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The role of a business analyst for a data warehouse project is often conflicting and confusing.

By
  • Joe Oates, Sid Adelman, Michael Jennings, Clay Rehm, Nancy Williams
Published
  • January 13 2003, 1:00am EST
 

Q:

The role of a business analyst for a data warehouse project is often conflicting and confusing. Can you establish how a business analyst is a key person involved in the complete cycle of a DW project, and how imperative it is for this role to have thorough understanding of all DW aspects and not just the business processes?

A:

Sid Adelman’s Answer: The business analyst is often from IT but is very knowledgeable about the business, its processes and the operational data that supports the business. The business analyst will meet with a broad range of users and will capture their standard, traditional decision support requirements. If the business analyst is very good, the analyst will be able to help the business people identify additional possibilities and "killer" applications that would give the organization a significant boost in revenue, cost reduction or customer satisfaction. The business analyst will facilitate discussions and help the business people anticipate future needs and opportunities.

The business analyst will organize and run joint application development (JAD) sessions with different groups of users. Together, they will brainstorm, explore options, weigh approaches and make decisions on which data and which decision support applications would be most beneficial.

The business analyst does not need to know all the technical aspects of the data warehouse but should know how the major pieces fit together.

Mike Jennings’ Answer: Business analysts (BA) have the overall responsibility of being the liaison and advocate for the end users of the data warehouse. They work closely with the users to understand the current state of information availability in the enterprise and then identify future needs based on their analysis of business requirements, current state environments, gap analysis, future state warehousing implementation. The BA must have an experience in the business functional area (e.g., sales, financial, CRM, marketing, HR, etc.) in order to effectively work with the users. They identify the source systems and data required in the data warehouse environment to meet the users current and potentially future needs. The BA performs gap analysis between the current state and future data warehouse environment identifying data gaps and quality issues plus recommends potential solutions. They work closely with the data warehouse development team to ensure user requirements and issues are being addressed while controlling scope. The BA has to have a thorough understanding ETL processing methods, underlying data warehouse data models, security, and capabilities of the front-end delivery products. They are responsible for overall coordination of user acceptance testing and training. The BA is responsible for ensuring that the final data warehouse implementation will meet the user expectations.

Joe Oates’ Answer: A business analyst is a key position in a data warehouse project. Taking a broad definition of what a business analyst is in a data warehouse project; a data warehouse business analyst is responsible for the following activities:

  • Understand the business users’ requirements for information and communicate them to the rest of the data warehouse team;
  • Lead and conduct interviewing task;
  • Lead interview documentation;
  • Assist DW data analyst in analyzing existing reports and identifying iteration metrics;
  • Lead preparation of data warehouse requirements document
  • Assist data analyst in mapping task;
  • Analyze existing reports;
  • Lead the identification and documentation of business metrics ;
  • Determine systems of record with the assistance of appropriate source system experts;
  • Help identify potential sources of data for the data warehouse;
  • Oversee testing of data acquisition processes and their implementation into production;
  • Act as consultant to the ETL and front-end programmers.

Depending on how technical a business analyst is, he or she may also:

  • Help data modelers prepare models, and
  • Review models to ascertain that requirements are met.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: I believe that the business analyst on a data warehouse project is the most important role. Without this role, you do not have someone who understands both the business requirements and the technical requirements and solutions. The business analyst has a very strong understanding of the specific business processes being addressed, along with the ability to bridge the gap between the business community and the technical community. They communicate business rules and user requirements to the data warehouse team. They validate the quality of data and work to improve data quality. They test and validate the data and data delivery mechanisms for a data warehouse project. They provide constructive feedback to the DW team so they can make modifications as necessary before the final rollout.

A good business analyst is difficult to find because this person needs business understanding, technical skills and most important of all, great communication skills.

Nancy Williams’ Answer: The business analyst is a key person on the data warehouse project team and needs to be involved throughout the development cycle. The business analyst’s understanding of the business processes and related information needs and source system data is key to designing and developing a data mart that supports business user’s needs. Since business users are not always available when needed, the business analyst is often the project team member that fills this void, providing the business perspective needed for project success. Once information requirements are defined, the business analyst is often involved in designing and validating the logical data model that provides a different representation of these requirements. They also play a role in data mart design and prototyping and are involved in developing/validating source target mappings and transformation logic required to support information requirements. The business analyst can also assist in identifying data quality problems and in determining options for how they will be handled. In many organizations they also play a role in testing and validation and in delivering user training. Finally, the business analyst is often the person charged with developing and managing project documentation deliverables.

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