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Data Warehousing and Business Trends

Now that the data warehousing era is here, the next generation of business and management trends (you had better believe that a next generation will come along) might have a little more substance — a little more information — that you can use to determine whether a trend is a step in the positive direction or just another fad that will eventually be as useful as a snowmobile in Phoenix.

Business process engineering, Six Sigma, Balanced Scorecard, the loyalty effect, and managing in one-minute increments; in the last 20-plus years, a number of trends and fads have come and gone.

First, the book arrives, then the seminars and consulting engagements that have extremely high daily fees, and then more books by others trying to jump on the bandwagon. In some cases, these events are even followed by the “Uh-oh, I guess we were wrong” books, seminars, and damage-control consulting engagements that have extremely high daily fees.

If you’ve done your data warehousing correctly and have access to a large amount of corporate business intelligence, you can get the numbers to see whether your company has a problem in whatever area a trendy business approach might address. You can also perform a what-if analysis before you spend a gazillion dollars on consulting fees (and disrupt your business processes and organization) to implement whatever’s being sold as the answer.

Suppose that data warehousing were as mature in the 1990s as it is today and your organization had successfully implemented a data warehousing environment. Your profits are down, sales are flat, and the boom days your company experienced in the 1990s are gone.

Along comes a consulting firm pushing this new idea of Lean, Six Sigma and business-process management as the answer to all your corporate woes. You engage a team of consultants to study your business processes and to make recommendations for improvement.

If your team of consultants is anything like many others, it spends a large amount of your money and then makes a standard recommendation: Fire many of your employees and let the consulting company employees outsource the work they leave behind.

Before taking such a drastic step, like many organizations did, you could use information from your data warehouse to perform extensive analysis on the effect of such a drastic measure. Using what-if analysis with data pulled from the data warehouse, you might determine that the purported benefits and cost savings from the move just don’t exist.

Before following any business trends, try to figure out whether they have any substance. In most situations, it’s nearly impossible to determine that information without looking into real corporate data, such as current sales and how they’re likely to be affected by a recommended set of actions, current expenses across departments, how proposed budget cuts and staff recommendations would affect those expenses, and how those cuts might affect sales and marketing.

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