Q:

What is the scope of business analysis in a data warehousing environment? Is data modeling the job of a business analyst in the corporate scenario?

A:

Doug Hackney’s Answer: The data model is the manifestation of the business needs. The business analyst is often (even usually) a separate person from the logical/data modeler, but we prefer to have the logical/data modeler attend the user interview sessions led by the business analysts so that the logical/data modeler can hear the requirements first hand, rather than have them passed through the BA filter. Larissa Moss’ Answer: The activities performed during business analysis, especially data analysis, are geared toward understanding and correcting the existing impairments of the source systems, and in particular finding the existing discrepancies in the business data. Business analysis is, therefore, a business-oriented not a system-oriented activity, and it should be performed by a business analyst not by a systems analyst or technician.

Two complementary methods are usually employed during business data analysis: Top-down logical data modeling for integration and consistency and bottom-up source data analysis for standardization and quality. Both of these techniques can be used very effectively for business analysis and should be performed by a business analyst. These two techniques are not to be confused with database design activities (i.e., physical data modeling) or ETL source-to-target mapping. Those are usually performed by technicians who typically concentrate more on the technical conversion rules than on data domain and data integrity rules (unless the target database rejects a mapped item).

Joe Oates' Answer: This can be a very emotional topic. Being a multidimensional advocate, I am in the group that does not do a traditional 3NF logical data model for a data warehouse. In my experience, a data warehouse depends on what actually exists in operational systems, however imperfect that may be, as opposed to what should be, which is what the business analyst is about. Therefore, people who understand physical design issues for very large databases should take the lead in the design of the data warehouse database. I do not mean by this that you should just pick any DBA. This is a specific skill for which you may have to look outside your company.

During this effort, subject matter experts (SMEs) are essential to the success of the data warehouse database design effort. These SMEs must be people who understand the company’s business processes and how the operational systems support the processes, as well as the data available from these systems. These SMEs must also understand the metrics used for decision making that are available from operational systems as well as metrics that could be available when data from multiple operational systems is integrated into the data warehouse.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: Very good question! A lot of times this role is overlooked and the responsibilities are picked up by other team members. Primarily, the business analyst (BA) is to represent the needs of the business area that the data warehouse solution is being designed for. The BA will attend the data modeling sessions and will provide input on the business needs and will verify the data model through the iterations of the design.

Another very important role the BA plays is they will provide the current and desired state business processes. The data warehouse will change existing processes and the way people will do their jobs. The BA must provide expertise for the business process reengineering (BPR) effort and the organizational change management (OCM) effort.

When the system enters testing, the BA will be involved with all aspects of testing from providing input into the testing strategy and actually performing and documenting test results.

And since training is always overlooked, the BA must focus on designing and providing the training of the data warehouse once it is delivered.

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