There comes a moment in the EDW life cycle when the light-bulb flashes on in someones mind. Initially, this occurs with a select cadre of early adopters that “get it”. Over time, and especially after the initial subject areas are successfully deployed, the lights flash with greater frequency. Eventually, the way forward is illuminated in every nook and cranny of the organization. What makes the light flash is a very personal thing. To the EDW practitioner, witnessing an “EDW Moment” is rewarding. For me, they are what makes it all worth while.
In this post, I relate a few EDW Moments from my personal experience (names changed to protect the innocent), and invite you to share yours. Such anecdotal successes are important to building support for an EDW initiative. We need to understand the precipitating factors, formalize them in the EDW business case and ongoing management process.
The Go Get Bill! Moment
Certain types of memories make a lasting impression where you can remember visual details of the scene. This happened to me at a client meeting in Florida where we were presenting a data warehouse prototype. We had spent several days mapping out a dimensional model and loading the sales fact test data and a few dimension tables. My colleague and I were executing queries against the prototype EDW in response to questions from the gathered managers and business analysts. One manager commented: “You know, one query we just cannot do today is the lifetime productivity of a sales rep. At most, we can compute productivity based on prior year activity, and that takes all weekend to run.”
Well, let’s see…. SELECT sales_rep, region, SUM(act_rev) …… GROUP BY …. (2 minutes later) …. How’s that?
After a few seconds of stunned silence Suzanne, the IT director exclaimed, Go Get Bill! Bill is the VP Sales Director down the hall. Bill came into the room and examined the query projected on the wall as Suzanne explained what had just happened. I will never forget the look on Bill’s face. It was literally jaw-dropping. In an instant we had a room full of converts that “got it”.
The Drill-To Moment
Report drilling (clicking from summary to detail) is so fundamental to BI analysis that we sometimes take it for granted. And yet, effective drilling is one of the most appreciated of BI features. This point came home to me during the development of a maintenance reporting application for an electric utility. We had spend several weeks gathering requirements and building up the maintenance subject area in the EDW. Our business sponsor was a grumbly sort of hands-on manager, Ron, who got things done using static reports. His main concern was getting more detail more quickly into his reports. We explained the concept drilling into summary or exception reports, but it wasn’t quite registering.
Once the prototype was up and running, we gave a workshop for the section leads. Things were going OK, but not great. Then the drill-to moment happened. Ron ask about some additional detail. I clicked on a crew which had a below standard schedule variance, bringing up the work orders for that period. A number of the work orders showed a HOLD status due to materials unavailability. Ron was visibly impressed. I then showed him how we could further drill to see the personnel assigned for projects with productivity rates above/or below a threshold. At that moment, Ron began the transition from BI skeptic to champion.
The Common Dimension Moment
Common dimensions evoke the whole range of emotions–from hope to frustration to elation. They are challenging to introduce because of the perception that it is easier, financially and politically, to scope a solution around local requirements. There is an element of truth to that perception, but it can be managed through an incremental approach to common dimension development. Common dimension moments occur when when one or more common dimensions are already in production, or well along the development cycle.
Here’s the scene. Business analysts and sponsors are laying out the requirements for a new EDW-based application. You point out several areas that could be satisfied by common dimensions. Nine times out of ten, this is welcomed news. Not only does it reduce the project work scope, but sponsors recognize the value of tapping into a broader set of enterprise data. It makes their job easier to sell the project to the funding powers at be. I won’t say that there are high-fives all around, but common dimension moments are uplifting for all concerned. Cultivating a climate for Common Dimension Moments, however, takes political will at the enterprise level. Every EDW project must contribute in some measure to the advancement of common dimensions. Your job, as EDW architect/evangelist, is promote the ROI of the common dimension strategy.
EDW moments are hugely important to a successful EDW initiative. As EDW architect, your job is to create situations for EDW moments to happen, lock-in and follow-up aggressively when they do happen, and ceremonialize EDW moments to create a climate for change. Think like a farmer—plant seeds with expectations that they will grow and bear fruit. Then cultivate and water the emerging plants so they do. Here is a short list of ideas.
- Design prototypes to create EDW moments.
- Do your homework. Determine hot buttons in advance of key meetings and translate them into EDW scenarios.
- Listen well. EDW moments can be subtle and easily missed when you are doing all the talking.
- Pursue mini-campaigns to solidify the EDW moment effects.
- Build a story line that weaves together EDW moments to present a broader picture of the EDW impact.
- Keep a notebook of EDW moments. Take names, and track the progress of your follow-up campaign.
- Make sure that the delivered EDW solution does, in fact, ring true to the EDW moments. Calculate the risk of disappointment where it does not, and set expectations accordingly.