What is a Data Warehouse? Do I Need One?

Do you really know the value of Business Intelligence or what it is?  In its simplest form BI is the utilization of information in such a manner so as to allow you to make better decisions than your competitors.  Seems simple, right?  It's not.It's not just a system to help you make better decisions—it helps you make faster decisions.   It reduces your costs due to duplicate reporting systems or the work to manually consolidate data from multiple systems. It helps prevent losses because of decisions made with poorly sourced or out of date information.  It helps you understand the health of your company. It can help you quickly identify market opportunities. And yet, we're still just scratching the surface of its potential.But where do you get this information to analyze?  The truth is, if your business is up and running, you already possess this information.  It is contained within all of your operational systems.  They are chock full of valuable information; the difficulty is that the information is not in an accessible, secure, and consistent format, and that is why you need a Data Warehouse.

Old-Fashioned Data Reporting

Whether you're running an entire suite built by SAP™, or a set of ERP/SMP/CRM systems assembled from discrete components that are likely a combination of apps you built and apps you bought, you are the owner of an immense amount of data.  The problem with generating insight without a Data Warehouse is gathering information from all these disparate systems and putting it together.  And that occurs, almost invariably in a cut-and-paste style, in an Excel spreadsheet.

The Problem

People building reports may not have the authorization to query certain databases to obtain appropriate information; and what they can obtain is sometimes not timely.  Worse yet, it is frequently not the same format, and the data sources are not optimized for analytical queries.  Data Mining becomes a slow, arduous process, it produces reports that are out of date before they're even printed.

Building a Data Warehouse

Clean robotically assisted warehouse compared to one in disarray.

Clean robotically assisted warehouse compared to one in disarray.

 

A Data Warehouse is a unique store of data  specifically designed to hold a compendium of all your business information.  It’s more than just a database.  One problem is that people who who think they have a Data Warehouse often don't.  Often, due to bad design or mismanagement over time, it becomes a dumping ground for data—and that doesn't really solve anything or confer any sort of business advantage. Rather than a warehouse filled with aisles of neatly organized racks and rows, you’ll see something that is nothing more than a disorganized pile of information that still has to be sorted and waded through.

Solid Design

If you don't implement it properly you may as well leave your data where it is and struggle with your current system.  A Data Warehouse begins with a solid technical design using a Dimensional Model. A well designed system transforms the source data into clear and consistent information as it loads from your operational systems. New data is merged with historical data and it’s stored in a way that makes it fast and easy for business users to analyze and generate insight.A Data Warehouse requires a DBMS (Database Management System) such as SQL Server running SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to orchestrate pulling the data from all your disparate systems and integrate them into the data warehouse.

Universal Answers

Now suddenly, your data is organized in a consistent manner where there is a "one source of truth".  This is a vital concept: with your current non-Data Warehouse system, posing the same question to different systems will render different answers.  They lack a universal definition; the Data Warehouse provides that uniformity.

Using your information

Akin to Big Data, which has been "all the rage" lately, aggregating all your data permits you to make startlingly insights to improve your business insights. This allows you to identify new opportunities and to dramatically change your business outcomes.With a Data Warehouse you could spot an incremental (but accelerating) growth trend which identified in three years one of your departments would be overwhelmed with work, thus slowing production.  And hiring new people at that point would not solve the problem because they would lack the experience to deal with it.Being aware of this, you could start building up the department now.  You can have experienced and trained people ready to deal with the workload when it arises.Integrating your HR (Human Resources) data about your work force, you could see that you are going to be faced with several retirements in key areas in the coming years.  Traditionally HR doesn't track that sort of information and it often comes as a surprise.  Getting someone in prior to the retirement allows them to learn from an experienced individual that knows "the secrets".

The Takeaway

There is no such thing as a one-time disposable data any more.  We're now informational pack rats; and once integrated, every bit of it can be useful to us.  If you don't have an effective, workable Data Warehouse, your enterprise is effectively crippled compared to your competitors.This is incredibly important.  If you don't get a handle on this now it won't be a question of being a leader in your industry—it will be a question of the very survival of your business.Be a Great Ship of Industry and Technology, not the detritus that washes up on shore because your ship wasn't built and equipped to withstand the rigors of modern business and did not survive the storm.  Get this taken care of today.