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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 1967 Thompson wrote about the administrative paradox; a dichotomy where continuity (stability) and flexibility are positioned at both ends of the spectrum. In other words; be flexible and at the same time try to progressively eliminate or absorb uncertainty. This paradox can also be discussed in terms of time; in the short run administration seeks to reduce uncertainty. In the long run, the administration strives for flexibility.

iStock_000011274573XSmall-1.jpgNothing new I hope? Now, what about Information Systems...

In using Information Systems we also need to deal with this paradox. We tend to use Information systems to automate tasks, formalize sequences of events, kill flexibility (;-)). An Information System can be interpreted as a 'bureaucrat in an electronic version'(Checkland and Holwell, 1998).

So, what do we do? We tend to modularize information systems, integrate them via services that are of course strongly decoupled with each other. IT delivers and supports all kinds of business functions and with a brilliant Service Oriented Architecture we cross the bridge between function and business process. We can now change the business processes if demand requires it.

Yee - we=happy. we=flexible again. Easy huh?

NO, it is not easy. It can be an open check you write to your 'partners' - the System Integrators, it may takes years before you capitalize on the investment that has been made. And in the process you tend to demotivate your own personnel (or customers) big time

My point; the balance between stability and flexibility is sometimes totally lost in organizations. Some architects and many vendors/solution providers are pushing the flexibility agenda big time nowadays, but the 'why' of flexibility has never been fundamentally discussed with(in) top management. The 'why' should be related to the industry your in and the strategy you wish to approach the market with. For example; I believe firmly that many government agencies should focus on stability over flexibility. But unfortunately, they seem not to agree with me. And what also needs to be considered is that stability and flexibility are interconnected; more focus on flexibility will diminish your stability and vice versa. Accept collateral damage if you architecture is all centered around 'being flexible', if you want both, well, you can not and expect to pay a price ;-)

Even if the case for flexibility is made, the 'how' should be extremely careful considered. Is flexibility in business processes needed (hard question)? Or is flexibility in data sufficient (which is a huge difference in terms of attainability, costs and organizational impact), but the latter can overcome the Administrative Paradox at least partly....

Posted September 27, 2010 11:59 PM
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