Peter would like to thank Mike Cochrane of Palladium Group for his contribution to this month’s column.

In this column, I have been discussing the principles and requirements for information empowerment. This month, I cover a key component for sustainability of information empowerment: the organizational structure. It may seem premature to discuss sustainability before covering all the topics in building an information-empowered environment. However, organizational considerations should be addressed from the very beginning, allowing the organizational transformation to occur gradually and positioning the company to fully leverage newly acquired information once it’s available.

An inherent challenge lies within corporate organizational structures because they are typically designed to accommodate the functional responsibilities of everyday business. Departments may need to work collectively when they are focused on specific initiatives, which is why for strategic purposes there is often an office of strategy management (OSM).1 Also, from a project perspective, organizations often employ a project management office (PMO) to oversee the cross-functional aspects of projects and ensure they comply with standards. While a business intelligence (BI) initiative is strategic in nature and involves a series of projects for implementation, the resultant information requires ongoing maintenance and support. This information is increasingly recognized as a valuable corporate asset - 52 percent of executives surveyed said there was pervasive recognition of data as a corporate asset. Another 37 percent said there was some recognition within pockets of the organization.2 This asset requires a cross-functional team that I will refer to as a business intelligence competency center (BICC). While this team initially may not have dedicated resources, as a company’s information assets grow, the team roles will often evolve into full-time positions. The speed at which this evolution occurs can be directly correlated to the complexity of the business and the quantity of information generated.

The BICC is a cross-functional group of analysts, business subject matter experts and technology staff. The goal of the BICC is to shift the organization from data reporting to analytical insight. This group should be focused on building the standards and best practices for implementing BI capabilities and tools; defining and implementing common terms and definitions; educating and training the organization on tools, applications and data; defining and monitoring quality control procedures; providing a level of support to the analyst community; and creating consistency for reporting and analysis across all departments and business units. Core functions can include the following:

Organization. Establish and advocate a strategically aligned vision for the company’s information assets, drive the internal use and adoption of BI tools and deliver production reporting and provide report development capabilities for ad hoc requests. End users should produce their own reports, but the BICC may have to do so until the business is trained to ensure adoption.

Architecture. Provide the strategic vision of the data, business and technical architecture of the BI platform; establish architectural blueprints that will be implemented within the BI platform; and develop architecture best practices.

Governance. Establish metadata and master data standards (business rules, hierarchies, data), provide data stewards to identify data issues and recommend/implement quality initiatives to address gaps, assist in prioritization of BI projects, and integrate with enterprise governance committees that impact BI initiatives and programs.

Information delivery. Provide project delivery and leadership for BI initiatives and projects, extend current project methodology with BI- and data warehouse-specific tools and templates to create a consistent approach to delivery for information management, create an alignment framework for BI tools and technologies to business needs and requirements, develop the testing and data validation strategy for the information management platform, and develop a clear support model with associated standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Measurement and data quality. Establish and maintain the measurement standards and how information should be used across the enterprise; define and update analytic business models to facilitate the reporting function; create and track data and information quality metrics; define and implement data quality programs and routines; develop SOPs for addressing and fixing data quality issues; and assign data quality stewards to monitor data quality routines, validate data and work with the business to reconcile and fix data issues.

Communication. Communicate activities, plans and status for current BI project initiatives; develop internal marketing programs to advocate and drive user adoption of BI tools; and supply and distribute BI-related information.

Training. Develop and deliver BI tools and application training and provide the process to transfer the BI application knowledge to required support and shared-services functions.

Although extensive in function, BICCs can vary in their breadth of responsibility, depending on what other shared-service organizations already exist within the company.

References:

  1. Robert Kaplan and David Norton. “The Office of Strategy Management.” Harvard Business Review, October 2005.
  2. “Managing Data as a Corporate Asset: Three Action Steps Toward Successful Data Governance.” HP, April 2007.

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