There are four major items to consider when looking to evaluate data warehouse solutions: user interface, functionality, support, and infrastructure. All four items have a direct impact on user acceptance, efficiency, and the quality of the solution. A data warehouse is a business intelligence tool used to analyze data. There is a wide range of data warehouse solutions available that can meet the needs of most organizations.
The design of the user interface has a huge impact on the success or failure of data warehouse solutions. Look for a tool that is uncluttered, intuitive, and easy to use. Read the user documentation to see how complex the interface is, and ask the intended users to test the different options and provide feedback. It is important to note that all data warehouse solutions assume users have been trained in data management and analysis techniques. Users without this background will find the tool set overly complex and confusing.
Explore the different functionality provided to ensure that all core business requirements are met. Think about the primary intended use of the tool and attempt to re-create at least one warehouse within that environment. Research the data extract tools provided, as well as the query writing tool to determine the overall suitability of the solution to meet your business needs.
There are two types of support provided by most data warehouse solutions: technical and functional. Technical support is typically focused on hardware, application of software patches, and updates. This type of support is included in the purchase price of the software for the first two to five years. Functional support includes user manuals, training sessions, access to skilled resources, and client services. A service contract details the items required and the costs.
A data warehouse requires dedicated hardware, scheduled back-ups, and support staff. In most firms, a data architect is responsible for creating the infrastructure necessary to properly support and manage this tool. Data is populated into the warehouse from a variety of sources, ranging from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to customer databases. The structure of the data, selection criteria, and methodology of data security are all essential aspects to a solution that must be carefully reviewed.
Look at the availability of resources to support and use the solutions you are considering. An inexpensive solution is not a good choice if skilled staff are hard to find and expensive to retain. Look at the complexity of the tool and the time line required to gain the skills required as part of the decision making process.