Analyst warns of data warehouse user mutiny

Give users what they want, Gartner warns

The relationship between IT and the business is changing, says a Gartner analyst, and if IT doesn't let the business work how it wants to, the workers will take matters into their own hands. Speaking at Partners, the annual user conference of data warehousing vendor Teradata, Gartner's Donald Feinberg said companies should start paying closer attention to their data warehouses. Feinberg, a vice-president and distinguished analyst with the research firm, said if your data warehouse is more than 10 years old, it's going to need to be replaced in order to be able to do the things users are now expecting them to be able to do. Even clients with data warehouses just five years old are telling him they're not working anymore, said Feinberg. They can no longer handle the loads and do the job needed. It's a matter of changing expectations, said Feinberg, and what the systems were originally designed to do. "We just didn't know 10 years ago what we'd be doing with data warehouses today — we barely even called them data warehouses then." Users weren't talking about terms such as high availability, 24x7 or mission-critical disaster recovery in relation to data warehouses either, said Feinberg. But that has changed. By the close of 2009, he said, 90% of Global 2000 companies will have at least one mission-critical business application reliant on the data warehouse. And that, in turn, makes the data warehouse itself mission critical. "The bottom line is data warehouses are mission-critical, it's that simple," said Feinberg, "If you don't build them as integrated mission-critical systems they will become a point of failure." And while the mission of re-architecting and rebuilding the data warehouse will inevitably fall to IT, Feinberg said it needs to be a business-led initiative. Merely consulting with the business just won't be enough. That's because the game has changed. There was a time IT could give any old program to the business side and they'd have to use it, but not anymore. Noting that Excel 2007 allows a million rows, Feinberg said people can get by without a database, and can even run SAS analytics against Excel spreadsheets. "Bottom line, if you don't do it correctly and with them they're going to do it themselves," he said "Everything must now be designed around the worker." It's a trend he only sees becoming more true. In five years, the average person working on the business side will have grown up in the information age, working with technology all their lives. They'll be more tech-savvy than ever before. "Do you think you're going to be able to tell someone like that use this program to do your job?" asked Feinberg. "It doesn't work that way, because if they don't like it they're going to find some other way to do it on their own." Instead, he says, in the future IT will need to create services based on business processes. The worker's job will be to get from point A to point B, IT will provide a menu of services, and the worker will decide themselves how to get there. "This makes it look like the industrial revolution never happened," said Feinberg.

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