You have completed a planning phase and are committed to building a data warehouse. You understand what type of warehouse you want to build. You have established some business metrics. You have funding and project sponsorship to begin, and you believe the scope can be realized in the time frame specified.

But, are you ready?

What about project team staffing, training, business (user) analyst involvement, methods, procedures and tools to get the job done? Infrastructure issues can kill you. So, are you ready? To get rolling you need to complete the following:

  1. Define project management processes (e.g., project tracking, budgeting, change and issue management, sponsor and user group milestone review points, etc.). Will you require weekly status meetings? Are you going to publish and collect project time sheets? Furthermore, how detailed is the plan? If it looks something like the space shuttle design, you may have overdone it. Do not plan each individual’s task level more than a month in advance (activities and timing will change). No project plan has ever gone forward without changes after the project commenced. There will always be something that you didn’t think of or something may occur over which you have no control. Allow for some flexibility in your target dates based on the experience of the team, the complexity/timing of the project at hand and the politics/culture of the organization. Remember all those planning tasks which involved IT and business assessment that you did? Here’s where it pays off.
  2. Complete project core team training (not just tool training!). What is our method going forward? Will you have to recommend changes to the in-house or consultant system development life cycle (SDLC) for this project? How will you deploy case tools to aid in process and data design? Are you going to use drawing tools with no imbedded smarts to take care of the more mundane work involved in data and process modeling? Are you going to use any tools at all? Is everyone on the same wavelength going forward? Have you instilled a team approach?
  3. Obtain client core team commitment (the client needs to commit dedicated analytic resources to the project). Each person assigned will have to dedicate up to 50 percent of their time during iterative analysis and design. This task is the most difficult to accomplish, but it is essential to success. If a sponsor can free up business users, it tells the users that their time on this project is appreciated on an individual basis. It is also a signal to the company, emphasizing the importance and critical nature of the project. What about intra-team commitments and communication with related IT groups such as our IT infrastructure, database, software and help desk support groups? Are they ready and aligned to support your process? Scheduling their involvement up front will pay huge dividends down the road as you fight to complete critical tasks on time. Respecting their time commitments is money in the bank for later in the process.
  4. Implement a communication mechanism. Since most DSS solutions now provide a Web- based front end, why not post success to the intranet. Allow user groups to follow along and provide feedback as the project progresses. The essential ingredient for DW success is communicate, communicate, communicate. Publishing user requirements in the form of models and reports is nice, but show them something!
  5. Establish a workbench environment. Nothing can slow down a project more than setup issues, especially when the time frames are extremely short. Have you dealt with work environment, ergonomics, security, server access, desktop/laptop access, printer, office toolsets and e-mail support? If you haven’t already addressed all this during the planning phase, you had better get it done before these setup issues impact the team’s performance and the deadline. Position all this activity as part of your sponsoring planning process by at least getting ready – proceeding with office space, equipment allocation and setup – so your internal and external teams can be situated and productive on day one. Along these lines, have you considered colocating the team to enhance communication and performance? If you are stuck in an office somewhere else, leave it and set yourself up in the team’s workstation area. They need ready access to you, and you need to know what’s going on. Leave the management profile stuff for the golf course; you need to be effective to get the job done.
  6. Brief the team on your work routine. Nothing inhibits progress more than the inability of the team to communicate with you. Establish your preferred management style up front. Do you like to hold a lot of meetings, or do you prefer more informal chats at respective workstations? Do you walk around and visit your team each morning to see how each member is doing and to verify individual problems or concerns you’ll have to plan for later? Do you like a lot of e-mail, or do you prefer interoffice paper instead? Establishing your rhythm with the team will go along way to enhancing productivity.

Again, are you ready yet?
Next month, we’ll continue discussion of rapid analysis and design of decision support data structures and related processes. For a more complete description of the process and deliverables discussed in this month’s edition please contact the author.

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