (i.e., commissions, cross-selling, fraud.) The talk then focused on how to automate a decision intelligently. Sometimes, it's a decision table, sometimes a rule flow (flowchart.) How to turn analysis into rules: model the landscape, understand the business goal, and formulate and formalize the solution. The last step is where your business rule management system (BRMS like ILOG, Fair Isaac) comes in. A value-added step at that point is to add simulation on historical data, perhaps in your data warehouse. Then, analyze the simulated outcome.

Then, Steve talked about numerically characterizing history to evaluate those outcomes and predict the best solution to take. It's about predictability and likelihood. For example, in a group of transactions, how many will be fraudulent or how many will take-up the cross-sell offer?

Then, Steve talked about planning and scheduling with BRMS and how it can create a (for example) optimized nurse schedule for a hospital and deal with the inevitable last-minute decisions that must occur based on last-minute no-shows. This is an example of creating the adaptive enterprise - one that adapts to business changes. However, to get there, we need to break down the hedgerows between business departments, specifically IT and business groups.

Finally, 80% of a business' problems are about being better at what you do. Business rules can help. 20% of the problems are about being something different than what you are. Both this "adaptation" and "creation" (potentially "destruction") are necessary.

Technorati tags: Business rules, Business Rules Forum

Posted October 29, 2008 8:28 AM
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And then there was the case study from my client, Commerzbank. I co-presented this one with Carolina Posada, Vice President at Commerzbank. In regards to the presentation topic of data governance, as a midsize organization (the US Branch), they combined Program Governance (program direction) and Data Governance (standards) into a Steering Committee. They also have a data stewardship program.

I pointed out that the important thing about these committees is that all of the necessary information management functions for the organization are done. These committees normally comprise data governance, data stewardship, program governance and a business intelligence competency center (or center of excellence.) I do not wish to overdo committees at my clients, but want to be sure all of the required functions for success are being done.

The benefits Carolina cited for their Analytical MDM implementation were:
1. Data management is aligned with the company strategy
2. Operational systems (by product) supports reporting and compliance
3. The hub allows the single customer master to be shared to all product systems
4. Early data issues detection
5. They know their complete exposure to clients, whereas before it was piecemeal and incomplete
6. Reconciliation of transformed data to GL metrics
7. Managers consuming information and providing constant feedback for improvements
8. A unified customer view... for all its other benefits

I generalized from many MDM implementations and presented "Top 10 Mistakes Companies Make in Forming Data Governance." They are (in no particular order):
1. Not Translating IT Investments into Business Objectives
2. Thinking of it as a Technical Function
3. Scope Creep
4. A Revolving Door of Membership and Participation
5. No Decision Maker
6. Failure to Create a Charter
7. Turning Governance into the Blame Game
8. Lack of Customization to the Culture
9. Thinking of it as "just meetings"
10. Hyperfocus on a tactical issue

Technorati tags: Master Data Management, Business Intelligence, MDM Summit

Posted October 24, 2008 9:18 AM
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I made it out for a day on Monday to the MDM Summit in New York. The conference has picked up some from years past. Their information has it that case studies are the draw so the conference had quite a few of them. RR Donnelley (using Purisma) had a great case study because they have followed some best practices like:

1. Knowing BI & MDM go hand-in-hand
2. Focusing on MDM when combining 3 large organizations to formRR Donnelley
3. They didn't pick the technology first, but grew into it
4. Somebody there had the wisdom to declare early that MDM must be minimally invasive to the source systems, and it was something RR Donnelley followed
5. They used D&B DUNS number for identifying (B2B) customers
6. They built in capability for (what I call) master data query
7. Data governance and stewardship

They use the Registry model for MDM.

The "ROI" from the effort was in sales reporting, reduced manual work in reviewing customer names, and knowing their exposure to companies who were/are potentially going under in the challenging economy.

The last best practice was to use outside implementation services. I know of one that can help there.

Technorati tags: Master Data Management, merger, Business Intelligence, MDM Summit

Posted October 24, 2008 8:54 AM
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