Why is data warehousing an enterprise swearword?

The benefits of a centralised and efficient data warehouse are obvious, but it's even more obvious that building one can be a right royal pain in the back end.Prior failures with building data warehouses have been so expensive and horrendous that the term can become an enterprise swearword, not to be uttered outside of the darker corners of the datacentre.

The benefits of a centralised and efficient data warehouse are obvious, but it's even more obvious that building one can be a right royal pain in the back end.

Prior failures with building data warehouses have been so expensive and horrendous that the term can become an enterprise swearword, not to be uttered outside of the darker corners of the datacentre.

"I have been to companies where they say 'You can't say data warehouse', because it's such a dirty word," IDC analyst Alys Woodward noted at a recent conference in London on the subject.

Despite massive technology improvements -- not the least of which is the availability of fast, cheap massive storage facilities -- the process doesn't seem to be getting any easier.

Assuming you've gotten past the swearing, how can you make a warehousing project really swing?

Altis Consulting CEO Gavin Cooke, a veteran of more than 10 years of working on data warehousing projects, acknowledges that the range of technologies has changed in recent years.

"The number of players in the marketplace in terms of both hardware and software is vastly reduced."

However, he suggests, the fundamental issues haven't: "Companies don't have to reinvent the wheel. Most businesses are doing exactly the same thing as they were 10 years ago."

Where projects have gone wrong, there's typically a few obvious mistakes that can be avoided. The first is a familiar target: IT planning without any business relevance. "IT got in and chose the technology first, rather than defining the requirements. That mistake still happens," Cooke said.

And despite the technological complexity involved, personality clashes may still be a bigger problem.

"It can be quick from a technical point of view," Cooke said. "You can do the build part in as little as eight weeks, but you've got to allow time for the business to understand the data. It takes then three months to digest it."

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