Saturday, June 18, 2011

Data Warehouse Needs Analysis

There are many considerations to be made when researching and choosing a data warehouse solution for an organization. To complete a detailed needs analysis would take a number of days and meetings with key personnel. With that said, it is difficult to add much to the information detailed by Bernhardt's book (Bernhardt, pp. 57-72). I will be addressing these needs in a more generic way, since Reading School District already has a data warehouse in place.

As I thought through the process and choices of key committee members, I came up with a similar list to Bernhardt: IT staff, project manager, principals, vice principals, other administrators, teachers, finance office personnel, and school board members. The roles of the members vary depending on the phase of the project, which would be laid out by the project manager. Initially, the project team should meet and determine the priorities for choosing a system – eg, speed of implementation, maximizing system features, bottom line cost, etc. Timing and cost are most often considerations, as it makes sense for systems to be installed at logical timeframes – the beginning of a school year, the beginning of a financial fiscal year, etc. Cost is always a consideration, and much more so in the current economic climate.

The scope of the data warehouse will vary from school to school and will be based on the priorities of the school with regards to its mission and vision. Coming to a common agreement on the purposes, users, uses, and data requirements is important and putting these in writing is also important for project direction and for future reflection on the system which has been implemented. These requirements should continually be in front of the project team to ensure that they go in the right direction and do not attempt to implement features not in the original project scope.

Determining data readiness entails all of the things to which Bernhardt refers – evaluation of the current network, currently existing data, and the amount of money available for a new system. The network is the underlying foundation of any successful software solution. An organization will not want to lose any current data and implementation of a new system will likely involve mapping / converting current data to a new solution. And, ultimately, financial concerns will constrain the scope of any software solution. One thing to keep in mind regarding software costs is that they can be negotiable. A simple example comes to mind – tax preparation software is much more valuable on April 1st than it is on April 16th, at which time one would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to pay $29 for tax preparation software!

Once the network groundwork has been laid, identifying the personnel available to do the work is important. Notice that all of this groundwork – counting the cost both in terms of dollars spent on software and personnel – is done before even approaching a vendor. An organization that invests due diligence in this part of the software selection process is well on its way to implementation of a successful solution for all constituents involved.

Bernhardt, V.L. (2008). Translating data into information to improve teaching and learning. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education, Inc.

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