Data Warehousing Requirements

Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Successful Programs are built on solid business requirements.

David Haertzen David Haertzen, Principal Enterprise Architect

Data warehousing business requirements describe the needed solution in business terms.  Gathering and managing business requirements include these steps:

  • Homework
  • Enterprise Goals and Objectives
  • Identify User Groups
  • Requirement Interviews
  • Requirement Workshops
  • Sizing

Business requirements are sometimes known as functional requirements and are the emphasis of this tutorial section.  Technical requirements, sometimes known as non-functional requirements, will be explained in the article Technical Architecture for Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence.

Rapid Data Warehouse Requirements Gathering

Gathering requirements rapidly using a sound methodology has numerous benefits:

  • Increased Productivity
  • Improved Solution Quality
  • Rapid Results
  • Longer Lasting Results
  • Enhanced Teamwork and Cooperation
  • Lower Development Costs

Homework for Data Warehouse Requirements Gathering

 Be sure to do your homework before gathering requirements from others for the data warehouse and business intelligence effort.  You can save the time of the people you will meet with and interview before hand.  One thing you must understand is previous data warehousing efforts:

  • Who was involved
  • What were the results

Researching documentation can help you get a handle on your organizations current and prior state of data warehousing.  You can examine documents such as:

  • Enterprise mission, vision and strategy statements
  • Business plans
  • Annual reports
  • Business unit plans  
  • Data strategy and roadmaps
  • Data warehousing project plans
  • Requirements specifications

In addition, computer based information can provide insight into requirements of existing systems:

  • Database layouts
  • Data models
  • Metadata repositories
  • ETL Jobs
  • Programs

 By doing your homework, you acknowledge the prior data warehousing efforts that have been made, avoid looking uninformed and save others time by not asking questions that have been previously addressed.

Identify Business Intelligence User Groups

  Identifying and engaging the right people who will participate in data warehousing and business intelligence efforts is key.  Focus on decision makers such as:

  • Executives
  • Managers

The poeple who analyze data are subject matter experts (SMEs) who will provide valuable input.  Examples are: 

  • Financial Analysts
  • Marketing Analysts
  • Information Consumers

The people who create reports often have great insights because they are asked by the business to create business intelligence reports.  They often have a backlog of requests and "wish lists" that can be translated to data warehousing requirements. 


Interview Business Intelligence Users

There are a number of good reasons to interview individual business intelligence users for data warehousing requirements gathering.  The reasons include:

  • Obtain facts beyond research
  • Verify research facts
  • Answer open issues and questions
  • Encourage buy in by participation

Here are some suggestions to make the interview process productive:

  • Break the ice - establish rapport
  • Prepare an agenda and questionnaire
  • Be friendly and flexible within limits
  • Talk business, not computer buzzwords
  • Remember the Kipling Questions

Important Interview Questions

  • What are the expected goals of your area? What are you working to accomplish?
  • How do you measure results?
  • What are the critical success factors of your job?
  • How do you identify opportunities and problems?
  • What business dimensions are important to your analysis and decision making?  (Products, Customers, Vendors, Time)
  • What are your current sources of information?
  • What is your vision for the future of your area?


" I keep six honest serving men, They taught me all I knew;
Their names are what and why and when and how and where and who. "

- Rudyard Kipling

It is also important to understand the organization a higher level.  Peter Drucker in his book Management has recommended these critical questions and corresponding decisions:

  • What is our business?
  • What will our business be?
  • What should our business be?

Group Methods

A facilitated group session is often a great way to gather requirements.  Requirements are gathered faster than through the individual interview method and the meeting participants have the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and reach a consensus on the requirements.

See the tutorial article, BI Requirements Workshop, for a practical approach to conducting group data warehouse requirement gathering sessions.

SMART Objectives

SMART Objectives Support Data Warehousing


Business Intelligence Requirements Workshop

Get your Data Warehouse Rolling Fast

David Haertzen David Haertzen, Principal Enterprise Architect

Would you like to learn a productive way to gather requirements while building support for your data warehousing project?  The Business Intelligence Requirements Workshop is a great way to get that done.  Read this article to learn:

  • Who does what?
  • Setting the Agenda
  • Preparing for the Session
  • Room Layout and Equipment
  • Building and Maintaining Momentum

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Session Leader Facilitator
  • Data Warehouse Modeler
  • Scribe
  • Executive Sponsor
  • User Manager
  • Business User

The Facilitator leads the BI Requirements Workshop and has responsibilities including:

  • Setting goals and preparing the agenda
  • Keeping the session on task and within scope
  • Encouraging participation
  • Gaining and articulating consensus
  • Leading exercises such as brainstorm or consensus building
  • Identify follow up tasks and gain commitment to next steps

The Data Warehouse Modeler asks questions to identify the data required to support business intelligence.  This may include diagramming facts and dimensions or asking related questions such as: "What are we measuring here?" or "How would you slice and dice that information?".

The Scribe records the results of the session including:

  • Participants
  • Decisions
  • Requirements
  • Follow up tasks and assignments

The Executive Sponsor provides a high level picture of the goals of the Business Intelligence program and show that executive management is committed to the program.  The User Manager provides expert input and encourages team member participation.  Business users provide subject matter expertise.

Room Layout

Arrange the room to be effective for workshop activities.  This means encouraging interaction between participants while focusing on the business intelligence requirements gathering that is the goal of the workshop. 

Business Intelligence Workshop Layout

Conducting the BI Requirements Session

 The successful BI Requirement Session requires

  • Preparing the Inputs for the Session
  • Objectives of Requirements Sessions
  • Developing the Agenda
  • Producing Results
  • Following up the Session

Group Methods and Techniques

The Session Facilitator will use group methods and techniques to ensure a successful BI Requirements session:

  • Asking Questions and Probing for Answers
  • Consensus Building
  • Generating Ideas
  • Evaluating Ideas
  • Using Presentation Materials and Equipment
  • Dealing with Difficult Group Members
  • Taking Risks
  • Encouraging Participation

Outcomes of Effective BI Requirements Session

 The BI Requirements Workshop can have a number of positive outcomes:

  • Requirements are gathered
  • Benefits are identified
  • Costs of not having BI are identified
  • Analytical processes are identified
  • Participants better understand BI and the BI program
  • Preliminary Facts and Dimensions are identified
  • Preliminary Models are created
  • Risks and mitigations are identified
  • Follow Up Tasks are identified and assigned
  • Forward momentum is increased

 The benefits and costs gathered are great supporting material for the Business Intelligence Business Case which in turn is key to the success of the program.




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