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LESSON - The Deadliest Sin of Data Warehousing

By Kim Stanick, VP Product Marketing, DATAllegro

You’ve likely heard of the seven deadly sins. Much has been written on them throughout the ages by scholars and theologians. Dante, in his epic poem Purgatorio, ranked pride as the sin closest to hell—effectively making it the deadliest sin. (In case you've forgotten, the seven deadly sins are: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.) Likewise, when one considers data warehousing, pride is indeed the deadliest sin. Here’s why.

Pride Can Lead a Data Warehouse Team To:

Make assumptions

A data warehouse’s success depends on its usability, which can only truly be determined by the user. Making assumptions can lead a team to fall prey to the “build it and they will come” mentality. Making the wrong assumptions can lead to significant rework.

Become complacent

Complacency can cause a team to be content with the state of the data warehouse and falsely believe that the data warehouse exists in and of itself—that it is important merely because it exists.

Be overconfident

Overconfident teams may take on additional requirements, often without adjusting the delivery time frames (scope creep). Then, when they can’t deliver on time, they are seen as ineffective. An overconfident team may also believe that it is talented enough to acquire experience it lacks along the way. Intelligence and exuberance, while important, are not replacements for experience.

Think they’re done

If there’s one thing that experienced data warehouse professionals know, it’s that the data warehouse is never done. If the data warehouse isn’t growing, or changing, then it isn’t being used or isn’t useful. A data warehouse should reflect the business at large. If the business is growing rapidly, but the data warehouse isn’t, something is wrong.

Pitfalls of Pride Humble solutions
Pride can lead a DW team to make assumptions Over-do due diligence
Pride can lead a DW team to become complacent Seek honest feedback
Pride can lead a DW team to be overconfident Adopt a service-center approach
Pride can lead a DW team to think they’re done Innovate with the business

There is Hope

Just as there are seven deadly sins, there are seven cardinal virtues to counterbalance each sin. Humility is the virtue that counteracts pride. Here are some actions that will help your data warehouse team use humility to be more successful.

Over-do due diligence

To overcome the tendency toward making assumptions, go overboard when soliciting user input during needs analysis and early design phases. There is often a feeling among data warehouse implementers that users are overly prone to changing their minds. However, sometimes users’ needs are changing rapidly or they have more needs than they can easily prioritize.

Seek honest feedback

To overcome the tendency toward complacency, solicit ongoing feedback from users. Sometimes users don’t know how or are reluctant to give feedback. Make it easy for them. Formal feedback (user surveys, feedback forms) is good, but so is informal feedback (hallway conversations, pizza lunches). Most important, all feedback must be acknowledged and acted upon.

Adopt a service-center approach

To combat overconfidence, adopt a service-center approach. By behaving as a service provider to the business, a data warehouse team will not fall prey to believing that their data warehouse’s existence is more important than its usefulness.

Innovate with the business

Just when you thought you were done, a new user need will arise, or new technology will come along to make you want to enhance your existing solution. This is healthy. Request for change is a sure sign that you have a successful data warehouse—that people are using it.

Overall, a philosophy of humility can ensure the data warehouse team is continually focused on meeting user needs. Don’t wait for users to come your way. Look around your business. If it’s growing faster than the data warehouse or is evolving into areas that aren’t in future data warehouse plans, you might not be doing all you can to help the business. Therefore, put pride aside and humbly offer your assistance.

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