If you’re like most companies, you rely on multiple data sources, each with different reporting tools to manage company information and analysis processes, but you need to bring together all of that data for richer analytics. This article will discuss data warehouses as the solution.
Almost all companies of any size are relying on multiple data sources for company information, such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Payroll, and vertical industry systems, perhaps as well as data sitting in manual spreadsheets. Even if you have a great accounting system report designer or pre-built online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes as one of your data sources, one of the biggest ways for management to make sound business decisions requires the ability to utilize financial reports and/or dashboards to look across all of your company information. Unfortunately, each of the data sources or systems typically have their own unique BI tools. And that’s where a data warehouse comes into the equation, likely solving this prevalent business problem. This article will discuss the benefits of a data warehouse (DW) as a solution to data management with a Microsoft SQL Server.
First and foremost, why a data warehouse? Because of its architecture, data warehouses allow users to combine key data from all of your important data sources. With the right Business Intelligence (BI) front end tools, your reports, budgets, and dashboards will be richer and generated at a higher performance. A single reporting database, like a DW, empowers executives, finance, and operational managers to access, manage, and analyze company information across the organization’s data sources. At this point, you might see the importance of having all of your data in one stable platform, but the next question involves how.
You might be thinking, who is going to create this data warehouse? Does the DW have to be built from scratch in Microsoft SQL server? Or are there pre-built, configurable data warehouses on the market that can be purchased, instead of manually built? You do have some options in this regard, but one of these choices is a lot more affordable than the other.
Building your data warehouse at home. If you go about crafting a DW yourself, the reality is that few companies have DW architects on staff, so you will likely have to hire expensive contractors to piece together a solution for your specific needs. This can cost several hundred thousand dollars at best, while often getting up to a million or more in salaries and consulting fees. And how much time does it take to build your own DW? The average time is typically around 9 months, but it is not unusual that a homegrown DW project can span multiple years and multiple millions of dollars in costs. Because of the high costs, long design time, and a high risk of failure due to non-experts designing the DW – or key DW developers leaving the project during implementation, a DW can be out of financial reach for a lot of mid-market companies. Fortunately, the option of a commercial DW solution is more recently available.
Commercial data warehouse solutions. A commercial DW is a software on top of a Microsoft SQL Server database that makes it easy to configure or customize with few technical skills required (as opposed to building from scratch). Additionally, today’s DW solutions have a lot of prebuilt business logic like trees or hierarchies, currency conversion, data import and copy utilities, database schemas (such as star schema database schemas), and data viewers, so you can avoid writing SQL queries to see or review data after loading from data sources. Like all commercial software, DW solutions have regular updates, user manuals, and the ability to call a helpdesk, among other things that a homegrown DW doesn’t offer. This type of DW software is a new generation of innovative technology still only available from a few vendors. However, just like nobody is designing their own in-house ERP systems anymore, and similarly, going forward, fewer and fewer companies will design their own homegrown SQL Server DW. Instead, they will buy a commercial data warehouse, like Solver’s BI360 offers. And there’s plenty of benefits associated with this investment.
Benefits of commercial data warehouses. Fully-built, configurable DWs can be implemented as quickly as a few weeks, compared to the 9-month average for homegrown solutions. They are significantly lower in cost than manually built development projects because of the shorter implementation time, less bugs and issues, less ongoing maintenance work. Additionally, commercial DWs are less risk than a homegrown DW because their general design is pre-built and configured through menus instead of a custom database schema development, and it is not dependent on individual developers in-house that might leave the organization in the middle of the project. With commercial DW software, you can always call when you need support. Because commercial data warehouses are built with the feedback from hundreds, if not thousands of customers of the vendor company, they come with better design, more features that are the result of best practice design and ideas coming from many different business requirements, compared to the internal sounding board of your IT staff.
Some commercial DW solutions, like Solver’s BI360, also come with their own front-end BI tools for reports and dashboards that immediately work directly off the DW schema you configure during implementation. This way, you don’t end up with IT-driven reporting solutions like you would with a homegrown DW (i.e. SSRS and Crystal Reports designers), which require knowledge of SQL tables in the database. And finally, you don’t have to rely on IT-provided Excel pivot tables for end users to analyze data like you would get with most homegrown DWs. Instead, you have formatted, easy-to-design reports, with executive and operational dashboards, often with web and mobile front-ends. Modern power and functionality in a much more affordable package – that’s the future of DW solutions.
Because of the new breed of commercial, configurable DW solutions now starting to come to market, the important technology is coming within reach of being affordable for more than just Fortune 1000 companies. Now, mid-market and even smaller companies can afford DWs, so they can enjoy the huge BI benefits of combining their data sources into a single, central “reporting-friendly” database and thus make better and FASTER business decisions. Solver offers a fully built, configurable Microsoft SQL Server-based data warehouse stand-alone with a business-friendly interface 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 BI needs.