One of the major challenges facing data warehouse designers is determining the data elements to include in the data warehouse and, almost as importantly, the ones to exclude. A factor that makes this decision difficult is that everyone involved--the developers and the users--is certain that once the data warehouse is built, new applications for it will be discovered. With this in mind, the immediate reaction is "when in doubt, put it in." To understand the danger of following this approach, let's look at the impact on the data warehouse project and on the subsequent operation of the data warehouse itself, using a practical example.

During information gathering sessions, the marketing department may indicate that it needs to obtain sales information by customer location. Armed with this request, the data warehouse team would analyze the source systems for information that would identify the customer location, and it may discover that three different locations (mailing, usage and billing) are stored. The astute data analyst would discuss the usage of the information with the marketing representatives, and jointly they may conclude that the usage location is the most significant.

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