Greetings to all of you! This is the first of hopefully many columns that I will contribute to DM Review. I think is it important to understand an author's background so that you can put his or her observations, recommendations and suggestions into the proper context. This month, I will share my background and set the groundwork for the following months.

I have been working in the data warehousing industry for almost 18 years, since before it was even called data warehousing! It all began when I was assigned to a project evaluating decision support software products in the mid- eighties. As I began working with the different technologies, one in particular really impressed me. I found it to be intuitive, powerful and very different from any other system of any sort that I had ever seen. The company provided everything from the operating system, cabling and database hardware and software to the workstation hardware and software. The hardware was a light gray color and the keyboard and mouse were infrared –­ no wires. All the customer needed to supply was the data! It was my first exposure to Metaphor.

The technology was certainly incredible, especially at that time, but what impressed me the most were the people. They were not only bright, but really nice too. Although I had learned a lot by being part of a very large IT shop, I decided to take the leap into the software and consulting arena.

I joined Metaphor and moved to Chicago where I spent a number of years as a pre-sales consultant, implementation consultant and consulting manager. I experienced many successes and the occasional failure –­ yes, I admit it, not every prospect or customer project turned into gold. I had the opportunity to work with many high-quality organizations in a variety of industries and develop solutions for a wide range of business functions.

As is so common in the software industry, Metaphor was acquired by a larger company (okay, a much larger company)– ­ IBM. We were allowed to operate as an independent subsidiary for three years. Then, in an effort to consolidate their organization, IBM dissolved Metaphor as a separate entity. The product went in house with a minimal number of development, support and consulting personnel. The rest of the organization was released into the marketplace.

Having spent so many years in the software community, it seemed a natural step to move to a different software company. After surveying the marketplace, several of us joined MicroStrategy. At that time, it was a relatively new software company. (They had previously been a consulting organization.)

While the excitement of the software was great, I quickly observed that others were struggling to figure out things I took for granted. It appeared that many of the lessons we learned at Metaphor had not yet permeated the marketplace. There was a great need to understand the entire life cycle of a data warehouse. There was also a definite shortage of skills to understand the business needs and design databases accordingly, which happens to be what I like to do best. This realization led me to leave the software industry to start a small consulting company.

For the past eight years, I have been happily working for StarSoft Solutions. As a small company, currently with only two employees, I get to do what I like best, which is figuring out what the business needs, looking at the data the organization has and designing a solution. I also teach regularly for The Data Warehousing Institute. This gives me an opportunity to step away from the day- to-day challenges of projects to gain an industry view.

My objective for this column is to help you in your day-to-day work and to help your data warehouse initiatives to be more successful. The general areas of discussion will primarily focus on gathering business requirements, designing architectures, developing dimensional models and some project management. Over time, I plan to address topics causing confusion in the marketplace, subjects that may be somewhat fundamental (it never hurts to review the basics), things that I see too many people do wrong (even though they think they know what they are doing) and advanced challenges.

Because I spend most of my time working on the day-to-day challenges of projects, I intend to provide a practical perspective. This means that you need to understand many perspectives in order to make intelligent choices or understand how to make the most of your compromises. Most books provide the best of the best, with the benefit of looking back to what we would have, could have or should have done. The vision of what we want to achieve is needed, but remember that this is a compilation of many different experiences; no single project or organization achieves such perfection.

I want to acknowledge what a privilege it was to work for Metaphor, to be part of such a forward-thinking company. Its legacy continues to live on in the software, consulting and other companies where Metaphor folks have continued their careers.

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