The term Data Vault evokes an image of a safe and secure place to store your most important, core data assets. A lot of engineering goes into its design and delivery to ensure it does that job. However, there also is another image—a large, steel door—that comes to mind. Vaults are designed to keep people out. Even the owners of the goods stored there must leap through some hoops to get in. In the case of the Data Vault the intention for access is the exact opposite: business people must certainly be able to get easily to the core data of the enterprise.
Breaking into a Data Vault should therefore be made extremely easy.
If that odd-sounding statement makes you pause for thought, it’s meant to. (Yes, it’s you I’m talking to: the IT person responsible for the Data Vault project!) Please carefully consider how to make business people feel welcome in the Data Vault—in fact, convince them they own it—before you begin designing, building, operating, and maintaining your Data Vault. The level of comfort of business people with the Data Vault will directly determine your success in this undertaking.
You have probably heard of the “Business-IT Gap.” It’s often more like a rift. And, many times, IT is responsible in large part for it: by being laser-focused on engineering. A Data Vault requires a stronger focus on the underlying structure and tooling than a more traditional data warehouse or data mart. It’s built on a set of design principles that are largely unfamiliar to the rest of the business. In fact, some of them require that business people change some of their thinking about data sourcing and quality.
Therefore, IT must make a special effort to bridge the rift before it becomes a chasm into which the Data Vault project could tumble. This requires an intentional focus on bringing business users and IT together from the earliest moments of the design and development process. Collaboration between business and IT begins with the initial analysis of the data sources and stretches all the way through to the data that lands on the user’s desk.
Rapid iteration of the design-to-delivery process in an integrated environment is key. Business users and IT sit together and review the data sources: what they offer and what they can’t, where there are data quality problems that must be addressed up front and where a work-around can be envisaged. It must be able to show what the output data will look like at very short notice. Speed and agility are key to maintaining business interest and (re-)gaining their trust.
This is where WhereScape® Data Vault Express can help. Business and IT people can work hand-in-hand in very compressed timeframes to analyze sources and define target results, take live data through the process, and discover what works and where it fails—even within a single joint session. Business people can see progress before their very own eyes, rather than having to wait a few weeks for a project update. This is the speed of today’s business. And when business users see that IT is engaged at the same speed, trust grows. The temptation of self-service—to go off and build yet another spreadsheet solution—diminishes when the collaborative process offers early wins.
For your business users and, ultimately, for the success of the business, your goal in IT is to make breaking into a Data Vault a pleasure rather than a chore. Breaking into the Data Vault is part of a new white paper Meeting the Six Data Vault Challenges that I’ve written in collaboration with WhereScape. Download the white paper or watch this recent recorded webcast to learn how your IT team can have greater success in implementing the Data Vault methodology within your organization.
Coming soon, some thoughts on Locking in a Data Vault.
Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities on business insight and one of the founders of data warehousing, having published the first architectural paper on the topic in 1988. Barry is founder and principal of 9sight Consulting. A regular blogger, writer and commentator on information and its use, Barry is based in Cape Town, South Africa and operates worldwide.