As Wayne Eckerson (senior analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group) succinctly pointed out in his column in the March 1999 issue of DM Review, the data warehousing market has moved from an early adopter phase to a mainstream one. No surprises there, I suspect, for the majority of DM Review's readers, but as Wayne noted, this shift has also engendered a move from big-picture strategic considerations to more mundane tactical stuff. Few want to invent new wheels; they just want to soup up the ones they already have and maybe add power steering at an appropriate time.

This shift creates big problems for those of us who earn our living as BI/DW "experts" trying to figure out what is going on now and what will happen in the future. In the good old days, we'd just talk to the few knowledgeable people out there (you know them ­ the same folks who spoke at the last 14 conferences) and then synthesize what they said into some sort of coherent report gussied up with a lot of four-syllable words designed to make the reader think you really are smart and worth the exorbitant fee you charge.

Now that data warehousing has gone mainstream, the old approach won't cut it. Now there are tens of thousands of ITers, developers, line-of-business managers, CIOs and assorted other corporate types who are knowledgeable about some facet of business intelligence or data warehousing. A smallish company like Brio (reviewed in the March, 1999 issue of DM Review) has 7,000 customers! You can bet that Brio is not going to risk its future on what 50 early adopters say, nor do I believe that mainstream users are going to do what the early adopters did just because they showed up at the last 14 conferences.

Good planning, by users and vendors alike, needs to be based on in-depth analysis of statistically valid data. After all, isn't this essentially the line used by everyone associated with business intelligence and data warehousing regardless of function? Isn't this what supply chain, churn, risk and fraud analysis BI applications are all about? Of course it is! So why don't they use their own technology to figure out which directions to take when it comes to the implementation or deployment of BI applications?

In the grand old "find a need and fill it" tradition, the Consortium for Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Research was established last February. The consortium's founders and current principals are World Research, Inc. and Palo Alto Management Group, but other contributors will be invited to join the consortium. The aim is to have a first-class mix of complementary skills and competencies capable of addressing the great majority of issues in the BI/DW space.

The information and intelligence provided by the consortium will be data driven (as opposed to analyst/consultant driven). Working with very large survey panels, the consortium is developing databases that can be queried, analyzed and/or mined (where have you heard those terms before?) to address issues of interest to both narrowly defined demographic segments and the population as a whole. For example, which BI applications are likely to be deployed by medium-size retail establishments in Germany? What operating system and DBMS platforms will these users choose? Will they buy packaged solutions? If so, who will be the important suppliers? Will they couple these applications to ERP systems? In other words, the nuts and bolts tactical stuff that both vendor and mainstream user need to do their job more quickly and economically.

The user panel the consortium is recruiting is called the BI/DW Summit Panel. Any readers who know something about the subject and have 30 minutes to spare on occasion are hereby invited to join the panel. The consortium will make it worth your while by providing free information reports and other incentives in return for participation. You can sign up at

The good news is that people who have an interest in BI/DW will soon have a considerable data-driven information resource that will provide reliable information about significant trends and issues to both the vendor and user communities. The bad news is that I only recently learned the true definition of an "expert." It is "an ordinary person, away from home, giving advice." What a downer.

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