Kimball University: Building a Foundation for Smart Applications - InformationWeek

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Kimball University: Building a Foundation for Smart Applications

Off-the-shelf apps may offer built-in analytics, but the best approach to supporting operational decisions is to rely on a solid data warehouse that cleans, integrates.

The Quick-But-Risky Path

Building a data warehouse isn't absolutely necessary for delivering smart applications. The easiest way to get smart applications is to buy them. You can purchase customer relationship management (CRM) software, quality management software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that include BI and smart enterprise features. Why go to the trouble of building an enterprise data warehouse?

Many organizations have a few transaction systems that are either custom-built or significantly customized packaged software, generally when off-the-shelf systems don't meet company needs. This most often occurs at the point where your organization is unique, and often that uniqueness is a key corporate asset. Organizations willing to be on the leading edge may find that packaged smart applications built for a broader market don't do as good a job as a custom application. Kimball Group expects the market for packaged smart apps will evolve to support very flexible customization, but today these systems are, more often than not, black boxes over which you have little control.

Even if a purchased application is perfect, or perfectly customizable, your implementation team faces the problem of pulling data from multiple sources, cleaning and integrating it, and pumping it into the smart application. As you install your second or third packaged smart application, you're repeating a lot of extract, transformation and loading (ETL) functionality; and you're doing it inefficiently and inconsistently. Unless most or all of your transaction systems are part of the same integrated suite, tightly coupled with your smart applications, you'll eventually do a lot of the same work necessary to build an enterprise data warehouse, but won't reap all of the benefits without actually building that warehouse.

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