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The Four Legs of a Successful Business Intelligence Project Team

  • May 22 2003, 1:00am EDT
More in welcomes Rick Sherman as an online columnist. His "BI Briefs" will appear on the third Friday of each month and will include basic BI concepts for those who are new to business intelligence and data warehousing and best practice ideas for those who need some fresh suggestions about ways to do business.

A successful business intelligence (BI) project team is like a four-legged table – each leg holds up its share of the weight. Remove one and the project wobbles. The four legs of a team are:

  • Project Sponsorship and Governance
  • Project Management
  • Development Team (Core Team)
  • Extended Project Team

Project Sponsorship and Governance

IT and the business should form a BI steering committee to sponsor and govern design, development, deployment and ongoing support. It needs both the CIO and a business executive, such as CFO, COO or a senior vice president of marketing/sales to commit budget, time and resources. The business sponsor needs the project to succeed. The CIO is committed to what is being built and how.

Project Management

Project management includes managing daily tasks, reporting status and communicating to the extended project team, steering committee and affected business users. The project management team needs extensive business knowledge, BI expertise, DW architecture background and people management, project management and communications skills. The project management team includes three functions or members:

  • Project development manager – Responsible for deliverables, managing team resources, monitoring tasks, reporting status and communications. Requires a hands-on IT manager with a background in iterative development. Must understand the changes caused by this approach and the impact on the business, project resources, schedule and the trade-offs.
  • Business advisor – Works within the sponsoring business organization. Responsible for the deliverables of the business resources on the project’s extended team. Serves as the business advocate on the project team and the project advocate within the business community. Often, the business advocate is a project co-manager who defers to the IT project manager the daily IT tasks but oversees the budget and business deliverables.
  • BI/DW project advisor – Has enough expertise with architectures and technologies to guide the project team on their use. Ensures that architecture, data models, databases, ETL code and BI tools are all being used effectively and conform to best practices and standards.

Development Team (Core Team)

The core project team is divided into four sub-teams:

  • Business requirements – This sub-team may have business people who understand IT systems or IT people who understand the business. In either case, the team represents the business and their interests. They are responsible for gathering and prioritizing business needs, translating them into IT systems requirements, interacting with the business on the data quality and completeness and ensuring the business provides feedback on how well the solutions generated meet their needs.
  • BI architecture – Develops the overall BI architecture, selects the appropriate technology, creates the data models, maps the overall data workflow from source systems to BI analytics and oversees the ETL and BI development teams from a technical perspective.
  • ETL development – Receives the business and data requirements as well as the target data models to be used by BI analytics. Develops the ETL code needed to gather data from the appropriate source systems into the BI databases. Often, a system analyst who is an expert in the source systems such as SAP is part of the team to provide knowledge of the data sources, customizations and data quality.
  • BI development – Creates the reports or analytics that the business users will interact with to do their jobs. This is often a very iterative process and requires much interaction with the business users.

Extended Project Team

There are several functions required by the project team that are often accomplished through an extended team:

  • Players – A group of business users are signed up to "play with" or test the BI analytics and reports as they are developed to provide feedback to the core development team. This is a virtual team that gets together at specific periods of the project but they are committed to this role during those periods.
  • Testers – A group is gathered, similar to the virtual team just mentioned, to perform more extensive QA testing of the BI analytics, ETL processes and overall systems testing. You may have project members test other members’ work, such as the ETL team test the BI analytics and visa versa.
  • Operators – IT operations is often separated from the development team but it is critical that they are involved from the beginning of the project to ensure that the systems are developed and deployed within your company’s infrastructure. Key functions are database administration, systems administration and networks. In addition, this extended team may also include help desk and training resources if they are usually provided outside of development.

Figure 1: Project Management Team Organization Chart

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