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Please give me a definition of an enterprise-wide solution.

  • Chuck Kelley, Clay Rehm, Scott Howard
  • April 02 2003, 1:00am EST


Please give me a definition of an enterprise-wide solution. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this method?


Scott Howard’s Answer: The enterprise-wide solution is generally one that considers a data mart’s value to the entire enterprise rather than limiting that value to an individual department or business unit. Typically business intelligence solution initiation and requirements originate from a specific business unit or business group like a department. We could develop that solution in a vacuum, focusing exclusively on the needs, values and business characteristics of that one unit. This type of development would lead to a highly customized and quickly delivered solution, but one that does not consider that business unit’s relationship with the rest of the enterprise and its unique interpretation of business rules measures and processes. We call this a stovepipe solution. Multiple stovepipes can lead to inconsistent results for what should be the same business question between stovepipes because either the business measures themselves or the business context from which you query the measures, time geography, product etc. differ. For example, one business unit may consider the business week as beginning on a Monday while another on Saturday. How could the enterprise ever accurately compare weekly business results between these two business units? This disparity could go on for years undetected. Once discovered it is very expensive to fix because one of the initial designs must be abandoned and reengineered, if not both designs.

Only when data mart development considers the business unit’s role within and relation to the entire enterprise, do we achieve a single truth to any business question. The enterprise-wide solution produces long-lasting solutions all providing consistent views of the business regardless of the business unit and its interpretation of business elements. If required both the enterprise interpretation and the unit’s interpretation and conversions between them, if necessary, can be built into the single solution. This is a more expensive and time consuming approach, but its advantages are obvious.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: Enterprise-wide solutions provide for a full consistent view of the enterprise. The opposite is to allow each to build their own. The biggest advantage of enterprise-wide solutions is that there is a uniform representation of data by nature. The biggest disadvantage of enterprise-wide solutions is that some believe that it cost more to do. The real biggest problem is organization politics.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: An enterprise-wide solution seeks to deliver a solution for the entire enterprise, not just one department or division. The clear advantage is that the solution meets the needs of the entire organization. The disadvantage is that trying to implement this is quite impossible. Getting people from different departments to agree on what is important and what is not will cause this initiative to fail. Additionally, your organization quite simply does not have the time and energy to invest in this exercise, and they will not be able to respond quickly to competitive challenges.

To really succeed, one must think globally and act locally. This means that every project you work on, think how it will impact everyone in the organization. If this means taking a little bit more time to interview people you think that may be impacted by your project, by then all means do so! Encourage everyone you work with to be big-picture focused.

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