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The Three-Year Turnkey Warehouse

Three years ago, we were invited to attend a vendors' meeting at yet another financial services institution. Interestingly, among the nine companies invited to the meeting, we were the only consulting company. In this vendors' meeting, user representatives from the prospective client distributed a rather thick requirements document. They also presented a brief overview of the data warehouse they wanted.

While it was obvious that the organization had taken the time to prioritize their information requirements, they had made it difficult for the invited vendors to meet these information needs. A thin section of their bulky Request For Proposal contained a high-level description of their requirements, which included customer profitability analysis features, householding, and the use of census and postal data from external sources.

We knew from prior contact with this client that they had significant data quality problems, and were planning to modify their operational systems as a consequence of a massive business reengineering exercise.

Their RFP included a list of potential source systems, with their corresponding hardware platforms and operating systems, but not much else. As it turned out, the rest of the RFP document consisted of detailed contractual terms that they required of each vendor who would respond to their bid.

Not only did they require a turnkey bid for what obviously would be at least a three-year warehousing effort, they required each vendor to submit detailed project schedules. Their contractual terms had ridiculous penalty clauses that defined penalties for every day that any project milestone was missed. They also expected all vendors to fully specify the hardware platform that they would be requiring, without providing enough information on their data volumes and expected growth rates. They also refused to provide any documentation on their operational systems.

We knew that a data warehouse of this magnitude could not be handled through a turnkey engagement. We were also unwilling to specify a hardware configuration without having enough information to base it on—especially since their penalty clauses required free upgrades and maintenance for at least 10 years. And while they agreed to take full responsibility for the quality of their data, they also stated, somewhat naïvely, that their data quality levels were no lower than 90%.

In the face of such demands, we decided prudence was the better part of valor, and withdrew from the bid. We found out later that of the nine vendors invited to the meeting, only one company had been brave enough (or foolish enough?) to submit a proposal for what obviously would be a suicide mission. With only one vendor response, the whole exercise was officially declared a failed bid.

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