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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

In my quest for sustainable knowledge I am constantly searching for those little pieces of 'gold' in the literature. John Dearen's publication in the Harvard Business Review in 1970 is a great example. It's called MIS is a mirage.

Please remember that this article was written in 1970 - so try to go back in time when you read this article or this blog. It's fun!!

Some Quotes:
"Of all the ridiculous things that have been foisted on the long-suffering executive in the name of science and progress, the real-time management information system is the silliest"

In trying to decribe MIS as a term Dearden writes: "It is difficult to even describe MIS in a satisfactory way because this conceptual entity is embedded in a mish-mash of fuzzy thinking and incomprehensible jargon."

I wonder if I replace the word MIS for BI.....whether John Deardens' remark is still valid.

Back in those days MIS was apparently defined as some sort of holistic computer-based, centralized entity that can solve all management information problems.....

"In short, the proponents promise, experts can design a MIS that is more effective, more efficient, more consistent, and more dynamic than the haphazard aggregate of individual systems a company would otherwise employ."

As Dearden continues (freely translated); any manager would be a total idiot not to go for this amazing technology. Well, going back to 2009, I still encounter vendors and consultants that sell 'Mikes amazing kitchenmachine - that can do virtually anything you want'.

Off course Dearden is right in claiming that MIS - as defined in those days - was a total fallacy. And believe me - he's not holding back in his paper.

One nice sitesnote is that in this article Dearden talks about 'The System Approach' (without referencing it btw). It stems from Churchman's book 'The System Approach' (1968), which is quite another piece of 'gold' in science literature. Although he patronises it a bit, in the next 3 to 4 decades, system thinking did some real good things in theory-building.

To end this posting...Dearden finishes his paper with 'back-to-earth' insights and approaches into the informational challenges for executives, most of them still valid and most of them have nothing to do with the technical dimension but much more with the people- and organisational dimension.

Nothing new - aint it? But isn't that amazing if you consider the article to be from 1970?

Posted June 5, 2009 12:32 AM
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