To anyone who studies or works in the field of data warehousing, the name Ralph Kimball should need no introduction. Through his research and innovations, his books, speeches and now 12 years of teaching more than 10,000 students at Kimball University, Ralph Kimball has become a data warehousing icon. For those needing a quick refresher, Kimball followed his 1973 Stanford Ph.D. thesis on man/machine systems with a long stint at Xerox's legendary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) where he was part of the 1970s research team that hashed out the first iterations of 'windows,' icons and the computer mouse. These innovations were revolutionary - and consigned only to be a fancy word processor - until Kimball and some others recognized the missing element: data. With former Xerox colleagues, Ralph was a member of the founding team of Metaphor Computer Systems, and later, he personally founded Red Brick Systems. The work that ensued helped set the stage for the data warehousing industry that exists today. Tiring of executive roles, Kimball returned to his roots in 1994 when he founded Kimball Group, where he began to teach the lessons learned in his consulting work on some 30 enterprise data warehouses. Despite his many reference points, the consistent thread for Kimball has always been to start with the end-user experience, which will come as a surprise to pure technologists. "Only when I am pretty confident that I have the end-user part right do I start working back to eventually arrive at the technology," Kimball says. While his task-oriented philosophy has occasionally put him at odds with others in the data warehousing industry, Kimball has never sought controversy on his own. DM Review Editorial Director Jim Ericson recently caught up with Ralph Kimball for an update on the current state of business intelligence and data warehousing.
DMR: Across the span of your career, how have perceptions changed in terms of the ways people use data?
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