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Technicians -- repeating the pattern

Is the IT community missing out on the advantages of unstructured technology?

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

In the very earliest days of data warehousing, sponsorship almost always came from outside the IT organization. The marketing organization, the sales organization and the finance organization were the likely backers of early data warehouses. Indeed, in the early days, there was a stigma attached to data warehousing. The IT organization had the attitude of, “Real men don’t do data warehousing.” In that day, the IT organization was smitten with online transaction processing (OLTP). There were service level agreements (SLAs), standard work units, the MTAR, and the capacity planning exercise.

Response time and availability were the watchwords of the day. So it was that data warehousing just did not fit into the world of the IT professional. It was the businessperson who saw the value in data warehousing.

That, of course, was yesterday. Today, data warehousing is very much an IT activity. And today, it is estimated that data warehousing is a 28 billion dollar industry. Almost unnoticed, data warehousing sales have surpassed OLTP sales across the industry – a fact that would have simply been unbelievable to the IT community as little as a decade ago.

To a great extent, the same phenomenon is happening again in the arena of unstructured data and textual analytics. Once again, the IT community is letting the end user and the businessperson take the initiative and have the vision.

Recently, I was discussing unstructured technology with a diverse body of IT professionals. Most found the discussion interesting, but saw no business reason to invest any money or time in this technology. The professionals didn’t use the technology in the previous year, thus, they saw no reason to bring it in and use it this year.

Of course, you didn’t bring in the technology last year. Of course, you don’t have any experience in using the technology. That’s because last year we didn’t have the technology. That’s because there is no one who has any experience in using this technology because it is brand new.

Once again, we are going to wait for the end user to discover the business value of a new technology. Once again, IT is going to play follow the leader.

So, what exactly is the business advantage that unstructured technology is going to open up? In fact, the possibilities are almost limitless. The reason they don’t come to mind is that they have never been done before. What are some of the low lying fruits that the businessperson sees (or will see in the very near future) that the technician is missing? Some of the important possibilities are:

  • Creating a true 360 degree view of the customer. Today, we claim to have a 360 degree view of the customer, but we don’t have that view at all. When we get to the point of handling e-mail and corporate communications well, we can start to include customer communications in the 360 degree view of the customer. Then, and only then, can we claim to have a true understanding of our customer.

  • Looking inside contracts. How many businesses really know what lies inside their contracts? None of them do. They can guess, but do they really know?

  • Safety systems that contain accident, repair, inspection, warranty and other relevant data. Because this data has been textual and scattered, it has never before been brought into a database.

These are just the low lying fruits. There’s a lot more fruit at the top of the tree that we can harvest when we get around to shaking the tree really hard.

 Bill InmonBill Inmon

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.

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