No Shortcuts: Focus on DW/BI Architecture and Processes, then Think about the Tools

December 18, 2009
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No_shortcut A common problem from an IT perspective is the perception that BI is just about learning how to use the tools such as databases, ETL, reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP).  You use a carpenter to build your house, but you need an architect to design it. Simply knowing how to mechanically use the tools does not help you in designing the database(s), ETL loads or dashboards.

This problem is especially pronounced when the BI or ETL tool is free because it is either bundled with other software such as a database or distributed as open source software (OSS). Often project teams are frustrated with these free tools and the project fails. But those are just symptoms. The real problem is that the team didn’t read the instructions.

The first issue is often that members of the IT staff teach themselves how to use the tools. Just as “he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” an IT person who has never done BI or ETL can only teach herself the mechanics (the what) of the tools but not the how. A self-taught developer inevitably tries to use the tool as she would if she were hand-coding… big mistake.

The second and bigger issue, the project team



No_shortcut A common problem from an IT perspective is the perception that BI is just about learning how to use the tools such as databases, ETL, reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP).  You use a carpenter to build your house, but you need an architect to design it. Simply knowing how to mechanically use the tools does not help you in designing the database(s), ETL loads or dashboards.

This problem is especially pronounced when the BI or ETL tool is free because it is either bundled with other software such as a database or distributed as open source software (OSS). Often project teams are frustrated with these free tools and the project fails. But those are just symptoms. The real problem is that the team didn’t read the instructions.

The first issue is often that members of the IT staff teach themselves how to use the tools. Just as “he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” an IT person who has never done BI or ETL can only teach herself the mechanics (the what) of the tools but not the how. A self-taught developer inevitably tries to use the tool as she would if she were hand-coding… big mistake.

The second and bigger issue, the project team and their sponsor figure that free tools mean no investment is necessary, so they never get trained in the concepts. Data warehousing is complicated; you have to understand why you build warehouses, how you design them and what the processes are to load, cleanse and access them.

(For more on this series, see No Shortcuts: Read the BI/DW Instructions and Ask for Directions.)


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