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Extract taken from the draft work-in-progress provisionally titled Assess! Choose! Act! Data Warehousing and Strategy by Martyn Jones 

It’s a fantastically chic restaurant. It’s one of the best, if not the best in town. It’s Catalan or Basque, for sure. A group of twelve people sit at a round table. Silver service, starched white linen, spotless polished lead crystal glass, the works. There is even a minimalist arrangement of seasonal flowers. The owner of the exquisite restaurant walks across to the table, accompanied by one of her impeccably uniformed staff, who holds a notepad and pen in readiness; “Good afternoon, and, what would our esteemed ladies and gentlemen like today?” she asks.

Confused? If you haven’t seen this before then you should be. So just read on fellow traveller.

Let’s assume that the leadership of an IT organisation thinks that it would be a good idea to build an Enterprise Data Warehouse, one that would serve the enterprise. All well and good, organisations across the globe are coming up with such schemes on an almost daily basis, which makes the likelihood of such a scheme being put on the table as practically inevitable.

The guiding lights in the IT organisation in question considers themselves to be somewhat shrewder, more risk conscious, more fortunate and more propitious – and maybe something additional – than some other organisations, and they avoid falling prey to the first intuitively bad idea to hit their mental inbox.

Hence, rather than just making up business needs as they go along, and trying to host all of the known operational data on a separate platform, as is the want of the bluff and bluster brigade – the guys and gals with more dollars than sense – they think smart.

This is the scenario. Here. Mister Jones is talking with his boss, who is the recently appointed CIO.

“I have an idea Sir, rather than second-guessing what our business wants and perhaps getting it wrong, as many others have apparently done in the last two decades, why don’t we actually go and ask the business what data they want?” In a flash back comes the rapid response (as rapid as Lucky Luke, the cowboy known to shoot faster than his shadow) “Brilliant idea Jones, when can you get it started?” “I’ll get the team right on it, Sir” replies Jones. “Okay, I trust you, Jones, now get this baby off the ground”.

So, Jones and his IT team make elaborate plans to “go and ask the business what they want”, they arrange for a lavish corporate event, to which all department heads and selected department members are invited. There is food – little Japanese finger food, pizzas and canapés, wine, beer and soft drinks, and PowerPoint slides, lots and lots of colourful and extremely complicated PowerPoint slides.

Subsequently, during the course of this event the virtues, graces and potential of Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence are evangelised, expounded and espoused in no diffident or mean terms.

The joint is jumpin’ as the conversations take on a life, reality and meaning of their own. “Yes, whatever data you want”, “Yes, slice and dice it anyway you like”, Yes, you can conceptualise the data across the enterprise and visualise your strategy basis in hyper-hyper definition”, “Oh, when can you have it?”, “In 3 to 9 months, max. Guaranteed! Take my word”, “Service levels?”, “Sure, from your first cup of coffee to your last SMS, all year round, 24 by 7 by 52”, “whatever you want”, “single version of the truth? Sure thing! You bet! We will have it sorted, nailed and on your tablet before you have time to read the morning news digest and drink your second cup of coffee”. It all sounds upbeat, positive and motivational, almost too good to be true.

The following day, the CIO calls up the head of IM. Things are looking good. “I knew you could wing it. Great event, Jones, may I call you Bob? Smooth show, very smooth. I liked it, a lot. By the way, Bob, I have a meeting with Janice at fourteen hundred hours, can you give me a crisp and concise resume of what we agreed on yesterday with the biz?”, “Well, John, we pretty much offered them the information management equivalent of Ferraris, Porsches, Fords, Smart cars and people carriers, you know, the usual thing, the whole enchilada”, “Uh huh! Uh huh! And what did they react, they lapped it up, right?”, “Well, John yesterday they were reticent, very reticent, and we didn’t get any concrete commitments… you know what the business is like John.”, “And?”, “Well John the good news is that they basically came back to us this morning, one business head after the other, and said, okay, let’s have a dozen Porsche 911s and six of them little red Italian sports cars, and maybe a people carrier”.

There is a pause, a long pause, an almost awkwardly long pause. “What do you mean, Bob, did they buy it or not?” “Well, John. It’s like this. We asked the department heads of the entire business units what data they wanted and when they wanted it for, and they basically said, they wanted all of it, and in the timeframes we have told them would be possible”.

The CIO continues encouraged by what he hears as good vibes, and asks “Bob, you seem to have everything under control down there in the data machine room, right?” and back comes the almost inevitable reply, the programmed response, confident and vibrant “Don’t worry, John, we have a great solution. Just this morning, one of my sharp cookies discovered that we have a shedload of source data in archives and tons of it on the operational systems, so we’re planning to stick a copy of all of that disparate crap – sorry, data – on a massive dedicated box, and then let the users at it with a BEE EYE tool, and claim mission accomplished”.

The CIO gazes out of the window on the meadows and hills far beyond the facility car, the closed-circuit television cameras and the security gate. “Sounds good, Bob, really great”.

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