Externally, look for cases where the DW has a good ROI, where it has improved profitability, reduced cost, opened new markets, stymied competition - in essence, where it has delivered a measurable benefit. Focus also on how organizations have gained acceptance of the warehouse and its costs. Its costs are real but there can be very, very real economic benefits. Management also needs to see how easy to use good OLAP tools can be. See what is the best way to introduce data warehousing into your organization. In one organization we built 8-10 multidimensional cubes, each addresses a particular management need. When management realized the benefit of these solutions, support for a full-fledged data warehouse was a no-brainer. Consider dividing the business benefit of the warehouse into short increments, each of which becomes a warehouse release and delivers some business value. For this type of external research, look at vendor sites (IBM, Oracle, Informatica, Microstrategy, Information Builders, etc.) and vendor-independent sites such as TDWI, Gartner, Yankee Group, The OLAP Report and so forth.

Internally, focus on what business needs managers have. Here are two scenarios that I have used several times with good results, namely, goals and questions. Get business managers to specify several possible goals, such as “reduce customer attrition by x percent this year,” “decrease disability costs by y percent this year” or “improve customer cross-sell by z percent each year.” Make sure the warehouse supports these goals by storing the necessary data. Alternatively, go around and find out what managers’ top 10 questions are or what answers they most need. Initially focus on big-ticket questions - questions that would have a significant payback. Try to get them to put a value on the answer to each question. Look at it this way: “If we give you the answer to this question, what is it worth to you?” See if they are willing to put a value on it. Nobody has to commit to the number but it makes the question tangible. For other examples, “If we could reduce customer onsite service calls by one call per customer per year, we could save x$ (the cost of one visit per year times the total number of customers).” Or, “If we could anticipate potential disability accidents and thereby reduce disability payments by one percent per year, we could save xyz dollars.” In fact, maybe they could even pay for the warehouse in one year!

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