This weekend I was in the gym doing my weekly workout. There is little more boring than standing on s stationary machine, working up a sweat, and basically not going anywhere. Therefore I try to make this task a little more attractive by watching TV (my cross trainer comes with a build in TV screen). I was watching a show called “How it’s made” on the Discovery Channel. This specific episode showed the production of artificial logs (for your fireplace), snow machines and range hoods. Range hoods are those things you will find in a kitchen above the cooker or stove. The basic three functions of a range hood are: contain the smelly air, filter it and ventilate it somewhere else.
At first I thought of ETL (Extract the data, Transform it and Load it in the data warehouse) and how to use this analogy in a presentation. But things got even more interesting. Because this TV program shows how things are being made – the creation process of the range hood was shown in detail. You could see that the engineer had a screen in front of him showing all the important steps. With this electronic manual the company made sure that all steps were done in the right order. The engineer had to sign off on each step. Also the distribution of all materials (like a skirt, motor or fan) was monitored. Not only did this improve the quality of work – at the same time the management was provided with valuable information on product use (ideal for stock control!) – and the performance of their engineer (for planning & control).
Kimball talks about the 38 subsystems of ETL. He indicates that ETL is often complex and labor intensive. Labor insensitivity drives a strong case for industrialization. Making the process more standard could decrease costs and would enable system integrators to right shore this solution. The complexity could be tackled by having the BI engineer use some kind of electronic manual for all the important steps in creating an ETL environment.
Therefore: an industrialized approach to ETL makes sure that both the process and the products are of high quality and low cost.
PS: Yes, this doesn’t have to be limited to the backend, but can also be applied to reporting & analysis.