Q: What kinds of data warehouse processes would be good for outsourcing?

Anne Marie Smith's Answer:

Given the analytical nature of data warehouses (DWs) and the need for understanding the source data and its fluid, changing user requirements, I am not sure that I would recommend any areas of DW as appropriate for outsourcing, meaning sending functions to offshore or third-party sites. There are benefits in hiring consultants for some or all of the work to having access to experienced consultants in scope, discovery, development and implementation to assist the in-house staff in knowledge development, skills and staff augmentation.

Sid Adelman's Answer:

Data Modeling:While there are modeling commonalities within a vertical industry, every organization has its own way of doing business and these unique processes should be included in the models. A consultant from the outside might very well know the industry but it is doubtful he or she would be aware of the organization's unique processes. Data modeling should not be outsourced.

Database Design: The database could be designed by an outside consultant who fully understood the processing requirements, an understanding which would take time and considerable effort. BecauseDBA activity would be ongoing for the life of the data warehouse, either the consultant would have to remain or the consultant should transfer the knowledge of how and why the database was designed and this transfer should be made to a DBA employee. Database design could be outsourced but only with a plan to make the full-time staff self-sufficient.

Extract, Transform & Load (ETL): The first part of the ETL process is understanding the data sources and this is best accomplished by an employee who knows these sources in depth. Bringing in a consultant (outsourcing this effort) requires the time and money to research the sources as well as the time required to ask questions of the company's employees. The transformations are organization-specific and so are best left to a knowledgeable employee. Integration is sometimes included in the ETL process, it requires an in-depth knowledge of the organization and its business and so it is not appropriate for outsourcing.

Data Cleansing: The analysis and processes for cleansing should be done by a knowledgeable employee but the repetitive work of cleansing old data could be accomplished by an outsourcer.

Business Intelligence: Analysis work should not be outsourced since it takes a thorough knowledge of the data, the business, the management, and what management needs. This should not be left to an outsourcer. However, creating some well-defined reports could be outsourced.

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