"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big."
These words by Daniel Burnham, a prominent Chicago architect and civic planner who lived from 1864-1912, are words to live by in life and in planning and executing a business intelligence (BI) project.
While we all know we must start small in a BI project, it is very important to think big.
We must think big when we consider the processes that will surround our system. We must consider how we will scale processes related to user requests, incorrect data, system expansion, user communication, team skills evaluation and training, etc. Your processes may be adequate for a pilot group of 20, but will they scale to a user base of 200 or 2,000?
We must think big when we consider marketing the system. We must design and deliver a marketing plan that can effectively communicate with the entire organization about each incremental phase's features, benefits, capabilities, link to key corporate strategies, value to key stakeholders, ease of use, day-to-day utilization and impact on the bottom line.
We must think big when we select vendors, tools and technologies. We must be thinking about the overall direction of the market, likely acquisitions and market segment consolidations, financial stability, breakout new technologies and companies, leapfrog-enabling new tools, ability to integrate into large-scale heterogeneous environments, language localization capabilities and integration into long-term technological road maps.
We must think big when we consider potential incremental phases and their associated sponsors. We must consider political viability and longevity, and current and potential political alliances. We must consider current and future financial performance of the potential sponsor's areas of responsibility and the impact of political vendettas against fast-rising, fast-moving sponsors.
We must think big when we consider technical and data architectures. We must think about integrating into the heterogeneous BI environments of modern organizations, with their multiple existing BI systems, turnkey analytical systems imbedded into operational systems, scores of hundreds to thousands of non-architected data marts, spreadsheets and desktop databases.
We must think big when we consider our target user base. We must consider the political consequences of building a system for a small user base. We must think about the support, training and communication implications of building a system for a more politically stable large, widespread user base.
We must think big when we consider our delivery platform. We must think about the costs of implementation, training and support of highly complex tools. We must consider whether these highly complex tools will truly meet the 80/20 needs of our targeted user base. We must think about the political and cultural upsides of providing the maximum amount of value to the maximum number of people, such as providing template-based, thin-client reporting versus a highly capable, but highly complex tool to a small number of expert users.
We must think big when we are considering the commitment and resources necessary to sustain a BI system. We must be managing expectations for maintenance resources required for the long-term sustenance of the system. We must manage these expectations both upstream to IT management and our business customers, and also downstream to the IT resources who will be called upon to maintain the system after it is built. We must make long-term plans for career management of the maintenance team, how we will keep them interested and engaged, how we can grow them over time, and how we can offer them a route of professional development up and out of the maintenance team.
We must think big when we establish our success metrics with the business prior to initiating the project. We must establish success metrics that are discrete and objective, believed in and trusted by the business and the IT team. We must establish metrics that are measurable with existing operational systems or existing metrics. We must consider the political consequences of not meeting these success hurdles.
We must think big when we design our communication plan. We must think about building and maintaining our own direct paths of communication to key senior executives. We must ensure that other political players between us and our key stakeholders do not filter our messaging. We must consider and plan the use of all communication mediums available to us, enterprise-wide.
We must think big when we manage our careers. We must consider the negative impacts of poor execution of our BI projects. Conversely, we must consider the significant political upsides of being responsible for or involved in a successful BI project that relieves specific business pain and delivers a politically meaningful, politically sustainable BI solution to the business.
Make no little plans.
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