A BEAMing success – A 3-day course in Agile Data Warehouse Design

by | Apr 23, 2019

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a three-day Business Event Analysis and Modelling (BEAM*) course run by Lawrence Corr. I really enjoyed the course, Lawrence is an engaging presenter and there are numerous interactive exercises to keep you engaged throughout.

So, what did I learn?

What is BEAM*?
BEAM* is a flexible methodology allowing collection of business requirements for data warehouse design in an agile proactive way. BEAM* starts with collecting business processes from the customer in interactive non-technical workshops using Post-It notes. These provide you the information you require for straight forward design of fact and dimension table. By the end of the whole process you have a set of designed and documented star schema ready to pass on you Extract Transform and Load (ETL) developers to build in your data warehouse.
We’ve written a few blogs about what BEAM* is and how it can help you before, you can read them here.
How does BEAM* work?
It begins with collecting data stories from customers using the 7W framework for describing business events.
These are:

  • Who is involved?
  • What did they do? To what is it done?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it take place?
  • How many or much was recorded – how can it be measured?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen – in what manner?

For example: Alison went to the Optimal pizza shop on Friday 5th April at 7 pm. Alison places an order with Geoff for 2 Quattro Formaggi pizzas. Ben phoned the Optimal pizza store on Friday 5th April at 6:30 pm, Geoff answers, and Ben then orders 1 Pepperoni pizza for collection, Ben is a frequent customer and get the 10% frequent order discount.
Table One: Results from the 7 W collection of pizza ordering data

Once this data is collected you add information to these stories on atypical data stories (in this instance unusual pizza orders) and where data is missing. From this information the fact and dimension tables can be designed using spreadsheet templates and any additional technical information is added to provide a nicely documented star schema.

My Impressions of BEAM*

What is good about BEAM*?

  • Allows you to breakdown user requirements into manageable tangible pieces.
  • The workshops allow to collect data without baffling your customers with technical talk – for example ‘what is the primary key’, ‘ Is that a many to many relationship’ huh?!
  • The workshop uses simple tools – Post-it notes with the possible addition of the BEAM* canvas to collect requirements.
  • Ability to confirm workshop results are correct with the customer.
  • Allows everyone to have a voice and different perspectives to be gathered from the business.
  • Workshop outcomes filled in on simple straight forward excel templates.

Anything I didn’t like?
Not really! I am looking forward to putting theory into practice at the next opportunity.
Thanks, Alison.
*BEAM is Business Events and Activity Modelling, and is an awesome methodology from the book “Agile Data Warehouse Design” by Lawrence Corr and Jim Staggnito.

Alison Rowe is part of our team of data analysts who make sense of data which enables better decision making.  Read her blog about reporting Jira data in PowerBI.

We run a 1-day introduction to Defining Data Requirements, find out more.

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