Requirements gathering is possibly the single most critical foundational activity for building the data model(s) for a business intelligence environment. While we all recognize that not all of the requirements can be defined in advance, a sound requirements gathering approach is likely to yield information to help in developing the initial structure and in ensuring that it will be extensible to meet additional needs as they are identified. Another reason for the importance of this step is that the business user’s initial impression of the BI environment will be influenced by the degree that his or her real requirements – not just the ones that were provided – are satisfied. While this may not seem fair, we must live in the real world, and in that world, perception is reality.

In my last column, I stated that the data modeler should strive to understand the business requirements from three different perspectives – the desired data elements, the business questions and the reasons for these. Before we get to the actual sessions, in this column, I’ll provide some tips on preparing for gathering the information to support these requirements.

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