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Rick F. van der Lans

Rick F. van der Lans

Independent Analyst | Consultant | Author | Influential BI Analyst | Instructor | Conference Chair

Rick van der Lans is a highly-respected independent analyst, consultant, author, and internationally acclaimed lecturer specializing in data architectures, data warehousing, business intelligence, big data, data virtualization, and database technology. He works for R20/Consultancy, which he founded in 1987.

In 2018 he was selected the sixth most influential BI analyst worldwide by

He has presented countless seminars, webinars, and keynotes at industry-leading conferences. For many years, he served as the chairman of the annual European Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence Conference in London and the annual Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence Summit in The Netherlands.

Rick helps clients worldwide to design their data warehouse, big data, business intelligence, and streaming architectures and solutions and assists them with selecting the right products.

He is an ambassador of Axians Business Analytics Laren (formerly Kadenza), an international consultancy company specializing in business intelligence, data management, big data, data warehousing, data virtualization, and analytics.

He is the author of several books on computing. Some of these books are available in different languages. Books such as the popular “Introduction to SQL” is available in English, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, and German and is sold worldwide. He was the author of the first available book on SQL, entitled Introduction to SQL, which has been translated into several languages with more than 100,000 copies sold. More recently, he published two books on Data Virtualization: Selected Writings and Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems.

What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?

When choosing a study, I chose one that combined computer science with business. From day one, I especially enjoyed the computing part. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I spent my entire 40-year career working in this field. My first job was working in Brussels, Belgium in a research lab where a new technique for semantic data modeling was being developed. This was a huge eye-opener for me and from then on, I have always been attracted to the world of data, and I still am.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?

I consider the publication of my book “Introduction to SQL” in 1987 as a great achievement, as it was the first book entirely devoted to SQL available on the market. And to this day, it is still being bought.  

Additionally, I wrote many books, articles, white papers, and blogs, I gave and still give many presentations and lectures which was important to my career for I could share my knowledge with thousands of listeners and students, and I could therefore ventilate my view on IT in the business world. I also consider my work on the logical data warehouse architecture and data virtualization to be a great achievement. I think I helped to introduce those concepts worldwide. And being selected the sixth most influential BI analyst in the world was definitely something that made me blush.

What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?

The first challenge I face is to convince IT specialists to switch to other techniques or tools. And the second, to separate marketing hype from real stuff. Especially in the world of data architecture, so many new concepts are introduced in just a few years, such as data lake, data hub, data fabric, and data mesh. For many companies, it is a challenge to understand what they mean and how they can leverage them.

How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?

I think the role of CDO will become increasingly important as companies become more data driven. And I don’t see becoming data driven as a purely technical challenge, but to a large extent an organizational and personal challenge. To become data-driven, everyone within the organization really needs to understand the business value of (correct) data. That is a major challenge for CDOs.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

For now, and in the near future, I want to focus more on the concept of data minimization. This architectural design principle leads to simpler data architectures, which will become increasingly important. And as for writing, I do have ideas for writing a book on how to develop SQL queries in a structured way. Not so much a book about the syntax of the language and all its features, but how to develop the queries from scratch. A book for students who have to learn SQL.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far?  Why has it been so important to you?

I have worked with and for a number of big names in the IT industry, including Professor G.M. Nijssen and visionary Ted Codd, who taught me many wise lessons that I still take to heart. But the best advice I got was during a course on learning how to sell. The teacher told us that we tend to confuse characteristics with advantages/benefits. Now, many years later, I feel like we still confuse the two. Sometimes you read, for example, that the advantage of a data lake is that it can store unstructured data. However, that is not an advantage, but a characteristic.

Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?

What most people do not know is that I love music and that I am a huge collector of CDs, especially West Coast music from the 70’s. What has always been one of the perks of all the travelling and presenting around the world, is that it allowed me to visit local record/cd stores and try to find that one special album I have been looking for, sometimes for years. I also like to read history books.

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