I've just spent the last week in a series of round-table discussions with leaders from companies in Australia and New Zealand, most of whom have implemented (and a few who plan to implement) data warehouse or data mart systems. It was a good mix of organizations, ranging from some of the biggest to medium size, with all types of projects from bottom-up incremental architected data marts to top-down enterprise data warehouses. We also had the usual mix of a few stunning successes that had radically transformed the businesses, moderately successful systems that hadn't fully lived up to expectations, abandoned systems looking to restart, and second passes at architectures that hadn't proved sustainable. The participants were CFOs, CIOs and senior-level IT management, all with a heavy career investment in data warehousing. They all came to learn and to share experiences and ideas with each other and, theoretically, learn something from me. In the end, as usual, I did as much learning as they did; and I think we all profited from the exchange.
One of the most valuable conversations centered around the CIO of a large forestry company and the CFO of one of the largest retailers in the region. The CIO led it off when he stated that we had the wrong people around the table to be talking about data warehousing. In his view, data warehousing was about the business; and if you wanted to talk about it, you shouldn't have a group of CIOs. You should have a group of business people. My heart skipped a beat. I almost rose from the table and proclaimed, "My work here is done!" I felt even better when the CIOs around the table concurred, and we had an interesting line of comments about the relative merits of technology versus solving business issues. A couple of the people at the table had systems that were either abandoned or did not meet expectations because they had been developed using the "build it and they will come" philosophy. These two provided graphic and moving testimony that the technology didn't matter much if you weren't solving a problem for the business.
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