Andrew White

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a research vice president and agenda manager for MDM and Analytics at Gartner. His main research focus is master data management (MDM) and the drill-down topic of creating the "single view of the product" using MDM of product data. He was co-chair… Read Full Bio

The Most Important IT-related Blog You Will Read today – possibly this year!

by Andrew White  |  July 30, 2014  |  4 Comments

I wrote a blog July 16th called, “The US has lost its Economic, Free-Market Mojo”.  Turns out the front page and lead article in the US Print Edition of the Economist, July 19-23rd was called “America’s lost oomph”.  Talk about timing.  This lead article is very, very important to IT.  In 2004 Nicholas Carr asked “Does IT Matter”.  For the last 20 years, IT has mattered a lot.  But we are in deep trouble now, as an industry.  IT matters more so yet we are, mostly, missing the boat.

The Economist article related to how GDP in the US remains lackluster – way below its long term trend.  And the longer this condition persists, the worse the chances for the country to get out of its funk.  We might even get used to this situation – which is not a good thing for our own well-being.  Without growth, serious growth, we can’t improve our own lot, let alone the lot of those that are less well off.

However, IT has a key role to play.  The article highlights how IT helped power the productivity boom from the 1980’s.  All manner of computer technology automated what had been manual and repetitive; processing allowed new problems to be solved; and communication helped streamline supply chains around the globe, and the world a flatter place.  However, in recent years that IT powered productivity bonus has disappeared.  In fact, there is a reference to a paper from John Fernald of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that suggests the waning of IT’s involvement in how productivity growth.

The reality is that there are different types of productivity.  Early computer assets helped improve labor productivity since it took few people to achieve more output.  More recently newer technology (e.g. big data, Internet of Things) is helping capital driven productivity to be more effective.  But the point is we, all of IT, are not firing on all cylinders.  In fact we are missing on so many fronts that we are no longer even part of the solution.

The scale of the impact of IT on the business world just isn’t what it used to be.  No amount of ERP, or Business Intelligence, or even big data, is doing it (so far).  This leads me to another issue I have: bad IT spend.

When Gartner officially coined its formal definition of Enterprise Information Management (I was there when Gartner did), several vendors renamed and re-badged their technology offering to “EIM solutions”.  This was silly.  The whole point of EIM was that firms in general were not spending smartly and were just spending on IT “because”.  And this persists today.  Firms continue to spend on IT “because”.  If IT powered productivity was improving then the spend would be more impressive.

Then again – another data point – looking at how firms use their information asses one wonders where success is to come from.  Another data warehouse, or swapping one ERP for another, does not cut the mustard.  And too many vendors focus on “selling software” or services, and are not really focused on making a difference to their customers’ world.  We should be focused on value, value, value – and how our contribution makes a marked difference.  We can help grow the economy.  We can help make that difference.

I don’t know what the answer is yet – but we (the IT industry) need to focus on something other than what we look at most of the day today.  That part is clear.

4 Comments »

Category: Economic Growth Information Advantage     Tags:

Research Round Up – on Data Lakes, NoSQL, and Information Governance

by Andrew White  |  July 25, 2014  |  4 Comments

It is not often I “toot my own horn” and for good reason.  I am a modest bloke, really.  Today I will toot away and also share some new research from a colleague of mine.  In the last few weeks a couple of important research notes sneaked out.  And I could not help myself from sharing my enthusiasm with you.  So here goes.

A couple of days ago my colleague Nick Heudecker and I published, “The Data Lake Fallacy – all water and little substance“.  This short note explores a major fallacy hidden in the dark depths of the emerging data lakes, and explores how end user organizations can convert their dirty lakes into logical, sustainable-value-yielding data warehouses.  This note actually plays on some work that Nick initiated a few months ago that had led to another of his notes.

In Q4 last year was Agenda Manager for the Information Management team.  Agenda Manager is a fun role; it allows one to exploit a marketing flair, with an empathy for the end user, with a keen mind and a collaborative spirit.  An Agenda Manager is a kind of brand manager, but where the brand is a topic or theme or research area.  One has the prevue across the entire Gartner landscape from sales, marketing, research, events, consulting, production and so on.  It really is a key and fun, and developing role.  Anyway, as AM you need to spend time each month with team members understanding what they are seeing in the market, and generating a shared plan to leverage that insight, married to the corporate goals and merged with the Information Management agenda at the time.  In my dialog with Nick some months past, he had identified an interesting phenomenon in the NoSQL world.  He had figured out that the hype and enthusiasm for new NoSQL projects was going ahead without due time and attention being given to what happens when such things run wild.  On one of our Agenda Management calls we came up with the idea of a “governance debt” being created and so Nick published, in December 2013, “Does your NoSQL DBMS Result in Information Governance Debt?”  I loved the premise and the title and was really glad to see Nick publish his idea.  I was fortunate to be Agenda Manager when that happened.  And I am convinced now, more than ever, that Nick will be going places at Gartner.  Watch out for his work.

On a more personal and selfish manner I just published what I consider to be an important note – only 2 years late.  At least, the original idea came to me about two or even three years ago.  I didn’t invent the idea per se – I just visually described what end users were struggling with in a such a way that another end user could interpret the problem, and turn it into a solution.  If you ever wanted proof that we are all, part-time Information Architects, this the the note for you: “Gartner’s Three Rings of Information Governance Help You Prioritize Different Types of Data“.  The idea conveyed in this note should help anyone interested in understanding and then explaining how to delineate between different information attributes and objects for any number of efforts, spanning data and application integration, ERP, Master Data Management, Data Warehousing/BI and so on.  I would love to get your feedback.

Anyway, that’s enough horn tooting for one day.  Have a good weekend!

4 Comments »

Category: Data Lake Data Warehouse Information Governance Information Stewardship Applications Logical Data Warehouse NoSQL     Tags:

Economic Minute #3 Why a Gold Standard isnt the answer to the Abused Dollar

by Andrew White  |  July 25, 2014  |  4 Comments

In today’s US Print edition of the Wall Street Journal there is a book review on a new book by Steve Forbes, called Money – How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy – and what to do about it.  The book review is glowing, though I am not so sure I would buy Forbes’s book.  I like him when I see him on TV, and he seems very pro free-market, but he also gets painted as very right wing and so I am not convinced I get anything new from his work.  That being said, the writer of the book review, George Melloan, a former columnist and deputy director of the Journal editorial page, and author of “The Great Money Binge”, makes mistakes in his review of the book.

The point of Steve Forbes’s book is that the US government is abusing the dollar, through deficit spending funded by zero interest rates, that has robbed millions of people and organizations any return on the desire to save.  Saving, it turns out, is a key driver for investment – but that is not the point.  Forbes’s conclusion in his book is that we need to revert to a gold standard.  As I have blogged before, the actual single trigger that made it possible for the US government, any government really, to fund debt-based spending was the demise of the gold standard and specifically the Bretton Woods agreement.  See The Productivity Puzzle – The One Solution that can Negate the Inequality Issue.

Melloan agrees with Forbes’s in his book review and suggests that returning to a gold standard would solve our problems, presumably by preventing the US from any self inflicted debt funded spend binge.  The problem is that Melloan seems to think a gold standard is a panacea:  He admits in his short write up that the gold standard had issues, and refers to England during WW1, which led to huge pressures between sterling and gold.  He implies that such pressures could be “managed”.  I beg to differ.  In my recent research I believe that every currency standard always fails.  There are two chief reasons why they always fail:

  1. The economy is a system.  A system works well in equilibrium, and when there are imbalances, the system is strained in and eventually the books dont add up.
  2. A gold standard is a mediated exchange rate.  A gold standard effectively creates a managed exchange rate.  This means two or more parties have to agree the value of their respective currency in relation to the standard.  If they don’t agree, things break down.

The former issue is natural and you can see this every day.  Germany has a huge trade imbalance with the southern and Mediterranean periphery of Europe,  Germany produces a lot and consumes too little; Greece (y example) produces too little and consumes too much.  It has been this way for many years.  Thus the current account imbalance between the two countries only increases.  The “managed” exchange rate within Europe, via the Euro, forces a single interest rate for the Euro area and this creates economic imbalance in Greece and Germany.  Greece needs higher rates to encourage saving and investment to help counter the “spend too much, save too little” and Germany needs lower interest rates in order to promote spending.  The recent Euro crisis was triggered with the mortgage fiasco in the US; but next time it will be something else.  But Euro crisis there will be – due to the natural, ongoing and worsening imbalances in the global economy.  There are other larger imbalances right now – look at US and China.  Look at Japan and the rest of the world.

Likewise England had to go broke to fund two world wars with Germany.  In reality the British Empire was “spent” or bled dry fighting for freedom.  That spend had to be funded.  A higher interest rate was required in England but this would have conflicted with the agreed exchange rate.  Thus a change in agreement with its international peers and a revaluation in its standard to gold was required.  The US, seeing an opportunity for itself, would not accept the policies England needed and so England had to leave the gold standard.  Thus external events will always lead to disagreements.  Thus the standard will only survive certain events, not all.

These two issues – imbalances and agreement – will always cause issues with any gold standard.  Mr. Melloan completely ignores history in his glowing support of Steve Forbes’s book.  Of course, I am not a full time economist – just a party time passionate economist.  I do seek controls on government spending – I am a fan of small government.  I just don’t blindly accept that a “return to a gold standard” is the answer.  It would be better than what we have today but it’s still not “the” complete answer.

4 Comments »

Category: Economic History Economic Productivity Economy Exchange Rate Gold Standard Interest Rates     Tags:

Temper tantrum: taking my information (toy) away from you

by Andrew White  |  July 22, 2014  |  4 Comments

I saw an interesting article in last weeks US print edition of a The Economist (July 12-18, 2914).  It was in the business section and called, “The antisocial networks“.  The article looked at the backlash from non-information based businesses against the new crop of information based, or sharing economy, businesses.  I am sure you have all heard the trouble Uber and Airbnb have caused with taxi unions or hotel owners, but now the actual intermediary of information that is not even selling the asset is coming under fire.

The article specifically looks at new applications like MoneyParking.  The app is used by a user that is about to leave a car park spot in a busy location, such as San Francisco.  I would use the app to advertise my intention to vacate a spot.  I might charge for this information, perhaps $5 to $20- depending on the time do day.  I am not selling the car park space- you still have to pay that to the council, county or agent that runs the asset.  But I am making money on the availability of information.  This is a fundamental characterization of the new normal, the new digital business.

Yet the ability to monetize information, separate to any physical asset it may relate too, is coming under fire.  The argument is fallacious, in that the defenders claim the car park spot is a public asset and cannot therefore be “sold on”.  It is anything but, since it can only be physically used in serial mode, and there is a cost to that use. After reading the article I was uplifted because I realized man’s ability to innovate, and make a buck, will always outstrip the elders ability to regulate.  It’s just exasperating for those of us stuck in the middle.  I’d much rather be the beneficiary of the innovation, rather than a blogger writing about the ministrations.

4 Comments »

Category: Digital Business Digitlization Information Sharing Information Strategy     Tags:

Why Mobile Gaming is killing our High Tech Industry – though Doom and Id Software may yet help…

by Andrew White  |  July 18, 2014  |  4 Comments

Alternative title for this blog: Why Mobile is Dumbing Down Our High Tech Industry.

I have to admit it – I am an old PC gamer.  I can still remember the first time I met a Cyber Demon (circa 1993).

Id Software’s original Doom PC game primarily led the formation of the first person shooter and more importantly the multi-player gaming phenomena.  In those days you took your old 386 Intel PC to your mates house, plugged in the serial cable (SERSETUP.EXE was the executable), and spent 2 hours trying to get two PC’s to “talk”.  Then you got the last 30 minutes of the evening to play Doom PVP before you had to go home.  Seeing, for the first time, a real player represented in a PC game, was at the time amazing.  Those days were awesome.  I have to admit the first time you never actually see the Cyber Demon.  You first hear him – his large hoofed feet getting closer, and then BLAM!

Doom was followed by Doom II, Heretic, Hexen, and more recently Doom III and my life started to rush by.  The games where the best.  They were all simply too absorbing.  The skill of the developers and designers was most effective, more so than their competitors.  Doom was, and is, a high-taction game.  It is like flying a jet aircraft, whereas most other PC games in the same genre were more like working a washing machine (e.g. low-taction).  This principle, this engagement UI that prioritized ease of use and self evident capability, led me to promote a concept as a supply chain software vendor some years ago, and as a vendor we developed what was at the time, the markets first ever “drag and drop” demand forecasting system.  Our competitors at the time, Manugistics and i2 Technologies (SAP and Oracle were not even in the SCP market at the time) had nothing like it.

doom

 

Doom – Play the part of a sergeant and kill monsters and other bad guys all you want.  Copyright id Software

Source: The Good, The Bad, and the E-GU™, American Software, USA, Inc.,1996

But back to the main point of the log.  A funny thing happened on the way to the Doom Forum.  Looking back I now realize that every 2 or 3 years I would upgrade or replace my PC.  I didn’t realize until about the third cycle but my PC upgrade/replacement purchase was tied to the release cycle of Id Software’s related products.  In fact, to be precise, I ended up purchasing what was pretty much the largest, strongest, fastest, meatiest PC one could get at the time – each time – every time a new Doom or Doom-baby was launched!  PC gaming software forced the PC hardware market to continually develop its capability (memory, disk but mostly graphical memory).  The PC’s I had, looking back, were expensive – but they always played the latest Doom or Id Software related game easily.  That is no mean feat, believe me.  There is a lot of history here – even touching Microsoft and their attempts to get into PC gaming way back, with ActiveX….and later DCOM…

Business actually benefited from this innovation since PC”s suddenly became usable in the workplace, not least due to the ongoing innovation in the PC gaming industry.  Anyway, my current PC is about 2 years old.  Its liquid cooled.  It has 6 cores.  It is smoking fast.  It is no longer needed to run Excel.   It plays Doom III flawlessly.  And Doom 4 is now coming…. I can’t wait.

But PC’s are NOT developing at quite the level or rate they used too.  Yes, there are numerous FPS games that require high end cards and the like or mega-fast Internet access for MMO combat, but there is a new game afoot that is slowing down the PC development.  The gaming developers and publishers are pandering to the mobile market.  As they divert more and more money to that dumb platform, the money left to spend on leading edge technology is less and less.  There are fewer game releases to the PC platform every year, and more to mobile.  There are fewer reasons (i.e. dollars) to develop and innovate at the highest end of PC computing.

So here’s the bottom line: The great interest in developing games for the mobile platform is, I think, diverting some money from ongoing innovation at the highest end of PC gaming.  This means less new technology that is breakthrough, and potentially less “trickle down innovation”, to business.

There is a corollary to this blog – where mobile gaming is creating new opportunity.  Mobile gaming will never offer the same level of high-taction in terms of visual interaction, but it does create interesting network, even peer-to-peer formats.  This is old technology that was hyped in years past, but is coming to the fore again.  This is certainly exciting and I can’t wait for this to “trickle down” into enterprise software.  I once thought that P2P computing would revolutionize enterprise software.  I have a sneaking suspicion it may yet.

First Doom 4 Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ6FUUS5l4M

http://www.hardcoregamer.com/2014/07/17/next-doom-called-doom-no-release-date-or-current-gen-platforms-announced/94720/

 

4 Comments »

Category: Id Software Innovation PC Gaming Peer to Peer (P2P) Computing     Tags:

“Hats off” to Miles D. White (no relation) Chairman & Chief Exec Abbott Laboratories

by Andrew White  |  July 18, 2014  |  2 Comments

The raging political hyperbole regarding tax “inversion” continues in the press.  However in today’s US print edition of the Wall Street Journal the Chairman and CEO of Abbott Laboratories, Miles D. White, wrote an Opinion piece (see Ignoring the facts on corporate inversions) that nicely capture the facts regarding tax, and the salient points for why ‘tax reform’ that outlaws a perfectly legal practice today would just make the US even less competitive.

Mr. White points out that today a firm that moves its headquarters to a foreign country does not change either its tax rates at home or abroad, nor does it changes its current tax liabilities.  It simply means that the tax liability for foreign earning going forward will no longer be subject to double taxation.  The US is one of a few counties that tax all income for US firms, regardless of where it is earned.

Why do I purchase costly items in the county next door, and not in my local county?  Because it has a lower sales tax.  Am I less patriotic for doing so?  Humbug.

My recent blogs on this topic: More on US Treasury Secretary Exchanging Economic Policy for Political Control.

2 Comments »

Category: Economic Growth Economy Political     Tags:

The Real Work of Information/Data Stewards

by Andrew White  |  July 17, 2014  |  3 Comments

I love my job.  After working in the real world (as a user of applications in the business, never actually in IT), I get to talk with hundreds of firms every year and I get to see, first hand, how our collective businesses are evolving.  It is really, really exciting.  One area of ongoing innovation that I am continually amazed with concerns the role of “information steward”.  When I was a business user of applications this role never actually existed, though the term “information governance” or “data governance” was part of some early literature.  Such roles were not part of day to day language on the business side.  We might have talked about “data entry” – on a bad day!

Today the need for such roles is almost, and likely soon to become, critical.  Complex organizations that seek agility, nimbleness, and frameworks in which to exploit information for advantage, won’t achieve their goals without effective exploitation of the role and work of stewardship by the business, in the business, for the business.  However, we all are still learning what this role is, and what work is involved.  As we analysts work through a range of Vendor Briefings in support of research leading up to our Master Data Management Magic Quadrants, it is clear that vendors do not yet understand this.  I can’t fault them entirely – each vendor only sees one small segment of the wider market; and each vendor is motivated to meet only its established customer needs, not articulate what the prospects don’t yet know they need.  Not many prospects will budget for tomorrow’s unknown need – only for known requirements – however short term focused they might be.  We get to see many more issues, and we get paid to think of the ideal, future state.

So here is a quick and simple way to determine if your vendor understands the work of information stewardship.

In many organizations there are customer and/or consumer data that needs to be “matched and merged” and/or product/service data that needs to on-boarded to corporate systems to support new product introduction.  the work involved in entering data and processing match/merge work is NOT part of Information Stewardship.  It is part of day to day work.  Such work should happen ordinarily without any fuss.  An Information Steward will focus on the match and merge tasks and the product on boarding work that FAILS or breaks down, or has issues.  This is a key point that is not recognized widely in the market.

I would use this and compare it to your organizations understanding of the work of Information Stewardship – and also hold it up against your vendor’s offering.   Most vendors will then be exposed – they use the term “steward” loosely and even license their software to you for the pleasure, even though it is not really supporting the proper work.  Go for it.

3 Comments »

Category: Data Stewardship Digital Information Strategy Information Steward Information Stewardship     Tags:

How will the Workplace be (digitally) imagined? Tell us now!

by Andrew White  |  July 17, 2014  |  3 Comments

My college, Hanns Koehler-Kruener, is leading a crowdsourcing effort to collect ideas on how you, real users, imagine your workplace may change with the advent, emergence, and ongoing adaptation, with digitlization.  I don’t want to influence you more than I need too – so head over to this survey and speak your voice.  We will collect all the ideas and publish an eBook summarusing the data and our analysis.

Share your vision of the future #digital #workplace… and contribute to a new #Gartner research project! surveymonkey.com/s/JKLL6ZV  #socbiz @crozwell @hannskk

3 Comments »

Category: Crowdsourcing Digital Economy Digital Workplace Digitlization     Tags:

More on US Treasury Secretary Exchanging Economic Policy for Political Control

by Andrew White  |  July 17, 2014  |  4 Comments

I blogged yesterday on the amazing statement by the US Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, that firms that sought to reduce their taxes were unpatriotic.  I noted in today’s US print edition of the Wall Street Journal an Opinion piece along the exact same lines.  The article is called, “”Inverted Thinking on Corporate Taxes“.  The nub of the message, nicely captured in the piece from Michael Grove, a professor at Columbia Law School and ex-tax-policy official to George Bush, is this:

To ask, “How do we stop American companies from leaving for more favorable tax jurisdictions?” is asking the wrong question.  The right question is “How do we make the United States a more favorable location for investment, jobs, headquarters, and research and development activities?”  That will require genuine tax reform.”

4 Comments »

Category: Economic Growth Economy Politics     Tags:

US Treasury Secretary Puts his Foot in it – Reducing Taxes is Unpatriotic!

by Andrew White  |  July 16, 2014  |  7 Comments

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggests that reducing taxes is unpatriotic.  Really!  Check this CNBC story: Jack Lew pushes Congress to Crack down on tax “inversions”.  Why does Congress manage itself better?  They are the unpatriotic people in the conversation.  Really, the fact that this story is even a story is almost breathtaking.  Has it come to this?

The whole tax debate is a complete mess.  And little amount of tinkering will fix it.  Rather than tackle the main issue, and revamping the entire system, we now have political spats about what you should do as an independent person and organization.  The state needs to get out of the way, and just ensure a fair playing field.  If this means less tax, more competition, more growth, then so be it.  That is what made the US the largest, strongest and greatest nation.

7 Comments »

Category: Economic Growth Economy Political     Tags: