Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I wish I'd said that

Have you ever had one of those moments when you thought "I wish I'd said that"?
Well, I was getting my head together in preparation for my conference presentation next week at Enterprise Data World in Chicago.  Well, although I've already submitted my slides for a talk on Data Virtualisation as a viable Data Integration approach, I thought I'd do some last minute research. From companies I've worked with I'm very aware of the benefits Data Virtualisation can bring particualrly for flexibility & rapid time to solution.  But I wanted to get some more quotes - so off to friendly Google I went.  Pretty quickly I came across a variety of finds including  
“The difficulties in dealing with the ongoing data explosion and the proliferation of ever-more diverse data sources has resulted in companies being open to reevaluating their data integration strategies,”
Wow - just what I'm after .  A little bit more digging & I also found 
“The availability of a new generation of data virtualization tools and business intelligence (BI) solutions which easily integrate with ERP systems has undoubtedly provided real benefit in reducing overall time to solution and a business opportunity for those organizations who best leverage those data assets,”  
Excellent - I'll use that last one in my presentation.  Now, who said it?  Well apparantly I did :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

National Australia MDM, Governance and Regulations

National Australia Group Europe, MDM, DG & Financial Regulations:  Tuesday 22nd March 2011, 10:05am  IRM MDM/DG Europe Conference.

Martin Campbell & Tim Franklin described Clydesdale Bank's (part of NAGE) approach to Customer MDM and Data. governance. Campbell described the Bank's challenges & importance of executive buy in. The FSCS regulatory issues were of utmost importance & fixed time constraints for these had to be achieved.
Franklin outlined the IPL Information Architecture Framework (IAF) and how the governance component of the IAF was expanded to initially benchmark & then form the basis of the Bank's Data Governance approach.
Of particular interest was the importance of establishing principles & getting early buy in for these; the IPL IAF proved to be a useful jump start here.
Overall very interesting & practical.

MDM the next decade; Go early go governance

MDM the next decade; Go early go governance: Tuesday 22nd March 9AM at the MDM/DG 2011 Europe conference.

Aaron Zornes presented some interesting statistics and speculation regarding the future of MDM. I agree with the thought that the trend is towards pro-active DG for MDM
Despite the European tag on the talk both the spelling and the content was still very US centric. Most surprising was continual mention of ETL and SOA technologies to support DG - fine in themselves, but very surprising that nothing was mentioned on data federation/virtualisation.  This made me question just how up to date the thinking really is.
Overall I came away rather disappointed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm presenting at Data Governance 2011 - London

Monday 21st - Wednesday 23rd March sees the 2011 IRM MDM/ DG Europe Conference in London. On Wednesday afternoon I'm presenting a case study with Colin Wood on Clinical Data Governance.  If you're in town at the conference, be sure to stop by and say hello.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

BA Air Miles - What's the point?

Massively frustrated at the unavailability of seats that you can use BA miles on.
As a loyal BA customer over the years I'm now seriously wondering just what is the point.

I've got lots of miles and Amex companion vouchers. Back around Christmas my family & I thought we'd like to do a mega holiday in July, August or September this year, particularly having had two family bereavements in 2010. We fancied San Francisco, Vancouver, Australia or New Zealand and have enough miles for all 4 of us to go First or Business Class. After several days of searching availability & then phoning BA we were told there are no available miles redemption seats - to any of those destinations.  This despite availability showing if you buy with cash. "What about buy with cash & upgrade with miles" I inquired. Can't do that either :(    What about nearby cities LA, Seattle?  No BA air miles seats available to those either!

Just this week I again tried to use some BA miles, this time for a run of the mill business trip to Chicago in mid April. I received the same story again. No availability of any miles redemption seats. Once again I tried to buy with cash & upgrade with miles and once again was told no go despite lots of availability showing if you buy with cash.

So I'm wondering, unless you book miles redemption seats a full year in advance (apparently that's when the paltry few actually get released) then just what is the point in being a loyal customer & collecting BA miles?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Data modelling as art

Have you come across Data Modellers who exhibit OCD type behaviour when it comes to laying out models?
This often manifests itself as obsessive behaviour to eliminate crossing lines (BTW I think you should strive to minimise crossing lines), or the addition of not very subtle layout and annotation.  Frequently this steers me to think they believe their Data Models are works of art.
But is it art……..
Well funnily enough when I was recently in Philadelphia I went to the Art Museum and in the modern & contemporary gallery I saw this picture.
Standing in front of it I was approached by the gallery curator who said “Interesting isn’t it?  What does it say to you?”
“it’s an unnamed entity” I said
“Wow – that’s deep, I’ve not heard that before” she replied
“yes, and not only that it’s in a one to one relationship with another entity” I said.
By now, she seemed to think I was some art connoisseur and enquired “does it say anything else to you?”
I replied “well, it looks to me like it might be a subtype of some super entity”
By now, my colleagues (Nic & Inna) who also are fellow Information Management folks overheard what was going on and told me to stop winding up the curator.  Throughout the whole discussion she’d been taking notes in a little book on what I’d been saying to her on "my interpretation" of this masterpiece.
So you never know, maybe future visitors to the Modern & Contemporary Art Gallery will be told of an interesting interpretation by some crazy English guy of this picture.
Personally I don’t get art at all!

Confused by the name - surely not!

A Red Race Car

A Red Pick Up
I was pleased to read that common sense has prevailed and the Ford / Ferrari lawsuit has finally been amicably resolved.  However when it first came up I wondered just who on earth could possibly be confused about an F150.  I had visions of dissapointed customers lining up in Ford showrooms wanting to know why the engine didn't rev to 19,000 RPM.  I also had mental images of baseball hatted checkshirt buyers quizzing the Ferrari sales folks why there was only one seat and where you fit the gun rack.  Who could possibly be confused?  A pickup buyer maybe?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now I've gone & done it!

Back around Christmas in an off guarded moment I was asked if I'd be willing to give someone a passenger ride around Castle Combe Circuit in my race prepped car.  Without really checking I agreed.  Well now, it turns out it was an auction of promises for a very worthy cause, to support the Peggy Dodd Centre which cares for people with Alzheimer's and other dementia illnesses.
The auction turned out to be be a very high profile formal affair & to my horror my promise turned out to be one of the star lots auctioned on the night.
So now I really do have to make sure the car is fully prepared after its winter layover - last time it had an outing was for a race in October! 
Still, looking at the available dates that I'm actually allowed to take passengers on track, one of the nearby ones is April 29th - so maybe I'll get to avoid the Royal Wedding after all :)

Virtually Yours?

Most of us will be familiar with the challenge of providing a common view of a type of data from multiple heterogeneous systems. This could be for providing consolidated data for management reporting, or a 360 degree view of say customer data from several “MDM” sources, or even just getting data damn quick for that BI or legislative reporting requirement.

The traditional approach is Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) to another store (eg a Data Warehouse) and then report from there.

However, that’s not the only way. Enterprise class Data Virtualisation products such as
Composite Software have now made the promise of Data Federation a realistic alternative for some use cases – let’s have a look at a few.

Data migration and take on ETL vs EII (or both?)
By now most of us will be familiar with the purpose of Extract, Transform and Load tools.  Less well known however are the capabilities of the Data Virtualisation or Enterprise Information Integration  tools such as Composite or MetaMatrix.
Broadly speaking these provide the capability to access data from a massively wide variety of sources without having to move it from the source system.  They have extremely rich caching and aggregation capabilities and in my experience have dramatically reduced the time to provide rich access to data.  I once heard them described as “views on steroids”.
Can EII / Data Virtualisation add value to Data Warehousing?
The use of EII technology in Enterprise Data Warehousing and for data take-on is something that demands serious consideration.  There are several ways in which EII can add value to DW solutions; here are just 3 to consider:
a)        Prototyping Data Warehouse Development
During DW development, the time taken for schema changes, adding new data sources and providing data federation are often considerable.  Using Data Virtualisation to prototype a development environment means you can rapidly build a virtual DW rather than a physical one.  Reports, dashboards and so on can be built on the virtual DW.  After prototyping the physical DW can be introduced.
b)        Enriching the ETL process
Frequently new data sources particularly from ERPs are required in the DW.  All too often the ETL lacks data access capabilities to complex sources.  Tight processing windows may require access, aggregation & federation activities to be performed prior to the ETL process.  The powerful data access capabilities of EII provide rich access and federation capabilities which can present virtual views to the ETL process which continues as though using a simpler data source.
c)         Federating Data Warehouses
How many organisations have more than one DW?  Is the Information in each completely discrete?  I don’t think so.  Data Virtualisation provides powerful options to federate multiple DW’s by creating an integrated view across them.  This has particular relevance in providing rapid cross warehouse views following a merger or acquisition.

Data take on considerations ETL or EII?
When providing data into a DW, the use of ETL or EII (or both) needs care.  Some of the key considerations include:

Data replicated in DW and Operational System
Update in one or both locations?
If data is physically in two locations are there compliance issues (e.g. SoX, HIPPA etc)
Data Governance
Is the data only managed in the originating Operational System?
Currency of the data
How up to date are the data requirements of the DW?
Is there a need to see the operational data?
Time to solution
How rapidly is a solution required?
Life expectancy of source system(s)
Are the source systems likely to be retired?
Need for historical / summary / aggregate data
How much historical, aggregated data is required in the DW solution?

So whilst not applicable for every use case, the reality of having your data virtually served is well and truely there.

Fixing the flaws in Government IT

I recently had a look at the report here and got to thinking - what about Information & who guards the guards?
It's interesting when looking at what’s wrong with Government IT, the 6 authors are:
…. a Research Analyst at the Institute for Government.
….. a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government.
…..a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government …. previously worked in the Canadian civil service.
….. an Intern at the Institute for Government up until February 2011,
……..a Fellow at the Institute for Government;
…….a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government

So naturally if we think there’s something wrong with Government IT (surely the whole premise behind commissioning the report) then a good place to start would be with exemplar organisations & practices that are “not wrong”.
So having got that rant over & actually believing that the authors are not best placed to provide objective criticism, here’s my 2p worth.
The focus is predominantly on technology.
The CIO in the vast majority of organisations is actually not an “Information” officer, but a “Technology” officer.  The few corporates that have successfully got to grips with how “ICT” can effectively serve the business are those who understand that whilst organisation / functional units change, personnel change, and data volumes increase, that the fundamental definitions / concepts of business data (ie the conceptual / logical models) are relatively stable.
I say relatively because of course with wholesale mergers / acquisitions / divestments etc there can be larger change. 
Fundamentally, the information (and business process) models provide a good foundation upon which detailed technical processes (ie programs, packages, XML messages or whatever) can be built / implemented.  The unholy focus upon the “T” of IT witnessed especially in Government is analogous to spending lots of time & energy picking out the carpets, curtains & wallpaper because all that foundations & plumbing stuff is boring.
It’s about time government sat up & realised that Information across Government business areas / departments needs to be managed:  I was going to say … managed as well as within Government departments, but evidence shows that the discipline of true “Information Management” in most departments is woefully misunderstood, and the special competencies required are not present.  Not only that, the critical importance of information management as a professional discipline is not well understood - just how many “information management” professionals in Government IT have the Industry Data Management Qualifications?  Now compare that with say HR or Accounting professionals!
So why do we need a cross Government Information view?
Anti Money laundering
Illegal immigration
Homeland security
Counter terrorism
Organised crime
Benefit fraud
…… I could go on
So what’s’ to be done:?
Create a Government “Information Management” officer & executive.
Establish cross government Information Management, Governance, Quality and Ownership responsibilities.
Think global – act local; ie establish the need / types / quality etc for shared information but devolve the responsibility to a “lead” department.  After all in the real world. Corporate data governance programs establish data owners in the business to be responsible for the cross organisation stewardship of that type of data for the good of the whole company.
Key game changer is that Information must be thought of as a corporate (vs departmental) asset and its management must be for the good of the entire organisation – not just the silo I live in.
Until that happens, we’ll continue to have CIO’s focusing on T who don’t give an D about I