How to make your Data Warehouse pay for itself


How do you ensure that data warehousing in your organization will always be well supported and funded? Deep down, you recognize its value. You realize that if you consolidated all the data in the enterprise into one single representation, store data in the lowest level of detail, ensure that data is conformed across and a spade is called a spade everywhere, that it will provide the right foundation for any knowledge that the organization might need, to look forward, look backward or see what is happening now.

However, the folks responsible for ensuring that corporate dollars are spent on initatives that truly provide value to the business and their customers, may not realize that vision. As time goes by, they may lose patience and the data warehousing effort starts losing steam – and sooner or later it is regarded as just another piece of costly technology project with no clear purpose.

So, it is critical that, from the very beginning, the data warehousing project proposal include clearly defined metrics tied to the actual effort itself – in other words, for every $1 it will cost the business, n% returns are expected.

The more I think about this, this can only have meaning if the data warehouse is specific to a program or initiative that is intimately interlinked with objectives. And this can only be done if it is part of the overall intiative itself.

Say, for example, the Marketing department starts a new major initiative to produce more targeted campaigns with new product mixes. Or, the Sales department looks to cut the cost of their operations over the next year by 10%. Focused data warehouses (including detailed fact tables) can be created to serve those specific goals. Or, if an existing data warehouse has a portion of the data required to measure such initiatives, the wheel is not rebuilt, but the current frameworks extended. The point is – the dollars spent on data warehousing are tied to the success of the initiative, and added as a cost item to it. This changes the mindset. It is no longer about the success of the Data Warehouse by itself. It is about the success of the initiative.

This also puts accountability directly on the group managing the initiative, rather than on a central group that has no direct visibility into the initiative, and no incentive to help meet the objective, as the success of the initiative is not tied to their success.

Bottomline – treat the Data Warehouse as a necessary piece of measuring the success of major initiatives that relate to it. Then, it will pay for itself.

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