The fundamental rule for a data warehouse environment is that it contains the single version of truth for the enterprise – but what does this mean? It comes down to data quality. When quality and integrity of information obtained from the data warehouse are questioned or believed to be wrong, the data warehouse is not an effective business tool. There are two aspects to the issue of data quality: fact (the data is right or wrong) and perception (users of the data do or do not find it useful for their needs). I find that issues of fact are understood (even though ensuring data quality is an ongoing challenge), but that issues based on users' perceptions are not.

First let's consider fact. The essential principle for data contained in a data warehouse is that it is the same as the representation of that fact contained in its operational source system of record – this is what "truth" means for business intelligence. Every data element contained in the data warehouse is sourced and extracted from an operational system that is the best, most correct version of that data element in the company.

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