24 hours with Bill Inmon on the future of Big Data

I am a volunteer at a local Data Management Association (DAMA) Chapter and I had the humbling experience of spending some quality time last month at the last DAMA quarterly meeting with the man that invented the data warehouse – Bill Inmon.  One of the leaders in our chapter, Jeff Kanel, wrote a letter asking him if he would come speak at one of our quarterly meetings here in Dublin, OH.  He agreed, and flew in the night before the half-day meeting to have dinner with the chapter leaders.  Talking with him was a fascinating experience and he kept me on the edge of my seat the entire evening.  Bill Inmon is a great storyteller and shared some of his past experiences with me and the group.  A few that come to mind are his friendship with George W. Bush back at Yale University and his foresight into some of the worst disasters that our nation faced this millennia.  In the case of the disasters, data analytic patterns showed that disaster was imminent.  In both cases, corporate leadership chose to ignore the data which led to harm for the company. The dinner was excellent and Bill wet our appetites with tidbits of what he planned on discussing in his session the next day – giving context to the information in Big Data and unleashing the Business Value inside.


I could not believe I was with the person that greatly influenced how we do data analytics in this day and age.  I could hardly sleep that night.

The next day at the session, Bill needed a ride to the airport.  Knowing that this would be a great time to chat with Bill, I eagerly volunteered.  The session started and it was amazing to me how he could take such as complex topic and simplify it so everyone in the audience could understand it.  He talked about the low success rate of Big Data projects because many fail to deliver the business value to justify the expenditure.  He continued and gave background information on repetitive and non-repetitive data and ensured we understood the difference.  Here is where it got interesting.  Bill has invented a textual disambiguation engine that puts context to the words that are in unstructured data.  The engine with over 60 algorithms reads documents and outputs results into a relational database table.  The three main columns are the location of the document, the context of the words, and the words.  Once the engine scans the documents, analytics can be applied to the data table and give great insight into mass quantities of data.  He gave great examples of what is meant by context of the data and he backed it up with some huge projects he is undertaking with the engine: 1) He is processing over 50 billion documents for an insurance company that wants to analyze every county auditor real estate record in the country and 2) He is working with Obamacare to process all medical records and peel apart the doctors’ notes so that analytics can be applied to improve patient care.

I was really impressed with Bill Inmon’s 4 hour talk and got some awesome data warehouse tips driving him back to the airport.  I felt I have met the most interesting man in the world and he left me wondering if his latest invention is the future of how unstructured, Big Data will be handled.

Posted by Andrew Holowaty

Our fearless president, Mr. Bond, Doug Bond is pictured to the left.  Jeff Kanel is to his right.
Above are the DAMA leaders who had the privilege of having dinner with Bill Inmon – clock wise from the first person standing on the far left is Jeff Kanel, Doug Bond, Bill Inmon (in the center), Mark Miller, Rav Ravindran, Andrew Holowaty, and Siddartha Sathyanarayan.  Our other leaders not pictured are Tony Simpkin, Nick Coenen, John Sarsfield, and Jusin Wang.

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