Enterprise Data Warehouses EDW: The Future of Business Intelligence
By now, there can be little doubt that all enterprises can benefit from data-driven insights to allow owners and managers to unlock the organization’s full potential.
These days a company’s data is one of its key resources and the insights derived from data, also known as business intelligence or BI, lead to a better understanding of customers, improved competitiveness, and the ability to better navigate market and industry fluctuations.
Business intelligence, BI data, or business analytics can be defined as a process for analyzing data to discover insights that help business leaders make better decisions. One of the top five business intelligence trends of 2021, highlighted in a survey of over 2000 professionals, identified the need for organizations to manage their own data and to make good use of it as a top priority. What’s evident from this survey is that organizations nowadays want to go beyond the collection of as much data as possible, to actually using the data at their disposal intelligently to boost business.
This is where an EDW, sometimes referred to as a “Data Lake” comes in. It stands to reason that the better your system of collection and recording data, the more reliable and efficient your business intelligence will be. Companies use various business intelligence tools and software to support business decisions, but in order to be most effective there needs to be a consolidated source of data – and this is exactly what a data warehouse offers.
An Enterprise Data Warehouse allows for metrics from multiple sources, business logic, and data transformations to live in one centralized location and to provide a single source of truth for all employees from across the organization to use for their datasets.
This is invaluable to most businesses, saves a lot of time and frustration, and also leads to easier data reports and data visualizations, which in turn result in more accurate insights that could have a real impact on the company’s bottom line. It is a process of transforming data into information, data analysis, and making it available to users at the right time to make a difference to their business.
As mentioned above, one of the major benefits of an EDW is that it provides one source of truth. Why is that important? For instance, let’s assume someone in the finance department pulls utilization of drivers’ records from the financial system, which has an integration to the dispatch system. Meanwhile, the operations manager pulls data from the dispatch system and consolidates data, and runs formulas in Excel to turn the data into information. This could easily lead to a mismatch of data. Why? Perhaps they used different formulas. Or they had missing data in one of the formulas. There are a myriad of examples where not having one centralized source of truth caused catastrophic issues for companies.
That, in a nutshell, is why an EDW is a key component of business intelligence going forward.
How does an EDW work?
The data aggregated from multiple sources across the enterprise may be:
- Unstructured data
The data is collected from different sources (e.g. databases, CRMs, ERPs, advertising platforms, marketing tools, accounting solutions, sales software, etc.) in varying levels of detail and with different structures: from unstructured to fully relational. This data is aggregated and organized for better analysis and reporting. The importance of these functions becomes even more apparent when applied to mission-critical KPIs such as customer acquisition costs, which require data from multiple systems, making them difficult and cumbersome to track accurately and in real-time.
What are the benefits of an EDW?
There are multiple and significant benefits to the use of an EDW:
- By merging information from across the enterprise in one place, an organization has a main source of truth that is consolidated and managed in a streamlined manner. This leads to a much more solid understanding of the company’s data, operations and customers.
- Data warehousing facilitates data mining, which entails looking for data patterns that may lead to higher sales and profits
- It provides the ability to classify data according to the subject
- It provides extensive storage of the company’s historical data
- It facilitates the easy generation of reports without the need for technical knowhow
Problems with EDW and how they can be overcome
Data warehousing has been around for several decades and has not been without its problems, including high maintenance and high demand for resources. It is also important to note that not all data warehouses are created equal. Many organizations discover a few months or years down the line that their data warehouse or data model is out of date or not fit for purpose.
So, do organizations still need a data warehouse? The answer is yes, but with the caveat that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution and choosing the right EDW for your business depends on many different factors, including the technology stack, internal resources, staff knowledge, data governance, and, of course, your budget.
The Modern EDW
To fit into modern analytics ecosystems, data warehouses have evolved – both architecturally and technologically – to deliver more flexibility in a data-driven economy. Modern data architecture democratizes and speeds up data so that business intelligence flows freely and easily through the enterprise.
EDWs, also now commonly referred to as data lakes, move organizations away from inefficient data processes to more agile and modern data architecture and the modernization of EDWs could include, for example, the use of data visualization, automation, cloud services, and machine learning – all dependent on your business needs.
Industry best practice in 2020 and going forward is EDW-as-a-service, with Snowflake being the current market leader. Google BigQuery, AWS Redshift, and Microsoft SQL Server also all offer solutions in the cloud.
How to choose an EDW for your business
An EDW is part of the organization’s overall digital strategy and should not be considered in isolation. Finding the right EDW for your business, therefore, has to start with finding the optimal data analytics solution for your organization, which is directly related to your industry, company size, and budget, as well as other factors.
To get started:
- Identify the most relevant KPIs to be measured in line with your organizational goals
- Choose a specialized data technology partner who is up to date with the latest data analytics developments.
- Start with a comprehensive data infrastructure analysis – ideally with the help of the tech partner – to get a holistic picture of your company’s pain points when it comes to getting the most out of your data and to identify suitable data analytics solutions, including the right EDW, for your organization.
- Based on the above analysis and recommendations, your business goals, and budget, choose the best possible data analytics tools for your industry.
- With your tech partner decide on a strategy to verify the consistency, accuracy, and integrity of the data and monitor this on an ongoing basis.
- Involve all stakeholders, including business personnel, in the implementation process. This also extends to training staff in the use of the EDW and other data technology tools to enable them to find, analyze and report on the data they need.
Still unsure of how to get started? As a first step, reach out to us at REAA Global for a data infrastructure review. We’ll perform a comprehensive audit with full recommendations, including the right enterprise data warehouse for your business.
At REAA GLOBAL we help stakeholders get answers to business questions by implementing overarching data strategies that enable descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. With us as your data technology partner, you’ll know data is safe, scalable, accurate, and visualized in a way that allows business intelligence to flow freely through the organization.
Keen to get started? Give us a shout.