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The Changing World, Part 1

Originally published October 26, 2006

Editor's note: This is the first installment in this four-part series.  Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of this series are available on the BI Network.

In every country, in every language, in every culture, in every form of business, there is really only one constant. That constant is change. 

The predictable changes of the world come in many, many different forms. Politics change. Technology changes. Economies change. People die. People are born. New discoveries are made. Wars are won and lost, and so forth. And it is predictable that change is going to happen in the future just as it has always happened in the past (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1













Change – The Universal Constant
Change in the corporation is typically couched in terms of business requirements. One year, business requirements look one way. A few months later, business requirements look different – and business requirements keep on changing. 

One day, the corporation is concentrating on building market share. The next day, the corporation is concentrating on profitability. The next day the corporation is expanding into new geographical markets. Then, the corporation is downsizing. Change simply happens and keeps happening. Figure 2 depicts (symbolically) the ever-changing nature of corporate requirements.

Figure 2

The primary mechanism corporations use to address change is their information systems. Information systems contain the basis for the corporation’s long-term existence. They are intimately related to the business of the corporation and contain information about corporate customers, corporate pricing, corporate products, corporate business procedures and a wealth of other information. But there is a problem in using information systems as an agent of change. 

Changing Business States
That problem is exhibited by examining what happens to corporate information every time the corporation goes through a change of state of business requirements. Figure 3 shows what happens to corporate information when business requirements of the corporation go through a change of state.

Figure 3













The underlying information systems of the corporation go crazy when a sea change of the state of business requirements occurs. Existing information systems are brittle and stiff, hardly the structure needed to accommodate change. 

Why Information Systems Are So Brittle
There are a multitude of reasons why the underlying information systems of the corporation do not respond well to changes in business requirements. Figure 4 shows some of the reasons why the corporate information systems find it so difficult to adapt to change – especially constant change.

Figure 4













Databases and database management systems (DBMSs) usually require that data and data structures be hardwired. When data and data structures are hardwired, everything must be rewired whenever a change needs to be made. Recasting data and data structures is not an easy or fast task. Conversions and reorganizations must be done, and this is an onerous task.  

Most code tends to be ossified once created. Going back and making changes to systems requires that code be changed, and changing code tends to be a less than a pleasurable or efficient process. Code tends to be cryptic and a lot of code tends to be undocumented. For these reasons alone, trying to make major changes to code is a daunting exercise. 

By the same token, when business requirements cause changes to be made, queries serving the end user often need to be changed. Users do not like to change queries, once they have been created and debugged.  

On the finance side, once hardware leases are made, it is expensive to break the leases. Once hardware is in place, disrupting the hardware for a new configuration requires major motivation and may involve major expense. 

And finally, when users become comfortable with an environment, they do not like to accommodate changes. 

And these are only some of the reasons why changes in the information infrastructure are awkward, time-consuming and inefficient. 

Part 2 of this series will begin the discussion of how an understanding of temporal and static data can assist in dealing with change.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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

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