Want More Actionable Information from Your BI? Support Your IT Team’s Need for Data Warehouse Automation

August 6, 2015
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If your organization is relatively new to BI but has successfully built some new reports with one of the great visualization tools on the market, you will soon find yourselves in need of a better data organization environment.

If your organization is relatively new to BI but has successfully built some new reports with one of the great visualization tools on the market, you will soon find yourselves in need of a better data organization environment.

If you are successful with your initial dashboarding, there will likely be a rush for better reporting and analytics across the company.  And as needs expand, getting data from multiple sources, ensuring easy access to the right data for your analysis, and preserving your IT team’s sanity is all critical to further BI development.  

Unfortunately, most data visualization tools today lack the necessary data integration, security and maintenance features for good data administration.  In fact, these needs are filled by a specific niche of software called “data warehouse automation” tools (DWA for short).  DWA tools are very cost-effective ways to simplify the data gathering, integration and production process. With DWA, you get to build the views you really want in your data visualization tool and keep them up to date with accurate data.

DWA automation looks at common repetitive tasks, componentizes them, and then automates them. This allows your IT organization to focus on solving business problems rather than on the mundane technical tasks to produce a scalable, efficient, reliable reporting system.  DWA tools can provide time and cost savings of 60% to 80% – equal to about 2 full-time, fully-loaded senior technical headcount (about $325,000 per year in our hometown, San Diego, CA). 

And the benefits for your end-users are huge:

  1. More easily create new dashboards, reports and ad hoc analysis with new data
  2. Get access to all the data available across your organization
  3. Establish a single set of KPI’s/metrics to keep all teams in sync
  4. Have confidence that your data is right using built in Data Quality management tools

Here are a couple case examples highlighting the benefit of a good DWA solution.

Create a Customer Payment Risk Monitor.  By pulling together Accounts Receivable data from your ERP with client profile data from your CRM, you can create a new metric to predict which customers are likely to fail to make a payment.  If you knew this, your account management teams could react more quickly to ensure a positive outcome.  With a DWA capability, you have the benefit of automatically linking these two different data sources in a live manner to monitor payment risk whenever you like.

Improve Demand Forecasting with External Market Data.   Modern supply chains are complex.  Most companies can’t see what’s happening to their product movement beyond their Tier-1 customers (customers who you ship to directly).  However, most industries have syndicated data sources that can provide that visibility by aggregating transaction data from distributor invoices or retail POS systems. By combining shipment data from your ERP with these external data, you get a complete view of your product movement – which in turns improves your ability to forecast demand. DWA tools do the important job of mapping these data – which is not easy because they are likely to have different levels of completeness, units of measure, refresh rates, and data quality issues.

Understand the Impact of Inventory Decisions on Working Capital.  A third benefit of a DWA tool is that it can better enable “what if” and scenario-based analytics.  “What if I reduce my stock levels by 10% this month to free up working capital? How will it impact my risk of stock outs and customer satisfaction scores?”  A good DWA tool will allow you to setup a variety of different scenarios to evaluate the best possible outcomes.  It does that by allow you to write back the results to an analytical cube for visualization and analysis purposes – and to allow you to revisit your actions after the fact to see if you made good decisions.

While it can be easy to get with data visualization, most companies quickly come to the conclusion that they need better tools to gain easy access to the right data at the right moment.  DWA solutions fill this gap and are easy and simple enough to make your IT teams very happy.