The Intranet Data Warehouse: A Cultural Revolution

Is your enterprise's information culture that of a spectator, a competitor or a predator? Rick Tanler, author of The Intranet Data Warehouse, defines the terms.
Posted October 20, 1998

Rick Tanler

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"The key characteristic of predators is that they do not think like the established competitors."

Information Advantage's Rick Tanler

What is the information culture of your enterprise? Is now the time to change your information culture? Who is responsible for changing the information culture? These are the important questions as organizations begin to make data warehouse content available on their intranet.

When information services managers talk about data warehousing, the focus is on the management of alpha-numeric content stored in databases and the application software for user-initiated reporting and analysis of this data. But consider this: The World Wide Web is the largest data warehouse on earth. It informs millions of users every day. The Internet has been successful, in part, because the emphasis has shifted from personal computing to global information sharing—from delivering application features to delivering content. This is the most valuable lesson of the Internet and it alters the information culture of the Enterprise.

The adoption of Internet technologies, to build secure Intra/Extranets, provides organizations with a remarkably efficient and highly capable means of informing everyone—employees, affiliates, customers, and prospects. Arguably, the most valuable sources of internal business intelligence are contained in the data warehouses.

The discussions of three technologies—data warehousing, online analytic processing (OLAP) and intranets—have become intertwined. The result is a powerful blending of technologies that offers new ways to support the information needs of users. How will your organization seize the opportunity? The answer may lie in changing the information culture of your enterprise.

Virtually every company has an information culture. It is reflected in the priorities established and the methods used to manage, distribute, and use information. The most common part of the information culture is the spectator. The spectator views information as being essential to monitoring every change that impacts business operation from a transaction perspective. Spectators describe their data warehouses as 'the source of the data for reporting and analysis.' To them, the focus of information services is on meeting users' requirements for reports. Every organization starts by being a spectator.

The more interesting segment of the information culture occurs in the organization that recognizes that substantial rewards go to the best competitors, not to spectators. These "competitors" view the data warehouse as a catalyst for changing business-management processes in order to become a market leader. The competitor talks about information in terms of how it supports the decision process. Rather than being better at observing what happened, the competitor is intent on making things happen. He recognizes that access to information initiates change.

In The Intranet Data Warehouse (John Wiley & Sons), I differentiated these two cultures—spectators and competitors—by suggesting that one focused on meeting users' decision support requirements while the other focused on the requirements to improve decision implementation. This separation worked until I began to recognize that there is a third kind of information culture: predators.

Predators occur in an organization that changes the fundamental rules of competition. The predator establishes a new market in its attack on existing markets. is a predator. By creating a virtual bookstore, Amazon found a way to avoid the capital intensive "brick and mortar" retail business model. The key characteristic of predators is that they do not think like the established competitors.

Ultimately, the secret to Amazon's success may not be simply lower operating costs.'s key asset is their data warehouse, which contains information on people that are shopping online. Amazon is developing a relationship with these people. Not surprisingly, Amazon is expanding into selling music CDs. Will Amazon become the largest retailer on Earth? Predators are not easily satisfied.

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