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Ronald Damhof

I have been a BI/DW practitioner for more than 15 years. In the last few years, I have become increasingly annoyed - even frustrated - by the lack of (scientific) rigor in the field of data warehousing and business intelligence. It is not uncommon for the knowledge worker to be disillusioned by the promise of business intelligence and data warehousing because vendors and consulting organizations create their "own" frameworks, definitions, super-duper tools etc.

What the field needs is more connectedness (grounding and objectivity) to the scientific community. The scientific community needs to realize the importance of increasing their level of relevance to the practice of technology.

For the next few years, I have decided to attempt to build a solid bridge between science and technology practitioners. As a dissertation student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, I hope to discover ways to accomplish this. With this blog I hope to share some of the things I learn in my search and begin discussions on this topic within the international community.

Your feedback is important to me. Please let me know what you think. My email address is

About the author >

Ronald Damhof is an information management practitioner with more than 15 years of international experience in the field.

His areas of focus include:

  1. Data management, including data quality, data governance and data warehousing;
  2. Enterprise architectural principles;
  3. Exploiting data to its maximum potential for decision support.
Ronald is an Information Quality Certified Professional (International Association for Information and Data Quality one of the first 20 to pass this prestigious exam), Certified Data Vault Grandmaster (only person in the world to have this level of certification), and a Certified Scrum Master. He is a strong advocate of agile and lean principles and practices (e.g., Scrum). You can reach him at +31 6 269 671 84, through his website at or via email at

Vendors, but also the analysts (and I see a trend...), are increasingly using the term 'disruptive' for new products, new technologies or whatever. And lately it kind of got to me, simply because -  most of the time - there's no basis at all to define something 'disruptive'. It kind of inflates the term...big time.

'So what', I hear you say. Well, there is off course not much of a problem when a vendor defines their own technology or produtc as being 'disruptive'. I know where it comes from and I understand the vendors wish to increase its turnover by claiming to sell a disruptive technology/product/etc..

But when analysts do it, I am getting more suspicious and sometimes extremely annoyed. It is the analyst that needs to be neutral, a bit restrained and off course critical. The analyst needs to put this 'disruptive' stuff a bit in perspective for the reader.

Let's try to get some sort of definition to the word 'disruptive'. So I did some research and ended up with Kalle Lyytinen's paper from 2003 in MIS Quaterly called;

"The disruptive nature of Information Technology Innovations: The Case of Internet Computing in Systems Development Organizations"
In my opinion a very good paper. And by the way; in his study he shows that Internet Computing has radically impacted the IT innovations of firms both in terms of development processes and services. Maybe not at all suprising, but if you compare this type of innovation with (let's take an arbitrary example that is often defined as disruptive*) DW appliances......

Lyytinen defines disruptive innovation as:
They radically deviate from an established trajectory of performance improvement, or redefine what performance means in a given industry (Chistensen and Bower 1996). They are radical (Zaltman et al. 1977) in that they significantly depart from existing alternatives and are shaped by novel, cognitive frames that need to be deployed to make sense of the innovation (Bijker 1987). Consequently, disruptive innovations are truly transformative (Abernathy and Clark 1985). To become widely adopted, disruptive architectural innovations demand provisioning of complementary assets in the form of additional innovations that make the original innovation useful over its diffusion trajectory (Abernathy and Clark 1985; Teece 1986). By doing so, disruptive innovations destroy existing competencies (Schumpeter 1934) and break down existing rules of competition.

Are appliances or new technology for data storage and data management really disruptive? Or are they just the natural flow of continuing innovation. I think the latter.

Let's be cautious in using big words like 'disruptive'.......

 * Did a quick search on 'Disruptive' in B-eye-Network and found 128 hits, most of them appliances or other 'revolutionary' database products/technologie

Posted June 10, 2009 2:11 AM
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1 Comment

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