Portals eNewsletters Web Seminars dataWarehouse.com DM Review Magazine
DM Review | Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics
   Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics Advanced Search
advertisement

RESOURCE PORTALS
View all Portals

WEB SEMINARS
Scheduled Events
Archived Events

RESEARCH VAULT
White Paper Library
Research Papers

CAREERZONE
View Job Listings
Post a job

Advertisement

INFORMATION CENTER
DM Review Home
Newsletters
Current Magazine Issue
Magazine Archives
Online Columnists
Ask the Experts
Industry News
Search DM Review

GENERAL RESOURCES
Bookstore
Buyer's Guide
Glossary
Industry Events Calendar
Monthly Product Guides
Software Demo Lab
Vendor Listings

DM REVIEW
About Us
Press Releases
Awards
Advertising/Media Kit
Reprints
Magazine Subscriptions
Editorial Calendar
Contact Us
Customer Service

BI Strategy:
Seven Principles for Enterprise Data Warehouse Design

online columnist Rich Cohen     Column published in DMReview.com
January 12, 2006
 
  By Rich Cohen

In previous columns, I've talked about how you can improve the likelihood of achieving your desired results in building a data management center of excellence and in managing enterprise information. This month, I'd like to narrow the focus to one particular aspect of the enterprise information management spectrum: data warehouse (DW) design.

Contrary to popular sentiment, data warehousing is not a moribund technology; it's alive and kicking. Indeed, most companies deploy data warehousing technology to some extent, and many have an enterprise-wide DW.

However, as with any technology, a DW can quickly become a quagmire if it's not designed, implemented and maintained properly. With this in mind, I'd like to discuss seven principles that I believe will help you start - and keep - your DW design and implementation on the road to achieving your desired results (see Figure 1). I'm including both business and IT principles because most IT issues really involve business and IT equally.

Figure 1: The Seven Principles of Data Warehousing

Business Principles

Organizational Consensus

From the outset of the data warehousing effort, there should be a consensus-building process that helps guide the planning, design and implementation process. If your knowledge workers and managers see the DW as an unnecessary intrusion - or worse, a threatening intrusion - into their jobs, they won't like it and won't use it.

Make every effort to gain acceptance for, and minimize resistance to, the DW. If you involve the stakeholders early in the process, they're much more likely to embrace the DW, use it and, hopefully, champion it to the rest of the company.

Data Integrity

The brass ring of data warehousing - of any business intelligence (BI) project - is a single version of the truth about organizational data. The path to this brass ring begins with achieving data integrity in your DW.

Therefore, any design for your DW should begin by minimizing the chances for data replication and inconsistency. It should also promote data integration and standardization. Any reasonable methodology you choose to achieve data integrity should work, as long as you implement the methodology effectively with the end result in mind.

Implementation Efficiency

To help meet the needs of your company as early as possible and minimize project costs, the DW design should be straightforward and efficient to implement.  This is truly a fundamental design issue. You can design a technically elegant DW, but if that design is difficult to understand or implement or doesn't meet user needs, your DW project will be mired in difficulty and cost overruns almost from the start.

Opt for simplicity in your design plans and choose (to the most practical extent) function over beautiful form. This choice will help you stay within budgetary constraints, and it will go a long way toward providing user needs that are effective.

User Friendliness

User friendliness and ease of use issues, though they are addressed by the technical people, are really business issues. Why? Because, again, if the end business users don't like the DW or if they find it difficult to use, they won't use it, and all your work will be for naught.

To help achieve a user-friendly design, the DW should leverage a common front-end across the company - based on user roles and security levels, of course. It should also be intuitive enough to have a minimal learning curve for most users.  Of course, there will be exceptions, but your rule of thumb should be that even the least technical users will find the interface reasonably intuitive.

Operational Efficiency

This principle is really a corollary to the principle of implementation efficiency.  Once implemented, the data warehouse should be easy to support and facilitate rapid responses to business change requests. Errors and exceptions should also be easy to remedy, and support costs should be moderate over the life of the DW. 

The reason I say that this principle is a corollary to the implementation efficiency principle is that operational efficiency can be achieved only with a DW design that is easy to implement and maintain. Again, a technically elegant solution might be beautiful, but a practical, easy-to-maintain solution can yield better results in the long run.

IT Principles

Scalability

Scalability is often a big problem with DW design. The solution is to build in scalability from the start. Choose toolsets and platforms that support future expansions of data volumes and types as well as changing business requirements.  It's also a good idea to look at toolsets and platforms that support integration of, and reporting on, unstructured content and document repositories.

Compliance with IT Standards

Perhaps the most important IT principle to keep in mind is to not reinvent the wheel when you build your DW. That is, the toolsets and platforms you choose to implement your DW should conform to and leverage existing IT standards.

You also want, as much as possible, to leverage existing skill sets of IT and business users. In a way, this is a corollary of the user friendliness principle. The more your users know going in, the easier they'll find the DW to use once they see it.

Following these principles won't guarantee you will always achieve your desired results in designing and implementing your DW. Beware of any vendors that tell you it's a slam-dunk if you follow their methodology. There will almost always be problems that seem intractable at first - and may eventually prove to be so. Nevertheless, if you build your DW following these seven principles, you should be in a better position to recognize and address potential problems before they turn into project killers.

 

...............................................................................

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
DW Basics and DW Design, Methodology.

Rich Cohen is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP's Information Dynamics practice where he is responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of data governance, data warehousing, decision support and data mining engagements to support the emergence of world-class business intelligence applications. Cohen has more than 27 years of experience in the design, development, implementation and support of information technology in a variety of industries. Over the last 18 years, he has had extensive experience in the creation of technology strategies, implementations and deployment of CRM and business intelligence solutions to drive improved business performance.

Solutions Marketplace
Provided by IndustryBrains

Design Databases with ER/Studio: Free Trial
ER/Studio delivers next-generation data modeling. Multiple, distinct physical models based on a single logical model give you the tools you need to manage complex database environments and critical metadata in an intuitive user interface.

Data Quality Tools, Affordable and Accurate
Protect against fraud, waste and excess marketing costs by cleaning your customer database of inaccurate, incomplete or undeliverable addresses. Add on phone check, name parsing and geo-coding as needed. FREE trial of Data Quality dev tools here.

Free EII Buyer's Guide
Understand EII - Trends. Tech. Apps. Calculate ROI. Download Now.

Use MS Word as your Report Generator
Create reports in PDF, RTF, HTML, TXT, XLS & more. Use MS Word to design the reports and reduce development time by 90%. Easy-to-use custom secure report generation - Fast! Free Demo.

Data Mining: Levels I, II & III
Learn how experts build and deploy predictive models by attending The Modeling Agency's vendor-neutral courses. Leverage valuable information hidden within your data through predictive analytics. Click through to view upcoming events.

Click here to advertise in this space


E-mail This Column E-Mail This Column
Printer Friendly Version Printer-Friendly Version
Related Content Related Content
Request Reprints Request Reprints
Advertisement
advertisement
Site Map Terms of Use Privacy Policy
SourceMedia (c) 2006 DM Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
SourceMedia is an Investcorp company.
Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited.