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I am looking for definitions of business and executive sponsors as this functions retain to an information warehouse.

By
  • Sid Adelman, Larissa Moss, Clay Rehm, Scott Howard
Published
  • March 04 2004, 1:00am EST

Q:

I'm looking for definitions of business and executive sponsors as this functions retain to an information warehouse. We do not have any sponsors. We have an existing IW. We will be implementing an ETL tool to replace programs and programs of coded extracts and move the IW from Oracle on UNIX to DB2 on the mainframe.

A:

Sid Adelman’s Answer: I’m concerned that you currently don’t have business sponsors. Business sponsors are always a critical success factor for any data warehouse implementation. It looks like you have business interest ("users with requests") but they don’t seem to be at a high enough level. I suggest identifying and recruiting an executive business sponsor who has a strong need for the data warehouse. It also seems that you have no business sponsors looking out for the whole organization. You should consider an advisory board or a business steering committee. The descriptions of both these roles were taken from Data Warehouse Project Management by Sid Adelman and Larissa Moss.

The executive sponsor is the person who has the need for the data warehouse. This is usually the line-of-business manager who recognizes the value of the decision support capability of the data warehouse. The executive sponsor will be the primary driver of new requirements and be aware of how these requirements would affect the schedule, the budget and how they will impact requirements that have already been accepted. This is the person who provides budget and political support for the project. The executive sponsor assures the availability of business people who can articulate the requirements and provide support throughout the life of the project. Your executive sponsor should also be the champion for the data warehouse project and should promote it whenever given the chance.

Advisory boards or steering committees will make the critical decisions on the direction of the data warehouse. The absence of such boards usually means there is no high-level management commitment, little budget and minimal support from management for the data warehouse. This almost always means the data warehouse will fail. The data warehouse is not a one-time effort, it is ongoing and the advisory boards should also meet on an ongoing basis. The most important role for the business advisory board is the prioritization of projects. There will always be more candidates for data warehouse projects than resources to implement them. There are some projects that are mandatory such as those directed by governmental agencies or by law. Most of the data warehouse projects are not mandatory but are either cost justified, provide a competitive edge or are the CEO’s pet project. The business advisory board must weigh the costs, benefits and the political significance of each project. The business advisory board will help establish, or at least approve the data warehouse objectives and the critical measures of success. They will approve budgets. They will review high-level project agreements and changes to those agreements. They will review the major milestones and key deliverables of the projects.

Larissa Moss’ Answer: I congratulate you for being able to sustain an IW without strong executive sponsorship from the business; that is usually nearly impossible. It is also almost impossible to build an IW with cross-organizational standardization and integration when there is no high-level sponsorship, because line-of-business managers frequently insist on quick (non-integrated) point solutions for their own departmental needs. To raise sponsorship to a higher level, you want to show executives how enterprise-wide business analytic applications can be deployed quickly using your IW as the underlying database. Typical analytic apps are BPM (business process management as well as business performance measurement) or BAM (business activity monitoring), and on a smaller scale CRM analytics. These applications are frequently in the form of dashboards or balanced scorecards for executives. Besides crossing departmental boundaries, these applications would add tremendous business value to your investment in IW so far.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: Since you don’t have user sponsorship, who is requesting that you change your existing code to an ETL tool? Who is driving this request along with the move from Oracle/UNIX to DB2/MF?

I believe that IS/IT can continue to play the role of a facilitator to get the user departments together. However, at your next facilitated meeting, an agenda item would be added to select sponsors. You can make this a rotating role so not one person has all of the responsibility all of the time. It would be your goal to get this role taken over by your business partners – it just might take a while and may have to be implemented in phases. Good luck!

Scott Howard’s Answer: I usually recommend aligning with your enterprise’s financial leaders, even your CFO if possible. These folks can gain most from having reconciled, consolidated and conformed information across the enterprise truly providing the ability to view all aspects of any single organization consistently to any other part of the enterprise. Even if a single line organization agrees to take the lead or sponsorship, you may find them favoring a stove pipe approach that favors their unique view of the organization including their own definition of time, geography, business scenarios and the like. This would render your solution appropriate for them and only them.

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