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Issue Date: October 2007

Still space for specialists

1 October 2007
Andrew Seldon

In an exclusive interview with CBR, world-renowned data warehousing innovator, Ralph Kimball, shared his thoughts on consolidations and the attack of the suites, as well as a visit he will be making to South Africa in November.
Following this month’s CBR Round Table discussion on trends in the BI space, CBR asked Ralph Kimball for his take on the question of application vendors incorporating BI into their offerings at the expense of specialist vendors.
Kimball stated that while consolidation was a natural process in any market, the task of providing everything from the database to the applications, the back- and front-end, ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) and so forth is too much for one company to handle. Even specialist companies cannot handle the full range of specialist services without help, so it is unlikely a generalist ERP vendor could provide the required expertise.
“While these companies will be able to make a contribution in various areas, there is no way they are able to provide the mature tools and services to run a serious BI shop.”
He suggested that an organisation looking at implementing an effective BI system should consider using three or four expert vendors to get the job done right – and to ensure the system delivers the results required.
In each area of the BI landscape, certain vendors stand out as having the best tools for that task, be it ETL, front-end processing and so on. And while many have tools that span the various areas of BI, none of them have a completely best-of-breed suite. That does not mean Kimball recommends using dozens of smaller companies in your BI system, that would be overkill and would lead to endless hassles.
BI Practice to host Kimball
The BI Practice, a Sybase SA company, will be hosting Kimball at a business intelligence (BI) event themed Straight Talk on Practical BI Techniques for Proven Results, to be held at Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg, on 8 November 2007.
Kimball will be presenting twice on the day and will also be available for a Q&A; session.
His keynote will be an 90-minute engineer’s perspective of how to effectively build platforms for business intelligence systems that are 'simple, fast, relevant and cost effective'. Instead of starting at the back-end and working to the front, Kimball will propose starting with the front-end in terms of what the users need and expect, and then working back.
The Q&A; session will take place over lunch after which Kimball will get serious and deliver a 3-hour session talking to practitioners about practical data warehousing. The session is titled: Best Practices for Building the Data Warehouse.
Having experienced the local data warehousing market since 1993 when he first visited South Africa and was involved with a leading retailer’s data warehousing efforts, Kimball says South Africa is a mature market when it comes to data warehousing technology and implementation. He is confident attendees will be ready for some detailed and in-depth information about data warehousing best practices and he intends to deliver.
Kimball has remained steadfast in his long-term conviction that data warehouses must be designed to be understandable and fast. His books on dimensional design techniques have become the all-time best sellers in the data warehousing market.
“Business intelligence and data warehousing has reached a new level of maturity, both as a discipline and a technology market,” says Estelle de Beer, practice manager at BI Practice, sponsor of the event. “Increasing regulatory imperatives, cost pressures and a desire to optimise business processes and streamline the enterprise make BI/DW one of the top 10 critical CIO priorities, according to a Gartner survey.”
De Beer adds that because of Kimball’s exceptional achievements in BI as a global discipline, it made perfect sense to Sybase SA’s BI Practice to make this investment to extend his BI expertise to IT and business management in South Africa.


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