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Humpty Dumpty and the CEO

There is a dirty, little secret about data warehouses: we wouldn’t need them if top executives ran their organizations properly.

A data warehouse (DW) reflects the organization—the more fractured and disintegrated the organization, the harder it is to create a robust, highly functional data warehouse. These reporting repositories really are tools to reintegrate a fractured enterprise and provide a holistic and consistent view of data where none exists.

Most organizations are like Humpty Dumpty teetering and tottering on top of a big wall. With the slightest gust of wind, Humpty crashes and breaks into dozens of pieces. And DW teams are “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” who are charged with putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Today, most companies have fragmented into dozens or hundreds of largely unconnected business units, departments, and workgroups, each with their own strategies, policies, processes, systems, IT staffs, and data. It’s the job of the CEO to bring order to this chaos. If the CEO provides the business with a clear, coherent strategy, integrated processes and systems, and standard definitions and rules governing those processes, then there is almost no need for a data warehouse.

The good news is that many DW teams do succeed in gluing their companies back together, at least for awhile, until the next merger, acquisition, or other upheaval blasts everything apart. But while it lasts, these unsung heroes should be congratulated, not outsourced, offshored, or reassigned to the IT-equivalent of a Siberian gulag.

The moral of the story is this: don’t blame the DW team if it can’t deliver a successful data warehouse; blame the CEO. The data warehouse is merely a messenger, a reflection of the state of organizational dysfunction.

Editor's note: this article originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Posted by Wayne Eckerson on September 23, 2009


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