Governance, to put it in its simplest terms, is the art of steering societies and organizations. The need for governance exists anytime a group of people comes together to accomplish an end.1 When it comes to the center of excellence (COE), the only thing simple about governance is the imperative that it exists. Without governance, the COE can become aimless and ineffective. With governance, the COE can establish authority, can be positioned to efficiently and effectively carry out its mandate, and can facilitate a collaborative environment. Governance will allow the COE to help the organization reap the benefits from its data assets, minimize total cost of ownership (TCO) of the business intelligence (BI) program and derive business value from the data warehouse. Governance should be set up to:

  • Establish BI priorities and align projects with corporate priorities and objectives,
  • Provide sign-off on business rules and business policy changes,
  • Communicate business rules and business policy changes to organizations,
  • Arbitrate conflicts across business units,
  • Provide guidance on future business directions and initiatives,
  • Obtain funding and resources for BI efforts and
  • Facilitate compliance with standards, policies and process changes.

A cross-functional governance body with executive-level membership is required to create the COE, set and promote its scope, provide funding and resources, and visibly bestow the authority to carry out its responsibilities. The group is typically comprised of executives representing all major business functions, including marketing, sales, service, risk management, finance, strategic operations and planning, HR and IT. The involvement of a COE executive sponsor who is a stakeholder in the outcomes of the BI program is an absolute must. It is imperative that the sponsor understand the drivers and benefits of BI and that he or she has a complete grasp of the effort that will be necessary to implement the program. BI projects delivered by the COE should be tied to organizational strategies, and the executive sponsor should have a deep understanding of these driving strategies and be able to affect the outcome of the strategy-generation process.

 

In the same vein, the sponsor should be able to articulate the benefits (hard dollars and intangibles) of implementing a BI program both for the organization as a whole and for individual departments. Understanding the organization enough to effectively solicit participation and funding is vital to the success of the program and may require cultural change. The sponsor must understand what it will take to encourage this cooperation and should be an active proponent in helping the COE to bridge any cultural gaps that might exist.

 

When selecting an executive sponsor for the COE, consider the candidate’s ability to communicate both up and down the HR chain. The sponsor should be a thought leader whose influence crosses into both the management team and the line organization. Consider qualities such as respect among his or her peers, prior successes in cross-organizational initiatives and loyalty among the employees for this person.

 

It’s important that the sponsor and the COE itself be held accountable for determining a plan or roadmap for achieving BI program goals. This plan should include not only technical aspects of the program but also organizational and cultural aspects. Setting up a robust communications mechanism is also important to apprise the organization of progress, next steps and planned changes.

 

It can also be helpful to select an organizational change manager, a kind of change facilitator who can work alongside the executive sponsor and deal with the day-to-day tasks needed to drive organizational change. The major responsibility of this role is to help the organization understand the activities of the COE and to deal with the organizational impacts. The change manager establishes training programs to ensure that users are equipped to deal with these changes, work with displaced individuals and drive the execution of the communications plan. It’s important that the change manager be visionary, have strong individual interaction skills and understand the BI program.

 

The last critical role in the COE governance structure is the BI program manager. This person is responsible for managing the day-to-day program activities and delivering the products according to scope, schedule and budget. While the BI program manager usually sits in the COE itself rather than on the governance committee, he or she acts as the liaison between the two groups. When the COE encounters an issue that must be resolved at the governance level, the program manager initiates the escalation process. The program manager must work closely with the governance group to ensure that COE projects are in line with organizational priorities and the governance group facilitates the funding for resources and technology that the program manager needs to implement BI. The major challenges facing the program manager are project prioritization, dealing with demands for quick delivery and keeping the COE staffed with skilled resources. Important traits to look for include the ability to manage multiple BI projects concurrently, an understanding of BI concepts and methodology, and the ability to communicate with the senior executives on the governance committee.

 

Reference:

  1. Betty Kight. “Data warehouse governance: A focal point of direction, accountability and authority.” Teradata Magazine, September 2005.

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