Return on investment (ROI), the yardstick against which most corporate IT projects are measured, has not been consistently used as a justification for data warehousing for two reasons. First, in the rush to implement this highly popular decision support solution and important competitive weapon, early adopters have tended to evaluate data warehousing using less stringent criteria than for other technology outlays. Second, due to the relative immaturity of the technology, data warehousing projects are recognized as inherently risky and deserving of greater latitude in delivering ROI. As data warehousing gains in popularity, however, the next wave of corporate users is becoming more results oriented and cost conscious and demanding a more accurate measurement of quantitative and qualitative returns.

Although hard numbers supporting data warehousing ROI are only beginning to trickle in, Forrester Research asserts growth is "guaranteed,"1 and IDC Canada predicts a 38 percent annual compound rate of growth through Y2000.2 Many companies are initiating or expanding their data warehousing projects in expectation of significant business benefits. Data warehousing's major attractions, according to a Forrester survey of 50 Fortune 1,000 companies, are better data to guide decisions, the ability to make decisions faster and a competitive advantage, all of which carry the potential for enormous returns.1 Data warehousing can also strengthen marketing effectiveness by supplying integrated customer profiles and revealing trends. From a cost savings standpoint, a warehouse can deliver a more efficient decision support infrastructure than individual systems.

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