TDWI and Wi-fi on San Diego Bay

The Data Warehouse Institute (TDWI) came to San Diego this year, with a sharply reduced crowd but a few intriguing announcements and a crew of attendees determined to get value out of a rich set of educational offerings and informal and formal discussions. I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with analyst and consultant Mark Madsen and Ken Hausman of SAS, hosted by Gaurav Verma, also from SAS, and discussing doing more with less. We did some flash polling using technology provided by Turning Point and gained a few insights from several dozen attendees in the room.

The first was a surprise to me: 57% of the attendees said their firms are aggressively seeking growth (as opposed to focusing on saving money.) This encouraged us all on the panel, and the good news was that this percentage exceeded that in an Economist survey SAS recently commissioned.

On the other hand, 54% said that their IT spending was either slightly or significantly down. No surprise there, of course, but given that the TDWI attendees tend to be close to the action, it implied that real projects were hurting for funds – and the conference attendee numbers – down as much as 50%, it seems – validated that story.

We were talking about doing more with less, and so when we were presented with some data from IDC that attempted to size the data explosion in “captured and replicated” data, I seized on the latter word and asked the audience – DW pros, all – how many of them had at least 3 or 4 copies of much of their data. Almost every hand in the room went up, and it seemed to me that we had identified at least one place where we could “do more with less.” The technology is there now to reel this proliferation in, I believe, and it’s a topic worth further pursuit.

It wasn’t all hard work, though. At the end of the day a group of us joined Lyzasoft for a sail on San Diego harbor, one of the more beautiful places to do it. Here you see Shawn Rogers of the B-Eye Network and Claudia Imhoff of Intelligent Solutions as we set sail.

The moon rose and other vessels glided by, pelicans sailed across the surface of the water, and the conversation ebbed and flowed. I decided to send a picture or two up to Twitter and was astonished to find myself prompted to select a Wi-Fi network – in the middle of the harbor! Hi-tech town indeed, San Diego.

As we turned and headed back in, the sunset lit the sky with a beautiful palette of colors. I chatted with the captain, who told me that he enjoyed purchasing boats and fixing them up for resale. It was that little side business (not unlike flipping houses) that set him up to acquire the one we were sailing in. “I got it on Craigslist,” he told me. “It had a lien on it – there were only a couple of other people bidding. And now I’ve got a cruise business.” He used to be a banker. Took a pay cut. And he’s happier. Maybe a lesson for all of us, I thought, as I wandered around the boat hearing snatches of conversation: “ETL….cubing…how can we back it up?….Missed the first project deadline, but…”

All too soon we were docked and heading back to the hotel. A few hours on the bay seemed far shorter than the few hours in the conference. Funny how that happens sometimes.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

3 Responses to TDWI and Wi-fi on San Diego Bay

  1. Aravind says:

    Cool snaps and nice insights – both from the conference and the boat 🙂

  2. Prashanth says:

    Merv,
    Nice article. I had a question though. It is mentioned that ‘57% of the attendees said their firms are aggressively seeking growth (as opposed to focusing on saving money.)’
    While it is an encouraging sign, would this not be the view of a smaller segment of a larger population? Isn’t it a fact that, a smaller attendance is an indication that companies are more focused on saving versus growth?
    Only a small minority of the population/companies is/are focused on growth and is/are taking the necessary actions as is represented by the survey result (57% of the sample set).

    This is my inference. Would I wrong in my assumptions? Do let me know. Thanks Merv.

  3. Merv Adrian says:

    You’re asking the right question. It’s always important to understand where samples are drawn from, so the first point to understand is that this small audience differs from the larger (possibly even statistically significant, but I don’t know that) sample in the Economist survey referenced by SAS. This sample attended TDWI, and chose to attend a session about “doing more with less.” The results speak more about them than they do about the “average” of whatever larger audience the Economist looked at.

    If I had to characterize what to take away from these small data points from a small, skewed sample, it would be this: a slight majority of firms that spent the money to attend TDWI (typically people with real projects do so – it’s an educational/training event) may be pursuing projects aimed at growth, not cost savings. I say “may be” because the sample size was quite small, even relative to the event audience overall, and not selected randomly even from TDWI attendees.) If you’re looking for things to be happy about, that was a nice little point to file away. Is it a meaningful indicator about general IT trends or the larger economy? Absolutely not.

    It’s a good lesson for anyone who reads statistics looking for meaning. There is no meaning if you’re not applying statistical discipline – understanding sampling size, representativeness, the analysis applied, etc. Our society is not numerically, and especially not satistically, literate and much of what passes for analysis is meaningless. Beware of false precision and false conclusions!

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