February 14, 2022

Most data warehouse projects fail – avoid these mistakes

Data warehouse projects have the potential to accelerate revenue, reduce cost, increase operational efficiency, improve customer experience – plus much more. However, improved efficiency is not a guarantee, and data warehouse projects are expensive and time intensive.

Given the investment and potential benefits, you want to avoid being one of the 85% of data projects that fail.

In this article, we explore the most common reasons data warehouse projects fail and what you can do to improve your odds of success.

Failure Number 1: No clear goals.

One main reason data warehouse projects fail is because they have not clearly defined the project’s goals. The project team have not disclosed the parts of the business they are trying to simplify or make more efficient.  If there is no common goal to achieve through the implementation of the technology, the project team will lack direction and purpose.

The Fix: Align goals with business objectives.

The key is to begin by determining what success looks like for your business. Identify whether that is saving time, improving revenue, time to market, or customer experience, for example. Most importantly, ensure that the goal you set out to accomplish aligns with the objectives of the business. The data warehouse should be supporting data-driven decision making, and as such it should cater to the requirements of the strategic business plan. Employ a ‘business-oriented’ approach where you define company goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics that will help drive growth.

Uncovering data and analytic gaps in existing reports will be an indicator of where business decisions require more support. When you align the data warehouse project with the overall business strategy of your enterprise, you build value for stakeholders, internal support, and the potential for project sponsorship.

Failure Number 2: Setting unrealistic expectations.

Designing, implementing, and operating a data warehouse is a lofty project. The reason many businesses fail is because they grossly underestimate the time, money and resource investment that is required. The biggest disasters are when organisations, ‘bite off more than they can chew’ and dive headfirst, without properly assessing the depth of the project. When this happens, overwhelm sets in and vague project timelines get in the way of mission critical activities.

The Fix: Start small & test drive

At Minerva, we have a mantra, “think big, start small”. When implementing a new data warehouse, maintain your vision and foresight whilst improving your odds of success by using an iterative approach to transformation. In simpler terms, be driven by possibility but balance that out by testing, implementing, reflecting, and repeating what works. It is for that reason; we recommend beginning your project with pilots.

Pilots offer a more manageable project scope, resulting in a quicker implementation time and faster value realisation. The benefit of this is that there is less time between project kick-off and realising some of the impacts. Even if a pilot ‘fails’, it ‘fails fast’, providing you with time to refine the solution, adjust, and set out on another round of testing. This iterative approach will spur and help form new ideas that can be incorporated into the larger project.  

With a smaller testing group set for a pilot, you will also receive more direct and timely feedback. This will uncover variables and better prepare you for strategic, larger implementations and rollouts. By testing and validating your metrics early on, you can better set-up and measure the right data from day one. Without this structure in place, you will not be able to measure those all-important outcomes and business goals to determine success.

Lastly, be sure to set and agree on a timely pilot implementation. Decide how long the pilot needs to run to test the new technology and put it through routine use cases.

Failure Number 3: Not having the right skill set and talent in place.

Data warehouse projects fail when leaders do not properly assess the skills of the people who will be designing, implementing, operating, and using the technology.

If you do not highlight and address the gaps in skills and experience, you will not have the right team or resources to deliver project outcomes. Implementing a high performing data warehouse is complex, staff with experience in implementing this type of technology is necessary. You can’t just hope that your best and brightest will ‘step up’ to fill the gaps.

The Fix: Get the right expertise in place before you start.

Before you begin your data warehouse project, ask the following:

  1. Do you have the right talent in place?
  2. Does your leadership team have the digital literacy to successfully implement the project?

Having at least one representative in the project team who has significant ‘hands-on’ data warehouse experience is going to significantly improve your project outcomes.

If that talent does not already exist within the organisation, seek an external partner that can provide insight, experience, and a detailed plan that considers the intrinsic details of the workloads. Select a partner that has experience implementing data warehouses in your industry as well as in a breadth of use cases.

Secondly, a lack of technical knowledge in the leadership team could be the downfall of your data warehouse project. Leaders need experience with the technology and the skills required to implement it.

Similarly, Leaders need to be able to understand and translate the advice they are receiving. The digital literacy and knowledge of leaders needs to be more than a passing familiarity. They need to be competent in their ability to translate project documentation as well as ensure they can identify competence in those completing the work. Without this experience, leaders will be unable to hold staff accountable and will have little positive impact on project outcomes.

It is important to realise, that leadership effects and ties back into the ability to set clear goals, realistic project parameters, and provide suitably qualified staff.


If you would like to improve your chances of a successful data warehouse project implementation, contact us at Minerva Partners.

Minerva lasers in on business transformation. We assist CFOs and Data & Analytics specialists every day to improve their data management, reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and planning. Our goal is to give you more time to focus on business growth and strategy.

Visit us to learn more; www.minerva.com.au


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