It may be enough that Bill Inmon is known in IT circles as the father of the data warehousing concept (think of it as data about data). But for Inmon, part of being a pioneer means being a proselytizer, too. Bill Inmon believes in the power of education as a marketing tool--so much so that when he is not running his own data warehousing technology company, Pine Cone Systems, Inc., of Englewood, Colo., he takes his act on the road, giving seminars on data warehousing concepts under the banner of his seminar company, Kiva Productions, LLC, of Louisville, Colo. Earlier this year, he ran "Data Warehousing-1999, ERP and Decision Support at the Point of Convergence," a series of seminars held in seven cities around the U.S., specifically geared to data warehouse and ERP (enterprise resource planning) environment designers, managers, and developers. For $1,095, attendees got to hear Inmon and his partners from IBM, SAS Institute, and FileTek expound on data warehousing over two days. Not surprisingly, Inmon has been known to give out his Pine Cone business card at these events.
TM: How did you originally come up with the idea of giving seminars?
Inmon: I participated in seminars with Arnie Barnett of Barnett Data Systems for 10 years. I speak very affectionately of Arnie; he died last year. When he fell ill, we quit doing them.
Last year I revived what Arnie and I had been doing for a long time. I couldn't do it under Barnett Data Systems, so I started Kiva Productions. We're on our second major series of seminars right now. This year our co-sponsors are IBM Corp., SAS Institute, and FileTek.We also have co-sponsorship by some magazines I occasionally write for, Data Management Review and a new one called the Enterprise Application Journal.
TM: How big an audience do you draw, and who attends?
Inmon: We average 70 to 75 people per seminar. This year, we'll have about 500 total attendance. We have an eclectic group of people. It's usually the chief information officer or the person right below the chief information officer. We usually don't get vice presidents or technicians, although we occasionally do. We get the middle management of the data-processing organization, plus lately, a fair number of people from outside information technology. We've been getting people from marketing, sales, and finance departments. Maybe 10 percent or less. Mostly, though, they're from IT organizations.
TM: How do you present yourself at these events? As a data warehousing expert who happens to be CEO of Pine Cone?
Inmon: That's correct. I've written 38 books, translated into nine different languages, and I wrote all the original work on data warehousing. So the people who are my constituents are the data warehouse people.
TM: So you're proselytizing for data warehousing, and if someone wants to hear about Pine Cone you'll oblige them.
Inmon: That's the way we do it. It's a nice arrangement; it doesn't cost Pine Cone any money. Yet it gets the name out there in public.
TM: Who handles the logistics for these events?
Inmon: Colleen Miller, my partner, and some other people back in Denver. I've got a little company called Kiva Productions that does nothing but seminars.
TM: These are not one-man shows.
Inmon: We try to pick a theme for the year that will be of current interest in data warehousing. Last year it was data warehousing and data mining. As featured speakers, we got two of the leading authors in data mining, Michael Berry and Gordon Linoff. We usually use a two-day format; I do one day, and we always have a featured speaker for the second day. And the co-sponsors present case histories. Trying to have one person speak for a lengthy period of time just puts people to sleep. I don't care how good the speaker is; it makes sense to have a varied pace. This year we have a guy from META Group, John Ladley, who is well-known in his own right, and we're taking the theme of ERP technology--SAP, Peoplesoft, BAAN, and companies like that--and talking about how they match up with the data warehousing concept.
TM: This sounds like it must take a fair amount of your time.
Inmon: In terms of the actual execution, it's 14 days of my time. Colleen takes care of the logistics.
TM: Does this eventually redound to the benefit of Pine Cone?
Inmon: I would hope so! In terms of getting the Pine Cone name out there in terms of general awareness, and in terms of generating leads, I would hope it does! We were just looking at the number of attendees from our seminars who are now customers this year.
TM: So you become a kind of super-salesman for Pine Cone for two weeks a year.
Inmon: I really am careful. I'm also a speaker at some large conferences. Just as a matter of policy, when I'm out in public, I'm free to talk about concepts to my heart's content. But in terms of delivering sales pitches, people don't like that. So what I try to do is talk about architecture, describe marketplace positioning, try to describe some interesting things that are going on in the marketplace, and then ever so briefly mention where it is that Pine Cone fits in. We occasionally get feedback saying my presentation is too sales-oriented. But frankly, 90 percent, at least, of the people we deal with are not offended at all by my talking about products, even for a company I work for.