My series of online columns has been focused on the need for businesses to get serious about developing an enterprise business intelligence (BI) and data warehouse (DW) capability. Through the course of this series, I have discussed many best practices, rules of thumb and important considerations one should be aware of and address when embarking on the journey to develop this enterprise BI and DW capability. This may all seem a bit overwhelming to those that are considering it. Hopefully, these columns have helped to demystify the process and make it a bit less daunting.Here are a few more things to consider before getting started or going too far down the path.

 

Are We Ready for This?

 

Before you begin, examine your company, to see if you are prepared. Questions to consider include:

  1. Do we have executive sponsorship, funding and patience?

    • In order to be successful in driving an enterprise-wide BI/DW program you should have at least one C-level business executive who shares the vision and is willing to support and champion the initiative with other executives. This person should intuitively understand the core ideas like:

      • Running the business by the numbers,

      • A single version of the truth,

      • Enterprise-wide visibility and

      • Empowering people with information to make better decisions.

      Each of these should be viewed as a critical factor to the long-term success of the business.

    • Even if other C-level executives do not have the same level of vision, they should at least express some frustration with the status quo regarding problems such as getting different answers depending on who you talk to and feeling like they are “flying blind.”

    • The CIO and other senior IT leaders must also share the vision and believe that an enterprise-wide approach to BI and DW is the right answer.

    • The executive champion must be willing and able to lead the development of a business case that shows how this journey can provide return to the company – this will be key to getting funding into the annual budget on a multiyear basis.

    • Patience is required because not all benefits of the enterprise-wide BI/DW program will be realized in the first year. When you plan the program activities, make sure that incremental benefits are being achieved along the way so that commitment to the longer-term journey does not dissipate.

  2. Do our executives have a track record of joining forces on important company endeavors?

    • Having executives that actually want their groups to work together to achieve the enterprise BI and DW vision will go a long way toward eliminating many of the barriers to success. There are many things to be done that will require the cooperation and trust of each group:

      • Defining and agreeing to priorities,

      • Allocating funding,

      • Agreeing on data definitions (master data and other),

      • Agreeing on metric definitions and calculations,

      • Allowing other groups to see “their” data and

      • Allowing others to see information about the performance of their group.

    • As I discussed in my first column, “siloed thinking” can lead to a very fragmented BI/DW picture. Typically, the root of this siloed thinking is executives who view their departments/functions/groups/teams as their own fiefdom and discourage too much interaction and cooperation with other internal groups. In many cases, this is done with good intentions, because it is often believed this approach improves a group’s efficiency. While this may be true, I believe that it will actually decrease efficiency of the overall organization. This is the root of the tension between departmental initiatives and corporate initiatives. In order to optimize the whole, the parts may be slightly suboptimized or must give up some control.

    • If there isn’t a spirit of cooperation or partnership between the top executives on corporate initiatives, then the CEO needs to be the champion of the enterprise-wide BI/DW program, in order to make sure it is successful.

  3. Is the lack of good information causing the business some sort of pain?

    • If no one seems to be struggling with a current departmental, siloed BI approach and all parties are satisfied with the information they are getting, you may have a hard time getting anyone excited about making a change.

Note that none of the preparedness questions were “Are you part of a large company with deep pockets?” Implementing an enterprise-wide BI and DW program is not just the province of multibillion dollar companies. Many small and midsized businesses are having success in this journey. As a matter of fact, some of the sponsorship and partnership factors can be in much better shape in midsized businesses, because there are fewer players that need to be involved in the vision and they are more comfortable collaborating. This enables smaller companies to get much further, more quickly than a large company might.

 

How to Get Started?

 

On any journey, it’s helpful to first plan and map out where you want to go as well as how you are going to get there. The same is true for the enterprise BI and DW journey. One approach is to take the seven focus areas that I have outlined in this column series and evaluate yourself against best practices in each to figure out where you are. Then, try to develop a vision of where you want to be in a few years across the seven dimensions. Afterward, develop a roadmap consisting of all of the initiatives/activities that need to be accomplished in order to reach your goal.

 

When developing your roadmap it’s important to tie the activities back to things that are important to the business – such as how it can help the company achieve one or more of its major corporate initiatives. This will enable the initiative to feel real to businesspeople and not seem like just an academic exercise.

 

"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way."- Dr. Seuss

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