Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's like a Data Warehousing genie

I met with someone this week who was working on a large Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence project.

At the large enterprise level, it's hard to get close to the ideal in a Data Warehouse. The task is positively Hurculean, to schedule feeds from a large number of data sources, cleanse the data, integrate it, and store it. The data integration task alone would be daunting, and could conceivably take forever. Why? Because if you do the right thing and involve all interested business units, it could be a neverending talkfest. Especially if there are competing interests. And much as people can talk about eliminating stovepipes (around the various business areas), there is always going to be competing interests, people concerned with building, maintaining, expanding their domains.

So I was unsurprised to hear there was a certain amount of descoping. Not enough, to my mind, to match the realities of a large business environment.

But on the positive side, ever business or technical issue I raised (on a broad level) was matched with a plan of action, or at least a firm awareness of the issue. So I'm happy to let them run with it – I'm not an enterprise architect.

But on the even more positive side, look what they were promising the data user! An array of different tools to access the DW, from (almost raw) SQL coding to (vanilla) data mining tools, and various options in between. But wait – that's not all. They were also offering the data user access to several levels of data, from modelled representations to raw tables, even as far as allowing access to the [ETL] staging area.

What does that mean? On one level, if the tool you're using doesn't give you the productivity you're after, you can go for something more gui-based. Conversely, if it doesn't give you the level of control you're after, you can go more towards SQL. And if you're not confident about the data you're receiving, you can drill behind the model, to the tables, then to the staging data.

What better access could you ask for? It's like wish fulfilment.

Prototypes are a matter of months away. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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