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Ask the Experts

  Article published in DM Direct Newsletter
May 5, 2006 Issue
  By Sid Adelman and Tom Haughey and Chuck Kelley and Evan Levy

Editor's note: This is a sample of the questions asked of and answered by our illustrious panel of experts. Find questions archived by topic at http://www.dmreview.com/editorial/online/ate_archive.cfm.

Q: What is an effective way of recouping the running costs of the data warehouse (DW) from the business users, without impacting usage of the DW? I'm picturing a situation where a DW has already been delivered and major releases (projects) are funded by lines of business (probably through a budget allocated to IT supported by a business case). But for non-project scenarios, how do I recoup the cost of day-to-day maintenance/support, which will probably be going up if the DW is increasing in popularity/usage, thus improving the business processes and decision-making?

Sid Adelman's Answer:

Interesting dilemma - You're right. If you charge for day-to-day DW activity, managers will suggest to their people to only use the DW when they absolutely need to. This will significantly reduce usage and now the fixed cost of the DW would be allocated to fewer and fewer queries and reports, raising the cost per query which would reduce usage even further. A technique that doesn't penalize usage is to charge the owner of the data for both the amount of data and the frequency of update/load. The owner, in turn, could decide to charge other departments which use the data.

Tom Haughey's Answer:

I have worked only with two budgeting models. In the first, all DW costs are budgeted up front, both baseline (maintenance) and enhancements (new development). The business contributes to these costs up front, but there are no usage charges. This has worked effectively in most situations. In the second, the business units are charged on a usage basis for everything. I have generally found some tension in this approach.

With either model I have found it is best to ensure the business is getting genuine tangible monetary benefit out of the DW. No matter what model you use, the business will consider the DW mission critical and will look for effective ways to use it, if they get real benefit from it. Here is a real example. One organization wanted to drastically reduce the size and cost of DW technology, constantly complaining that it is a Cadillac solution, and they don't need that. They were spending $2 million per year on the DW, which is quite modest. However, a quick examination of the business usage revealed that they were in fact getting some $25 million per year in economic benefit from the DW - which they could not get without it. Once business management realized this, they stopped complaining. Our solution was to upgrade the technology, which improved performance and reduced cost (the new technology was faster and cheaper). This took 25 percent out of the cost and delivered superior performance. The point is that if the DW delivers real value how you charge for it will not be an issue. 

Training is critical to the success of the DW. Users need to be trained not only in how to work the DW but in how to get the most out of it. In many cases, people are dissatisfied with the DW not because the DW cannot deliver, but because they have not discovered (which means trained) in how to get the most out of it.

Chuck Kelley's Answer:

I liken the DW much like the email system. It is a corporate resource and should be shared by the user community. After that, there are usage costs. These costs can be determined by utilization, much like the old mainframe timeshare processes. You could do it based on rows retrieved, I/O, CPU, percentage of time accessing data, etc. I believe that these values will be way lower than the savings/benefits for keeping the data warehouse.

Evan Levy's Answer:

Well, I've never seen a fool-proof way of measuring and communicating usage to business users without it having some impact to their usage.

It's only normal that when folks realize that someone's measuring their usage, they'll think twice about usage.

You may want to consider a few ideas ....

Start generating a monthly report that publishes usage by user ID for the data warehouse system. These details should focus on user-specific storage and processing. I would present these details as a total number (in megabytes and CPU seconds) as well as in percentage of overall resources for the time frame. This will give folks the opportunity to see how their usage compares to everyone else.

Include all user IDs - developers, testers, as well as business users. (We often find that depending on the maturity of the data warehouse environment, the developers are the ones using the majority of the systems resources, not the business users.)This ensures that there are no surprises - and everyone realizes who's really using (or not using) the data warehouse.

Don't focus on pricing the usage - publish a few months of usage and then meet with the business users to ask their advice on resource managing the data warehouse.There are lots of choices with recouping costs. Just make sure your business stakeholders have a say in the outcome.

It's only human nature to review the usage of anything once it's no longer free. If your business users reduce their DW usage because you begin measuring usage - it certainly raises the point that the data warehouse isn't supporting their particular business requirements.

(Posted )

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
DW Administration, Mgmt., Performance and DW Basics.

Sid Adelman is a principal in Sid Adelman & Associates, an organization specializing in planning and implementing data warehouses, in data warehouse and BI assessments, and in establishing effective data architectures and strategies. He is a regular speaker at DW conferences. Adelman chairs the "Ask the Experts" column on www.dmreview.com. He is a frequent contributor to journals that focus on data warehousing. He co-authored Data Warehouse Project Management and is the principal author on Impossible Data Warehouse Situations with Solutions from the Experts and Data Strategy. He can be reached at (818) 783-9634 or sidadelman@aol.com.  Visit his Web site at www.sidadelman.com.

Tom Haughey is the president of InfoModel LLC, a training and consulting company specializing in data warehousing and data management. He has worked on dozens of database and data warehouse projects for more than two decades. Haughey was former CTO for Pepsi Bottling Group and director of enterprise data warehousing for PepsiCo. He may be reached at (201) 337-9094 or via e-mail at tom.haughey@InfoModelUSA.com.

Chuck Kelley is an internationally known expert in database and data warehousing technology. He has 30 years of experience in designing and implementing operational/production systems and data warehouses. Kelley has worked in some facet of the design and implementation phase of more than 50 data warehouses and data marts. He also teaches seminars, co-authored four books on data warehousing and has been published in many trade magazines on database technology, data warehousing and enterprise data strategies. He can be contacted at chuckkelley@usa.net.

Evan Levy is a partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting Group, a multivendor systems integration and consulting firm. As the partner in charge of Baselineís largest practice, Levy leads both executives and practitioners in delivering technology solutions that help business users make better decisions. He has led strategic technology implementations at commercial and public sector organizations and advises vendors on their product development and delivery strategies. Levy has been published in a wide array of industry magazines and has lectured on a range of technology delivery experiences at leading conferences and vendor events. He has been a featured speaker at the Marcus Evans Analytical CRM symposium, DCIís Data Warehousing conference, the CRM Association, DAMA International, the AMA and the Data Warehousing Institute. His current work involves delivering and lecturing extensively on the topic of data integration. You can contact him at evanlevy@baseline-consulting.com.

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