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Information agility

There are many reasons that people choose a data warehouse environment. These may be the relief from the pain of legacy systems, a need for historical and integrated data among others.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

There are many reasons that people choose a data warehouse environment. These may be the relief from the pain of legacy systems, a need for historical and integrated data among others. All of these are valid and useful reasons for building a data warehouse.

But there is another more basic reason for creating data warehouses, and that reason is that data warehouses once built and populated represent the key to "information agility".

In order to understand information agility, consider the state of information processing prior to data warehousing. Imagine that a manager wakes up with a new need for information because a competitor has introduced a new product which may create a new market segment. Or perhaps, an overseas distributor wants to start selling your product. These are several reasons why new information is needed as quickly as possible.

How would the traditional IT organization respond without data warehousing? IT would send in the data modelers and then turn things over to the JAD session engineers. Unfortunately the project would then be sent to designers, maintenance programmers and finally, to consultants to develop the code. The time consumed by this traditional method causes the opportunity to be lost. This is information agility at its worst.

Now consider what happens when your organization has made an investment in a data warehouse. Although you will need to handle the integration of legacy data which has never been cleansed, when management needs a new report, it will be readily accessible.

A data warehouse consists of integrated, granular, detailed, historical data. In many regards the data is atomic.

If a manager would want to review a monthly roll-up of the product line totaled by sub-products, perhaps never done before, with a data warehouse foundation in place he can have the report on the same day instead of months later.

When the manager gets the report and realizes that the data should be analyzed differently, with the collection of granular data, the new report takes much less time to develop.

Productivity is increased by the data warehousing investment. New information has been generated in a usable time frame. There is the opportunity to look at the same granular pool of data in comparative ways. This is information agility!

But, the ONLY way to get that agility is to have the granular, integrated, historical pool of data available when the organization needs it.

The scope of your basic subject matter in the data warehouse limits the ability to handle the organization’s queries. For example, you can’t compare data concerning sales of refrigerators with data that relates to alligators in zoos, but most likely, the information compiled and stored in your data warehouse will be relevant and useful to your industry.

The underlying reason why data warehouses are valuable to an organization is that the pool of granular, integrated, historical data that resides in a data warehouse will allow the organization to position itself as an "information agile" organization.


Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations. Bill can be reached at 303-681-6772.

Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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