How to get better business insights with a data warehouse?

by Emma Jeanpierre

Why should you care about all that data? Why shouldn’t you let it rot deep in your shelf? Well, because you made 90% of the effort collecting and storing it. Why stop on such a right track? 

If you are not familiar with data lakes, we advise you to read: Did you say data lakes? first. 

Data lakes and data warehouses are two complementary tools. While a data lake stores your data, a data warehouse helps you access and manage it so that you can use it for business matters. Thus, it logically takes action after your data has been collected. 

In this article, we intend to give you the keys to understanding what data warehouses are and how it can help you get a clear insight of your business. 

What is a data warehouse?

Flows of data arrive on a data warehouse to be queried. As a true warehouse, a data warehouse stores data, formats it, processes it so that it can be understood by data scientists and then exploited by the board on their decision making process. 

In other words, a data warehouse allows the passing from figures to analytics, from unstructured and indigestible data to understandable data

Nowadays, data has become essential for business understanding. If small companies can make do with spreadsheets, Big Data has made it impossible with businesses with large ambition to process data manually. A data warehouse becomes indispensable as soon as you want to process big amounts of data from multiple sources: users’ information, business’s data...   

Briefly, you can collect data, download, store, access, analyze and sort it before making decisions based on the reporting.

How does it work?

Your work team is not made up of data scientists, and that is perfectly fine. Do you have to give up on analytics? Absolutely not. To have access to your data is a thing, but to understand it will bring you so much more than that. 

Thanks to data warehousing, they will soon be able to surf the wave of data analytics and adapt their strategies to data they smartly selected. To be completely transparent, we won’t bother you much with OLAP, ETL and other acronyms. We’ll keep it simple. 

Data processing

A data warehouse stores data in a structured way which makes it easier to analyze it a second time. In such a warehouse, the storage of data is called “integrated storage” for data coming from different sources is stored altogether. 

The data is said to be non-volatile on a data warehouse as it can’t be edited once stored. 

So, how does it work?

Well, in a nutshell, formatted data arrives on a pipeline (an ETL: extract, transform and load) to a data warehouse. It is then stored in the warehouse and processed in that same place to support your organization’s decision making. 

What does it include? What do you have access to? 

It depends on the data warehouse, but usually: a database to store your data, an ETL solution, reporting tools and a visualization board to help you present your data in a business friendly language

Here is a clear diagram that should help you understand the interest of a data warehouse.

diagram-data-warehouse

Source: https://news.sap.com/france/2021/04/qu-est-ce-qu-un-data-warehouse/ 

Data lake x data warehouse

Can data lakes replace data warehouses? Is it one of these useless tools that stay in the toolbox forever? Not at all. Data lakes do not allow rigorous storage of data and thus, do not permit your IT to question data as easily as they would in a data warehouse. 

Data lakes may be easier to use but the results are much longer to be provided by such a system due to the complex and unstructured format of data. 

Why use a data warehouse
(pros & cons)?

The use of a data warehouse can truly benefit your organization, even if it has some undeniable drawbacks. Among tools, this one is probably one of the most interesting.

Benefits for your business

This analytics tool helps you: 

  • Select data that is the most useful so that you can make a report of interest. You probably store too much data and that’s understandable. You collect as much information as you can in order to have the most complete insight as possible, but there will come a time when you will have to sort it. Data warehouses help you collect only relevant data. 

  • Make the decision process faster. A data warehouse allows you to structure your data and query it in a short lapse of time. You do not have to sort data to eliminate incomplete data or to make all the jobs manually. Data warehouses are partly automated which make you save some precious time to analyze the results better.

  • Support your business intelligence efforts. If you started a process of automation implementation, it is probably time to think about data warehousing. It fuels decision making and accelerates the optimization of your business. Most companies need it to support their decision making, and guess what? If you are reading it’s because you are probably one of them.  

Downsides of warehousing

Before taking the decision to use a data warehouse, you should be aware of its main drawbacks:

  • First, you should not get data lakes mixed up with data warehouses. A data warehouse is a more rigid tool as you can’t store raw data or unstructured data on it. It needs to be processed. Also, the data has to be in a standardized format. 

  • Maintenance costs can be high making your IT spending grow quicker than you thought. Before choosing to purchase a data warehouse, make sure that your budget can support this sum. 

  • Also, data warehouses cannot store data with mixed file formats which makes them more rigid than data lakes. 

WHY SHOULD YOU care
about data warehousing?

Just a quick reminder on why a data warehouse could help your business:

  • It allows you to store and analyze your data in a much quicker way than you would do so with a simple storage. 
  • It gives your board key figures on your organization so that they can speed up the decision-making process that tends to lengthen with big data. 

If you need any advice on how to implement a data warehouse or support to keep track of it, contact our dedicated IT team. 

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