Our Strategy : The Myths

The consolidation myth

One only needs to examine the general ledger of a large corporation to see that the various parts of a large business do not consolidate according to a uniform schema. Rather, each part is represented at a fine level of detail, but according to a schema that is specific to that line of business. To present a corporate level consolidation, the accounts from each line of business or division are first consolidated using their own specific set of rules, resulting in a definition of accounts that is common across all lines of business. The same process is required for the consolidation of data from several line of business specific operational systems. This implies that there is no generic method of linking data at an atomic level of granularity from different operational systems, but that each line of business will have its own rules and transformations that are necessary before the data can be consolidated into an enterprise wide data warehouse. 

The extrapolation myth

A pre-requisite of any operational system is that a well defined set of relationships exists between the data elements. When combining the databases from two or more operational systems, it is necessary to retain the same degree of relationship across all constituent databases, for without this there is little point in pooling the data in a single database. This can be done, but what is necessary when placing two columns of data, each from a different source system, next to one another is that they first need to be consolidated to a common key denominator. We need to link the data items by defining the relationship between them. When we extend the analogy to a combination of all the data columns in the combined database; a function of third normal form database design states that the number of available consolidation levels corresponds to the available combinations of matched keys between the tables of the source databases. It is usually the case that very few key matches exist between the two operational systems. Regardless of the granularity of the data being stored, only this small number of inter-system consolidations will be supported by the database. For example; when a single link exists between two databases, say customer number, only two consolidations are possible for data from both databases. These are at the systems total level, with a single line per customer attribute value, or at the customer number level with one line per customer. Only the first consolidation is available for all quantitative data values. What this means is that placing data from two or more operational systems into one database does not necessarily facilitate corporate level consolidations other than at the (often rather uninformative) level of totals per operational system.

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