When a Single Version of the Truth is a Job Half Done
For 27 years, at a site bordered to its south by the bank of the Moskva River, a deep hole and sparse foundations spoke of a country whose resources proved insufficient fuel for its leader’s vanity. In 1812, when an early and hard winter forced Napoleon Bonaparte’s army out of Russia, Emperor Alexander 1 committed to build a cathedral to Christ the Savior in gratitude of Divine Providence’s role in saving the nation. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1883.
The Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war brought great change to the country and, sharing Karl Marx’s view of religion as the opiate of the masses, Lenin and Stalin sought to extinguish the influence of the church. Stalin approved plans for a monument to socialism which would find its zenith in an enormous statue of Lenin, and in 1931 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was dynamited. Progress building the Palace of the Soviets was slow—when World War II interrupted the project in 1941, the work consisted of a massive hole filled with concentric concrete rings supporting a steel frame. Urgencies of war saw the steel removed for other purposes. Where Stalin dreamt of the revolution’s glorious architectural legacy, Muscovites saw a hole in the ground, filling slowly with water seeping from the nearby river.
While recognizing the need for solid foundations, experience suggests projects that succeed—whether monuments or data warehouses—maintain their momentum to display results above the foundations. I’ve recently learned of an organization that spent years developing a data warehouse, driven-on through seemingly endless data integration projects by a vision of “a single version of the truth.” Data integration represents valuable foundations, but the first-generation warehouse failed to inspire confidence in the business—it was data rich and analysis poor.
At the recommendation of IBM’s account team, the company agreed to run a proof-of-concept using the IBM Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance. Within four hours of being delivered, the appliance was up and running in the client’s own data center—the largest data load which previously ran for more than four hours in the first-generation warehouse now completed in less than three minutes. The team spent the next two weeks working with their business colleagues to understand their needs, followed by a week working with Cognos to deliver reports and analyses that were beyond the processing capabilities of their first-generation warehouse.
Although the original warehouse succeeded at data integration, it lacked the performance to satisfy the business’s need to be informed. If your organization has integrated multiple data sources to a single version of the truth, think of this work as valuable foundations—implementing an appliance to deliver information at the speed needed by the business successfully concludes the job.
In 1958, in a deft move that removed an embarrassing eyesore and returned the site of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to Moscow’s citizens, Leonid Brezhnev directed that the hole be made in to the Moskva Pool—the world’s largest open air swimming pool. In 1990, under the reforms of President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian Orthodox Church was granted permission to rebuild the cathedral, and a new church was consecrated in 2000. In a sign of just how far relations between Russia’s church and state have improved since Stalin’s time, on February 8 2012, and in the run-up to presidential elections, Kirill I of Moscow, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, declared the Putin era as “a miracle of God.“
If the current incumbent runs for a fourth term of office, he will have presided over the county for longer than any leader since Joseph Stalin. Outraged by what they perceive as a threat to their country, and demonstrating fine senses of history, location and irony, Pussy Riot clambered on to the front altar of the church constructed to thank God for saving Russia and belted-out their song imploring the Virgin Mary to intercede. Now the world watches to learn to what degree the modern Russian state affords its people freedom to express their own versions of the truth.