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How do I get project managers (business side/end users) to take ownership in a data warehousing initiative?

  • Joe Oates, Sid Adelman, Clay Rehm, Les Barbusinski, Nancy Williams
  • January 13 2003, 1:00am EST
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How do I get project managers (business side/end users) to take ownership in a data warehousing initiative?


Sid Adelman’s Answer: The first question I’d ask is how interested they are in the project. Will the data warehouse solve a major business problem? Will the data warehouse result in a significant return on investment? Will the data warehouse further the career of the primary sponsors? If the answers are "no" to these questions, you may as well forget those folks taking ownership, much less, taking an interest in the project. Find some other project to work on because this one is going nowhere.

However, if the answers are "yes" then you need to show them that their commitment and ownership is a critical success factor (if you don’t have it, the project will fail). You can show them the importance of their commitment by including them in the project plan. Actually, the best model for success is dual project managers, one from the IT side and one from the business. These project managers would be joined at the hip for the duration of the project. Be sure to include the business side responsibilities in the scope agreement.

Les Barbusinski’s Answer: That’s easy: make sure that the data warehouse initiative directly alleviates or mitigates a significant "pain" that these managers and/or end users are currently experiencing. Esoteric benefits like "better data quality" or "faster reporting" just don’t get business users and/or management excited. On the other hand, convincing them that the new data warehouse or mart can immediately solve or ameliorate a serious and nagging problem in their area almost always results in enthusiastic support.

Joe Oates’ Answer: You do not give any information about your position in your organization, so I will give a kind of overview on sponsorship and ownership.

First of all, because a data warehouse usually crosses management and organizational boundaries, the data warehouse project needs a highly placed and influential individual such as a VP, CFO or CEO. It is the sponsor’s responsibility to motivate the business managers, business users, project managers, IT managers and through these people motivate the various teams that must work together if the project is to be successful.

The highly placed and influential sponsor must get the success of the data warehouse project as part of all of the management personnel’s review criteria. A data warehouse project, as opposed to a small data mart project, requires substantial monetary and people resources. Like anything in the organization that requires substantial money and resources that support the achievement of organizational goals, appropriate management personnel must be held accountable.

Without this kind of sponsorship and management accountability, it is very rare that a data warehouse project is successful.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: My first instinct is to talk to these people one on one and find out what the reasons are that prevent them from taking ownership. The trick is not to push them into a corner and put them on the defensive. If the project managers are not interested in taking ownership, it is because the data warehouse initiative is not providing any or will not provide any benefit to them either professionally or personally. The discussion you have with them should be a fact-finding mission to determine the cause of their lack of ownership. In your discussions with them, please use sincerity and do NOT accuse them of not being responsible.

Most people want to be responsible and part of a team. However, most people are motivated by what interests them. The project managers most likely are saying to themselves – "What is in it for me?"– Your mission then would be to find a reason for them to be interested in this initiative.

Nancy Williams’ Answer: Obtaining business sponsorship in my experience is one of the thorniest problems that organizations face with data warehousing initiatives. It is very common that the IT department is in the posture of "driving" the data warehousing initiative and that the business users are often less than enthusiastic. While operational system development efforts are frequently not hard to sell – who can argue the need for an order entry system – the benefits of data warehousing are frequently more illusive and require the IT department to develop a "business case" for this type of initiative. If the data warehousing initiative is being sold as an expensive project that provides better end-user access to information currently provided through in-house reports, business users may not buy in to the cost/benefit of this type of initiative, nor will they want to invest their time in getting involved in the project. The key to getting the business on board is rethink how information is currently being used in the organization and to provide a vision of how it could be better used to support business needs. This requires the ability to talk to the business side of the house about their business drivers and goals and develop data warehousing initiatives that are based on delivering information that supports the achievement of those goals. In my experience, when data warehousing initiatives are directly tied to supporting the achievement of business goals, the business takes interest and business ownership is achieved.

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