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Be Skeptical with Data Warehousing Purchases

By Thomas C. Hammergren

You need to have down-to-earth, open discussions with your data warehousing product vendors (not chats held in a crowded booth at a trade show). If you’ve heard certain things about a product that concern you (product scalability above a certain number of users, for example), ask! Demand proof (reference sites, discussions with a development manager, and hands-on testing in your organization, for example) of anything and everything that concerns you.

No matter how attractive a product looks, take your time in committing to a purchase. It’s software, not a one-of-a-kind work of art. You have no reason to hurry, even if your data warehousing project has an aggressive schedule.

Always test-drive software under your environment’s conditions:

  • Use your data.

  • See how many attempts it takes to install the software correctly.

  • Determine the responsiveness of the vendor’s support staff.

  • See what works as advertised — and what doesn’t.

  • Ask what your users think about the product’s usability.

  • Find out how stable the software is. Does it cause your client and/or server systems to crash or lock up? If so, how frequently?

  • Find out what performance is like in your environment.

Sometimes, a desktop product (a business-rule design tool, for example) is suitable for only a certain portion of your user base. Perhaps only a small number of power users would use that tool, and the rest of the user community would use a basic reporting tool or, for the first iteration of the data warehouse, no tool. Perhaps casual users would use a standard browser to access standard reports posted on the company intranet.

In these situations, never let a vendor pressure you into purchasing more copies of a product than you need. You can always buy more later, if necessary. The last thing you want is a bunch of shelf-ware sitting around and taking valuable funds out of your budget.