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I have trouble selling the data warehouse to management.

By
  • Larissa Moss, Chuck Kelley, Clay Rehm, Les Barbusinski, Nancy Williams
Published
  • March 13 2003, 1:00am EST

 

Q:

I have trouble selling the data warehouse to management. They believe that the minimal reporting capabilities they have today constitutes a data warehouse. How can I sell the concept and the benefits of a true data warehouse (whatever that is)?

A:

Chuck Kelley's Answer: The first problem you are going to have selling the concept of a data warehouse is that you claim not to know what one is. Take extreme care to make sure that management does not get that feeling. Find a data warehouse champion from the business community and have them help you put together a cost/benefits analysis. Some of these will be tangible and some will not. Assuming that the cost/benefits analysis is positive (that is, it is in favor of building the data warehouse), then SELL, SELL, SELL.

Les Barbusinski's Answer: It.s hard for management to visualize something they.ve never seen. The best way to remedy the situation is to build a prototype that provides analytics for some portion of your business (i.e., an area of your business that is currently causing some pain). Get your favorite RDBMS, ETL, and business intelligence vendors to extend a 30- or 60-day free trial of their software and build a prototype data mart that addresses some key problem currently facing your company.s management. You may even get your vendor partners to help build the prototype. Present the prototype - and its capabilities - to management as the solution to their pain. Done right, this approach almost always works.

Larissa Moss' Answer: Data warehouses should be built to solve specific business problems that cannot be solved by the existing operational or decision support systems. Start by identifying those problems. What types of business intelligence does your organization need to be competitive? What data, what reports, what capabilities does your organization need that it does not have today to alleviate those problems? What is it costing your organization not to have those capabilities? How does that cost compare to the cost of building a data warehouse? How much ROI can you realize and how fast? You cannot sell a solution if you cannot demonstrate how it will solve a business problem.

Clay Rehm's Answer: First off, are you a good presenter? If not, do you know someone who is? To sell an idea requires someone with great communication and presentation skills. This will be half your battle. The next step requires you to have a solid understanding of the benefits of data warehousing. You may notice I said benefits, not the technical underpinnings of the data warehouse. Before you can sell the product, you need to sell why they need it.

One example is that your competitors either already have one or will soon. So, just to be on the same playing field, your organization needs a data warehouse. I would also recommend obtaining information about your competitors and find out what type of data warehouse they implemented and share this with your management. You may even find this from their Web site!

Nancy Williams' Answer: The first step in selling data warehousing to management is to establish that management perceives a need for more than the minimal reporting capabilities that they have today. If they are satisfied with the current reporting capability, you will have a daunting job to convince them otherwise. Assuming that their current reporting capabilities consist of static reporting from an operational system or reporting database, some of the potential benefits of using data warehousing approaches include the following:

  • Ability to Integrate Information across Systems - Reporting approaches are frequently supported by single operational system or reporting databases. In contrast, data warehousing approaches integrate information that originates from multiple systems. When reporting approaches are used, business users frequently perform integration manually by downloading files from multiple systems into spreadsheets, and manually manipulating the data to achieve integration. In addition to being cumbersome and error-prone, these manual approaches frequently take a lot of time, resulting in management getting the answers to their questions too late.
  • Consistency of Results - Because data integration and transformation are performed one time in the data warehousing environment, and information is being loaded "as of" a specified point in time, information results are consistent. This is always an issue when reports are being run off of volatile operational systems that are ever changing as new transactions are being added. This is also frequently an issue when integration is being done manually.
  • Trend Analysis - Reporting databases may not provide adequate history for management to determine business trends. Data warehouses store historical information that may have been purged from reporting databases to support trend analysis.
  • Focus on Analysis - While data warehousing approaches can support reporting, the primary focus is on using information to analyze the business and take action rather than on reporting business results. OLAP tools support analysis through providing flexible, drill-down and slice-and-dice functionality. This contrasts with reporting approaches that provide a fixed view of information and require additional ad hoc reports to be developed when users have follow-up questions.

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