When an exciting technology innovation like data warehousing comes along, it's easy to assume that everyone needs and wants to buy it. The technology and business publications say it can revolutionize the way we do business. The CIOs who adopt it make the cover of these publications.
But not everyone jumps on the bandwagon as soon as the latest and greatest is rolled out. Many CEOs and CIOs in health care, banking, retail and communications dig their feet in and say, "My business is too complex, and your technology is too new." You may recognize this group as Geoffrey Moore's (Crossing the Chasm) early majority that has been waiting prudently on the other side of the chasm for data warehousing to evolve.
Thankfully, while the skeptics were waiting for data warehousing to prove itself, vendors did their job and developed time-saving, cost-saving, industry-standard business solutions that are now ready for market. These business solutions include sales and marketing solutions, financial analysis, customer marketing, health care, financial services, etc. Each of these applications should include the following components:
Key measures: Templates designed to measure, monitor and mine the data that supports the application.
Industry-specific data models: Data models that provide a foundation on which to build.
Quick implementation techniques: Methodologies for quick implementation with identifiable, measurable payback.
Pre-populated meta data: Meta data standards and interfaces to industry-standard applications.
Bundled hardware, software and consulting services: Platforms that can be expanded and sized depending upon data volume and number of potential users.
Why the push toward industry-specific modules? Data warehousing tool vendors and consultants have nurtured customers in several distinct vertical markets over the last few years. As a result, industry knowledge is now expected by consumers. Data warehousing customers in retail, consumer products, financial services, health care and manufacturing expect their vendors to understand their specific business issues, values and the measurements they need to extract from the warehouse in order to effectively run their business.
In addition to industry-specific modules, database vendors are also beginning to include more extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) tools and extended meta data capability with their product sets. Vendors like NCR, Microsoft, Oracle and Data General have started to package their tools and services in industry-specific bundles made up of standard, but customizable, modules. This trend has caught the eye of the more conservative prospects, who have been waiting patiently to benefit from the successes and failures--not to mention the data models--of their early-adopting brethren.
Within the retail industry, for example, pre-populated data models that allow standard industry measures such as category trending, consumer trending, competitive analysis and category performance benchmarking exist to give data warehousing projects a leg up. Similarly, in health care, interfaces to standard health care applications such as HBOC, SMS, IDX and MEDITECH make it possible to pull cost information from the hospital and the health plans, compare best practices and better match cost to level of service.
The number-one complaint against data warehousing is that it is too hard, slow, complex and expensive. Disparate vendor solutions that aren't easily integrated leave the business user in a quandary and the IS department in quicksand. And as early data warehouse implementations are now in the expansion phase, the flaws of their designs are all the more obvious.
The database vendors are taking over more and more of the product capability occupied by other vendors. Microsoft's enterprise investment will yield an expanded offering that will begin to invade the market space of repository vendors, data transformation products and OLAP products. Other database engines are on the same track. With these kinds of market challenges, to add value vendors must focus on the business solution, not just the technology.
The trend toward providing industry-standard data warehousing solutions has the potential to bolster the reputation of data warehousing significantly. It is also apt to change the landscape of data warehousing forever. By all predictions, a vast number of current data warehouse vendors--those who are not prepared to play in custom vertical markets--won't be here in two years. Having industry knowledge helps ensure that the warehouse is populated with meaningful data, and buyers now know this.
Although this next wave of data warehouse products and vendors won't cause the same hoopla as the pioneers did, there is still great cause for celebration. Data warehousing as a technology is beginning to experience the success it deserves. ROI is up. The lessons learned by the visionaries have been analyzed and are being applied to new products and methodologies. Several once-unknown product companies have dared to make the jump across the chasm. Those who are poised to offer business solutions in vertical markets will likely land on the other side. For those who aren't, it's a long way down.
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