While returning from a client presentation and reflecting on the meeting conversations I was struck by a similarity that seems to be creeping into the minds of our clients.
While discussing our approach to performing a strategy assessment for this new client we were reviewing an example architectural diagram and a question was raised. One of the business sponsors commented that the ‘Operational Data Store’ that was referenced on the diagram seemed like an ‘archaic’ term from the past that may not be appropriate for their new platform. I explained that they may need a hybrid environment and that each technology had its place.
However, on the plane ride home I realized that I had heard a similar question just a few weeks earlier. I was at a different client, manufacturing as opposed to software, in a different part of the country, speaking about a different type of proposal, although both would have resulted in architectural enhancements, and a stakeholder asked about ‘new data warehouse’ technology such as Hadoop replacing the ‘older’ data warehouse paradigm we were discussing.
On both occasions I knew that the client wasn’t challenging my ideas as much as wanting to understand my recommendations better. What I knew in my head, but had failed to initially describe to both clients was the concept of ‘replacement’ technologies versus ‘complimentary’ technologies. Honestly it had never occurred to me that I needed to make such a designation since I wasn’t recommending both technologies. The client introduced the newer technology into the discussion at which point I fell victim to the assumption that both clients had a base understanding of what the different technologies were used for.
To be clear, we’re talking about the Big Data technology Hadoop and the well-known process of building a data warehouse with the Kimball or Inman approach. The former approach is relatively new and getting a lot of airplay as the latest thing. The latter approach is well known but has had its share of underwhelming successes.
So is Hadoop the new replacement for ‘traditional’ data warehousing? For that matter, is self-service BI a replacement for traditional dashboarding and reporting? How about Twitter, is it the replacement for traditional email or text messaging?
The answer is No. All of the technologies described are complementary technologies, not replacement technologies. These technologies offer additional capabilities with which to build more complete systems, but in some cases, certainly that of data warehousing, our clients are confusing them as carte blanche replacement options.
Considering that clear and concise messaging is fundamental to successful client engagements, I encourage all of our consultants to consider which category their respective technologies fall into and make sure your clients understand that positioning within their organization.