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Kimball University: A Data Warehousing Fitness Program for Lean Times

How can you do more with less? Follow this data warehousing/BI strengthening regimen to cut cost, avoid expenditures and bulk up the bottom line.
Bulk Up the Bottom Line

Most organizations initially justify their DW/BI initiatives citing opportunities to grow the business and improve productivity. The benefits identified are real and tangible, but they're often hard to quantify. It can be challenging to measure enhanced business results such as increased revenue growth, improved profitability, greater customer acquisition/retention rates, or improved customer satisfaction.

Now's the time to revisit the proposed growth opportunities to evaluate whether the DW/BI environment has actually helped attain the benefits promised. If the benefits are being achieved, be sure to let the world know! There's nothing wrong with taking credit for a job well done. Your recent budget negotiations might have gone more smoothly if you had better records of the business value resulting from the DW/BI system. Start keeping those records now.

Most of us will recognize desired benefits that have not yet been fully realized. Investigate why these benefits continue to elude you. This analysis will require the DW/BI team to cast a critical eye over activities and results. Be brutally honest with yourself. Have you done everything required to help the organization achieve these benefits?

An Informationweek Analytics Webcast
Resetting Information and BI Priorities for a Challenging Economy
Presented by Intelligent Enterprise & sponsored by IBM
DW/BI teams often lose sight of the ultimate goal. They get so focused on getting the data into the data warehouse they forget about making it all the way to the finish line -- enabling the business users to easily use the data for decision making. Consider refocusing some of your resources on achieving those benefits that provide significant value to the organization.

Look for low-cost, incremental improvements you can make that offer substantive value to the organization:

  • Make sure you have documentation and training in place to help business people to use the DW/BI system effectively.
  • Look for areas where the addition of a few dimension attributes or additional metrics to existing schema will enable valuable new analyses.
  • Look for opportunities to expose the existing portfolio of data and BI applications to a wider audience, perhaps tapping available software licenses identified as discussed above.
  • Work with key, analytics-savvy business users to evaluate the effectiveness of BI applications that have already been deployed. Look for opportunities to improve these existing BI applications to provide keener insights into the business. Seek out ways to better understand the analytic processes utilized by the savviest users in order to capture and extend these benefits to additional BI applications.
  • Enrich your data warehouse with new fact tables supporting additional business processes and new analytics.

It's unfortunate that the downturn in the economy has put many of us on an unwelcome budgetary diet, but we can also get lean and mean by hitting the gym and working out, figuratively speaking. We can focus carefully on our DW/BI environment's overall health and fitness and become far stronger and healthier for the long run.