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What are the best methods to understand requirements for a data warehouse? Are there specific format requirements for gathering, analysis and planning?

By
  • Douglas Hackney, Ross Armstrong, Chuck Kelley
Published
  • September 01 2000, 1:00am EDT

Q:  

What are the best methods to understand "requirements" for a data warehouse? Are there specific format requirements for gathering, analysis and planning?

A:  

Ross Armstrong’s Answer: Correctly understanding the requirements includes two dimensions. The first is the forum for collecting the requirements, and the second is the method of documenting the requirements so the team members can understand them.

To collect the requirements, I interview the executives and have JAD sessions with the business analysts. Send each executive a set of questions on business priorities, issues, better ways to achieve their goals, wish lists for information and analytical capability, how to improve processes, needs for more accurate information, etc. Make sure you put some questions in that stimulate the executive's imagination. Then schedule a meeting to discuss the answers – no more than one hour. I find executives extremely willing to give you requirements.

Filter and consolidate these requirements to review with the sponsor and get the total list prioritized. This is critical to keep the scope of the discovery a reasonable size and to ensure you are staying within the boundaries of the mandate of your sponsor.

Then build JAD session topics for business analysts. Carefully select participants that understand the topics. I like to have no more than 10 people in the session. Make sure there are two skilled note-takers because the information will come quickly. The data warehouse architect should not facilitate the JAD session – invite a skilled meeting facilitator. It takes knowledge and practice to run effective interviews and JADs so get some help if this is the first time.

I keep all the results in a set of spreadsheets that I have designed. Similar spreadsheets are discussed in many books. Unfortunately, this is not automated. But the artifacts can be stored in many of the repositories on the market.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: There are a number of ways to gather requirements. However, you need to find the method that best fits your organization. You can hold focus group sessions, do surveys, do one-on- one interviews – just to name a few. Which will fit best in your organization would be for you to decide. You could work with a consultant to aid in this process.

Douglas Hackney’s Answer: The most important step in any data warehouse project is gathering the business requirements. Without an accurate definition and analysis of the needs of the business, the data warehouse is doomed from the start.

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