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The data warehouse toolkit

Read this excerpt from "The Data Warehouse Toolkit" written by Ralph Kimball & Margy Ross to learn more about building and implementing an effective data warehouse.

The following is an excerpt from The Data Warehouse Toolkit: The Complete Guide to Dimensional Modeling.


Data warehouse projects require the integration of a cross-functional team with resources from both the business and IT communities. It is common for the same person to fill more than one role, especially as the cost of entry for data warehousing has fallen. The assignment of named resources to roles depends on the project's magnitude and scope, as well as the individual's availability, capacity, and experience.

From the business side of the house, you'll need representatives to fill the following roles:

Business sponsor. The business sponsor is the warehouse's ultimate client, as well as its strongest advocate. Sponsorship sometimes takes the form of an executive steering committee, especially for cross-enterprise initiatives.

Business driver. If you work in a large organization, the sponsor may be too far removed or inaccessible to the project team. In this case the sponsor sometimes delegates his or her less strategic warehouse responsibilities to a middle manager in the organization. This driver should possess the same characteristics as the sponsor.

Business lead. The business project lead is a well-respected person who is highly involved in the project, likely communicating with the project manager on a daily basis. The same person serving as the business driver or subject matter expert sometimes fills this role. 

For more information on this title

The Data Warehouse Toolkit: The Complete Guide to Dimensional Modeling
By Ralph Kimball, Margy Ross
Published by John Wiley & Sons Incorporated
ISBN: 0471200247
Published: April 2002; 464pp

Business users. Optimally, the business users are the enthusiastic fans of the data warehouse. You need to involve them early and often, beginning with the project scope and business requirements. From there, you must find creative ways to maintain their interest and involvement throughout the lifecycle. Remember, user involvement is critical to data warehouse acceptance. Without business users, the data warehouse is a technical exercise in futility.

Several other positions are staffed from either the business or IT organizations. These straddlers can be technical resources that understand the business or business resources that understand technology. Straddler roles include the following:

Business system analyst. This person is responsible for determining the business needs and translating them into architectural, data, and analytic application requirements.

Business subject matter expert. This person is often the current go-to resource for ad hoc analysis. He or she understands what the data means, how it is used, and where data inconsistencies are lurking. Their analytic and data insights are extremely useful, especially during the modeling and analytic application processes.

Analytic application developer. Analytic application developers are responsible for designing and developing the starter set of analytic templates, as well as providing ongoing application support.

Data warehouse educator. The educator(s) must be confident of their data, applications, and access tool knowledge because the business community does not differentiate between these warehouse deliverables. The following roles typically are staffed from the IT organization (or an external consulting firm). If you are working with consultants due to resource or expertise constraints, you should retain internal ownership of the project. Insist on coaching and extensive skills/knowledge transfer so that you can function more independently on the next project. Finally, you must clearly understand whether you're buying meaningful experience rather than staff augmentation (perhaps with consultants who merely know how to spell OLAP).

Project manager. The project manager is a critical position. He or she should be comfortable with and respected by business executives, as well as technical analysts. The project manager's communication and project management skills must be stellar.

Technical architect. The architect is responsible for the overall technical and security architecture. He or she develops the plan that ties together the required technical functionality and helps evaluate products on the basis of the overall architecture.

Technical support specialists. Technical specialists tend to be nearly encyclopedic about a relatively narrow spectrum of technology.

Data modeler. The data modeler likely comes from a transactional data modeling background with heavy emphasis on normalization. He or she should embrace dimensional modeling concepts and be empathetic to the requirements of the business rather than focused strictly on saving space or reducing the staging workload.

Database administrator. Like the data modeler, the database administrator must be willing to set aside some traditional database administration truisms, such as having only one index on a relational table.

Metadata coordinator. This person ensures that all the metadata is collected, managed, and disseminated. As a watchdog role, the coordinator is responsible for reminding others of their metadata-centric duties.

Data steward. The data steward is responsible for enterprise agreement on the warehouse's conformed dimensions and facts. Clearly, this is a politically challenging role.

Data staging designer. The staging designer is responsible for designing the data staging ETL processes. He or she typically is involved in the make versus buy decision regarding staging software.

Data staging developer. Based on direction from the staging designer, the staging developer delivers and automates the staging processes using either a staging tool or manually programmed routines.

Data warehouse support. Last, but not least, the data warehouse requires ongoing backroom and front room support resources. Most often this role is assigned to individuals who have been involved in the project in an earlier capacity.

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