Is Your Data Warehouse Fragile or Agile?

In his most recent blog, Ralph Hughes makes the point that business managers have grown accustomed to seeing data warehousing professionals “disappear after gathering requirements, only to return 10 or more months later with applications that don’t meet the needs or are out of date because the business has changed while we were off coding.”

Hardly a revelation to those of us who have watched the Business/IT dynamic with interest, but Ralph does a great job detailing how the quest to architect the all-encompassing and technically pristine data warehouse throttles its value. He also highlights something that I’ve believed for years; seeking to manage risk rather than seeking to eliminate it is the only way to keep IT moving at the cadence of business. It was true 10 years ago but truer today.

It’s hard to argue against the notion that we live in a dynamic business world. In a recent Kalido webinar Gary Beach, Publisher Emeritus of CIO Magazine, made an interesting comment that caught my ear. He said that these days, real time really means real time. He was talking about communication inside businesses, but the point stuck with me. Businesses are feeling the pressure to make more rapid adjustments to change. Naturally that pressure cascades down to the teams who are maintaining the data foundations on which those businesses operate. This was pretty evident in a survey we conducted at the TDWI World Conference in Las Vegas. In fact, it was more than just evident; we got visceral reactions from many of the practitioners who answered five questions about agility. (You can see the full report here.)

Business IT Alignment

Results from 119 respondents to Kalido’s February 2012 survey at TDWI Las Vegas

Conventional methodologies, practices and architectures will give way to more agile practices that Ralph describes. They have to. As Ralph summarizes, “companies that stand still, waiting for risk-free road maps, decline. Companies that manage risk, so they have resources left over to innovate and improve, thrive.”

Expanding slightly on that view, I’d say that companies trying for “risk-free” actually default to inflexibility as a design objective for the data foundation. Like any physical structure, inflexibility leads to fragility, and fragile structures are prone to break when they have to move too quickly.

Fragile or Agile?  Is your warehouse prone to break under the pressure to change, or does it enable the agility the business requires?

We’d love to know. Take our survey, and we’ll report back on what we’re learning as more results come in.

Interested in more of what Ralph Hughes has to say? You can also join us for our upcoming webinar on March 22 on “Building Agile Warehouses.”

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