This article will lay out the effects of a data warehouse solution for your Acumatica experience, so that you can have a head start in shopping for the best data storage and Business Intelligence (BI) tool.
Data is an essential ingredient in the recipe for corporate success. Because of this importance, data warehouses are then relevant by association. When I first heard of data warehousing, I had a lot of questions, so perhaps you feel the same. What does data warehouse management look like? Are they a tangible product? How do you implement one? Why should I go with a data warehouse at all? You might have these kind of questions – or other ones altogether, as an Acumatica customer. In this article, I’ll go about answering these questions and more, so you can evaluate how a data warehouse can help you with Acumatica data management analysis processes.
What are they? Data warehouses are databases that are multi-dimensional in form and function, which might not clear things up for you. In other words, data warehouses are virtual storage spaces, or databases staged on a server, whether it is a shared server or its own entity. As a comparison, an external hard drive provides you space to house diverse kinds of files and software, and modern data warehouses offer you a place to store multiple types of transactional and operational data. One more way to think about a warehouse: they are a multi-dimensional version of an Excel spreadsheet because you can structure your transactional and operational data in consolidated, intuitive, and streamlined ways, with the efficacy to eliminate errors in easy-to-use technology.
Implementation? In terms of implementation and automation of a data warehouse, commercial data warehouses typically come “out of the box,” which means that it is an easy installation task, followed by replicating your data from Acumatica and other sources. First, a consultant who focuses on extracting, transferring, and loading (ETL) of your data will deploy the data warehouse, then automate ETL from your information sources, like Acumatica. From there, a consultant who specializes in simplifying, maximizing, and streamlining your financial reporting, planning, and data visualizing processes will assist you in pulling data from the warehouse. After initial setup and training, professionals at all levels can oversee a data warehouse without the involvement of the IT department.
Why data warehousing? Data warehouses won’t be a top priority for every company – and there isn’t a particular time that you can know for sure that you need one. That said, if you are beginning to notice the frustration and actual waste of time and energy of manual documentation, along with management and analysis of your information with a program like Excel, a data warehouse can help you avoid errors, declining staff morale, and/or excessive time and dollars. Also, if you are experiencing a slower Acumatica server because your fellow users are querying sometimes substantial amounts of data at the same time, data warehouses offer high performance and stability while avoiding a sluggish Acumatica server. Data warehousing will also offer you richer reports and dashboards with data from not just Acumatica, but also multiple data sources (payroll and sales systems, amongst others). Data warehouses are the singular database for consolidation of your disparate data sources, making your analyses easier and more robust.
Tangible? Data warehouses are not physical, tangible products. They are digital storage spaces that are stored on a server. Traditionally, warehouses have been a development task for IT professionals, designed particularly for the company, with the project usually lasting for years. Today, a new generation of data warehouses are sold in the marketplace as a commercial product for meeting data management objectives. Modern commercial warehouse solutions are maintained with a data source management system, like Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio. As another example, Solver offers their own program, aptly called the BI360 Data Warehouse Manager, with a business user friendly interface and part of the BI360 Suite, for management of the warehouse.
What about OLAP Cubes? Why not go with an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube instead of a data warehouse? With the prevalence of BI tools that suggest or require an OLAP cube to store your data, you might think data warehouses are not going to be the right investment. However, OLAP cubes are not transactional SQL server databases, so management of the technology requires personnel with OLAP-specific experience and skills (i.e. MDX query language) because of how technically complicated they are. Furthermore, analytical data is the focus for cubes as opposed to transactional information. Warehouses are organized by subject, and you can replicate multiple types of data to the business user friendly, powerful platform for easy access to and management and analysis of your data with your BI software.
What do you do with a data warehouse once it’s set up? Non-IT professionals can manage a modern, commercial data warehouse. You can easily configure and automate replications of your company information to the warehouse once or on a regular, scheduled basis. You can also replicate data any time with the push of a button. Because these BI data stores are Microsoft SQL Server relational databases, structured about subjects, like sales, customers, and products, you can avoid IT involvement. Data warehouses naturally lend themselves to cross module analytics and financial consolidations because they store data from multiple sources. They do stand on their own, typically without need for processing transactions, recovery (besides backing up the database), or concurrency control mechanisms. They are a strong addition to your BI technology toolbox because they are equipped with adjustment functionality like currency conversion, data cleansing, integration techniques, and eliminations to streamline your processes. Another, perhaps surprising, use of a data warehouse is to assist with migrations to Acumatica from an old ERP system. Instead of having to convert years’ worth of historical data over to Acumatica, you can instead store this data in the data warehouse and do your historical reporting from there, while only bringing in, for example, the last period’s closing balances to Acumatica.
Data is only going to grow in size and importance, in terms of making decisions about a company’s future, so data warehouses will also be more prevalent and significant, especially when bringing multiple data sources into one space to upgrade your financial statements, budgets, and dashboards. If you are ready to have just one space to aggregate your Acumatica data in addition to information from other data sources, all while cutting out the IT department, data warehouses can offer you these elements. 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 Acumatica experience.