Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Bumpy Flight

What was your first thought when you read the title "A bumpy flight"? Were you confused, trying to figure out if I was talking about the economy? Or did you think I was talking (as I do) in analogies?

I was talking about both, and a true bumpy flight.

In reality, I just returned from Dallas on this flight. The 2 hour flight was quite bumpy the entire way, so much that the flight attendants were told to sit down multiple times and barely completed the meal services before landing. I find myself to be a fickle flier and the slightest bumps make me a little nervous, not really because of safety concerns, but I always think the next round of bumps will lead to one of those massive bumps we see on CNN causing multiple injuries. Thankfully we didn't twist a tail and I'm here to tell you about the time this past week that I used the "bumpy flight" analogy.

We just started working with a large client on a data warehouse project. I will talk more about that later, but suffice it to say most would have heard of the name. A partner and I spent the past week working with the client on data discovery and trying to get them set up for the project. A critical part of the project is setting appropriate expectations. This company has never had a data warehouse before, so it's a "greenfield" development project. This is the best kind, from my opinion, because we get to do things right the first time. A majority of our projects to date have involved enhancing or repairing someone else's work so this is a welcome change as a different kind of challenge. Part of my duties this week were to work with senior management (CFO and Director level) to get an idea of what they wanted from the project and try to answer any questions they had about the process. I really enjoy working with management and listening to their concerns, that is true consulting at it's best.

I had a great meeting with the chief product engineer. Part of answering the business questions requires a deep understanding of the business. This person had a lot of great comments and thoughts and our scheduled thirty minute meeting quickly turned into a great two hour discussion. Being a good engineer, he was very interested in risk factors for the project and wanted to know what risk mitigation plans I had prepared. It's true that starting any project risks missing a key requirement and the best way to mitigate that risk is to keep the business users as closely involved with the process as possible. He was satisfied with that answer and as a follow up comment I used an analogy that brings us to the title of this posting. I explained to him that a new data warehouse project will have it's growing pains and to expect them, I told them that "it's similar to a flight from Dallas to Tampa where it's bumpy the whole time. There will be times that we all wonder why the air isn't smooth and there will be bumps along the way but the safety of the aircraft is never in question and we have complete confidence we will arrive safely at our destination."

I love analogies, especially when they come true.

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