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David Loshin

Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK Blog. This is going to be the place for us to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions on all aspects of the information quality and data integration world. I intend this to be a forum for discussing changes in the industry, as well as how external forces influence the way we treat our information asset. The value of the blog will be greatly enhanced by your participation! I intend to introduce controversial topics here, and I fully expect that reader input will "spice it up." Here we will share ideas, vendor and client updates, problems, questions and, most importantly, your reactions. So keep coming back each week to see what is new on our Blog!

About the author >

David is the President of Knowledge Integrity, Inc., a consulting and development company focusing on customized information management solutions including information quality solutions consulting, information quality training and business rules solutions. Loshin is the author of The Practitioner's Guide to Data Quality Improvement, Master Data Management, Enterprise Knowledge Management: The Data Quality Approach and Business Intelligence: The Savvy Manager's Guide. He is a frequent speaker on maximizing the value of information. David can be reached at or at (301) 754-6350.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in David's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

September 2005 Archives

After yesterday's webcast with Dataflux, I had lunch with Daniel Teachey, Ron Agresta, and Carmen Gardiner (all from Dataflux), and we talked about some of the topics we covered during the web seminar (which you can read about in my white paper), but we also talked about the potential of a successful blog. One theme that emerged was the value of the evolving community of interest that may form, either based on topic, or personality, or avocation. For me, this is almost self-referential, since part of my area of interest involves the emergence of small communities based on connectivity - something I may explore more carefully in an upcoming article...

Posted September 28, 2005 4:53 AM
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In the Business Intelligence community, we often talk about customers - customer relationship management, customer retention, customer lifetimes, etc. So here is a quick question to ponder: how long is a customer your customer?

I started thinking about this question because of an experience (actually, 2) that took place yesterday while I was (yet again) trying to get something (actually, the same thing) to work on my HP notebook computer. Once again, the machine lost its ability to see the optical drives connected within the docking station, which left me without the capability to load a software program from a CD-ROM.

I went to the HP PC support web site (both times), and engaged the online chat interface, where I was promptly told that because my machine was out of warranty, no questions would be answered unless I ponied up a fee. Of course, I could always search through their "knowledge base," but I didn't need them to tell me that, since I already had and did not find what I was looking for.

So basically, with respect to their notebook customers, HP has decided that their customers' lifetimes are equated with their product lifetimes. After that, if you have trouble with the product, you must re-commit to being a customer (if customer is defined as you giving them money). And that is not even for a guaranteed solution - it is just for someone to talk to you.

As someone who has explored the issues of customer retention and customer lifetime analysis, I have decided that this is a bad policy for 2 reasons. First of all, the fact that the product does not operate as expected indicates a failed technical process - they can't get the product right. After having a similar problem with one of their printers (planned obsolescence), and taking part in a class action suit whose participants were compensated for the known flaw, it seems that the products are not all they seem, which questions the wisdom of buying any more of their products.

Second, and more importantly, though, is the question of HP's expectation of customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is more than just the result of business analytics. It involves taking the right actions, such as correcting failures in their products and living up to expectations of product support.

Perhaps they have used their customer analytics to decide that after one year, a positive customer experience is not worth their effort. Perhaps so. I have decided I am going to spend a bunch of money on a new notebook, but I certainly don't expect to buy another one from HP ever again.

Posted September 26, 2005 1:03 PM
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Here is my latest challenge to you readers: I had a heck of a time trying to explain to some colleagues the value of presenting the results of measured metrics tied to business performance, and I need some help in figuring out a good way to do it.

Consider the scenario: An organization has the ability to provide some basic reporting statistics on the technical (and some of the operational) aspects of their applications. But it is not necessarily clear what business value is being provided by these statistics, and whether these metrics are relevant to achieving business objectives.

Perhaps because I eat, live, and breathe data and business intelligence, the definition and use of business performance metrics tied to business data is obvious. In this case, the questions revolve around performance improvement. But how can you improve a process if you can't measure how successful you are at it in the first place?

Here is what I want to be able to convey:
1) Before improving a process, determine what the success criteria are
2) Success criteria are communicated via meeting or beating a threshold of expected performance
3) Expected performance is quantified by measuring key performance indicators
4) Key performance indicators are measurable aspects of the outputs of your process
5) Continued monitoring of your key performance indicators helps in alerting the business manager when a process does not perform within expected control limits

That is what I wanted to say, but I think it kind of came out like this:

"... bla bla bla performance indicators bla bla ... process improvement ... bla bla bla ... control limits ... bla bla bla"

Suddenly, I am gripped with fear that I have transformed into a buzz-phrase spewing robot. (Don't worry, I got over it pretty quickly.)

But here is the challenge: How do you effectively communicate the value of systemic thinking and reporting to an audience largely experienced in procedural and operational processing?

Posted September 19, 2005 7:40 AM
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For this announcement, instead of rushing to the keyboard to dump my views on the Oracle acquisition of Siebel, I decided to give myself a day to let the new sink in a bit. Certainly, the purchase will position Oracle as an even stronger competitor to behemoths such as IBM and SAP, so the wisdom on the purchase is not in doubt. And, as we have seen over the past year or so, Oracle seems to have gotten relatively good at the acquisition game, buying Peoplesoft and JD Edwards, and (perhaps with smoke and mirrors) integrating those organizations without too much fanfare.

Yet when reading some of the analyst reports, such as this one at, there always seems to be some mention of "deteriorating fundamentals at Siebel." Is this a criticism of the company itself, or of the CRM market as a whole?

As a data quality practitioner, I have always felt that the potential for the success of a good CRM project was hampered by data quality issues. However, while software companies like Siebel have drifted into less-than-stellar "business chops," more agile CRM vendors such as seem to be getting a lot of good press.

OK, so Oracle buys Siebel - but is the intention to broaden the Oracle offering or to eliminate more competition? In essence, one might think that the acquisition might give software purchasers the willies, thereby driving more business to subscription-style services like, or even to more engaging solutions such as Customer Data Integration (CDI) applications.

Or, on a more optimistic note, one might think that the purchase is both an endorsement and embracing of the value-added CRM accessories that can broaden Oracle's information management offerings. I look forward to seeing what is happening in the CRM 6 months from now...

Posted September 13, 2005 6:31 AM
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I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Seoul, where I, and fellow B-Eye-Network expert Bill Inmon had been invited to present tutorials at the 2005 Korea Database Grand Conference. Although this was the third year in a row being invited to present as a guest speaker at this conference, this was the first year I was able to attend. My original speaking proposal was about data profiling, but apparently the conference organizers, the Korea Database Promotion Center (if you can read Korean), expressed an interest in my presenting a high-level tutorial on building a data quality program. I also prepared a case study on developing a data standards program.

It is very encouraging to see a large number of attendees at the conference, and especially so to see how many people had an interest in learning more about data quality. Despite the communications gap, the simultaneous translation between English and Korean (and back again) worked well, and the questions asked were quite good ones.

Another interesting things was the fact that a number of the sponsoring vendors focused on data quality and business intelligence solutions, and many had a desire to learn more about penetrating the US markets for products and services.

Overall, I give the conference organizers high marks for putting together a top-notch program!

Posted September 5, 2005 9:16 PM
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I just read a press release that said that Pitney Bowes "has signed a definitive agreement to acquire all of the remaining
outstanding shares of Firstlogic for approximately $50.3 million." Firstlogic, one of the few remaining independent data quality tools vendors, will now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pitney Bowes, which acquired data quality tools vendor Group 1 a year ago April. It will interesting to see how, if at all, the two tool suites will be combined. Note that prior to Group 1's acquisition, Group 1 itself had acquired ETL vendor Sagent. Is Pitney Bowes looking to get into the ring with IBM on the ETL/Data Quality Front?

What does this bode for the DQ Tools industry?

Trillium, which is owned by information provider Harte-Hanks, recently purchased data profiling tool vendor Avellino. Ascential, full on a dinner of Metagenix, Vality, and Torrent, found itself on IBM's dinner plate. Evoke, which had sold its remaining assets to COnversion Services about a year ago, just was passed along to European Data Quality company Similarity Systems. SAS bought DataFlux a few years back.

One might consider this evidence of one of two things. The first thing is that data quality technology has matured to the point where it is deemed critical to the information movement process. IBM's acquisition of Ascential and DWL provides end-to-end coverage of the information chain all the way to the end-user, while Pitney Bowes may be repositioning itself to break into that market as well. There is little information on upstart ETL vendor Ab Initio, but one might surmise they have some tricks up their sleeves in the data cleansing arena, between development and partnerships.

The second thing might suggest that data quality tools vendors are not able to establish a healthy market standing on their own two feet, or else there might not be such a preponderance of acquisitions.

Most likely, a combination of a desire on behalf of larger information vendors (e.g., IBM or Harte-Hanks) to incorporate data quality into their bags of tools indicates the clarity of the importance of data quality, and a need to keep the good DQ tools vendors healthy is what is driving this continued consolidation. And this echoes a lot of the sentiments I have been saying in a number of my columns, articles, and appearances over the past 4 years.

Where else might it go? Here are some things that I see in my crystal ball for the next few years:

- Continued acquisitions in the Data Quality Space

- Look to see the big guys gobbling up more innovative tools vendors on the periphery, such as Metadata management, Semantics and Taxonomy management, and Customer Data Integration.

- Larger vendors (e.g., Oracle, SAP, etc.) may be developing their own suites of data quality tools, or look for ways to divorce themselves from recently acquired partners

- Look for more innovative ("second generation") data quality management tool vendor start-ups that will look more and more attractive to large conglomerates like IBM, Oracle, Informatica, Business Objects, etc.

Oh, and on that last note: anyone have any seed capital? I've got some great ideas a-brewin' ;-)

Posted September 1, 2005 7:45 AM
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