Sunday, May 18, 2008

Work update: I'm now Research Director of Burton Group's new Data Management Strategies service

Burton Group has introduced a new research offering, its Data Management Strategies (DMS) service. As with the other Burton Group services, DMS is focused primarily on enterprise information technology domains (commercial, government, and higher education), and includes a mix of published research content and customer interaction in the forms of telebriefings (web conference presentations with Q&A) and dialogues (on-demand discussions with analysts). You can find more details about the new DMS service on this page.

I'm the Research Director for the DMS service, and I've been focused on bootstrapping the DMS team for the last few months. I'm psyched about the DMS team and the opportunity to focus full-time on data-related topics, as I've been something of a data zealot for most of the last 25 years. While many people are familiar with my collaboration-related experience, e.g., running Notes product management at Lotus Development Corp. and working in product management and competitive strategy at Groove Networks, my inner data-geek goes back to 1982, when I started in my first database application developer/programmer job. After a couple years of working on minicomputer DBMS applications, I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where I learned a lot more about DBMS topics and was also introduced to conceptual data modeling, in a class with John Carlis (co-author of what I still consider to be the best data modeling book, Mastering Data Modeling: A User-Driven Approach; the book's other co-author, Joe Maguire, is a member of the new DMS team).

After graduate school, I had the privilege of working in database-related applications and data architecture for Procter & Gamble. To give you an idea of how different the DBMS landscape was at that time (mid-1986), one of my first tasks at P&G was to establish SQL as a global P&G standard, something that was, at the time, quite controversial (in part because P&G had, a year earlier, made a global commitment to IDMS, a pre-relational DBMS). I also had the opportunity to work with Metaphor Data Interpretation System applications at P&G -- then very leading-edge stuff, with workstations and database machine-based servers that made the PC client/server systems at that time (and some of today's leading database products as well...) seem primitive in comparison.

My Metaphor and other database-related experience at P&G turned out to be very relevant for Lotus Development Corp. in mid-1988 -- Lotus was then working on a set of database tools, code-named "Baseline," and I made the jump from the enterprise IT database domain to the weird and wonderful world of software product development. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a very dynamic time in the PC database business, and some of the brightest database people I've had the privilege to work with were on the Baseline team, but the product never shipped (a long story -- partly due to a focus on OS/2, partly a fateful decision to base a desktop database tool on the 1-2-3/G n-dimensional spreadsheet engine...).

I eventually concluded the world of software product management and marketing was a little too out-there for my career, and switched back to enterprise IT mode; in 1990 - 1991, I led an IT team at Lotus that rolled out the then-fledgling PeopleSoft system, running on a very expensive (and now positively quaint) Compaq server running Microsoft SQL Server on OS/2.

I next embarked upon what became an approximately 15-year career detour into collaboration software, joining the Lotus Notes team in 1992 (with an initial focus on Notes/DBMS integration) and focusing mostly on Notes-related activities until I left (what had by then become IBM Lotus) for Groove Networks about a decade ago. I made another career change in 2000, in my first stint as an industry analyst -- I covered early .NET topics and the then-new web services domain for the Patricia Seybold Group, before jumping back into the software product side of the business as VP Strategy for Macromedia.

I continued to apply data modeling throughout these job experiences, e.g., building a conceptual data model of Notes with the product's lead designer in the Notes 3.x/4.x period, and using data models to analyze products ranging from web app servers to productivity apps (e.g., creating a conceptual data model of Microsoft's smart tag technology, in 2001). I also continued to occasionally build databases and apps along the way, ranging from some non-profit volunteer work using dBASE in the mid-80s to freelance database design for a sports-oriented web site start-up in the late 90s.

I've been at Burton Group for ~4.5 years now, starting in Burton Group's Application Platform Strategies (APS) service in 2003 and later working as the founding Research Director for Burton Group's Collaboration and Content Strategies (CCS) service. I wrote a couple database-related APS reports, snuck a few conceptual data model diagrams into my CCS reports, and closely tracked the rapidly-evolving market dynamics at the intersection of XML and data-stuff.

Since early 2008, I've been stealthily building the new DMS service. I started by recruiting some of the brightest data folks I've met over the last 20 years, and then collaborated with the new DMS team to formulate a research agenda and start writing research documents. We launched the DMS service today, and published our first few DMS research docs; you can grab a complimentary copy of one of the documents (on conceptual data modeling, written by Joe Maguire) on this page, to get a sense of the DMS focus and style.

Okay, that turned out to be a bit more of an autobiographical soliloquy than I intended; I mostly wanted to tell readers of this blog about my new job focus, and to introduce another blog, the Data Management Strategies service blog, where the DMS team will be sharing impressions of assorted data-related products, technologies, and issues -- along with occasional conceptual data model diagrams :)...

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