EIM = Hidden free gems in MS SQL 2012 jungle + free lunch?


Or, how the NEXT BUTTON syndrome can cause you to miss big and free EIM goodies, not counting the lunch.

According Gartner’s IT glossary, EIM (Enterprise Information Management) is an integrative discipline for structuring, describing and governing information assets across organizational and technological boundaries to improve efficiency, promote transparency and enable business insight.

In the same source, we find out that BI (Business intelligence) is defined as: offerings to design, develop and deploy enterprise processes and to integrate support and manage the related technology applications and platforms. These include business and infrastructure applications for BI platforms, analytics needs and data warehousing infrastructure. If your English is a second language as mine is, these two definitions sound like the same animals.

Do we really need to introduce and discuss another acronym like EIM in an IT space, already overloaded with technical acronyms and technical jargon? From an eagle’s point of view, BI is not only very popular buzzword, but also appears to be all inclusive technology. You can easily assign a BI label to any IT activity from transforming data to publishing simple documents on SharePoint site. You tell me why we need an extra intelligence to relocate data from one place to another?

(A quote by unknown author)

Do you have everything you thought you ever wanted, yet feel like something’s missing?

(Silent talking)

Guess, what’s that missing thing? You expected me to say EIM, and you are absolutely right. No? You expected me to start giving you some tips on how to get a free lunch from the truck in front of the Microsoft building. For now please keep our appetite juices low and let me continue with my plan. If we stay on this truck, I will promise you to not destruct your mind at lunch time with more BI acronyms. Now, my current topic is EIM, so that’s my answer to you. I realize that there are so many other missing things in our lives, including free food. Feel free to adjust your questions accordingly to match my answer. Otherwise, we may find out earlier than later, what every kid knows. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Now, let’s me go back to my presentation. BTW, before moving forward we may want first to figure out what’s that animal named EIM looks like.

(EIM definition, Wikipedia)

I myself like the definition of EIM, found in Wikipedia. Here, we read that EIM combines BI and ECM (Enterprise Content Management). EIM takes these two approaches to managing information one step further, in that it approaches information management from an enterprise perspective. EIM approaches the management of information from the perspective of enterprise information strategy, based on the needs of information workers. According to the same source, ECM and BI in a sense choose a denominationalised approach, since they only cover part of the information within an organization. This obviously creates a gap in the decision-making processes and market analysis.

(EIM tools as provided by Microsoft)

With the release of SQL 2012, Microsoft has provided all the core required tools and components to build effective EIM solutions. These tools are implemented as services and grouped into 3 major clusters: SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), Data Quality Services (DQS) and Master Data Services (MDS).

SSIS provides a platform for integrating data from different sources like: Oracle, DB2, Access, SAP, etc.

DQS relies on knowledge-based resources to resolve data quality issues like: data cleansing, data matching and data de-duplication, data enhancements, etc. And, where we find any deficiencies in the core DQS services, we can use third-party reference data services like Melissa Data to fill any missing gaps.

MDS delivers a platform for building data models for business entities and hierarchies with built-in support for versioning. With MDS we can enforce conformed dimensions across the whole enterprise. This approach will ensure that the entire enterprise has a single “version of the truth”. For example, all applications in the enterprise will refer to the same customer dimension.

Once our data is cleansed, de-duplicated and integrated into the enterprise, we can focus on user-driven analysis and decision making with the help of the self-service BI capabilities. This can be done through intuitive tools like Power Pivot, Power View and Pivot Charts.

And, here is the big good news. All of these EIM capabilities are included into the SQL Server SQL Server 2012 licensing at no additional cost for the existing customers. Note that this single fact make me chose this topic and write this article.

(More silent talking)

I would like to think by now that you are already completely sold-out to my idea to build an enterprise EIM and make your place a bit more comfortable in otherwise not quite friendly universe. Anyway, it is a free idea, supported by “free” Microsoft tools. Just in case, I have used the quotes around free. Actually, you have already received these tools with the purchase of SQL Server 2012. As you already know, I am talking about tools like MDS (Master Data Services) and DQS (Data Quality Services). I have chosen MDS and DQS as an example of EIM tools on purpose as these are usually not considered part of MS BI stack. Or, aren’t they? If you have any doubts, please have a look at the definitions above.

(As the time advances, my reader realizes that the chances to get a free lunch appear very slim. He/she finally understands that we are not talking here about real food. It looks like there is nothing here, and if there is something, definitely the timing is wrong. Another 20-30 minutes and the truck will be gone. Not only has somebody to pay for the lunch, but also for the delivery of the lunch. The reader slowly wakes for the cruel reality who that somebody is. He/she becomes a bit nervous and fights back.)

(The reader raises valid concerns)

Are you absolutely sure, we have these tools available and they are free? I know and hear about a couple of third-part products which implement MDM (Master Data Management) and DQ (Data Quality). I know we have a lot of problems with data quality. Our data anomalies problems have increased exponentially as a result of our recent acquisitions and merges. We had to pay a very high price for our growth. Now, duplicated data are everywhere. Unfortunately because of the high product prices and consulting fees, we are not looking yet seriously at these MDM/DQ products on the market. What we did? We have already migrated successfully our systems from SQL Server 2000 and 2005 to SQL 2012. Everything works as expected. All the deployment issues are addressed. However, we do not see any signs of MDS or DQS tools in our installation. Again, are you suggesting that these tools are somewhere hidden?

(Silent talking again)

I would like to say ‘thank you’ for your virtual questions. They really make me feel a bit better about myself. Although you are virtual, I feel now that we are somehow better connected – because you sound like me. You are the same type of person who installs programs using exclusively the NEXT button. This explains why you cannot see the above mentioned EIM tools. They are not installed by default. You need to look at the advanced options and use some configuration programs.

(Now, the author becomes aggressive in a futile attempt to educate the reader)

Seriously, I believe that we should start looking at EIM as the candidate for next frontier beyond BI. However, to be ready to enter and embrace the rules of this new dimension, we should first have the power to fight and break any traces of the “Click Next” mentality in ourselves.

(About the author i.e. nobody is perfect)

Before moving forward, I would like to share with you my personal story and struggle to get rid of deeply rooted habit in my ego and identity. Here is what it looks like on the surface: I would never ever ask for directions on the road. In my opinion, this a genetic disorder that runs in the men of my family. You have it too? Great! Now, I know I am not alone as a male who is hesitant to ask for directions. Nope, I am not yet completely healed and I have no healing secretes to share. On more than a few of these occasions, my mind tells my body: “Do it right now: Ask!”, but the voice does not come out of my trout and I would miss again this opportunity. That’s not my point. I am proud with myself; I have completed the first step. I am on the road of Change. This is a work in progress. Now, I have the good feeling I am moving in the right direction. What about you?

(It is our choice: the Past or Now)

Do we still continue contemplating on the true BI cost for the last enterprise project? Crunching the numbers for TCO, ROI and many other KPIs. I know, many things did not work quite well and as have planned. Yea, the cost is a major concern. What if did not do it at all? Let’s flip the coin and see what’s on the other side. I will cut it short and will not explore that alternative. What is gone is gone forever and it will never come back. We cannot change the past. Regardless of all these frustrating financial figures, we successfully exited the current ramp and entered the road of Change.

(The question that really matters is: What we do now?)

Who said “Lunch”? I know, we should not starve ourselves to death and should go shortly for a lunch.

As you already know what my answer is. The question is what’s your answer?

Hey! It’s Lunchtime now! Let’s go out.

Blogger : Svetlo Sprov