If you want to know how to set up a good information system, you could do far worse than watch Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
In the film, the Rebel Alliance set out to destroy the Galactic Empire’s new Death Star before it is completed. Only when it is too late do they realise that the space station is already fully operational and dangerous. It might be still under construction, but the Death Star is ready to blow up a planet…
Implementing a new system may take a while. Like the Galactic Empire, you can’t afford to wait until it’s finished for results. A well-designed system will deliver business value throughout the implementation process.
Your Business Strategy
To design your information system, you’ll need to start with a great business strategy. From here you can work out what information you’re going to need. Without a well-defined strategy, you’ll waste time and money gathering unimportant data. A solid strategy should cover the following five areas:
Who interacts with what data and what authority do they have?
How do you capture and evaluate data?
What quality of data do you have and is it good enough for what you need it to do?
How is your data organised and stored?
How do you access your data?
You can develop your strategy by interviewing your information users, watching out for themes in their experiences and by checking the feasibility with a data source assessment. After all, there’s no point in having an information system that nobody understands or wants to use. You’ll need to deliver useful, reliable information in a format that’s simple to use. If you don’t make life easy for people, they’ll find their own way of doing it.
Inmon and Kimball: Giants of Data Philosophy
When it comes to the principles of data management, there are two main schools of thought. With your strategy in place, the implementation of your information system could draw on either of these data philosophies:
Inmon: Think enterprise-wide and establish the conceptual data framework
Bill Inmon’s approach is to start from the principles outlined in his classic “Corporate Information Factory” and more recently “DW2.0” and establish an enterprise-wide data architecture that will apply to the entire business.
Kimball: Start small and with an important business process
Ralph Kimball’s approach is to take a contained business question relating to an important business process and then to gradually extend from there; he outlines in his classic “The Data Warehouse Toolkit”.
At Red Olive we tend to follow the Kimball approach to data management. Beginning with business interviews, it’s possible to identify the processes that really matter to a business. By focusing on one area to begin with, you can ensure that this small initial investment delivers value to your business, without spending much time or money.
Once you start seeing results, you can build on your system in other areas for further success. This is why we think the Kimball approach works well. Who’d have thought Red Olive and Darth Vader had something in common?
Find out more…
With a strong business strategy, your information system can be your ‘ultimate weapon’. At Red Olive, we’d love to help you find out more. Why not start by having a look at our Information and Data Strategy service? Then give us a call (+44 1256 83 11 00) or send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
For more about Inmon and Kimball, have a look at our previous blog post: ‘Red Olive’s take on Kimball and Inmon’.