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The Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Top -10 Pitfalls

by Dr. Berg

May 14, 2010

I am often asked what are the top-10 issues and mistakes made when using SAP BI as an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW).  At the Information Management Conference 2010, I sat down and spent some time thinking about all the issues I have seen over the last twelve years I have been working with SAP data warehousing.

After looking at symptoms, I quickly became aware that there are really underlying causes that creates havoc on the best laid plans. Here is a short list and some observations:

Pitfall #1: Lack of Reasonable SLA with EDW Support Team

Some examples of reasonable performance include:

  • 90% of all queries run under 20 seconds
  • System is available 98% of the time
  • Data loads are available at 8am — 99% of the time
  • User support tickets are answered within 30 minutes
    (first response)
  • User support tickets are closed within 48 hours — 95% of the time.
  • System is never unavailable for more than 72 hrs — including upgrades, service packs, and disaster recovery
  • Delta backups are done each 24 cycle and system backups are done every weekend

 Pitfall #2: Jack-of-all-trades - Master of none….

  • BI is complex with many different tools and technologies. Don’t rely on a single person with no specialized skills.
  • Make each person responsible for a focused technology/task.

Pitfall #3: An army of ‘Arc hitects’ who don’t understand SAP.

  • Have one ‘architect’ – quality is more important than quantity
  • Architecture is technical by nature. PowerPoints only gets you a small part of the way.
  • The BI architect should know the technology better than anyone in the room and be able to design solutions.

Pitfall #4: Not separating the Support Team from the Project team

  • Keeping the ‘lights-on’ is a core focus area.
  • Many EDWs fail because of lack of training, production and user support, and by having nobody around to do continuous improvements.

Pitfall #5: A Firm Belief in Monolithic Data Warehouses

  • Google runs on over 500,000 servers, why must your data warehouse run on one?
  • Divide and concur when the performance becomes a too-large problem.
  • Separate BI onto SAP BWA and use the data warehouse for data movement and data storage.
  • You don’t need a monolithic castle, but storage & performance

Pitfall #6: Analysis Paralysis.

  • You will never have perfect EDW requirements – get over it….
  • The business will change and so will the BI system. Change is a sign of success not failures (people who care wants to make it better).
  • Not moving forward and keep analyzing is a costly decision…

Pitfall #7: A Single User Interface will solve all my EDW problems..

  • There are no magic bullets. Most companies need 2-3 end user tools.
  • Start with OLAP (Pioneer) web, then co ntinue with ad-hoc querying (Webi), and finalize with dashboards (Xcelcius). All other tools are great, but not a starting point.
  • Remember you first crawled and walked before you ran.

Pitfall #8: Enforce EDW Standards

  • Standards are not a word document buried in a file cabinet
  • If you allow ‘exceptions’ the standards quickly become meaningless.
  • It costs to keep your house clean, but data management and data integration will benefit greatly from it. Remember: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” - unknown.

Pitfall #9: Keep Your EDW Support Team motivated

  • The average application developer stays on the job for 47 months, the average support person is only there for 25 months!
  • It is very expensive to use the support team as a training ground for technical staff and it hurts performance.
  • Make the support team a ‘cool’ place to work with flexible hours and defined career paths.

Pitfall #10: Not Creating a ‘BI Technology Advisory Board’ for the EDW

  • Use ad-hoc best practice advice from external experts on a periodic basis.
  • If you are struggling with something, there are many others who have ‘cracked the nut’ already – leverage their experiences.
  • Attend BI conferences, take good notes and leverage the many experts at the booths, the speakers and the forums.
  • You are not alone, but your team needs to get ‘plugged into’ the many ASUG, BI Expert, SDN and SAP BI communities.

 More ideas around Federated, Cente ralized and De-centeralized data warehouses to come..

Dr. Berg





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