For nearly 40 years, former machinist Josip Broz, better known by his wartime partisan name of Tito, held together the fractious, ethnically and religiously divided country of Yugoslavia. He accomplished this through a combination of personality cult, brutal repression and the cajoling of the various warring tribes to hold common goals above their narrow interests.

Upon his death, Yugoslavia soon spiraled into a sea of long repressed hatred, reprisals and warfare. Soon the country broke apart, and the dreams and goals of the centrally planned, centrally controlled state were lost.

A similar fate lies ahead for large, diverse, decentralized and/or global organizations attempting pan-enterprise implementation of IT-mandated, technologist-oriented, one-size-fits-all requirements for their diverse constituencies.

In business intelligence (BI), this happens most commonly in the area of mandated approaches/architectures for data warehousing systems. While well-meaning, efforts by corporate architecture teams to mandate a specific, universal approach to overcome the challenges that individual business units face are almost always doomed to failure.

The reasons for this are many, among them being the fact that architecture and its proponents rank very low on the political totem pole. The only politically sustainable model is an unequivocal, long-term commitment provided by the board of directors. Devoid of that, powerful business leaders or their captive IT resources will not forsake their goals, agendas, timelines or resources to the wishes of an architectural team. Politics always trumps architecture.

In addition, forcing fast-moving businesses to jump through centrally mandated architectural hoops is a sure route to being viewed as an impediment rather than a facilitator of speed to market. If a powerful general manager of a business unit is told that his agenda or compensation will be delayed, diminished or eliminated due to a centrally mandated architecture or approach, the individual who mandated that architecture or approach, and his/her agenda, is in for some very rough sailing. The business will choose speed over architecture every time.

As we've seen with the Balkans, centrally managed and mandated force-fit integration is limited to the career life span of the person/personality cult involved and the political power of those driving the agenda. Due to these facts of corporate political life, IT-mandated BI architectural and approach standards are generally not culturally scalable across large, complex global organizations.

It is probably possible to establish a mathematical relationship based on several axes of analysis that would yield the maximum amount of extrapolation or potential implementation footprint of an IT-mandated approach/architecture across an organization. Among the factors would be: political power of the primary stakeholder, number of followers willing to risk their careers in the name of the cause, level of decentralization of political power in the organization, political power of the leaders of functional groups/business units, diversity of products/services, size and complexity of the organization, cultural diversity/complexity of the organization, number and type of existing implementations, alignment of the mandate with corporate strategic objectives and the degree of compliance expected or mandated.

In addition to their limited ability to scale across large organizations, mandated panacea architectures and approaches are not enduring enough to have a long-term effect on large organizations. In most cases, their implementations are limited to the career lifespans of the individuals championing them, or to the duration of influence of the group driving their implementation. Neither of these scenarios is conducive to long- term adoption, as anyone who is charismatic enough to drive a widespread mandate will not be limited to a position related to architecture or approach for long. Those charismatic individuals are usually gone long before the architecture or approach bears enough fruit for the enterprise to survive on its own. A group powerful enough to drive a centrally planned and directed mandate will usually be disbanded due to lack of delivery long before enough deliverables hit the ground to convince the business that there is value in their efforts.

Mandated approaches and architectures such as top-down and bottom-up are not suitable for mandatory, pervasive implementation in large, complex organizations. While there is nothing wrong with them technically and while they will work fine at a fiefdom level, they lack the cultural scalability and endurance to be viable solutions in enterprises with powerful, diverse and competing constituencies.

While a strong personality may drive initial compliance, over time, the business leadership of large organizations usually views IT-mandated approaches and architectures as barriers to rapid achievement of business objectives. Anarchy is usually the result. In my opinion, you're much better off to adopt a federated BI architecture and approach from the beginning. Use the fundamental, inevitable and overwhelming forces of corporate culture and politics to assist you, rather than be tied to the tracks of a one-size-fits-all IT mandate as the train of corporate cultural and political reality bears down upon you.

As we learned from Tito, centrally mandated structures rarely outlast personalities in the face of fundamental cultural diversity.

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