Interview Jill Dyche Baseline Consulting

Here is an interview with Jill Dyche, co-Founder Baseline Consulting and one of the best Business Intelligence consultants and analysts. Her writing is read by huge portion of the industry and has influenced many paradigms.She is also Author of e-Data, The CRM Handbook, and Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth.

BI tools are not recommended when they’re the first topic in a BI discussion.

Jill Dyche, Baseline Consulting

Ajay- What approximate Return of Investment would you give to various vendors within Business Intelligence?

Jill- You don’t kid around do you, Ajay? In general the answer has everything to do with the problem BI is solving for a company. For instance, we’re working on deploying operational BI at a retailer right now. This new program is giving people in the stores more power to make decisions about promotions and in-store events. The projected ROI is $300,000 per store per year—and the retailer has over 1000 stores. In another example, we’re working with an HMO client on a master data management project that helps it reconcile patient data across hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and home health care. The ROI could be life-saving. So, as they say in the Visa commercials: Priceless.

Ajay- What is impact of third party cloud storage and processing do you think will be there on Business Intelligence consulting?

Jill- There’s a lot of buzz about cloud storage for BI, most of it is coming from the VC community at this point, not from our clients. The trouble with that is that BI systems really need control over their storage. There are companies out there—check out a product called RainStor—that do BI storage in the cloud very well, and are optimized for it. But most “cloud” environments geared to BI are really just hosted offerings that provide clients with infrastructure and processing resources that they don’t have in-house.  Where the cloud really has benefits is when it provides significant processing power to companies that can’t build it easily themselves.

Ajay- What are the top writing tips would you give to young struggling business bloggers especially in this recession.

Jill- I’d advise bloggers to write like they talk, a standard admonishment by many a professor of Business Writing. So much of today’s business writing—especially in blogs—is stilted, overly-formal, and pedantic. I don’t care if your grammar is accurate; if your writing sounds like the Monroe Doctrine, no one will read it. (Just give me one quote from the Monroe Doctrine. See what I mean?) Don’t use the word “leverage” when you can use the word “use.” Be genuine and conversational. And avoid clichés like the plague.

Ajay-  How would you convince young people especially women to join more science careers. Describe your own career journey.

Jill- As much as we need those role models in science, high-tech, and math careers, I’d tell them to only embrace it if they really love it. My career path to high-tech was unconventional and unintentional. I started as a technical writer specializing in relational databases just as they were getting hot. One thing I know for sure is if you want to learn about something interesting, be willing to roll up your sleeves and work with it. My technical writing about databases, and then data warehouses, led to some pretty interesting client work.

Sure I’ve coded SQL in my career, and optimized some pretty hairy WHERE clauses. But the bigger issue is applying that work to business problems. Actually I’m grateful that I wasn’t a very good programmer. I’d still be waiting for that infinite loop to finish running.

Ajay- What are the areas within an enterprise where implementation of BI leads to the most gains. And when are BI tools not recommended?

Jill- The best opportunities for BI are for supporting business growth. And that typically means BI used by sales and marketing. Who’s the next customer and what will they buy? It’s answers to questions like these that can set a company apart competitively and contribute to both the top and bottom lines.

Not to be too heretical, but to answer your second question: BI tools are not recommended when they’re the first topic in a BI discussion. We’ve had several “Don’t go into the light” conversations with clients lately where they are prematurely looking at BI tools rather than examining their overall BI readiness. Companies need to be honest about their development processes, existing skill sets, and their data and platform infrastructures before they start phoning up data visualization vendors. Unfortunately, many people engage BI software vendors way before they’re ready.

Ajay- You and your partner Evan wrote what was really the first book on Master Data Management. But you’d been in the BI and data warehousing world before that. Why MDM?

Jill- We just kept watching what our clients couldn’t pull off with their data warehouses. We saw the effort they were going through to enforce business rules through ETL, and what they were trying to do to match records across different source systems. We also saw the amount of manual effort that went into things like handling survivor records, which leads to a series of conversations about data ownership.

Our book (Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, Wiley) has as much to do with data management and data governance as it does with CDI and MDM. As Evan recently said in his presentation at the TDWI MDM Insight event, “You can’t master your data until you manage your data.” We really believe that, and our clients are starting to put it into practice too.

Ajay- Why did you and Evan choose to focus on customer master data (CDI) rather than a more general book on MDM?

Jill- There were two reasons. The first one was because other master data domains like product and location have their own unique sets of definitions and rules. Even though these domains also need MDM, they’re different and the details around implementing them and choosing vendor products to enable them are different. The second reason was that the vast majority of our clients started their MDM programs with customer data. One of Baseline’s longest legacies is enabling the proverbial “360-degree view” of customers. It’s what we knew.

Ajay- What’s surprised you most about your CDI/MDM clients?

Jill- The extent to which they use CDI and MDM as the context for bringing IT and the business closer together. You’d think BI would be ideal for that, and it is. But it’s interesting how MDM lets companies strip back a lot of the tool discussions and just focus on the raw conversations about definitions and rules for business data. Business people get why data is so important, and IT can help guide them in conversations about streamlining data quality and management. Companies like Dell have used MDM for nothing less than business alignment.

Ajay- Any plan to visit India and China for giving lectures?

Jill- I just turned down a trip to China this fall because I had a schedule conflict, which I’m really bummed about. Far as India is concerned, nothing yet but if you’re looking for houseguests let me know.(Ajay- sure I have a big brand new house just ready- and if I visit USA may I be a house guest too?)

About Jill Dyche-

Jill blogs at where she takes the perpetual challenge of business-IT alignment head on in her trenchant, irreverent style.

Jill Dyché is a partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting. Her role at Baseline is a combination of best-practice expert, industry gadfly, key client advisor, and all-around thought leader. She is responsible for key client strategies and market analysis in the areas of data governance, business intelligence, master data management, and customer relationship management. Jill counsels boards of directors on the strategic importance of their information investments.


Jill is the author of three books on the business value of IT. Jill’s first book, e-Data (Addison Wesley, 2000) has been published in eight languages. She is a contributor to Impossible Data Warehouse Situations: Solutions from the Experts (Addison Wesley, 2002), and her book, The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley, 2002), is the bestseller on the topic.

Jill’s work has been featured in major publications such as Computerworld, Information Week, CIO Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and Jill’s latest book, Customer Data Integration (John Wiley and Sons, 2006) was co-authored with Baseline partner Evan Levy, and shows the business breakthroughs achieved with integrated customer data.

Industry Expert

Jill is a featured speaker at industry conferences, university programs, and vendor events. She serves as a judge for several IT best practice awards. She is a member of the Society of Information Management and Women in Technology, a faculty member of TDWI, and serves as a co-chair for the MDM Insight conference. Jill is a columnist for DM Review, and a blogger for BeyeNETWORK and Baseline Consulting.

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