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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

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

March 2007 Archives

I was recently posed a good set of questions by Dan Lindstedt on MDM. I thought I’d share my quippy answers with you.

- Where do you ‘master’ the master data? Strategy: MDM hub feeding operational systems and the DW
- How do you model master data? Strategy: Like a dimensional model’s dimensions; hierarchical
- What master data do you distribute? Strategy: Break all master data into ‘subject areas’ and distribute full subject areas (changed data only)
- Does 3rd party data constitute master data? Strategy: Absolutely. If it’s not transactional and it helps to explain the subject, it’s master data.
- What style of MDM should we use? Strategy: It depends, but usually a hub has had the best value proposition so far.
- Use a tool or do homemade MDM? Strategy: It depends, but usually should be a more later-stage decision than it usually is

Technorati tags: Master Data Management, CDI

Posted March 30, 2007 8:42 AM
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I spoke at the CDI Institute conference Monday and this question was on the minds of the attendees, many of whom were just starting off their MDM program.

Defining ownership as the entity that would actually come up with the rules for the sourcing, quality and presentment of the data, as opposed to the entity that would actually build the rules into the systems, my answer is Data Stewardship. Specifically, it's the business data stewards, who are representing the business rules to the IT/consulting build team for MDM. I have written extensively elsewhere about stewardship, but it is essential to MDM success. Hopefully those stewardship programs that were built for data warehousing can carry over to the MDM extensions many are now planning for their information management environment, as evidenced by the conversations I had on Monday.

Technorati tags: Master Data Management, CDI , Data Stewardship

Posted March 29, 2007 1:24 PM
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I'll be giving a webinar on the Subject topic this Friday at 11:30 Eastern.

You can register here.

The abstract is:

Making effective use of information is a central focus of organizations both large and small in our contemporary competitive landscape. Information is an asset to exploit without restrictions on bringing in new data, manipulating that data, or accessing that data.

In this Web seminar, we will discuss the following:

* Multiple, complex applications serving a variety of users
* Data warehousing is evolving, with new demands and needs placed on robust data warehouses
* Exploding data size that will continue to explode with data types running the gamut beyond traditional alphanumeric types
* Master data requirements in the operational environment as well as the data warehouse
* The role of operational Business Intelligence within the information management architecture

It’s the most time-consuming, yet critically important, component of most corporate projects. For the past few decades data warehousing, and the struggles to centralize data, have been the center of the universe for information management professionals. Recent advances in information management technology such as Master Data Management, EII and operational Business Intelligence have allowed for a more nuanced, yet effective, strategy for information management to complement data warehousing. In this webcast, William McKnight, renowned information management architect, will outline the modern components of information management and help participants understand how to these innovations can be put to work in today’s ever more complex IT environment.

Posted March 20, 2007 10:37 AM
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I'm getting concerned about the data warehouse. It has served us well, but can the current profile of data warehouses out there handle the next 10 years or will widespread changes be necessary? Consider that most data warehouses out there are not best practices by definition and are therefore dumps of operational data where history collects and reports are run from. This only solves some of the challenges associated with going it alone with just operational data, which are:

Data access
Reporting capabilities
Concurrency between query and operational needs
Structure for data access
Data quality for data access
Data integration
Storage of history data

Notably, it is the concurrency and history issues that instigate many data warehouse programs. However, integration is largely limited to data sharing a common database instance - which is good, but leaves too much complexity to the data access layer, where the end users find the data access tools too complex already. Building summaries and making sense of the data warehouse structure and data, especially without metadata, which most DW lack adequate levels of, is exasperating so current users mostly skim the surface of their true needs.

Also, data quality is only addressed in data warehouse programs out there selectively. Many remain afraid to change operational data, even if it is wrong. It needs to be fixed operationally anyway, and that just isn't happening enough.

So, how is data warehousing supposed to fit into this new world of data explosion, real-time requirements and a need for process-orientation?

1. We can't continue to delay the calculation, assimilation and distribution of master data until the data warehouse
2. Business intelligence, as a discipline, must be extended beyond reporting and even dashboarding and get involved in business processes using enterprise information integration and operational business intelligence approaches; these open up the possibilities beyond post-operational, after-the-fact BI
3. We need to embed business intelligence in operational processes and try a lot harder to fix data quality in the operational environment; the longer action is delayed, the less valuable it is; this can be the equivalent value of thousands of end-user data access licenses

This world requires integration between business units. It requires the understanding that information is a most-important business asset.

Of course, we could improve our data warehouses too with data quality, metadata, deriving data and true integration. In reality, for most, this is needed as well as a change in direction that focuses on the augmentation of the data warehouse with these new concepts. Most data warehouse programs will see these changes come one way or another in the next few years.

Technorati tags: data warehouse, information management, enterprise informatoin integration

Posted March 16, 2007 1:00 PM
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I'll be speaking at the CDI-MDM Summit March 26 in San Francisco on the topic of "CDI-MDM ROI & Justification."

The abstract...

Data integration is required to synchronize master data in order to get a single consistent view of an enterprise's core business entities like customers, products, suppliers, and employees. Yet many executives question economic payback. IT professionals must calculate and present the business value of MDM in terms business executives can understand. Unfortunately, most IT professionals lack the knowledge required to develop comprehensive cost-benefit analyses and return on investment (ROI) measurements. This session provides a framework for the research, measurement, and presentation of the economic value of a proposed or existing CDI-MDM initiative, including practical advice about how to calculate ROI, which formulas to use, and how to collect necessary information. Topics include:

* Determining indirect ROI
* Calculating the most common forms of ROI
* Justifying MDM programs versus justifying projects

Technorati tags: Master Data Management, CDI , ROI

Posted March 14, 2007 10:16 AM
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Last week, at the Black Hat Federal security conference, Chris Paget of IOActive was scheduled to present an ironically titled presentation “RFID for Beginners”. In this presentation, according to the abstract and interviews with Chris, he was going to present how to build a working RFID clone from $20 worth of off-the-shelf electronic parts, mostly from eBay. The maker of the target chip is HID, who threatened lawsuits and otherwise made it ugly and consequently IOActive decided to cancel the presentation, citing the difficulty of bringing these difficulties to a small company.

The chip “hack” he was going to speak about would have allowed for the surreptitious, non-secure reading of the HID chip. HID’s comments include one about protecting against a “major upheaval”among customers. A representative also said someone would have to get “within 2-3 inches and get into the same plane as the card.” Well, if they’re saying it’s not practical, why did they threaten lawsuits about the presentation?

However you look at it, the situation highlights security concerns dogging RFID progress.

Anyway, what do you think? Is the repackaging and sharing of one’s own research public domain? Or is it irresponsible to demonstrate the security vulnerabilities of a supposedly secure market product?

Technorati tags: RFID

Posted March 3, 2007 3:36 PM
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It's official. Oracle has bought Hyperion for $3.3 billion. The main assets include Hyperion's enterprise planning system, OLAP engine and financial consolidataion product, the latter of which is widely considered best of its kind. Perhaps most important in this for enterprise data warehouse environments, where Oracle and Business Objects mostly are, is that it would appear now that Oracle is not buying Business Objects.

The Hyperion OLAP product could replace the Oracle OLAP component now in the Oracle DW stack. Oracle OLAP has been only modestly embraced by Oracle DW customers. On the other hand, the Hyperion tool has become more of a "data mart" in its environments. I wonder if Oracle will get behind an EDW strategy with Hyperion or continue the "mart excellence" approach that Hyperion has got the most traction with.

I can still see IBM buying Cognos (or Microstrategy). I also know excellent, experienced information management talent is being amassed at Hewlett Packard and would not be surprised to see an acquisition there as part of an impending market push to join IBM, SAP and Oracle in the BI race.

This acquisition, along with any others that happen between now and then (and that will happen in the future) will doubtlessly be points of conversation at the Pacific Northwest BI Summit.

Technorati tags: Business Objects, SAP, Hewlett Packard, Hyperion, Oracle,
data warehouse

Posted March 1, 2007 3:25 PM
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It's time for information executives and vendors interested in staying current and gaining insights in the field of information management to consider the Pacific Northwest Business Intelligence Summit, coming again to the Rogue River in Oregon in July. Scott Humphrey is crafting the limited attendee list for this so to see if it's right for you, contact Scott.

You can read about it here. As it says there, this is an annual weekend retreat which assembles the top industry thought leaders in the data warehousing, business intelligence, data integration and CRM industries in an informal setting to discuss the latest trends in BI.

The BI Summit is headlined by four of the world’s leading experts — Dr. Claudia Imhoff, president of Intelligent Solutions, Colin White, president of BI Research, William McKnight, senior vice president, data warehousing, Conversion Services International, and Jill Dyche, partner with Baseline Consulting.

A small, diverse group of vendors fill out the attendee list, taking taking advantage of the rare opportunity to mingle with these true industry experts in an intimate, relaxed setting. Hosting the event is Scott Humphrey, president of Humphrey Strategic Communications.

Here is my blog entry from last year's event.

Posted March 1, 2007 9:01 AM
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