A critical first step of developing any successful business intelligence strategy is to first understand what data sources are at your disposal. Identifying these data sources, their owners, and their priority is the crux of the “Data Inventory”.
Why do I Need a Data Inventory
Did you ever get a box of legos as a kid? You rip open the box, pull out the instructions, tear open the bags of the legos and start building as the instructions describe. You get halfway through the instructions and realize that you are missing a critical piece of the set. Now what? You are stuck trying to make the set work without the missing lego. It would have been wise at the outset of building the set to make sure that all legos were accounted for before starting to build, right? This is exactly why we want to complete a data inventory before starting to build out our business intelligence strategy.
A data inventory allows you to assess what data sources are available and in what format this data exists. With a complete 360° view of your data sources, an accurate prioritization analysis can be completed. You may realize that some of your data sources aren’t quite as accessible as you would have liked. Specific departments may have been keeping their own silos of data in the form of Excel files or Access databases that pose some additional challenges when it comes time to integrate that data into a data mart or data warehouse. Only once you have a completed data inventory will you be able to accurately assess your BI roadmap and implementation strategies.
Where do I start?
Completing a data inventory simply requires the time to be able to devote to gathering the information and performing internal interviews. Click for a sample data inventory tracking spreadsheet.
Your goal should be to meet with department directors or managers to understand which business user is responsible for what key business applications. Ask as many questions about data usage and the data sources as possible; some significant insights can be gathered throughout these interviews that can be applied to your business intelligence roadmap and strategy development. With a data inventory completed, you have gathered a necessary piece of information required to start defining your business intelligence roadmap.