Q: What is an effective way of recouping the running costs of the data warehouse (DW) from the business users, without impacting usage of the DW? I'm picturing a situation where a DW has already been delivered and major releases (projects) are funded by lines of business (probably through a budget allocated to IT supported by a business case). But for non-project scenarios, how do I recoup the cost of day-to-day maintenance/support, which will probably be going up if the DW is increasing in popularity/usage, thus improving the business processes and decision-making?

Sid Adelman's Answer:

Interesting dilemma - You're right. If you charge for day-to-day DW activity, managers will suggest to their people to only use the DW when they absolutely need to. This will significantly reduce usage and now the fixed cost of the DW would be allocated to fewer and fewer queries and reports, raising the cost per query which would reduce usage even further. A technique that doesn't penalize usage is to charge the owner of the data for both the amount of data and the frequency of update/load. The owner, in turn, could decide to charge other departments which use the data.

Tom Haughey's Answer:

I have worked only with two budgeting models. In the first, all DW costs are budgeted up-front, both baseline (maintenance) and enhancements (new development). The business contributes to these costs up-front, but there are no usage charges. This has worked effectively in most situations. In the second, the business units are charged on a usage basis for everything. I have generally found some tension in this approach.

With either model I have found it is best to ensure the business is getting genuine tangible monetary benefit out of the DW. No matter what model you use, the business will consider the DW mission critical and will look for effective ways to use it, if they get real benefit from it. Here is a real example. One organization wanted to drastically reduce the size and cost of DW technology, constantly complaining that it is a Cadillac solution, and they don't need that. They were spending $2MM per year on the DW, which is quite modest. However, a quick examination of the business usage revealed that they were in fact getting some $25MM per year in economic benefit from the DW - which they could not get without it. Once business management realized this, they stopped complaining. Our solution was to upgrade the technology, which improved performance and reduced cost (the new technology was faster and cheaper). This took 25% out of the cost and delivered superior performance. The point is that if the DW delivers real value how you charge for it will not be an issue. In your Question above, you emphasize training. This is critical to the success of the DW. Users need to be trained not only in how to work the DW but in how to get the most out of it. In many cases, people are dissatisfied with the DW not because the DW cannot deliver, but because they have not discovered (which means trained) in how to get the most out of it.

Chuck Kelley's Answer:

I liken the DW much like the email system. It is a corporate resource and should be shared by the user community. After that, there are usage costs. These costs can be determined by utilization, much like the old mainframe timeshare processes. You could do it based on rows retrieved, I/O, CPU, percentage of time accessing data, etc. I believe that these values will be way lower than the savings/benefits for keeping the data warehouse.

Evan Levy's Answer:

Well, I've never seen a fool-proof way of measuring and communicating usage to business users without it having some impact to their usage.

It's only normal that when folks realize that someone's measuring their usage, they'll think twice about usage.

You may want to consider a few ideas....

Start generating a monthly report that publishes usage by user ID for the data warehouse system. These details should focus on user-specific storage and processing. I would present these details as a total number (in megabytes and CPU seconds) as well as in percentage of overall resources for the time frame. This will give folks the opportunity to see how their usage compares to everyone else.

Include all user IDs - developers, testers, as well as business users.(We often find that depending on the maturity of the data warehouse environment, the developers are the ones using the majority of the systems resources, not the business users.)This ensures that there are no surprises - and everyone realizes who's really using (or not using) the data warehouse.

Don't focus on pricing the usage - publish a few months of usage and then meet with the business users to ask their advice on resource managing the data warehouse.There are lots of choices with recouping costs. Just make sure your business stakeholders have a say in the outcome.

It's only human nature to review the usage of anything once it's no longer free. If your business users reduce their DW usage because you begin measuring usage - it certainly raises the point that the data warehouse isn't supporting their particular business requirements.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access