Migrating mindsets is the real challenge in ETL

I was intrigued by Donald Farmer’s recent tweet about ETL: “Migrating technologies is just work. Migrating people and mindsets is the real challenge.” I asked him to elaborate.

Donald is principal program manager of SQL Server Analysis Services at Microsoft. He sees “numerous” examples of migrating users who reject perfectly good methods in favor of “the Informatica way of doing it,” or the Datastage, or whatever they’re used to. Many IT workers see their career paths as not “DBA” but “Oracle DBA” or other brand, causing much extra expense in licensing and support. He writes in email, “CTOs have to battle that very hard.”

He sees this within Microsoft’s marketing analytics program. There, most recruits come from SAS — and they’re used to a much different approach.

SAS users, especially advanced users, are used to deploying a battery of statistical analysis and building a few carefully crafted models to deliver theoretically compelling results. In SQL Server, our users tend to iterate quickly and efficiently through many models, validating and testing as they go. These approaches and mindsets are very different.

We can generally answer the business questions that SAS answers, just as effectively for practical use — but SAS users will prefer the SAS methodology, and will often insist on it.

What’s a CTO to do? “The most effective technique I heard of for changing that mindset,” he writes, “was from an excellent CTO who simply made the SAS team responsible for their own budget. Two years later … well, SPSS not SQL Server, but the moral is sound.”

2 Responses to Migrating mindsets is the real challenge in ETL

The data industry thrives on conversation. Please submit a comment.

Other recent posts

Bohemian Grove a la BI

The Bohemian Grove of the BI industry convenes for the fifteenth time in just three weeks. Naturally, you ask the obvious question: Are you serious? The Grove? A summit? The answer begins with a fond recollection of the Grove. If you’ve never attended the Bohemian Grove yourself — I haven’t, though I live in the… Continue Reading

Favorite Star Trek, a data story

This story shows how elemental data stories really are. Humans come ready to tell and hear them, requiring no plug-ins at all. This young person can do a good job of it. There was a question, followed by data, then questions and answers, and and finally a conclusion. It’s all there. It’s elementary. Sure, this… Continue Reading

Bad stories stop good data at the water cooler

We agree by now that data’s a good compass. One neglected question is tougher: Which map? Everyone’s known the kind of “grouchy guy” TDWI instructor Kellee M. Franklin, Ph.D tells about. This guy knew better than most of his co-workers about how their Washington, D.C. defense agency worked. And he was frustrated. Over the years,… Continue Reading