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In this article, data warehouses will be the focus, so you know what to look for in a BI data storage solution for the benefit of your Intacct experience.

Everywhere you look in the business world, data.  Because of data’s significant role in corporate decision-making, data warehouses have become a heavy-hitting tool for companies today.  In my first interaction with the concept of data warehousing, I had some questions, from basic to logistical, so I’m assuming you feel the same.  How do you manage a data warehouse?  Can I hold the product in my hands?  How does deployment happen?  And why a data warehouse in the first place?  If you have these questions or more Intacct-specific curiosities regarding data warehouses, this article will hopefully provide you with the answers you seek, so you can envision how a data warehouse solution can assist you in Intacct data management and analysis tasks.

What is a data warehouse?  A data warehouse is simply a multi-dimensional database, which, as a definition, probably won’t make it clear all of a sudden.  Virtual storage places, or server-staged databases, are additional ways to describe data warehouses, and they can be on their own server or a shared one.  To compare, an external hard drive offers you a place to store a number of types of files and software, while today’s data warehouses provide you the space to house diverse kinds of operational and transactional data.  Another way to think about a data warehouse: if you three-dimensionalized an Excel spreadsheet, you would be able to organize your operational and transactional information in more aggregated, dynamic, and effective ways, like a data warehouse can, eliminating errors in business user friendly technology.
Deployment?  In regard to data warehouse deployment and automation, commercial solutions usually come “out of the box,” meaning that it is an easy implementation, followed by replication of your key Intacct data and information from other sources.  A consultant, who specializes in extracting, transferring, and loading (ETL) your information will first install the data warehouse, then automate the ETL process from your data sources, including Intacct.  Or, if you are lucky, your BI vendor has a pre-built integration to the Intacct cloud.  Next, a consultant with expertise in simplification and optimization of your financial reporting, budgeting and dashboard tasks will help you to effectively query data from the warehouse and train you to do the same.  After initial configuration and training, business end users at any level can manage a data warehouse without involving the IT team.
But why?  Not every company will want or need a data warehouse, and there isn’t a black and white threshold to let you know that you for sure need one.  But if you are starting to feel the crunch of wasted time and energy related to manual documentation, in addition to managing and analyzing your data with an application like Excel, data warehouses can help to eliminate errors, negative staff morale, and/or wasted time and money.  Furthermore, if your Intacct server is sluggish because users are sometimes querying larger data sets simultaneously, a data warehouse provides stability and high performance without slowing down the server.  Warehouse-driven analytics can also produce richer reports and dashboards because you can utilize data from multiple sources, like payroll, CRM and sales systems.  A data warehouse is a singular database for aggregation of your separate data sources, simplifying and enriching your analyses.
What do they look like?  A data warehouse is not something you can hold in your hand.  It is a digital storage space that you store on a server.  Data warehouses used to be exclusively a development project for the IT department, produced specifically for the organization and oftentimes taking years to design.  Now, the new generation of data warehouses are on the market as a commercial offering.  Today’s commercial warehouse software is used to design and manage the database with a quite technical database management system, like Microsoft SQL Server Visual Studio.  Another example: Solver provides their own technology for warehouse management, appropriately named the BI360 Data Warehouse Manager, with an easy-to-use platform and positioned with the BI360 Suite.
And what about OLAP Cubes?  In terms of data storage, there are plenty of BI tools that recommend or require an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube, so you might wonder if a data warehouse is the right investment.  But OLAP cubes are not transactional SQL server databases, so managing the software requires staff with OLAP-specific skills and experience, like MDX query language fluency, due to how technically complex they are.  Moreover, analytical information is the focal point for cubes, instead of transactional data. Data warehouses are structured by subject, and you can replicate a number of diverse data types to the easy-to-use, dynamic interface for accessible management and analysis of your information with your BI tools.
What’s next after implementation?  Business end users can manage today’s commercial data warehouses.  Configuration and automation of company data replication is easy, regardless of whether it is once or on a routine, scheduled basis.  You can also push data with the click of a button.  Since these BI data stores are Microsoft SQL Server relational databases, organized by subject, like customers, products, and sales, you don’t have to involve IT.  Data warehouses organically offer cross module analytical and financial consolidation functionality because they house diverse data types from disparate sources.  Standing on their own, they usually don’t require processing of transactions, concurrency control mechanisms, or recovery, besides backing up the database.  Data warehouses come with adjustment functionality, as in eliminations, currency conversion, integration techniques, and data cleansing to make your processes more efficient.  You can also utilize a data warehouse to help in the migration of data from an old accounting system to Intacct.  Rather than converting years of historical data over to Intacct, you can actually store this information in your data warehouse and do your historical analysis from there, just bringing over to Intacct, for example, the last period’s closing balances.
Data is only going to become more significant, in terms of amount and relevance and in regard to company decision-making.  Data warehouses will then also continue to become more popular, especially because you can bring multiple data sources into one place to enhance your financial reports, budgets, and data visualizations.  If you would like to rely on one platform to consolidate your Intacct data and any other information for other data sources, without depending on IT to manage the software, data warehouses can provide you that kind of solution.  Solver offers a fully built, configurable Microsoft SQL Server-based data warehouse stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Data Warehouse solution that enables collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for your Intacct experience.

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