This is a guest post with exclusive content by Bill Inmon. Bill Inmon is a prominent American computer scientist and prolific author, recognized by many as the father of data warehousing. Inmon has written over 60 books, including the first book exploring the core concepts of data warehouses. Inmon also held the first data warehousing conference and has written for many respected data management publications, as well as offering classes in data warehousing.

Conventional wisdom would have you believe it's expensive and costly to build data warehouses. That has certainly been the case for many organizations. But is that statement true?

To understand what's going on, we need to go back to the origins of the data warehouse. Data warehousing first started to take hold after the year 2000. What was happening to consulting firms around the year 2000? Most consulting firms were coming off the biggest bonanza of their life. The consulting firms were just finishing their work on Year2K and enterprise resource planning (ERP) installation. And the number of consultants with billable time at client sites was the largest number of billable consultants ever recorded.

Some people even said Year2k was the full employment act for consulting firms. So, after 2000, what were consulting firms looking for?

Related Reading: What is a Data Warehouse and Why are They Important?

Table of Contents

  1. Beyond Year2K
  2. Breaking the Habit - Letting Consultant Firms Go
  3. Data Warehousing: Not as Expensive as You Think

Beyond Year2K

They were all looking for the next Year2k. And that was when the data warehouse made its appearance. So many consulting firms looked at data warehousing as the next “big thing.” To them, data warehouses were the way to keep all those consultants fully employed at the client’s expense.

But there was a fly in the ointment.

Data warehousing was a very different thing in Year2k and ERP. ERP and Year2K were like trying to manually harvest a crop. The crop is ripe when it's ripe, and you only have a limited amount of time to get out to the field and harvest. You need as many hands in the field as possible, and the more hands, the better. That was the nature of year2K. Lots of bodies.

But data warehousing was fundamentally different. Data warehousing was like trying to climb an ice sheet in the middle of winter. You needed one knowledgeable climber armed with pitons, rope, and an ice pick who knows how to get up the ice sheet. Trying to conquer a sheet of ice with an army of well-meaning but uneducated idiots only gets a lot of people killed. And no one gets up the sheet of ice. The data warehouse was definitely not the latest Year2k and ERP installation.

Breaking the Habit – Letting Consultant Firms Go

But the consulting firms conditioned people to believe they HAD TO HAVE a consulting firm build their data warehouse. And that's where the reputation of data warehouses being expensive came from. The customer's insistence on spending money with people who didn’t understand what they were doing is an expensive thing to do. That was a formula for throwing money away.  And don’t blame the consultant. They were just standing there, more than willing to take money. Blame the idiotic IT management with poor (or no) judgment instead.

The analogy we used to describe this phenomenon was this: if you're having open heart surgery, what do you want? One skilled surgeon who knows what they're doing or 100 nurses who have watched open heart surgery but have never conducted an operation? Over and over the client chose 100 nurses. And over and over the patient still had heart problems after the operation.

No wonder people think a data warehouse costs a lot.

Read more about Data Warehousing on the blog.

Data Warehousing: Not as Expensive as You Think

I can personally attest that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to build a data warehouse. You can if you want to, but it's not a function of data warehousing. It's a function of the wisdom of your management.

One Patty Haines (who is experienced and knows what she's doing) is worth more than an army of consultants who have only heard about a data warehouse.

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Bill Inmon, the father of the data warehouse, has authored 65 books and was named by Computerworld as one of the ten most influential people in the history of computing. Bill’s company. Forest Rim Technology, is a Castle Rock, Colorado company. Bill Inmon and Forest Rim Technology provide a service to companies in helping companies hear the voice of their customer. See more at