Training breaks barriers to strategic data warehouse implementation

Susan Andre 1999

It is widely – and correctly – acknowledged that the data warehouse can play a strong strategic role in the corporate world. When it is used to support the enterprise's objectives, the resulting effect on bottom line more than adequately justifies the investment. Companies invest significant amounts of money in the data warehouse from various perspectives – hardware, software, and consulting. Research shows that, on average, a data warehouse costs R4 million to R5 million for the first four years. Companies cannot afford to neglect the people issues that contribute to the successful implementation and continued use of the data warehouse. Training is a primary ingredient, not only for data warehouse literacy, but also to ensure buy-in.

Education starts with an understanding of what the role of the data warehouse is in supporting the business. Clarifying how this can affect performance (and remuneration) provides additional motivation. Effective training must deal with a number of aspects unique to the data warehouse environment.

  • Data warehouse access tools can vary greatly with the user having access to the simple spreadsheet, query and reporting tools, multi-dimensional analysis software and Internet-enabled technology. Training should be targeted, so the appropriate technology is matched to staff functions.
  • The user community also needs to know what is in the data warehouse and how to integrate it into their job functions.
  • Helpdesk procedures, report and document management procedures, data refreshing schedules should also be part of the training
  • Technical support staff must understand the business benefits of a data warehouse and the downside of downtime in order to motivate higher service levels. Technical training standards must be of the highest.
  • After implementation, regular roadshows and the establishment of a user group provide continuing education forums.

The involvement of the business user at the planning stage, with input into defining business rules and information and training requirements results in greater buy-in. Regular reassessment of data warehouse usage and its effect on the business helps identify barriers to effective access and feeds back into a training, enhancement and maturing process. Targeted training helps break down barriers, supporting strategic business goals and finally (and most importantly) positively affect the bottom line.