In my February '98 column, I wrote that before you begin your data warehousing journey, you must first answer the question: "Who are you?" This column discusses the strategy for evaluating your organization as the final step in determining who you are.

To understand what strategy is appropriate for your enterprise, consider the following factors. The market may be roughly divided into three general types of organizations as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Types of Organizations & Appropriate Strategies

  • Think Globally, Act Globally: These organizations are driven by strategic considerations at all times. They represent the bulk of the early adopters of enterprise data warehouses. Although many, if not most of them, failed on their initial efforts, nearly all kept trying until they successfully built some version of an enterprise data warehouse.
  • Think Globally, Act Locally: These organizations think in strategic terms, but choose to execute on a local basis as needs dictate, while keeping their efforts in alignment with enterprise strategic goals. These organizations represent the bulk of the "early majority" and "late majority" audience that the data warehouse market is moving into today.
  • Think Locally, Act Locally: These enterprises do not have the organizational maturity or the political processes required to articulate and execute a strategic vision or direction. They are marked by tactical efforts undertaken to solve tactical challenges. Because these projects are nearly impossible to integrate at a later date, whatever is built is eventually thrown away.

In order to determine what type of organization you are and what type of solution is appropriate to implement, you must weigh a multitude of factors as outlined in Figure 1.
The most important part of this evaluation is the weighting factors you must apply to this subset of evaluation criteria. You will also inevitably want and need to add additional evaluation criteria that are suitable to your site.

To use the evaluation matrix, add your weighting factors and position your proposed solution and your organization on each scale. If the political level and scale of your business pain is very high and you can afford to wait for a high impact strategic solution, then an enterprise data warehouse is appropriate for you. If you highly value a quick ROI solution and you have correspondingly focused pain and seek a lower-cost, iterative solution, then an incremental architected data mart approach is better suited for your enterprise.

Both the "top down" and "bottom up" strategies can be appropriate, depending on the unique needs of each site.

Regardless of your choice of strategy, there are two common prerequisites for successful implementation of the intelligent enterprise system: server centricity and scalability.

Regardless of the tool or technology you buy, it must be server centric. Do not buy thin-client solutions that do not have a complementary server component to provide resource sharing, scheduling and distribution.

One word that will serve you well in the data warehouse and especially the data mart world is scalability. Buy no technology, product or tool that cannot easily and seamlessly scale several orders of magnitude. The rates of growth in data set size, frequency of use and number of users in the data warehouse and data mart world is astonishing. Do not allow yourself to be boxed in by any technological decision.

The ability for your change and update processes and user support processes to scale is critical for your short- and long-term success.

In order to determine the appropriate strategy for your organization, you must understand the options and understand your organizational identity. Only then can you pick the appropriate path, and answer the question, "Who are you?"

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