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Commentary

Oracle Resignations, Consumer Reservations

Oracle, as a company, matters to business intelligence experts. The reason is simple. If you're performing analytics, there's a darned good chance you're depending on Oracle data sources for a good part of the information you're examining. Just as with any other vendor, you want to keep up with what's going on inside the company -- good or bad.
Oracle, as a company, matters to business intelligence experts. The reason is simple. If you're performing analytics, there's a darned good chance you're depending on Oracle data sources for a good part of the information you're examining. Just as with any other vendor, you want to keep up with what's going on inside the company -- good or bad.So I think it's worth mentioning that Oracle lost a couple big-time executives this month, and the departures are beginning to raise eyebrows. First, co-president and CFO Greg Maffei cut himself loose to take over as CEO of Liberty Media. He'd been with Oracle less than five months.

Then this week, we learned that Oracle senior VP of marketing and global sales support Tod Nielsen is leaving for his own CEO's chair, at Borland Software. He headed Oracle's middleware push. Like Maffei, Nielsen joined Oracle in June of this year.

In the interest of not sounding alarmist, I should point out that Maffei and Nielsen are personal friends and old Microsoft colleagues. Some people speculated that Nielsen would bolt after Maffei did. Turns out Nielsen took all of five days to live up to that prediction. So maybe these sudden departures among Oracle brass mean absolutely nothing. Still, any BI practitioner who has a working vendor relationship with Oracle owes it to him or herself to keep up with what's happening inside.

Now on to the world of Web analytics. Maybe you've heard about a so-called "dirty secret" that the election polling industry supposedly tries to keep under wraps. It goes like this: The firms that poll voters before elections increasingly know they're turning over skewed data to media outlets, because a growing number of Americans won't take the time to talk on the phone with pollsters. Their numbers, the argument goes, are therefore built off faulty respondent bases not representative of the U.S. public as a whole. (Have you noticed that pre-election polls have become less and less accurate over the years relative to final voting results, or is it just me?) Now analysis of online customer data might be threatened by a similar problem.

JupiterResearch reported this week that consumers' increasing use of anti-spyware to avoid being tracked by online marketers is impacting the accuracy of the data analyzed by Web retailers. If you follow the Business Intelligence Pipeline blog, you know I've written about the threat posed to Web analytics by consumer security concerns. In fact, I've written about it more than once. This problem is especially difficult because it's out of the hands of BI professionals. The IT security group handles such matters, after all. Moreover, every firm doing business online suffers when any one of them gets burned by hackers or other threats, because of the media attention garnered by high profile security breaches.

In BI, it's hard enough to maintain quality data, even when you're confident about how it's being gathered. BI pros don't need yet another link in the data chain to soften up just because consumers are becoming worried about the security of their personal information. This is especially true if, as JupiterResearch says, consumer concerns about being tracked online are threatening data quality on a new flank. So I'll say it again: BI, as an IT practice, needs to work more closely with IT security to address the issue of preserving consumer data quality, before the problem becomes intractable.