Becoming a marathon runner requires years of training to develop from "casual" runner into "marathoner." Pre-race training for a marathon requires a minimum of 30 to 50 miles of running each week. This pursuit also involves selecting the right shoes, choosing comfortable clothing, eating the proper foods, developing the right mind-set, setting aggressive goals and committing to the training necessary to achieve these goals. And, it demands vast amounts of physical, mental and emotional energy. It is a discipline of the mind as well as the body. Michael J. Schroeck is a runner. A serious runner. A three-time Boston marathoner. In fact, he has completed twelve marathons with times between 2:50:00 and 3:15:00, including a 3:07:00 in October's Chicago Marathon. In addition to the Boston Marathon, Schroeck has completed marathons in Chicago (four times), New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C. (Marine Corp.), Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Running is Schroeck's avocation; and, as partner-in-charge of the Global Data Warehousing Practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, "running the practice" is his vocation.

Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merged to form PricewaterhouseCoopers in July of 1998, but Schroeck has been the global data warehousing practice leader since 1994 when Price Waterhouse formed its dedicated data warehousing practice.

Like marathon running, becoming partner-in-charge of what is the fastest growing initiative in the history of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also requires years of training.

Schroeck's vocational "run" began in Cincinnati in 1981. Schroeck started as a staff consultant and worked his way up to "running" the Cincinnati-based consulting practice. In 1989, he moved to the Chicago-area office as Price Waterhouse began moving toward a more specialized practice. Schroeck and his family moved to Boston while he worked with a client in that area. He returned to the Chicago area and in 1994 became managing partner of the data warehousing practice as it moved from a small data center in Oakbrook, Illinois, to its present location in Rosemont, Illinois.

"I was asked to lead that practice," Schroeck explains. "We started with a core group of individuals and formed a global group. At that time, we focused mainly on the Americas. In our first year we did about $6 million in data warehousing-related consulting. We have grown the practice to the point that this year we will do over $350 million in data warehousing-related consulting globally. It has been a great run. With our long-term commitment to data warehousing, this is our marathon. We believe that the market for data warehousing services is nearer the starting line than the finish line. We're just at the beginning of deploying and truly leveraging the power of data warehousing."

The merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand brought an additional 400 dedicated data warehousing practitioners into Schroeck's area, bringing the total of highly experienced data warehousing professionals in the practice to 1,200. Commenting on the merger Schroeck says, "I am very pleased with the way our organizations have come together. The Coopers' consulting practice had a similar commitment to data warehousing and a broader presence in several geographies, especially in Europe, than Price Waterhouse, so it enables us to extend our global reach and capabilities in data warehousing. Additionally, Coopers is strong in certain industries, such as: pharmaceuticals, health care, government and higher education ­ which had not traditionally been a focus for Price Waterhouse. So the merger has taken us into areas that we hadn't been in. Right now the focus will continue to be on large Fortune companies, but Coopers brings us a middle-market presence that over time I foresee will become an important market for PwC."

PwC's data warehousing practice is centered around three major theaters: EMEA (Europe/Middle East and Africa), Asia/Pacific and the Americas. Schroeck's efforts as partner-in-charge of PwC's global data warehousing practice have concentrated on several key areas. "Our approach from day one," he says, "has been really understanding the business issues that can and should be addressed in data warehousing. We bring not only experience in the data warehousing tools and technology, but deep knowledge of the industry and the process improvement opportunities for each industry. We bring the total solution ­ from strategy through implementation. Secondly, we truly run a global practice. This enables us to provide consistent worldwide data warehousing services and also allows us to deploy resources globally, consistent with the needs of our clients and consultants. And third, our focus on data warehousing solutions is supported by a dedicated team of professionals ­ the largest global data warehousing practice in the world."

PricewaterhouseCoopers' commitment to data warehousing is exhibited in the infrastructure that has been built to support the practice. Schroeck explains, "We have developed a full life cycle data warehousing methodology and training program that is considered one of the best ­ if not the best ­ in the industry." This methodology and training ensures our services are delivered in a consistent, timely, cost-effective manner and directly address the business issues faced by PwC clients. PwC's most recent infrastructure addition is the Global Data Warehousing Knowledge Center. Schroeck explains, "My vision of the center was to have a world-class facility where clients can work with PwC practitioners to design and develop these strategic solutions. This center will help define the landscape of the industry and drive future developments in data warehousing. We're very proud of it."

Keys to Personal Success

During my career, I have been blessed with a tremendous support network that has greatly contributed to my personal success, including:

 * A supportive family, which continues to be very understanding of the extensive travel required to lead a global practice;
 * A tremendous team of over 1200 first- class data warehousing leaders/practitioners throughout the world working together toward a common goal;
 * Great clients who are important friends and partners and have provided me with excellent learning and growth opportunities; and
 * The best professional services firm in the world ­ PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) ­ has provided a very challenging and satisfying career, including the opportunity to build and lead our Global DW Practice.

Schroeck leads the practice by focusing on teamwork and collaboration. "Teamwork and collaboration is my personal theme, and we use those words as a kind of mantra. Everybody in the practice is real familiar with these terms. In fact, every time they hear me, they usually hear them!" The willingness of the team to share their knowledge is, according to Schroeck, what makes the practice so successful. "We have an annual practitioners' forum where we bring everyone together for two to three days of knowledge sharing. We run special sessions directed at areas of interest, but basically we share experiences across the practice. Additionally, we publish a series of monthly/quarterly updates on what's happening around the practice, including new clients, new recruits, promotions and successful implementations. That happens regionally, nationally and globally. We also recently published our Global Data Warehousing Annual Report which highlights last year's accomplishments and outlines our future vision for the practice. Because our practitioners work on assignments that require them to focus on their clients' needs, it's important that everyone know what's happening throughout the practice. We want people to understand that not only are they doing a great job serving their clients, but that they're part of something bigger ­ an important part of the PwC data warehousing family."

Another very valuable component of PwC's collaboration effort involves the practice's special interest groups (SIGs) where virtual teams are connected through the firm's global network and by their mutual interest in advancing the practical application of the tools, talent and techniques in a common subject area. "I am really excited about the fact that people are sharing their knowledge. What impresses me most is that these people are often working 12 hours a day on client matters, and they still take the time ­ at midnight or on weekends ­ to enhance the practice by sharing their expertise with other members of the team."

Knowledge sharing, teamwork and collaboration are not limited to the confines of PwC offices throughout the world. "We truly believe in a partnering model. We literally insist that our clients be actively involved working with us. When you go into a PwC data warehousing project area," Schroeck emphasizes, "you won't be able to tell the PwC consultants from the clients. That's our goal. It's a true partnership to deliver the best solution."

Future of Data Warehousing at PwC

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, we believe that the future of DW is very bright. The fundamental goal of getting the right information to the right people to drive better decisions will continue to be an important enabler to support the strategies for global companies for years to come.

A few emerging trends that I believe will have a significant impact on the industry and our market include:

  • Knowledge-Based Solutions ­ The development of focused solutions addressing important business issues by incorporating industry and functional knowledge with DW-related technology.
  • Knowledge Management will converge with DW to (1) support the capture and sharing of unstructured, as well as structured data, and (2) the distribution of information contained in existing DWs to the "masses" through the use of intranets, extranets, groupware, etc.
  • Integrated ERP/DW solutions ­ Companies have come to the realization that getting the full value from their ERP investments will only be accomplished by providing enhanced decision support capabilities integrated with the ERP application. ERP vendors such as SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle are introducing data warehousing functionality as extensions to their applications which has further "fueled" this market.
  • Microsoft ­ The introduction of data warehousing functionality (ETT, meta data repository, OLAP, etc.) as part of SQL Server 7.0 will generate tremendous interest in the marketplace.
  • Global Expansion ­ We will see significant growth of DW in Europe and Asia/Pacific. These countries will continue to emulate and leverage the experience of US-based companies.

Schroeck attributes the success of the practice and the dedication of the employees to the fact that they can see that what they're doing is having a real impact. Even as the leader of the practice, Schroeck refuses to relinquish his client work. "In spite of the demands of running a global practice and bringing together two large practices, I try to spend at least 50 percent of my time at client sites. I recently visited a client where we had been working on their data warehousing project for about a year. As with all of our projects, it was a collaborative PwC/client team effort. At this meeting, we assembled the key executives to show them how their data warehouse could now make information accessible not only to them, but throughout the company. As we demonstrated the capabilities of the data warehouse, their jaws literally dropped. They stated that this is the kind of thing they only dreamed about and that it is going to change the way they do their business." Schroeck adds, "That's what all of our data warehousing practitioners enjoy and that's why we're in this business ­ to assist our clients in meeting their strategic goals."

Schroeck emphasizes that the practice will continue to grow as more companies recognize that data warehousing provides the framework for the decisions that build competitive advantage. Schroeck's challenge, therefore, becomes recruiting and retaining experienced data warehousing professionals for the practice. "Because we are a growing global practice, we're offering people opportunities to assume more responsibility and to accelerate their advancement earlier in their careers," Schroeck explains. "It's a very focused, collaborative environment and very much a team. Our practitioners are incented and motivated ­ actually compensated ­ based on how well the team does. Consequently, we have had several leaders in this industry wanting to become part of this practice. That's very encouraging," Schroeck comments.

"I am a firm believer that you are as good and as successful as the people that you surround yourself with," Schroeck states. "Our legacy is one of the highest integrity. What sets us apart from other data warehousing service providers is that in addition to our very successful track record of serving clients, we have the largest and best group of data warehousing practitioners in the world. It's not only that these people know a lot about data warehousing, but that these are good people," states Schroeck.

"Teamwork and collaboration" is the mantra espoused by Schroeck. As the guiding principle for running the PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Data Warehousing Practice, it has and will continue to ensure that PwC clients ­ current and future ­ properly prepare for the race for competitive advantage. Properly prepared and trained by the knowledgeable consultants at PwC, these clients will run the race, confident that they're keeping pace with the information age.

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