In last month’s column we focused on a general review of the types of activities we need to consider when initiating a data warehouse project. Some of our critical start-up activities included establishing a core team, setting up the development environment, confirming sponsorship and establishing our project management and communication infrastructure. After we undertake an initial review of the requirements and scope of effort needed, we can focus on refining our time line and deliverables, establishing the necessary staffing level and selecting the tools with which to undertake the first round of detailed requirements discovery. These first critical steps form the subject of this month’s discussion.

Let’s start with the core team. What kind of people will we need to get us started? Besides the necessary project management/project leader participation to monitor progress against budget, we may need any or all of the following types of roles assigned to core team members. These roles include:

· Marketing and project communication – keep everyone internal and external to the project informed and motivated in addition to getting the word out to the corporation on the features and benefits of the data warehouse.

  • Business analysis – a core knowledge expert(s) from the business assigned to the core team to address business process and business rule or data management concerns.
  • Database/data staging analysis – technical DBA/DA skills in defining a data access, database and data movement strategy.
  • Technical infrastructure analysis – server and network lead analyst who can plan the server, disk, backup and retention and local or remote user access requirements.
  • Data warehouse architect – the person who ensures that the database, decision support and technical infrastructure environments are compatible and scalable.

Figure 1 describes a list of extended roles and how they would typically participate across the entire DW life cycle.
Figure 1

The number of individuals assigned to these roles will vary based on the scope and size of the project. One person can participate in multiple roles based on his or her skill set, aside from the fact that in larger projects small teams could be assigned to break down and fulfill each role. Data mart projects usually start with a core team of up to three people, while data warehouse projects will typically double or triple this number. Again, the more complex the intended delivery environment, the larger number of skilled practitioners will be required. For example, if you use multiple middleware, database and end-user tool vendors in your planned configuration, you will up your head count as well as drive up the overall complexity and risk profile of your project.

In terms of tasks and deliverables, the golden rule for detailed project plans is no more than eight to 10 tasks per person per month of two days duration or more. Therefore, if your core team consists of three people, you should not have an initial plan with more than 30 leaf-level tasks with assigned deliverables (or deliverables in various stages of completion). The project plan should not be detailed out for more than two months at a time, with summary or rolled-up activities being slotted out for the balance of the project. This is due to the fact that your project will change no matter how carefully you think you have designed it to address all eventualities. Scope creep, user changes, unexpected issues and resource shortfalls will impact your level of effort and project duration.

So what do we need to produce at the end of this stage in our development process? The key outputs of our data warehouse initiation stage include:

Figure 2 (Chart)

The most important factor is an updated project charter that summarizes the results achieved across these areas which has been presented and signed off by your project sponsor(s).

A sample project plan follows, which illustrates a selection of the required activities required to complete the deliverables described above.

Initiate Data Warehouse Project

1) Set Up Project

Define project management environment
Define DW project policies and procedures
Prepare and approve project mandate and approach
Kickoff DW project
Monitor the DW project

2) Conduct Business Opportunity Assessment

Identify business and technology customer interviewees
Conduct a business and data assessment
Conduct opportunity assessment
Prepare findings for review and approval

3) Conduct Current State Technology Assessment

Define current state assessment process
Identify candidate systems for investigation
Conduct data quality audit of source systems
Review current and propose IT software, server and network architectures
Identify gaps and redundancies
Conduct IT organizational assessment
Prepare findings for review and approval

4) Develop a Business Case

Develop benefits value analysis process
Identify financial analysis method (ROI, NPV, cost displacement)
Conduct benefits analysis of the proposed opportunities
Conduct financial analysis of proposed investment costs in technology and resources
Identify gaps and redundancies in current business organization
Prepare findings for review and approval

5) Prepare and Approve Project Mandate and Approach

Acquire/develop or access a project repository
Conduct repository support team training and or acquire data administration support staff and facilities to provide repository management support
Assemble planning phase deliverables for review and approval
Revise project plan and mandate (charter) document for the analysis phase
Prepare planning phase presentation materials
Conduct planning phase review session
Review, revise and obtain approval for the proposed approach
Update project repository with planning phase deliverable 1

Next month we will continue our discussion by starting our review of the analysis and design process. For a complete description of the work plan and deliverables described above, please contact the author at

1 This work plan is based on the author’s material as published in "Data Warehouse Management Handbook," available from Prentice Hall. Additional information on the data warehousing life cycle process can be found on the author’s book CD. The book and included CD are available from Prentice hall at (800) 288-4745.

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