Question: Daily, we hear about mergers and acquisitions among companies. The big challenge is integrating the systems. With respect to ETL integration from one system to the other, what are the steps one needs to consider?


Joe Oates’ Answer: I am assuming that you are referring to integrating new systems acquired with the merger or acquisition in a data warehouse, though the following tips apply to other situations.


The key to handling the addition of mergers and acquisitions is to have a robust database design for the data warehouse. I mean that the inevitable new data items that are required for the business as these new companies are added can be included in the DW design without having to do a redesign when new data sources are added. Also, there must be a good understanding of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that management needs in the first place. If chosen wisely, there should be little change to KPIs when a new company is acquired or merged unless you are acquiring a new kind of business.


There are several things that you can do to make this process easier:


  • Get involved as early as possible. Work out an arrangement with IT management so that the data warehouse team can be involved with the planning for the merger or acquisition from the start.
  • In your requirements gathering, you should have obtained a list of the top 20 questions that each manager or involved stakeholder in the current data warehouse project would like to get from the data warehouse. Consolidate these questions into a single list and run them by the management of the new company as well as your existing management to see if they still apply and if any new questions are needed. This is something you should do periodically.
  • Prepare templates for the ETL process flow. You may not have much time to bring the new systems in. You also may have to bring on inexperienced resources to do the ETL. Having well-designed templates that handle the overall flow of the ETL, the dimension processing, fact processing, exception processing and audit trail will be invaluable. The best source for this information in a readily available book that I have seen is The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit: With SQL Server 2005 and the Microsoft Business Intelligence Toolset by Ralph Kimball, et al. Regardless of the database system or ETL tool that you may use, the section on how to develop the ETL is excellent and the principles can be transferred to any ETL tool or database.
  • You will probably want to have two or more phases involved in bringing the data over from the new company. It is much easier to handle several smaller ETL projects than one gigantic ETL project. Regardless of whether you can or not, the previously mentioned templates will make your life much easier.
  • Negotiate a trial period or parallel if the acquired company already has a DW. You may have to develop special reports and/or analyses for the new company. Being able to work out the details before going into full production will help you set expectations and help ensure a smoother transition.

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