In the December issue of DM Review, I described the extended Corporate Information Factory (CIFe). The outer band of the CIFe consists of six major sets of activities that must be performed to ensure that the business intelligence (BI) environment operates smoothly, operates cost-effectively and increases in value to the organization as the business learns to leverage and expand its application. These six sets of activities provide the glue for the BI program - governance, infrastructure management, center of excellence, quality management, application management and metadata management.This column begins a series that deals with the six "environment management" functions, governance being the first of these. Governance entails controlling, directing or strongly influencing actions and includes establishing and enforcing related policies. People often think of governance as a constraint. A solid governance structure actually promotes resourceful thinking within an organization. It also provides substantial benefits, the most significant of which are alignment of the BI initiatives with the business priorities, collaboration of business leaders to arrive at the enterprise view and promotion of the BI accomplishments throughout the organization.

Five components of governance are executive oversight and support, program direction, prioritization, total cost of ownership management and service level agreements. I will explore executive oversight and support in this column.

The BI program is a significant endeavor that will require significant resources. With the introduction of the BI capabilities, the organization may undergo cultural shifts as more people are empowered to access and use information. Executive sponsorship is critical for garnering the needed resources and maintaining interest and support.

The executive sponsor is the highest-ranking champion for the BI environment. The responsibilities include promotion, funding, resource enlistment and issues resolution support.

Promotion: The executive sponsor is responsible for promoting BI, particularly within the executive circles. This is very important due to the need to involve people from several areas of the company to gain the enterprise perspective.

Funding: The executive sponsor may not necessarily provide the funding for BI. If funding needs to be obtained elsewhere, then the executive sponsor takes an active role in securing those funds.

Resource Enlistment: Resources are needed from the executive sponsor's area as well as from other areas. The sponsor ensures that the staff provides the needed support. In addition, the sponsor uses his or her influence to ensure that other areas commit their resources as well.

Issue Resolution Support: During the development of the data warehouse, issues are likely to arise that may require executive intervention. When these occur, the executive sponsor should be ready to provide the needed assistance.

Without an executive sponsor, the long-term viability of BI is questionable. If there is no executive sponsor (or if the sponsor is a member of the IT organization), efforts should be initiated to designate a sponsor exhibiting the following qualifications:

  • A strategic thinker who can envision how the data warehouse can help the company meet its goals,
  • Committed to managing data as an enterprise asset and possessing the authority to enforce decisions concerning the data, and
  • Respected within the organization and able to make difficult decisions about the data warehouse, its content, its role and its use.

The executive sponsor should lead a cross-functional steering committee to oversee the data warehouse program. The role of the steering committee should be delineated in writing as part of its charter. Major responsibilities of the steering committee typically include establishing the mission and guiding principles, establishing priorities and sanctioning the scope of each data warehouse initiative, resolving issues pertaining to the data warehouse and establishing the quality expectations for the data warehouse. Additionally, the steering committee should monitor progress and provide feedback to the data warehouse team.
The steering committee should consist of people at similar levels of the organization who represent the areas affected by the data warehouse. While the ideal approach may be to have an executive management membership, this is often not practical because the executives may not be willing to commit the time needed to effectively carry out the committee responsibilities. Another approach is to include representatives who are respected within each major area and who have the authority to act on behalf of the area. Sometimes this will be a director or high-level manager; other times, this will be a recognized expert who, while having no line authority, has a recognized informal authority.

If the steering committee has both strategic and tactical responsibilities, it may be appropriate to create two committees - a strategic committee that meets quarterly with more senior membership to deal with the strategic issues, and a tactical committee that meets more frequently consisting of lower-level people to deal with the day-to-day oversight.

Regardless of the committee level, the members should be thought leaders, motivators, good communicators and respected representatives of their business areas.

Jonathan G. Geiger is executive vice president at Intelligent Solutions, Inc. He may be reached at JGeiger@IntelSols.com.

This article originally appeared in DM Review.

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