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Hub-and-Spoke Federation Communication

  • June 01 2001, 1:00am EDT

Recently, at one of our enterprise hub-and-spoke architecture client sites, we were discussing the prerequisite of effective communications for success with this architecture. As we discussed their communication plans, it became readily apparent that they were lacking a key element for political survival in any business intelligence (BI) project: a plan to get from their current state to their desired state.

Their lack of communication plans, presentations, etc., that effectively presented how they were going to technically construct and politically sustain a system that can easily take four to six years to accomplish is common among all flavors of BI and data warehousing (DW) teams. While there is usually no lack of illustrations of the ideal goal, there is almost always a dearth of step-by-step diagrams illustrating how things will look from the global, enterprise level as each portion of the system is built. The key element is that until the desired state is achieved, the DW team will be living in a heterogeneous world. While they live there, they must articulate how they will coordinate resources, exchange data, interface meta data, avoid duplicate efforts and seamlessly integrate with the dozens of other BI systems in the typical enterprise.

Business management likes to see things executed in a way that enables assets to be leveraged, synergies to be enabled and progress to be made at a rapid pace. This is true whether you are on track to build the world's best hub-and-spoke or are simply trying to get your existing data warehouse to exchange key metrics with the other BI systems in your organization. To be politically sustainable in any BI project, especially when the goal is to put all the data of the enterprise in a single place, you must be an excellent communicator and have world-class political savvy. One of the most important arrows in your quiver is a comprehensive road map showing how you are going to move from a small slice of a subject area in the first iteration to the desired state of one single, integrated system.

In the years it takes you to get from where you are now to that desirable future, you must demonstrate that you can peacefully coexist with your BI system brethren on the political front and successfully share data and meta data on the technical front. In essence, it is critical to realize that between now and the finish line, you will be living in a heterogeneous BI world. Consequently, you need to develop a comprehensive, cohesive, integrated timeline ­ covering system architecture evolution, resource utilization and meta data ­ that is both believable and deliverable.

In particular, you need to address:

  • Meta Data: You must have a complete road map describing how your developing system will share meta data with the other BI systems in the business to allow users to locate, utilize and leverage the BI assets available across the evolving BI environment.
  • Resources: You will need to demonstrate how you are going to staff the development of each iteration, maintain what you have built and build and maintain the interface points with the other BI systems in your organization during your hub-and-spoke system's development.
  • Iterations: The business will be particularly sensitive to duplication of effort between your centralized hub- and-spoke activities and those of functional or independent BI teams, especially those of existing, high- value, heterogeneous BI systems.
  • System Architecture: You will need to demonstrate, in a step-by- step manner, how the heterogeneous current state will transition to a unified, integrated system. You must have illustrations of each intermediate step tied to each build phase; you can't just jump from current to desired state.
  • Business Value: Unfortunately, architecture ranks about last politically in the typical organization, so you'll have to demonstrate the business value of your hub-and- spoke architecture in measurable terms. It will not be politically sustainable simply based on its architectural elegance.

Large, enterprise- class hub-and-spoke systems take years of sustained support by the absolute top levels of the business. To garner and sustain this support, these systems must politically and technically co-exist for the entire span of their development with the multitude of packaged data warehouses, non-architected data marts, packaged analytical applications and various custom data warehouse and BI systems throughout the organization, owned by very powerful political constituencies.
This coexistence is the core characteristic of federation. Without a comprehensive communication plan, you will probably never be politically sustainable long enough to complete the long- term hub-and-spoke integration vision.

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