Good business-oriented data warehouse design and implementation was one of the main reasons Red Olive was set up. While our fundamental approach remains unchanged, thinking on how projects should be managed changes over time, particularly in light of the advent of ‘Agile’.

This short blog post looks at the very basics of Kimball’s dimensional modelling approach and why they still work very well when you deliver a data warehouse project using an Agile methodology.  It also looks at some of the areas where Agile can cause you some problems and what you can do to mitigate them.


Start with a contained business problem

This is the starting point for Kimball’s approach and is also exactly what Agile says: the ‘Product Owner’ defines that business problem and prioritises which
components should be delivered first, but what’s next?


Interview to get the broad view and immediate requirements, and check you have the data to support them

Red Olive’s preference and also a fundamental part of the agile approach is to use business interviews to come up with an agreed set of requirements to be delivered in the first development cycle.

Where we’ve seen some people come unstuck is in not having the right Agile ‘Product Owner’ to represent the broader and longer term business interest. To counteract that, we think the ‘Scrum Master’ needs to be conversant with the principles of good business data model design and be ready to push back if the thinking becomes too short-term, creating the risks of later disagreement over business meaning and expensive rework.


Deliver tangible benefits quickly but keep sight of the broad plan to guide and minimise rework

While keeping sight of the broad plan, delivery of incremental packages does provide tangible benefits with the list of ongoing requirements offering some visibility of future requirements to plan against. This remains the approach Red Olive advocates as a way to build and maintain business support and sponsorship, and to manage longer term budget risk – take a look here.


Where can things go wrong?

  • Not having the right knowledge and experience of data warehousing can risk delivering no business benefits at all: you get the right answer to the wrong question and have to start again. Red Olive can help with internal guidance and coaching or by providing a project leader for you, potentially saving you hundreds of thousands in wasted development.
  • Purely allowing business requirements to drive your design can cost you dearly in the longer term but is relatively cheap if tackled early. Red Olive offers training to help guide your team, providing design skills while theirs develop. We also undertake periodic health-checks. Contact us to find out more or read here for more info on Agile.