Deploying a successful decision support system for a large organization or enterprise is a much different undertaking than deploying a single purpose data warehouse or data mart. A crucial point for senior executives to understand is that only building a technology-based solution will not generate the astonishing ROI figures often associated with data warehousing projects. Large ROI returns are possible by building a truly reengineered information environment for knowledge workers versus building an automated replica of the status quo environment. The strategic opportunity to reengineer business processes as well as business information is often missed when deploying new business information systems. These two key elements of the organization, business processes and business information, can be combined into a synergistic deployment strategy that will result in significant and measurable organizational performance improvement.

Executive management must be the agents of change for making environmental improvements of knowledge dissemination throughout the enterprise. Besides building leading-edge information systems, the organizational environment must be reinvented to exploit the recent explosion of DSS technological advances and design thought. Traditional organizational structures are often based on traditional business functions; however, new business information systems based on current business vision often do not mesh with well-worn, established business processes and structures. The enterprise needs to be constantly reinventing itself to stay on top of its competition, and iterative deployment of business information systems must coincide with iterative business process reengineering.

There is an inseparable link between information and change ­ information delivery is the catalyst for change while executive management is the agent of change. In any enterprise-wide DSS undertaking change is expected and welcomed for the new insights and opportunities created. Reinvented business information systems allow the business to be thought of in new ways. By changing the nature of business information within an organization, the way business is done will be affected significantly.

Approach

Presented here is an approach for business discovery and information deployment that is easy to understand and easy to convey to IT and non-IT executives and project sponsors. The approach spans three distinct phases that can be thought of as high-level planning, low-level planning and project implementation. These phases are summarized in Figure 1 as macro business discovery, micro business discovery and iterative project deployment. Figure 2 graphically depicts the elements within each of the three phases.

Phase One
Macro Business Discovery (6-12 weeks)
  • Identify key business requirements.
  • Identify supporting infrastructure architecture.

Phase Two
Micro Business Discovery (3-6 months)

  • Model detailed business requirements.
  • Model supporting infrastructure architecture.

Business Process Reengineering (3-6 months)

  • Model business processes and organizational structures.
  • Evaluate current business processes and structures with current business requirements.
  • Plan practical changes to business processes and structures.

Integrate Business and Information Models (2-4 months)

  • Integrate plans for organizational change with new business information systems.
  • Create short-term and long-term deployment plans.
  • Obtain short-term and long-term funding for project execution.

Phase Three
Iterative Project Deployment (3-6 months each)

  • Establish and implement repeatable project plan.
  • Execute and deploy iterative systems projects.

Business Reorganization (2-4 months)

  • Modify business processes and structures to meet current business requirements.
  • Integrate new business processes and structures with new DSS information systems.

Ongoing Business System Deployment (3-6 months)

  • Revisit changing business drivers and requirements.
  • Continue to modify, enhance and expand existing business information systems.
  • Iteratively deploy successive layers of new business information systems.
  • Evolve the organizational structure to keep up with current business requirements.

Figure 1: Approach for Business Discovery and Information Architecture Design


Figure 2: Three Phases of Approach

Macro Business Discovery

The aim of phase one is to enable the executive sponsor to communicate the purpose, establish the direction and set the expectations of information goals for the enterprise. A high-level task force sponsored by an executive steering committee plans and promotes an enterprise information vision. Divisional or departmental objectives may be sub-components of the overall enterprise vision, but these smaller focused subject areas are dealt with in phase two planning.

Macro Business Discovery (6-12 weeks)

  • Identify key business requirements.
  • Identify supporting infrastructure architecture.

Phase one is comprised of a single combined effort by IT and business groups to identify key business requirements and identify the necessary supporting infrastructure architecture. Documents are drafted identifying key business metrics, measures and requirements. A high-level model is developed depicting how business is conducted; the business' internal and external "customers" are defined and how they are served is modeled. A high-level data model is also created describing data and information requirements.
At the end of phase one it is wise to benchmark the findings and recommendations of the team by inviting a well-respected DSS consultant to review and critique the process, plans and proposed architecture. Funding for executing phase two is approved and secured, and estimated funding requirements for phase three and beyond are projected.

Once the initial process has been undertaken, the continued review and control of the overall direction of enterprise business information is the domain of the executive-level steering committee. The executive steering committee meets regularly to establish and maintain overall direction of business information and its dissemination throughout the organization.

Deliverables: Key high-level business metrics and requirements document, high- level business model, high-level information model, collaborative roles and responsibilities document, integrated operational and DSS technical architecture, technical infrastructure requirements document, validation of findings and recommendations, initial funding plan along with business justification.

Micro Business Discovery

The aim of phase two is to conduct the analysis, planning and design of an enterprise information system in support of the business vision as directed by the executive sponsors in phase one. Phase two is comprised of two concurrent efforts ­ low-level business information discovery and low-level business process reengineering ­ followed by an effort that integrates the resultant business and information models into a cohesive plan.

Micro Business Information Discovery (3- 6 months)

  • Model detailed business requirements.
  • Model supporting infrastructure architecture.

Phase two is a process of identification that begins with an in-depth analysis of the information requirements of the organization as defined by the macro business discovery process in phase one. Key elements of this process are to identify additional lower- level business questions in support of the business metrics and success measures defined at the executive level. These fundamental business questions will be the primary drivers of the information systems design. The business information requirements will be based on a business process model and a business data model. All of the necessary source systems that act as data feeds for these business entities are identified in a source/target map. The system of record is identified for each business entity.
As the business requirements documents are refined and completed, the information systems architecture will be crafted to support the business needs. The design of operational data stores, data warehouses, data marts, discovery databases, etc., is configured and optimized for data migration and information delivery to the end-user community. Driving this entire effort will be the business information steering committee made up primarily of business users with the support of representatives of the IT organization.

Deliverables: Establishment of business information steering committee, key mid-level and low-level metrics and business requirements documents, logical business information model, physical business information models, source/target maps, central data warehouse architecture, business database architecture (data mart and operational data store), improved cost estimates and approved capital funding.

Micro Business Process Reengineering (3-6 months)

  • Model business processes and organizational structures.
  • Evaluate current business processes and structures with current business requirements.
  • Plan practical changes to business processes and structures.

As the micro business discovery process proceeds, the existing shortcomings of the business organization will be revealed. Questions about how our customers do business and how they should do business with us are answered. As was mentioned earlier, providing new insights through improved business information for an organization implies that opportunistic change will result in that organization. The organization is examined with regard to optimizing organizational efficiency by removing old walls and barriers. However, certain realities of organizational culture may influence the planned implementation of the findings, even though the purpose of organizational change is to overcome these static forces. Driving this entire effort will be the business reengineering steering committee primarily made up of senior executives and managing directors acting as the organizational agents of change.
Deliverables: Establishment of business reengineering steering committee, existing business process model, proposed business process model, alternative reorganization proposals, preliminary reorganization plans, final business reorganization plan, final executive approval.

Integrate Business and Information Models (2-4 months)

  • Integrate plans for organizational change with new business information systems.
  • Create short-tem and long-term deployment plans.
  • Obtain short-term and long-term funding for continued project execution.

This phase defines the collaborative roles and responsibilities of the IT and business groups as well as supplementary professional consulting services brought in to assist. Among the tasks of this phase, an integrated operational and DSS architecture is outlined, initial short-term and long- term cost estimates are projected, and business justification is documented. At the end of phase two, as was done at the end of phase one, it is wise to benchmark the findings and recommendations of the team by inviting a well-respected DSS consultant to review and critique the process, plans and proposed architecture.
The micro business discovery process is closely monitored and sustained by both the business information steering committee and business reengineering steering committee, which take direction from the executive steering committee. The information steering committee is responsible for creating the plans for dissemination of business information throughout the enterprise, and the business reengineering steering committee is responsible for creating plans for the cross- functional structure of the organization itself. Various subcommittees may be required to tackle specific topics, such as business functional integration, span of authority, project prioritization, data migration, information delivery, meta-data, etc. Consolidated plans are created optimizing deployment of business information with wisely organized knowledge workers.

Uncontrolled development of data marts without an enterprise perspective will perpetuate "stovepipe" systems, thereby reestablishing islands of information ­ a scenario that data warehousing "best practices" seeks to supplant. This step in the process ensures that an enterprise vision has been planned and funded so as to exploit the investment in enterprise business information infrastructure and to ensure the delivery of pertinent business information to knowledge workers cast in appropriate roles and functions.

Deliverables: Consolidated business reorganization plan and business information deployment plan, integrated information architecture, executive approval of five-year capital funding plan.

Iterative Project Development

The aim of phase three is to implement the information and business plans as defined in phase two. The planning phase has ended and now begins the physical deployment of information systems and initiating organizational change. On the information side of the fence, the initial pilot project has been identified, planned and funded and will be executed. Preparations are being made for the subsequent projects in the deployment plan. On the organizational side of the fence, the plan for business restructuring based on logical business needs and recognized opportunities will now be executed; physical restructuring will occur in conjunction with supporting information systems deployment.

Iterative Project Development (3-6 months each)

  • Establish and implement repeatable project plan.
  • Execute and deploy iterative systems projects.

The pilot project is initiated with the intent of promoting repeatable project plans for iterative, scalable development and growth. Additionally, a repeatable systems development methodology will be adopted for streamlined deployment of future systems. With each deployment iteration, "lessons learned" will be crafted into a "best practices" methodology document. At this point the five-year plan is being executed, long-term sustained funding is secured, and resources and experiences are being nurtured.
Deliverables: Completed information systems projects, evolving "best practices" methodology document, feedback to the business information steering committee.

Iterative Business Reorganization (2-4 months)

  • Modify business processes and structures to meet current business requirements.
  • Integrate new business processes and structures with new DSS information systems.

While systems are being developed, traditional organizational boundaries are being reformed to meet the current and anticipated needs of the business. The business functions have been reengineered, along with the business information systems, to meet the business requirements as identified and defined in the business discovery process (phases one and two).
Deliverables: Implementation of reorganization plan ­ physical and logical restructuring of information workers, workflow, functional groups, etc.

Ongoing Business System Deployment (3-6 months)

  • Revisit changing business drivers and requirements.
  • Continue to modify, enhance and expand existing business information systems.
  • Interactively deploy successive layers of new business information systems.
  • Evolve the organizational structure to keep up with current business requirements.

The last step in the process is to integrate the newly reengineered organizational processes and structure with the newly reengineered business information systems. Together, the enterprise can begin to leverage its investment in technology along with the revitalized working environment. One of the key deliverables of the integration of information deployment and organizational restructuring is training ­ training with regard to the redesigned business processes and information delivery systems. The organization has essentially reinvented itself, and the new organizational culture must be firmly established through instilling a new understanding of challenged and empowered knowledge workers.
As phase three progresses though successive project iterations, lessons learned will be incorporated into a repeatable deployment process and methodology, which will allow the enterprise to move forward in a predictable manner, expanding both organizational and business information systems capability, flexibility and coverage. Additionally, feedback from phase three activities will loop back into phase two design and planning activities, and phase two activities will feed back into Phase one vision-defining activities. Thus, there is an implied feedback loop throughout the three phases of the entire business discovery process, which allows the steering committees to constantly monitor and react to changing business opportunities and challenges.

Deliverables: Information steering committees driving individual projects, well-honed project plans and project development processes, business steering committee to regularly survey the changing business landscape, feedback into phase two planning loop and training, training, training.

The information systems created in the iterative project deployments phase are monitored and controlled at the project level as directed by the information steering committee. Most systems will have multiple releases as short-cycle development projects cycle through the deployment process. Control of project scope and timetable is the responsibility of the information steering committee; control of individual project plans and schedules are the responsibility of individual project managers.

Conclusion

The world of leading-edge decision support systems is often cloudy, making it difficult for key executive decision-makers to make intelligible sense of the opportunities and pitfalls. It helps to clear the fog by approaching information delivery as business requirements driving both business information and business structure to create a highly leveraged and competitive environment in which knowledge workers can thrive. Additionally, the organization as a whole can abandon avenues revealed as fruitless, while at the same time creating paths into new fertile opportunities.

This approach to business discovery and information deployment represents a logical three phase process, which initially commits few resources up front to identify the overall direction of organizational business information as well as secures buy-in by senior executives. The second phase probes deeper into the organization itself to identify informational and structural needs of the business and generates integrated designs and plans to be implemented. The third phase is actually a rapidly repeating process of implementing organizational change along with deploying information systems scoped in phase one and defined in phase two.

Weaving the classical data warehousing approaches of business driven-design and rapid iterative deployment with business process and organizational redesign will yield dynamic strategic results by enabling knowledge workers throughout an organization and effectively breaking down traditional internal boundaries to meeting dynamic external competitive challenges. The key to success is to foster collaborative information and knowledge throughout the enterprise.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access