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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Three Ways to Revitalize Your Enterprise Data Warehouse

Enterprise data warehouses may not be the hottest thing on the radar today, but they can still thrive in your organization, and even drive improvement!

Growing up as the son of a football coach, I learned how important the fundamentals, such as blocking and tackling, are to the game. The same is true for data warehousing: the fundamentals are crucial.

Judging by the publicity, enterprise data warehouses seem to be taking a back seat to big data and data science. However, analytics driven by well-defined quantitative data is still as fundamental and important as ever to business process improvement, cost control, and opportunity cultivation.

With other information management trends stealing the limelight, the enterprise data warehouse program at your company may have grown a bit stale. If business-as-usual and run-of-the-mill reporting are the norm for your data warehouse program, it may be in need of some reinvigoration—a B12 shot, if you will. Here are three suggestions that can give your tried and true (or tired but true) program a kick.

1. Rally behind a prominent stakeholder

Through strategic planning or in the interest of improving the bottom line, companies often fire up new initiatives or identify key areas of improvement and then choose key people to tackle them. Those people are often proven, effective leaders and the movers-and-shakers of an organization. Their work is likely to be highly visible with a lot of interest in the outcome of their efforts.

As a data warehouse program manager, meet with this person or group and find out if there are ways your analytics program can support their information needs. Be enthusiastic with a default answer of "Yes!" See whether you already have data they need, and figure out how to package it to support their initiative. Check whether your warehouse has data that will help measure their progress and the value they deliver.

Finding a high-profile business partner with a high profile project can be the seed for a new and exciting field of opportunity.

2. Knit a better data fabric by joining with data governance and MDM efforts

Better data makes everybody's life easier, and a thriving enterprise data warehouse program is just part of a greater information ecosystem. In the discipline of systems thinking we understand how things influence one another within a larger, complete system. United we stand on quality data, good data discipline, and stewardship.

Plug into your regular data governance forum or meeting and inject data issues or dimensions that need better definition or cleaning up. The benefits will come as you tighten up the warehouse so the data best fits with how the business understands it and is of the quality they expect.

3. Focus on detailed fact tables and let the warehouse handle the aggregation work

Business users are more self-service oriented than ever, and the more flexibility you can give them to slice and dice data the way they want, the happier they will be. Having fine-grained fact tables with very detailed data and an organized set of tightly defined dimensions will empower both explanatory (answering a known business question) and exploratory (discovering things not previously known) analytics uses.

A thriving enterprise data warehouse is a program, not just a project or a product. Good programs are defined by tenacious discipline, great service, and continual improvement. Make sure your data warehouse program is on the cusp and not left on a dusty shelf.

About the Author

Jake Dolezal

Dr. Jake Dolezal is practice leader of Analytics in Action at McKnight Consulting Group Global Services, where he is responsible for helping clients build programs around data and analytics. You can contact the author at [email protected].

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