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For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

Proverbs 1:16

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

I’m not a psychologist, and people who read my blog will know this for sure. But I would like to examine the notion of wanting something so much that at best we don’t enjoy it when we obtain it, or worst still, that our eagerness means that we will never obtain that which we truly want.

In his way, the great stoic Seneca of Cordoba warned us against what I would call “destructive eagerness” and its influence. Oscar Wilde also lamented that “each man kills the thing he loves”. Whilst Charles Caleb Colton commented that “patience is the support of weakness; impatience the ruin of strength”.

I have been in the field of Data Warehousing ever since Bill Inmon typed the last word of his ground-breaking and defining tome, Building the Data Warehouse, and I am proud to say that I have been on the same page as Bill with respect to Data Warehousing ever since.

Many Data Warehouse projects have not been the resounding successes that they could have been. Many people give reasons why these projects fail. Most of the reasons given are really peripheral excuses. But that’s human nature.

In the early days of Data Warehousing I was involved in implementing the Inmon approach. An approach that worked like a dream. We weren’t dealing with high volumes of data, but the business benefits didn’t come from volumes of data, but form the quality, relevance, timeliness and usability of the information supplied. The computer industry didn’t take much interest in us because we didn’t need massive big iron, and we were at the time (1993/1994) in an oddball sort of project for Europe.

As use of Data Warehousing expanded at Compaq, iteration by iteration, we were on track.

Then things started to heat up when we began to think about data volumes approaching 1 terabyte.

All of a sudden – okay, not so sudden – the traditional hardware vendors saw an opportunity, and the less traditional relational DB vendors as well had mega-buck dollar signs in their eyes.

Data Warehousing might eventually need a lot of hardware and quite a few software licences.

So far, so good.

Then came an inflexion point.

Organisations started to be aware that a small band of corporations were having success with their Data Warehouse projects, and, well, were understandably curious.

At least two new expectations had been set.

For IT vendors, especially the big guys and gals, it was an opportunity to sell serious infrastructure. Especially as Telco’s had started to follow the previous experiences of big retailers in the use of dimensional model based analysis and reporting.

For organisational IT departments it spelled out the need to react, to respond to a mounting interest amongst senior management with this new trend called Data Warehousing.

There was only one problem.

Both had forgotten about the fundamental imperatives that should drive useful, sustainable and justifiable Data Warehousing.

For IT departments it spelled the need to do something. For IT vendors it became the need to maximise sales; that is, also to do something.

From there on in things went awry.

It didn’t matter that the defining characteristics of Data Warehousing were ignored, it was enough to be doing something, to be building something, to be selling a lot of something, anything. Activity, buying and selling was of the essence.

Of course, IT bought, built and presented (sometimes), and in many cases were told by business stakeholders that their gifts were useless, or worse than useless.

How tragic is that?

The IT vendors were so eager to sell, and the IT departments so eager to please, that their joint eagerness became counter-intuitive and destructive.

Of course, in most cases they weren’t doing Data Warehousing, they were simply ‘experimenting’, and calling those ‘experiments’ Data Warehousing.

This was how Data Warehousing was fragged by the friendly fire known as “destructive eagerness”.

Both the IT vendors and the corporate IT departments desperately wanted to do the right thing. But there were hidden risks, false friends and other complications.

If I look back into the history of IT I see so many examples of “destructive eagerness”.

Maybe you can also recognise this phenomenon in your line of business.

For I would love it – and I’m sure others would as well – if people would ‘pony up’ their own experiences in this respect. Because as George Santayana stated “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

In future blogs, and with your help and guidance and input, I will expand on this theme.

Thanks for reading.

As always, please share your questions, views and criticisms on this piece using the comment box below. I frequently write about strategy, organisational, leadership and information technology topics, trends and tendencies. You are more than welcome to keep up with my posts by clicking the ‘Follow’ link and perhaps even send me a LinkedIn invite. Also feel free to connect via Twitter, Facebook and the Cambriano Energy website.

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