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A short list for data processing management success

If IT Management isn't willing to strike out, it will never score a home run

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

How can you tell when a technology vendor is desperate? A technology vendor is desperate, when the vendor only has time to make sales calls that will result in an immediate sale. When the vendor has no time for investing in relationships, advancing its own technology or participating in major industry trends then the vendor is desperate. The vendor is burning the sales pipeline for the sake of short-term results. 

How can you tell when a book publisher is desperate? When the book publisher only wants to publish bestsellers. When there is no time to develop new markets, no resource for books on new subjects, no investment in new authors and new ideas, the book publisher is desperate. It’s like a Hollywood studio saying they are only going to produce blockbusters.  

The truth is that not every vendor makes a sale every time and not every movie produced by Hollywood is a hit. And people who think they can only operate with immediate sales and hit movies are just uninformed. The world doesn’t operate that way. 

What about data processing managers who want a solid, quantifiable return on investment for every new thing they purchase in six months or less? This attitude is as shortsighted as the Hollywood studio that only wants to produce hit movies. 

Technology development takes a longer time to produce a return on investment. Consider a simple data base management system (DBMS). Can a DBMS be cost-justified on the basis of a single application?  If the world would have waited for a DBMS that could be cost-justified on the basis of a single immediate application, the world would have never had a DBMS. A certain amount of vision, a certain amount of betting on the long-term was required for a DBMS to be justified. 

Consider ERP. Is the implementation of an ERP justified on the basis of a single application or process? Absolutely not. The payoff on an ERP comes when a lot of processes and applications are included. ERP requires vision and a long term perspective. 

The world of technology requires a broader perspective in order to be justified. Managers that say that they are not buying technology that has a longer term payback are really saying that they are no longer investing in long term infrastructure. And that is a shame. 

How did the world get into this short term technology focus? The answer is that the world of technology became consumed with Y2K and the dot com mania.  Now IT management has created a dilemma. No longer is the IT manager trusted enough to evaluate and select long term investments in technology. That is a shame because there are plenty of new long term technological needs that require a long term perspective. The obvious and short list includes: 

  • Archival processing. We are starting to see massive volumes of data stack up where the data has long outlived its useful active life. Do we want to keep this data in the online environment? No, it is expensive and a waste. Do we want to throw the data away? No, because what do we do if we have to access it again for some unknown reason? Do we want to invest in an archival infrastructure? No, because that is a long term infrastructure investment which may require more than six months to achieve payback.
  • Metadata. The world aches for a good metadata product. There are old metadata products that service technology and concepts of the past. There are new lightweight products that superficially handle metadata. But is management willing to do anything about the metadata challenge except to let the problem fester? No, because a new approach – any approach – would require investing in the future.
  • Unstructured data. There is a world of data and processing that needs to be integrated with structured data. But dealing with that problem requires foresight and vision. The new IT management won’t look beyond six months.
  • Data mining. Data mining requires non-traditional skills and technology other than transaction processing. IT management won’t do that because it is new and different. 

There are many more arenas that cry out for investment. 

We are told that Babe Ruth, the mighty and legendary baseball player, held two records – one for home runs and another for strike outs. The IT manager of today has taken the position that there will be no more strikeouts. And sadly, that means there will also be no more home runs.

Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations. Bill can be reached at 303-681-6772.

Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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