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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!

April 2007 Archives

I'll be headlining this conference, Scandinavia's most ambitious data warehouse and business intelligence conference ever.

Posted April 25, 2007 1:34 PM
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This is a little off-topic, but last week, I was asked what profession I thought a colleague’s teenager should begin preparing for in order to be successful. My friend was looking for a technology or two in information management. However, I found myself going off in a variety of directions, even though I am not so afflicted as to have teenagers yet. I’ll try to recreate, and reduce, my diatribe here…

1. What the teenager brings natural talent and interest to. This must be overriding guidance for any of the subsequent directions. There’s nothing wrong with pushing and refining towards a direction that is interesting, but success is personal. Creating the best tailored life for oneself, balancing numerous personal factors, must take precedent. For example, if one is willing to and desiring travel, a direction would be crafted quite differently from someone who is going to prefer a predictable and repeatable type of day. For those who want to go for those skills that should maximize earnings and demand, these are my opinions around that narrow focus.

2. What cannot be outsourced. This is another of those non-specific guiding principles that should not be ignored. America is a system integrator. You can be a top talent in the world in anything and you will still be highly marketable. However, for professions that can be outsourced, that search for quality (top talent) versus quantity (cheap) will wane and your differentiation will need to be even higher to command top compensation. By the way, I not only mean outsourced, as in to India, but also to internet automation.

3. Learn to speak Chinese. While our population continues its inevitable, yet slow-moving journey towards universal language over the next several millenniums and it is not all clear what that language will be like, what is clear is that the career years of today’s teenager will weigh important the ability to speak Chinese. Trade and diplomacy with the Chinese will be invaluable skills for companies and government.

4. Become a Patent Lawyer. What are we going to do with all this accumulated intellectual property crossing national boundaries? Fight over it, of course. And it’s the patent lawyer getting in the ring for the fight… over and over again.

5. Become a mechanical engineer. Of all the engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering stands out to me due to the impending need to redesign to replace energy usage, take advantage of localization of mechanical systems and drive further automation, which is showing signs of being an even higher priority.

6. Any technology that involves the replenishment of resources. For whatever you believe about peak oil (and soil, water and air), there’s no doubt that energy makes the world go and slowing down what energy does for us (or how many of ‘us’ there are) does not seem to be an option. For those who can make energy more efficient, through current popular or interesting sources – or something new – the world will reward that tremendously.

7. Food Science - helping the harvesting of our food to scale to population growth. While some localization efforts are already taking shape in our grocer’s selection due to the fear of higher costs of oil, shifting our dietary mix to more scalable possibilities will be rewarded.

8. RFID Technology. How many more things need to be tagged? Look around. Even if the tag serves no purpose after leaving the store, it helps get it efficiently to the store. This technology is nascent relative to where it will be as the tags get smaller and cheaper.

9. Personal services that cannot be outsourced. This includes the doctor that has to see you personally, but not the one who reads test results. On different scales, keeping in mind item 1 above, speech pathology and even hair styling are other examples of personal services that it will take some time to outsource. However, there’s always the chance that the Flowbee will reemerge with customized features and modern technology for a second go-around, saving men the monthly trek to Supercuts.

Technorati tags: Careers, college

Posted April 25, 2007 1:27 PM
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I’ve been putting some thought into data warehouse design issues in my recent three (and one more to go) DM Review column, but today I was thinking about what inhibits good data modeling. In other words, what are the practices leading to poor data warehouse data modeling?

The main ones really all have to do with the same thing – not doing a logical model before the physical model. The major reasons for this are:

· Thinking physical too early - The hardest part of modeling is getting the grain of each entity and the relationships right. It is difficult to tell the grain and “real” relationships (versus those that are being added for performance) when physical constructs are thrown in too early.

· Thinking usage over relationships too early - Sure, there are those target queries that you will test the model with. But if you model to them, you can easily make the model very difficult to accomplish future requirements with – those sitting below the peak of the proverbial iceberg.

· Thinking denormalization before the normalization is done - Anticipating downstream query performance shortcomings and considering them too early into the modeling process is a reason models fail. By the way, I'm using normalization here generically to mean normalizing or dimensional modeling - whichever you are doing.

As a rule, you should try to stay close to the logical model during implementation. Physical modeling should be iterative and based on performance testing. It’s not something you necessarily do with your modeling tool. If you “over-spec” the machine a little bit, and arm your toolbelt with ability to index, cluster, partition (which does not stray from the logical model) and build cubes, summaries and push complexities in a mart or at least outside the core model, what you gain in model understandability and manageability usually outweigh the added complexities of numerous rule exceptions, like denormalizations, in the model.

Technorati tags: Data Modeling, Data Warehouse, Normalization

Posted April 13, 2007 2:41 PM
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At RFID World last week, Dr. Bill Colleran, President and CEO of Impinq, discussed “The 5 Success Factors for 2007 Item-Level RFID Deployments”.

1. Standards Compliance – Required for scalability, open-loop, multi-vendor; Gen 2 is the main standard; certifications can be found here
2. Performance – Good read reliability and throughput; tags with the same silicone can have different sensitivities
3. Flexibility – Reduced Deployment Cost with fewer vendors and a common infrastructure
4. Quality/Reliability – On the wafer, chips should be tested, calibrated and stored on the chip, baked at 250 degrees for 3 days, then retested; Impinq provides the wafer map to the customer
5. Delivery – Delivery of chips to customer is not to be taken or granted

I might add to that list Information – the ability to discern long-term trends from the data and affect the strategic business, as well as to take immediate, tactical business actions.

Dr. Colleran talked about the practical problems of “overlap” (multiple readers picking up a tag) and “non response” (no reader picking up a tag). Dr. Colleran also talked about the various antennae designs (banjo, jumping jack and propeller for cases&pallets and satellite, disc and button for items).

Technorati tags: RFID, Impinq, EPC

Posted April 4, 2007 7:22 PM
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As a frequent traveler, I know there can be a lot to think about when you are preparing to hit the road again. A little planning can go a long way and keep your exercise program active. It has got quite a bit easier over the years to do this, whether what is necessary during the time away from home is cardio, resistance training or stretching. Most hotels have a fitness room, but you still have to pack right to take advantage of it. Also, just in case you end up not wanting to leave your room, it is good to have the necessary accessories so that you can still get exercise in. You are likely going to want to be extremely efficient about your time while on the road. Furthermore, packing in-room exercise gear gives you options.

As for travel-ready exercise gear, there are items to support all 3 categories of exercise. For cardio, there’s the jump rope. The problem with jump ropes is the overhead clearance required for swinging the rope! In many hotel rooms, you’ll get about one jump in and then the rope bangs the ceiling (or something on the periphery). Nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile option and you can always head into an open area like the hallway to do it. This is one cardio exercise you can do without bringing your sneakers, which takes up valuable packing room if you don’t wear them in transit. I wouldn’t attempt running or using hotel gym cardio equipment without sneakers. A little warning, however… If you have not jumped rope ever (or in a long time), 5 minutes will feel like a long time! You’ll want to stretch this out by alternating rest and jumping. Oh well, as long as you bring sneakers, shorts and a t-shirt, the better option is the hotel gym’s cardio equipment. Those so inclined and in an acceptable area (and weather) for it, can also hit the road for their cardio. Often the hotel staff can recommend a route.

For stretching, it’s easy enough to bring a yoga DVD and play it through your laptop. Here’s one. Many yoga videos combine stretching, cardio and resistance training as well so you’re getting all three in one. You need no other equipment. You don’t even need to pack shorts – just wear your pajamas. Also, DVDs can pack up to a couple hours of sessions, so you can pick and choose segments according to your energy, need and time allotment.

Resistance training is usually as easy as hitting the hotel gym although many hotel gyms have only cardio or just a few dumbbells. Using a travel band, like this one, allows you to at least do some resistance training in your room. You hook these to a leg of the bed or something heavy and pull away in all directions. I’ve been quite creative with this when the bed isn’t bolted down. Last time, I had the ironing board wedged between a closet door and a dresser and the band stretched around it. It wasn’t elegant, but hey…

As for timing of exercise, I know many are morning people, but do not care to go to a public hotel gym without showering first and since this will create 2 showers in the morning, it doesn’t happen. Well, first, I would say not to worry about it. People are there to exercise and the business day hasn’t started yet where you have to have “the look” on. Secondly, you can bring a ball hat and even sunglasses depending on the depth you wish to camouflage yourself. You’ll also need to eat something before exercise so pack a few protein or energy bars and call that breakfast. Of course, you can always do the in-room stuff I have mentioned here and skip the morning-hair disguise routine.

Finally, eating on the road is a whole different topic, but suffice it to say eating out each meal on the road indiscriminately can be counter-productive to exercise goals so be mindful of this as well.

Technorati tags: Travel, fitness

Posted April 3, 2007 2:25 PM
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