Kitchen Nightmares and Data Warehousing Disasters

By Jim Van de Water

My wife and I are avid fans of the reality show ‘Kitchen Nightmares.’  In case you haven’t seen it, the show’s intimidating host, Chef Gordon Ramsay, is called in to help restore the image and operations of failing restaurants. Ramsay’s formulaic approach is to rework the menu and atmosphere, ignite the enthusiasm of kitchen and wait staff, restore the faith of owners, and re-launch the restaurant – all in the course of a few intense days.

Having seen so many episodes of the show, my wife and I look on in disbelief as the distraught owner goes through yet another exercise in cleaning up the kitchen, tuning the menu, building up team spirit, and bringing the restaurant décor and operations up to 21st century standards.  At this point, isn’t the scope of the upcoming effort apparent the minute Chef Ramsay enters the front door?

The Chef points out the subtle and the substantial to struggling owners and workers blinded by years of doing the same thing over and over again.

We in the BI world could use a Chef Ramsay – critic, comforter, and confessor – an oracle and master of all things data warehousing. Think of the messaging the Chef might bring to our workplaces. After years of operating the same way, are we inured to problems and opportunities? What are our resident experts missing that is simply inexcusable? Are the issues painfully obvious?

Imagine the Chef as he steps into your data warehousing shop. Would he advise you to clean up your data quality? Would he admire or be disturbed by your service levels?  Would he be proud to say that you deliver ‘the most amazing’ reports capable of modern tools? Would he provide counseling to help rebuild team spirit? Would he shake up the management team? Would he advise that your data warehouse needs a complete makeover and re-launch?

Chef Ramsay achieves the miraculous in just a couple days. It would be unrealistic to expect our data warehouse issues to be solved as quickly, but the Chef offers a fresh perspective that can illuminate our biases.

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