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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

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

October 2005 Archives

I have been referring to Business Objects over the past year as a company "nearing" the billion dollar mark in annual revenue. Now, according to this press release by B.O., I can drop the "nearing" since B.O. is recording $1.039 billion in trailing twelve month revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2005.

Give credit to B.O. When they acquired Crystal Decisions, the overlap of the technologies presented some challenges. There were questions about the ability to get beyond the additive effects of this merger. Any merger needs to show cost efficiencies and/or revenue enhancement beyond the additive effects. Business Objects had the leading OLAP tool in the market. Crystal Decisions had the leading reporting tool. Each company had made huge strides, both real and from a marketing perspective, in the previous years into the other’s primary domain. So much so that they had virtually identical marketing messages and a high redundancy of products.

The company weeded through the product set, sales forces and sales messages. The customer backlash and reluctance to make new purchases from the company never materialized in force. I was more impressed at the time by the upsell possibilities of the Brio purchase by Hyperion, which happened about the same time.

At this point, I'd have to say B.O. has stayed the course and created the better value proposition, despite the obstacles, and they continue to be a strong force in the market. Along with a small handful of other companies, like Informatica, they are establishing that there is such a thing as a "business intelligence company."


Posted October 30, 2005 8:22 PM
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CRM just got a new toy. No longer content to return our clothes on boring wire hangers, now according to this press release, "Savvy marketers have discovered an extraordinary new media and marketing capability allowing them to help improve the environment while reaching millions of consumers -- at the exact time and place their brand messages are most relevant and motivating."

That time and place would be when we're half asleep in the morning putting on our clothes. Remove the shirt from the hanger and there you have an idea for breakfast or your cosmetics.

Now, the targeted marketer in me is asking how consumer information can be used to target hanger ads to the right person. I can see the dry cleaner asking lifestyle questions in the near future.

If you have any ideas ideas as to which ads would be effective for this channel or what questions would be effective in the targeting process, please post them here.


Posted October 30, 2005 8:15 PM
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I know many readers of this blog, along with myself, are addicted to their Blackberry or, in my case, Treo. My peace of mind has gone up tremendously with the adoption of this technology. Now, when I'm away from my laptop, I can still thumb out an email (or two, or three, or ten). I have been wondering if this is just good for my thumb dexterity or if indeed I am doing structural harm and am pioneering a modern version of carpel tunnel, focused on the thumbs.

For what it's worth, I always give my thumbs a full range of motion exercise after thumbing away a long email.

This article on washingtontimes.com, "Being all thumbs gets painful" talks about "Blackberry Thumb" - a catch-all phrase to describe a repetitive stress injury of the thumb as a result of overusing small gadget keypads.

Be careful out there!


Posted October 28, 2005 8:43 AM
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It's time to reveal my side job: Being Murray on The Wiggles.

murray.bmp


Posted October 28, 2005 8:38 AM
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Beer sitting around in extreme hot or cold? We can't have that. RFID to the rescue.

As previously reported, we know RFIDs are being placed in cows. This new article places RFIDs in beer cases, kegs, 900 billion food items and 824 million livestock (by 2015).

Pretty soon, we'll be asking what's that crunchy part in my burger?


Posted October 25, 2005 8:40 PM
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As a couple of comments have indicated (link1, link2), the data mining capabilities of SQL Server 2005 are much improved. SQL Server 2000 had decision tree and clustering algorithms.

SQL Server 2005 adds these 5:
Time Series
Sequence Clustering
Naive Bayes
Association Rules
Neural Nets

Through the efforts of Microsoft in SQL Server 2005 as well as others before them like Polyvista, data mining is well on the way to being out of the back room with the scientists and into the hands of the analyst end-user.

Data mining is often the true analytical end result desired, yet many fear the complexities involved and do patchwork mining step-by-step, often bailing out before achieving the desired result or accepting a result with only the limited data that was able to be included without using true data mining.

Both data mining and desktop OLAP should be presented as first alternatives for end users, depending on the requirements of course. Education of end users will be key to acceptance,


Posted October 24, 2005 1:32 PM
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I learned today that my former company, McKnight Associates, Inc., which I sold to CSI, placed 306 in the Inc. 500 for 2005.

This is quite an honor and I'm sure we'll get the appropriate press release out so I'll spare you from that verbage here.

My next challenge is to...

continue that growth with CSI.


Posted October 20, 2005 9:53 AM
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Occassionally, a vendor will come up with a new feature that you didn't think of, but once you see it, you find immediate application for it. Such is the case with 2 new features in SQL Server 2005's SSIS (Integration Services, the successor to Data Transformation Services). They're called fuzzy lookup and fuzzy grouping.

Many of the transformations in the warehouses I've been associated with are lookups. These range from simple matching to the use of some pretty complex rules for data cleansing. While many of these lookups require complete accuracy, many can accept "close enough". Actually, the right answer is often the close match and determining close requires the most complex logic.

Fuzzy lookup searches for "close" matches using its own logic. It creates similarity and confidence scores. Some combination of the 2 can be used to determine your acceptance systemically.

Fuzzy grouping looks at a group of potential records for loading and determines the probability that two (say, customer names) are actually duplicates.

Lookups and de-duplication is a huge ETL effort and I'm sure many Microsoft DW/BI shops will benefit from fuzzy lookup and fuzzy grouping in SQL Server 2005.


Posted October 19, 2005 8:40 PM
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While most are at least tepidly pleased with the progress of business intelligence and technology initiatives in general this year, future progress is not assured according to some recent indicators. I have (and remain) bullish on our industry, but it is good to take in data points that reflect as well as oppose that position.

Such is an article I read this morning at siliconvalley.com "Confidence at 2 1/2-year low in valley" and this one from echannel on a Forrester report: "Expect a significant drop in IT spending in 2007: Forrester." It begins "According to two new reports from Forrester Research Inc., there will be a significant slowdown in U.S. IT spending growth in 2007 before rebounding to near double-digit growth by the close of the decade."

One area that IS getting a lot of attention is RFID, which is a next big horizon for business intelligence. According to this article "RFID Gaining in Popularity", "Based on a survey of 500 companies, AMR Research expects corporate RFID spending to increase 16% from 2005 to 2006, and 20% from 2006 to 2007, up from the current annual average of just above $500,000." although "RFID Implementation Challenges Persist" according to this article.

Interestingly, the advice in these articles is much the same advice that DW/BI and CRM needed in their early days - have a business case, do iterative development and don't expect generic solutions to work for you out of the box. Some things don't change.


Posted October 17, 2005 9:58 AM
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I do about 10 environment assessments of DW/BI environments per year. I appreciate being able to fine tune or overhaul an environment so it is best able to meet its goals, both short- and long-term. People, process and technology are analyzed as a result.

All too often, I find that some of the optimizations are unrelated to client preconceptions about where they may be. One common optimization comes down to simply time management by the team members.

For example, one interview some time ago was supposed to be at 9:00. It started around 11:00. Read on to learn why...

Pete (name changed) was going to leave his house at 8:30 to get to work by our 9:00 meeting. He got off to a late start since he had misplaced something he needed for the day and had to scour the house (only to discover the file was in his bag all along). He also had to do the dishes that morning. He had forgot his wife was leaving early that day.

Then the gas gauge was empty and he found himself in the morning gas line at the pumps. When he got in, the parking lot was full and he had a "15 minute walk" to the office. He began working on the fires on his desk, trying to quickly accomplish some things before our meeting. He spilled his coffee and when he rose to go get paper towels, he noticed he had some voicemail, which reminded him he promised to call someone at 10:00 (after our meeting).

For some reason, this story came to mind today as I thought about the ripple effect of time mis-management and the importance of corralling the non-reusable asset we all have, time.


Posted October 12, 2005 1:34 PM
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At CSI, we have a Center of Excellence where we put new releases of BI products through the paces in order to stay on top of the market for our clients.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is about to live up to its title and get released here in 2005. There are quite a few important advances in this release. For those primarily involved with other database management systems, these enhancements may seem like "it's about time." However, some of these, especially the scalability-related items like 64-bit and addressable memory support and reliability items like security controls and improved failover clustering, that have been used to rule out SQL Server for upper-mid and large (i.e., terabyte) mission critical data warehouses are no longer limitations in SQL Server.

Here's some initial points of interest on SQL 2005.....

· 64-bit platform availability (Intel Itanium2 and AMD x64) maximum addressable memory is 32TB although physical RAM has only been tested to 512 GB – still a significant increase!
· XML data types
· Mirroring
· Triggers
· .NET integration allowing object creation with C#, VB.NET and C++
· Partitioning (with automatic recommendations)
· Failover clustering on up to 8 nodes
· Rebuilding the clustering (table ordering) index no longer causes rebuild of other indexes; incidentally indexes are the topic of my most recent column in DM Review Magazine: “Achieving BI Query Performance”· Bulk loading
· Text Searching with FULLTEXT index
· More granular security controls
· SQL Server Management Studio (combination of former SQL Server Enterprise Manager and Query Analyzer components) allows multiple dialog windows (this is seemingly unimportant on the surface, but adds to usability)

I'll continue this topic in later blogs with more feedback. If you have any feedback or anticipatory comments about SQL Server 2005, post them here.


Posted October 10, 2005 6:59 PM
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My company, Conversion Services International, marked a major milestone last week. Positioned on the platform overlooking the trading floor and surrounding by blue and orange balloons, Scott Newman and Glenn Peipert, company founders, reached for their golden gavels and together gave the American Stock Exchange opening bell several hearty strikes to officially ring in the day’s trading at 9:30 A.M EDIT on Monday. The opening bell ceremony served to commemorate CSI’s recent listing on the Exchange which began Sept. 21 (trading symbol: CVN).

We were listed over-the-counter until Sept. 21 and remain the only public company fully focused on data warehousing and business intelligence services.

You can view the event as well as an interview with Scott Newman live from the American Stock exchange by going to the AMEX web site:

http://www.amex.com

and scroll down the page until you see “Bell Ringing Close up” and then click on Conversion Services International Inc. This will provide you the option of viewing the video with Windows Media or Real Player.


Posted October 9, 2005 6:20 PM
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Well, the DCI Conference is over and the Around the Horn went very well. I think I started something. The format allowed me to state a few assertions about where our industry is going. Without much comment now, I present them here. If you have a comment on any, feel free to add your comment. Here they are:

There is no longer a line in the sand between operational and analytical BI. They have blurred together.

The “build it and they will come” attitude is still pervasive in DW.

The model of the BI software industry is about delivering more and more complexity making it harder to live instead of simplifying business. The BI software industry is partly to blame for the increasing complexity of business.

DW will eventually go the way of EAI. The extra data store in the picture is redundant and the market eventually drives out inefficiencies.

Companies are not taking data quality seriously enough. It’s an afterthought and is still sabotaging BI and compliance efforts.

Master Data Management is most effective in the operational world, at pre-DW levels.

Data Mart/DW Consolidation is hot now as companies realize they need an efficient EDW environment and the benefits of the enterprise consolidated view.

BI is focusing too much on the big guys. The needs of the SMB market are not being met by the BI industry.


Posted October 4, 2005 8:27 AM
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