Business intelligence (BI) systems (especially data warehouses) are a lightning rod for organizational dynamics. Control of information is both a cause and effect of the way power is distributed in an enterprise; data warehouses distribute BI information in abundance. A successful data warehouse can create information asymmetries between the data haves and the data have-nots; people will fight to stay out of the latter group. When data warehousing systems are first installed, subjected to a service level agreement or enhanced, data warehousing politics impend. There seems to be no way to avoid this, though savvy enterprises can take steps to channel such political energies into productive pathways that make the organization smarter than the sum total of the individuals who work there. Specific steps can be taken to reduce (or manage) the risk of information hoarding, territoriality or other pathological corporate behavior reminiscent of a Dilbert cartoon.

The first step is to undertake an inquiry into organizational form - distributed, federated or centralized - and consider how the data architecture aligns or conflicts with it. Alignment of organizational form to data warehousing structure is a key determinant of project and operational success. This undercuts the religious wars between proponents of the dimensional star schema and the consolidation data warehouse (sometimes called an operational data store or ODS) that have plagued data warehousing. Data warehouse designers, implementers and operators need to be able to switch between the two in order to address tactical design issues and strategic BI initiatives in turn.

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