What a data warehouse will not do

It is easy to see a data warehouse as the cure to all the information deficits within an enterprise, however there are limitations to what a data warehouse can achieve.


It is not a silver bullet.


  • A data warehouse cannot supply information that is not recorded within the operational systems of the enterprise. Client interactions with your telesales staff may only record sales not product queries. Thus the data warehouse will only be able to report on sales and will be unable to give information on product queries. In order to be able to report on product queries the systems used by telesales will have to be modified to record non-sales customer interactions.
  • A data warehouse is not just a copy of the operational systems. If used merely as a copy of the enterprise's operational systems a data warehouse is a waste of money. The true value of a data warehouse lies in its ability to add value to the information in an operational system by using metadata to create some level of summarization. The warehouse can thus be thought of as a repository of the business information of an enterprise, built from the raw data supplied by the operational system. If a warehouse only supplies a copy of the raw data, and the end user still has to spend time building value into the information, the user may just as well have retrieved the data from the operational system.
  • A data warehouse will not feed information back into your transactional systems. A warehouse is designed for reporting and can not, and should not be able to impact on your operational systems. If errors are detected in the data, they must be corrected in the operational system.
  • A data warehouse will not function without maintenance of the metadata. The metadata which is used in deriving knowledge from data must be sufficiently up to date to be able to deal with all possible data in the warehouse. If a new method of payment, say a debit card, is introduced then the metadata must be updated so debit card transactions can be identified as such and processed accordingly. This may take the form of including the transactions under cash payments for sales reports but treating them as a separate class of transaction in financial reports.


"You can't have everything" - P.J.O'Rourke Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics

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