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Extract taken from the draft work-in-progress provisionally titled Assess! Choose! Act! Data Warehousing and Strategy by Martyn Jones, Chief Strategist at Cambriano Energy.

For more than 34 years I have been trying to convince IT organisations that it is not in their best interests to play Santa Claus, especially when it comes to strategy and data management.


I have tried – again and again, to make people pay attention to this advice, because I think that acting upon this take-away in an intelligent manner is absolutely central for the success of IT, for the benefit of business, and ultimately for the effective realization of Information Management; whether that is Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, Data Integration, Decision Support, Data Analytics, Big Data or MDM.

As a weathered consultant I regularly meet with business leaders, IT executives and market influencers. I talk with them about experiences from the trenches; tales from the echelons of power and influence; lessons learned and home truths; intuition traps and black swans; real strategy and tomfoolery.

I urge my peers – in the nicest and most sincere possible ways and frequently against their nature –, to think before they talk; to listen and understand before acting; and, to use people with the right social skills, knowledge and experience in order to competently and confidently enter into dialogue with business people about their needs.

In essence, I nag people about the need to be able to communicate with business using the language of business.

Now, I know that many people in IT get on their high horses when mention is made of the need to know the language of the business, and it always surprises me that in a profession that one supposes has a lot of logical people working in it, there is one hell of a lot of reactionary, irrational and illogical thought. This I term Organisational Autism, and it is a real and present issue in many organisational.

Many in IT say that business should learn the language of IT, but I disagree, IT must always act as the service provider, as the marketing organisation, as the one stop shop for everything IT. But, I digress.

When it comes to Information Management I try and emphasise the requirement to tease out small but crucial needs; to frame these needs, wants and desires in terms of business process, actionable information and the interaction of real people; I emphasise that the right skills are needed in order to convince business that these challenges can be met; that the challenges are not insurmountable; that these challenges are like nuggets of gold; that the IM professionals know what they are doing, that what we say is what they will see.

Then, being up close and intimate with the business, we can begin to incrementally design and build a viable and coherent solution.

So, with such a compelling story on my side; the patience of Job; the confidence of Saint Peter Armengol[1]; and the powers of the Blarney Stone[2], people listen to me, right?

Well, no. In at least 80% of the cases I may as well have been speaking Aramaic to a donkey.

As you might have noticed I love analogies and looking at things from dissimilar, oblique and incongruous perspectives. Therefore, in honour of celebrity TV sports quizzes, let’s ask “and, what happened next?”

Here is how one expert saw it:

IT decides that the business really needs a data warehouse, but in the absence of any clear requirements they decide to go proactive. Courageous move! If you plan on going hands-on, up-beat and pre-emptive, make sure you follow a coherent proactive strategy. Anyway, to cut a long tragic story short, IT then hunts around for a driver for data warehousing and eventually discovers it has a source of data (in the operational systems, in the messaging systems, and in Aunt Dolly’s diary), and, so they think to themselves “Yes Sir! Why don’t we stick a copy of all of this disparate data detritus that we have right here, and all of that data being messaged around on buses, in queues and buffers, and whatever, on the operational systems landscape, and collect it regularly and put it on a separate massive box with lots of disks, disk-subsystems, processors and memory – with a hotter than hot standby with full replication – and let the users get at it with a BEE EYE tool?”

So, they go ahead and cobble together their data warehouse, and then after a brief hiatus of maybe eighteen months, two years, or whatever, they unveil their baby to the business leaders, who, being so amazed at the audacity, proactivity and creativity of IT, greet this new god’s gift to business with smiles, flowers and hugs. Cute! But, isn’t that how it works?

Well, no. “This is not what we wanted!” they say, as more comments flow fast and furious: “What! How much did that cost?”, “I wouldn’t touch it with his barge pole”, “You’re not putting that in my department”, “Stick it, sunshine!” In short, another resounding IT success served up with all the panache, flair and promise of a wet night in Coney Island. Build it and they will come? Sure, build it and they will come… and metaphorically beat you to the ground.

Although, in all fairness, most IT organisations who set out to boil the ocean with data end up in having to dump their failing project well before it gets anywhere near a business user.

And of course, no one remembered to include, never mind budget for, comprehensive testing.

[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=520

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blarney_Stone According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab.

Many thanks for reading.

File under: Good Strat, Good Strategy, Martyn Richard Jones, Martyn Jones, Cambriano Energy, Iniciativa Consulting, Iniciativa para Data Warehouse, Tiki Taka Pro