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Jill Dyché

There you are! What took you so long? This is my blog and it's about YOU.

Yes, you. Or at least it's about your company. Or people you work with in your company. Or people at other companies that are a lot like you. Or people at other companies that you'd rather not resemble at all. Or it's about your competitors and what they're doing, and whether you're doing it better. You get the idea. There's a swarm of swamis, shrinks, and gurus out there already, but I'm just a consultant who works with lots of clients, and the dirty little secret - shhh! - is my clients share a lot of the same challenges around data management, data governance, and data integration. Many of their stories are universal, and that's where you come in.

I'm hoping you'll pour a cup of tea (if this were another Web site, it would be a tumbler of single-malt, but never mind), open the blog, read a little bit and go, "Jeez, that sounds just like me." Or not. Either way, welcome on in. It really is all about you.

About the author >

Jill is a partner co-founder of Baseline Consulting, a technology and management consulting firm specializing in data integration and business analytics. Jill is the author of three acclaimed business books, the latest of which is Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, co-authored with Evan Levy. Her blog, Inside the Biz, focuses on the business value of IT.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Jill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

January 2010 Archives

By Mary Anne Hopper, Senior Consultant


Remember way back when your Business Intelligence organization was a small group of one or two people?   And then business found value in what you were producing so your group grew?     And then you created clear roles and responsibilities for the team?   And you started creating project backlogs?   And your group continued to deliver great results for the business?   And your team grew more?   And then things seemed to slow down in your ability to deliver and it was hard to figure out why?

Could it have been that each time you delivered new functionality, someone had to stop what they were doing to support it?     The impact of this can mean missed delivery dates and ticked off end users.

Each time the business needs something they have the ability to talk directly to the person who built the functionality for troubleshooting everything from data loads to data anomalies to report issues.   So, every time functionality is introduced into the environment, somebody is in charge of supporting it in addition to their ongoing project delivery responsibilities.

I call this the ”and” syndrome.   Nobody can support ”insert system/data/report functionality” and ”insert system/data/report functionality” and ”insert system/data/report functionality” and ”insert system/data/report functionality” [I’ll stop here because you get the idea] without impacting the ability to deliver new functionality.

Here are some tricks and standards I’ve seen in different organizations along with their results.

Across the board reduction in project allocation (eg 10% of developer’s time is dedicated to support issues) This can wreak havoc with project planning as the project team never knows when that ”10%” will occur
The development takes turn with support on-call duties This causes a lack of continuity with development efforts, especially when developers are moving in and out of support issues
The person with the least development impact supports the issue This results in prioritization discussion each time there is an issue that needs to be addressed
The person who developed it will support it This creates the ”ands” scenario and does not accommodate staff or role changes as the organization grows

Does any of this sound familiar to your organization? If so, it’s time to step back and review your project plans. One of the biggest mistakes BI teams make is not acknowledging the fact that BI projects will likely have multiple releases.   Each new release will likely be a new project with its own plan.   Moreover IT management should acknowledge that BI needs support resources—including problem resolution experts, training, and documentation specialists—who will support new releases and enhancements to BI applications and the data they use.   Factoring in these issues will allow your group to get back to delivery, and stop supporting all the ”ands.”


Mary Anne has 15 years of experience as a data management professional in all aspects of successful delivery of data solutions to support business needs.   She has worked in the capacity of both project manager and business analyst to lead business and technical project teams through data warehouse/data mart implementation, data integration, tool selection and implementation, and process automation projects.

Posted January 28, 2010 6:00 AM
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By Rob Paller, Consultant

Jazz Musician by Fillmore Photography via Flickr

Recently, senior consultant Bob Wall mentioned  building the team  as one of four proven starting points for getting your MDM program rolling. By now, you have probably identified the C-level executive experiencing the most pain as a result of working with unmanageable data. You have even gone so far as to identify a small project that allows you to demonstrate the value that MDM will provide the company.

However, the success of your MDM pilot project and overall MDM strategy will come down to the team you assemble to support it. Interestingly enough, there are a few parallels that can be drawn from what makes up a good jazz ensemble that can be applied to building your MDM team. Every musician must possess a core set of competencies—just like employees possess in order to do their jobs. However, in order for a jazz musician to excel, he must possess an additional set of skills that is, for the most part, unteachable, but enables him to reach a level where his inspiration and creativity matches his ability to execute.  
  • A jazz musician must be a virtuoso of his instrument in order to communicate what he visualizes in his mind instantly through his instrument. An MDM team member must be a subject matter expert with an innate technical understanding of the source system or a similar understanding of the business processes surrounding the subject matter.
  • A jazz musician must possess a trained ear that is not only able to identify something being "in tune" or "out of tune," but hear the melodic structures and chord progressions. A soloist must be able to adapt to the piano player making chord substitutions underneath the soloist's performance. Any member of your MDM team needs to be able to find the nuances in the business when it comes to defining the core subject areas of your business. For example, defining what a "student" vs "alumni" vs "donor" means to your university.

  • Many jazz musicians are able to recall hundreds of songs at a moment’s notice—not only the melody, but the chords as well. Your MDM team must understand how and be able to explain the countless business processes and policies surrounding your master data.

  • A good jazz musician must be able to listen and interact with the group in the present moment and contribute to improving the overall quality of the performance. This is one of the most important skills that an MDM team member needs to possess. The MDM team must be willing to listen to the rest of the business and communicate effectively. There are no ivory towers in MDM or jazz. 

Keep in mind when assembling your MDM team that it must be a balance of members from both the business and IT—much like a jazz ensemble consists of a balance among percussion, brass, and/or woodwind instruments. If you are unable to find a balance, you risk discord in what you produce.

photo by Fillmore Photography via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

RobPaller_bw_100Rob Paller is an expert at business analytics and database administration. Since joining Baseline, Rob has been responsible for developing a case analysis system to streamline the oversight of food assistance benefits, implementing a common citizen data model, and assisting in the rollout of a new public assistance data model integrating data from over 10 years of legacy with a new benefit eligibility determination system.

Posted January 15, 2010 6:00 AM
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By Andy Field, Senior Consultant

Car Full of Passengers by brightroyalty (via Flickr Creative Commons)

Imagine a large family with many teenagers and one car. It’s Friday night, the parents are out of town, and the teenagers have plans in different parts of the city.   On top of this, everyone is broke and the car is out of gas.   This situation has been coming up more and more over the last few years.   Over time some of the kids get jobs and buy their own cars, trucks, motorcycles to get around.   They don’t figure in the cost of insurance, repairs, maintenance, or parking.     In retrospect they realize they can’t afford to keep this up and some of the vehicles, especially the motorcycles, just don’t meet their needs when, say, the weather gets bad.

If you can envision this   then you have a pretty good idea of what occurs in many companies that have not implemented a data governance program.   There is no common data warehouse platform, let alone other shared data assets, costs are out of control and there is no room to grow. And there are no formal ways of making or delegating decisions. Things go from bad to worse.

What if the kids got together and met with their parents to lay out their transportation needs in advance?   They may figure out that if they had two cars and a truck, instead of one reliable car, an old clunker, a beat up pickup and two motorcycles that 90 percent of their needs would be met over the foreseeable future at half the cost.   The parents and kids could also lay out who is in charge in their absence and how conflicting needs are to be resolved and gas costs shared.   With the savings over the current situation some money could be put in a pot for a taxi or rental fund when there is an extraordinary need for transportation.

Hopefully you can appreciate what a sound data governance program can do for your company.   It may substantively end years of organizational friction, bringing with it the inherent benefits of a collaborative work environment while reducing costs and improving information accessibility and delivery for everyone to help address business opportunities. The question is: are you ready?

Data governance is an essential component of an overall Enterprise Information Management program.   It provides the forum and processes for making all significant organizational and policy decisions with respect to how data is managed in the enterprise.   It includes formalizing decision processes around privacy, security, and accessibility of corporate information. It enforces accountability at the business level, specifically among subject matter experts, key business users, and data stewards. And it sanctions standards around products, customers, and other master data.    

Data governance is difficult, often broad in scope, and requires a structured process to get right. Data governance is typically deployed incrementally to address issues that span functional, project and geographic boundaries.   For local decisions where the scope of the data decision will only impact one project the data decisions may be limited to a subset of data constituents (though sanctioned by the data governance council).   At the other end of the spectrum when decisions need to be made that may have serious consequences to the brand perception of the company (such as privacy policies)   then executive input is required to balance the perspectives of individuals directly representing this leadership such as legal (General Counsel), marketing (Vice President), operations (COO) and IT (CIO).

So if your company reminds you of the family described in this blog post there may be a better path to family harmony through the implementation of data governance.   Understanding that data governance can involve the whole ”family” with benefits for all who use information in their jobs is key to ensuring that the right constituents and scope are considered when planning its long-term deployment. Maybe 2010 is the year you’ll get started. Good luck on your journey!

photo by brightroyalty via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

AndyField_bw Andy Field has been involved in information management activities for over thirty years in both the private and public sectors internationally and domestically. He has held senior leadership positions accountable for establishing Enterprise Information Management practices in several organizations, including Fortune 500 companies. Andy has also consulted with clients from many industries and government sectors over the years and established and ran as president a consulting firm specializing in strategic information systems planning. He has broad experience in both operational and data warehouse projects from both a hands on and leadership perspective. Andy is currently a consultant specializing in Enterprise Information Management.

Posted January 7, 2010 10:07 AM
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