Andy on Enterprise Software

Broaden your horizons

March 6, 2006

At a talk at the recent TDWI show, consultant Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting (who?) managed to bemoan the cost of data warehouses, but then demonstrates a seeming lack of knowing exactly what one is by claiming that the alternative is to do “simple analyses of transactional data”. Well Joshua, that is called an operational data store, and indeed it has a perfectly respectable role if all you want to do is to look at a single operational system for operational purposes. However a data warehouse fulfils quite a different role: it takes data from many different sources, allows analysis across these inconsistent sources and also should provide historical context e.g. allowing comparisons of trends over time. You can’t do these things with an operational data store.

Hence it is not a case of “ODS good, data warehouse bad” – instead both structures have their uses. Of course Joshua is right in saying that data warehouse success rate is not great, but as I have written elsewhere, it is not clear whether data warehouse projects are really any worse than IT projects in general (admittedly, that is not setting the bar real high). Perhaps Joshua was misquoted, but I would have expected something more thoughtful from someone who was an analyst at Hurwitz. Admittedly he was an ERP (specifically SAP) analyst, so perhaps has a tendency to think of operational things rather than things wider than ERP. Perhaps he is suffering from the same disease that seems to affect people who spend too much time on SAP.

Interest in MDM grows

Last week I was a speaker at the first CDI (customer data integration) conference, held in San Francisco. Although the CDI institute (set up by Aaron Zornes, ex META group) started off with customer data integration, looking at products like Siperian and DWL, the general movement towards MDM as a more generic subject has overtaken it, and indeed Aaron mused in his introductory speech whether they may change the title to the MDM Institute. For a first conference it was well attended, with 400 people there and supposedly 80 being turned away due to unexpectedly high demand. There were the usual crowd of consultants happy to advise expertly on a topic they had never heard of a year ago. Most of the main MDM vendors put in an appearance e.g. IBM/Oracle/I2 (but no SAP) as well as specialists like Siperian and Purisma, plus those like HP who just have too big a marketing budget and so have a booth everywhere, whether or not they have a product (those printer cartridges generate an awful lot of profit).

The conference had a rather coin-operated feel, as sponsoring vendors duly got speaker slots in proportion to the money they put in – with IBM getting two plenary slots, but there were at least a few customer case studies tucked away amongst the six concurrent conference tracks. My overall impression was that MDM is a bit like teenage sex: everyone is talking about it, people are eager to know all about it but not that many are actually doing it. As time passes and MDM moves into adolescence there will presumably less foreplay and more consummation.
Further conferences are planned in London, Sydney and Amsterdam, demonstrating if nothing else that plenty of vendors are willing to pay Aaron to speak at the shows.