Q:

How could the developers improve the use of DSS and EIS based on DW technology?

A:

Sid Adelman's Answer: Data warehouse technology will help but without the right infrastructure, the right organization and a strong management commitment, the technology will be wasted. These are a few suggestions that should make your warehouse better:
  1. Don’t let management set an artificial deadline. The data warehouse project manager needs to be proactive and develop a project plan complete with tasks, deliverables, durations and assignment of responsibilities. The project plan will produce a completion date that management can now see and, hopefully, will accept.
  2. Assemble a small team of good people for the data warehouse project. Since the data warehouse may be new, and all the good people are already actively involved with other projects, management will often try to staff with people who have nothing to do. Don’t accept incompetents or naysayers on the team.
  3. Chose an application of reasonable size. The initial pilot should not be so large that the inevitable performance problems of a very large database will jeopardize the success of the project. Nor should it be so small that little is learned about managing a data warehouse.
  4. Choose an application that makes a real contribution to the organization. Every organization has a wealth of data warehouse opportunities. There is never a reason to choose a data warehouse application that will be a throw away or will make no contribution to the company.
  5. If a consultant is engaged, be sure that Job One is skills transfer. Too often consultants come in, work their magic and leave without teaching the IT staff how to develop the next data warehouse application.
  6. The sponsor should desperately want and need the capabilities of the data warehouse. This helps to ensure their support when problems arise (they will).
  7. Ask the vendors to back their claims with seasoned references and written assurances of their product’s capabilities. Don’t be snowed (or let your users be snowed) by flashy demos.
  8. Allow adequate time for training. Even if the tools are intuitive, training is still required to understand the data and know how to validate the query results.
  9. Clean the data. The users will walk away if their reports and queries are wrong. Dirty data will deliver incorrect reports.
  10. Measure results, usage and report benefits. If you don’t know how the data warehouse is being employed and you don’t know how it benefits the users, it will be difficult to ask for the budgets and resources necessary to maintain and enhance what has already been built.

Les Barbusinski’s Answer: Increasing and improving usage of a DSS or EIS is more a function of addressing business needs than it is of applying technology. Listening to – and fulfilling – the needs and expectations of end users and executive management goes a lot farther in gaining acceptance for a DSS or EIS than almost anything else you can do.

That said, there are a few business intelligence (BI) related technological features that really get users and management excited. They are:

  • Alerts are predefined metrics that notify the subscriber when a preset threshold has been exceeded. The threshold can usually be set by the end user, and the notification can be routed via a variety of mediums (e.g., Web interface, e-mail, PDA, cell phone, pager, etc.). For example, a regional sales manager may set an alert that sends him/her an e-mail whenever the previous day’s order volume falls below a certain threshold. Users just love this kind of “fire and forget” functionality.
  • E-mails. Distributing analytical reports via e-mail can be a real convenience for end users. Imagine: the daily sales report magically appears in your in box every morning without the fuss of having to log into the DSS Web site (hope you remembered your password!), entering the desired parameters and waiting for the report to run.
  • Dashboard reports. A dashboard is a composite report that consists of multiple grids, charts, graphs, text or images. Besides being eye catching, a well-done dashboard can convey everything a busy manager needs to know about a given business situation without the need for scanning a couple of dozen reports. Executives, in particular, love these time savers.
  • Integrating the DSS/EIS with your enterprise portal virtually assures a wider audience for your analytics. Users hate switching between applications, so making your DSS or EIS application accessible through a portal increases convenience and usability.
  • Embedding BI features in your portal applications can be a powerful way to leverage the investment in your DSS. Most BI tools provide an API and/or SDK that allows your portal applications to access the analytical functions of your DSS. Imagine a portal- based B2C application that can reach into your DSS to execute a market basket analysis for a new order and immediately provide the customer with suggestions for additional items he/she may be interested in.
  • Enabling portal features in your DSS/EIS. Many BI tools provide portal features which can greatly enhance the usability of your DSS/EIS. Portal features allow users to a) personalize their interface, b) subscribe to DSS reports and/or services without having to go through IT, c) customize report distribution (e.g., route them via the Web interface, e-mail, PDA, cell phone, voice-mail, etc.) and d) set thresholds for alerts.

Joyce Bischoff’s Answer: DSS and EIS are warehouse implementations so they use DW technology. If you want to know how to improve your implementation, I suggest that you have a data warehouse assessment by an outside consultant.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: DW technology will create a place for DSS/EIS applications to run, but until you understand why the users are not using it, then DW technology may not help. If the reason is that the data has major quality problems, integration problems, incompleteness, etc., then DW technology may help you address the issues. If all you are going to do is run the old DSS/EIS on top of the DW technology, then you probably won’t get any more use. You will have to redo the systems to give the users what they want.

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