Corporate Information Factory – 2nd Edition

Author: William H. Inmon, Claudia Imhoff, and Ryan Sousa
Publisher: Wiley, 2001
ISBN 0471399612

If you are lost in a sea of data management buzzwords, “Corporate Information Factory” by W.H. Inmon, Claudia Imhoff, and Ryan Sousa might be the perfect personal floatation device. As widely
respected leaders in the data management profession, the authors do a great job of weaving many technological solutions to data problems into a high-level blueprint of what they call an
“information ecosystem.” A founding father of data warehousing, Inmon first introduced the corporate information factory metaphor in the early ’80s to provide an information ecosystem
architecture. In this book, the authors collaborate to examine the components of a corporate information factory and explain how they should work together. Generally, the authors show the lifecycle
of data as it moves from transaction systems to an enterprise data warehouse and from the warehouse through various means into the hands of decision support system (DSS) analysts.

This 376-page book is conceptually divided into four parts. The first two chapters define the corporate information factory concept. The next twelve chapters examine each component of the corporate
information factory architecture in detail. Official components include the external world, online transaction processing applications, operational data stores, an integration and transformation
layer, the data warehouse, data marts, internet/intranet, metadata, specialized data warehouses (for mining and exploration), alternative storage solutions, and decision support systems. In the
last three chapters, the authors discuss the management of a corporate information factory. Finally, the appendix provides some guidelines for assessing an organization’s corporate information
factory.

This book caters to people who can benefit from a “big picture” overview of the “information ecosystem.” The authors do a great job of establishing a conversational baseline about key data
warehousing concepts within an organization. Inmon, Imhoff, and Sousa clearly have the professional stature and knowledge to clearly define the industry standard terminology that surrounds the data
warehouse. In my reading, I found their classification of decision support system users into tourists, farmers, explorers, and miners to be a wonderfully useful analogy. It is particularly helpful
in gaining an understanding of why an enterprise might consider an exploration or data mining data warehouse. I was fortunate to have a forward thinking manager who led us through a chapter-by-
chapter discussion of this work. It was a good way to ensure that everyone within our data architecture organization was mentally and literally on the same page about operational data stores, data
warehouses, and data marts.

Readers will find the components and concepts discussed in Corporate Information Factory throughout professional publications like DM Review and TDAN.com.. Indeed with enough time, free
subscription cards, or a fast Internet connection, one might be able to glean the information in this book from a variety of sources. But, the book brings the ideas together much more conveniently.
Highly technical readers will be disappointed at the lack of detail on some aspects of the architecture. This is simply not the book to provide information on dimensional data modeling techniques
or the pros and cons of various ETL tools. As the authors state, this is a book about “what” not “how.” Leaders will find this book more useful as they plan projects to craft a coherent
business intelligence program. From a management perspective a more serious criticism may be that this book does not cover any role that Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) might play or its
merits as the cornerstone of an alternative architecture. Some of the illustrations and graphics are also a bit busy and confusing. However, the authors make up for the confusion with a few
excellent figures that truly provide insight to the “big picture.”

Overall, this book has great merit as the basis for data architecture planning. Most readers will appreciate the clear overview perspective of business intelligence provided by “Corporate
Information Factory.”

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About Lee Spain

Lee A. Spain has been involved with IT since 1990 with experience in the defense and financial services industries. He is currently a data architect with an international financial services firm. Mr. Spain earned a BA in English from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration degree from George Mason University.

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