Building the Data Warehouse

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To interpret and understand information over time, a whole new dimension of context is required. While content of information remains important, the comparison and understanding of information over time mandates that context be an equal partner to content. And in years past, context has been an undiscovered, unexplored dimension of information.

Three Types of Contextual Information

Three levels of contextual information must be managed:

■■ Simple contextual information ■■ Complex contextual information ■■ External contextual information

Simple contextual information relates to the basic structure of data itself, and includes such things as these:

■    The structure of data

■    The encoding of data

■    The naming conventions used for data

■    The metrics describing the data, such as:

■    How much data there is

■    How fast the data is growing

■    What sectors of the data are growing

■    How the data is being used

Simple contextual information has been managed in the past by dictionaries, directories, system monitors, and so forth. Complex contextual information describes the same data as simple contextual information, but from a different perspective. This type of information addresses such aspects of data as these:

■    Product definitions

■    Marketing territories

■    Pricing

■    Packaging

■    Organization structure

■    Distribution

Complex contextual information is some of the most useful and, at the same time, some of the most elusive information there is to capture. It is elusive because it is taken for granted and is in the background. It is so basic that no one thinks to define what it is or how it changes over time. And yet, in the long run, complex contextual information plays an extremely important role in understanding and interpreting information over time.

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