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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

June 2011 Archives

I recently read an interesting interview with Andy Haylor, founder of The Information Difference, discussing the results of an in-depth survey on data governance practices that he conducted with the Data Governance Institute.

Having just completed a 40-page report titled "Creating an Enterprise Data Strategy: Managing Data as a Corporate Asset," I thought his results make a good supplement to my findings. While I focused more broadly on data management and data quality issues, he honed in on critical success factors for managing data governance programs.

In particular, he correlated successful data governance programs with the following characteristics:

  • A data governance mission statement
  • A clear and documented process for resolving disputes
  • Good policies for controlling access to business data
  • An active risk register
  • Effective logical models for key business data domains
  • Either business processes defined at a high level or fully documented at several levels and available for data governance
  • Data quality assessments that were undertaken on a regular basis
  • A documented business case
  • A link between program objectives and team or personal objectives
  • A comprehensive training program
  • A Web site alongside a broader range of communication methods

This isn't rocket science for sure. But it does take a lot of work to implement all or even some of the tasks or practices listed above. And if the program truly manages cross-functional data, then the process is that much more challenging since departmental politics begins to encroach. For that reason, I think the most important success factor in Andy's list is a "clear and documented process for resolving disputes."

Documenting the business case is also important, but it's something few organizations do. Most are just glad to get permission (or tacit approval) to launch a data governance program, citing that as justification enough. Usually, executives endorse such programs because they've suffered a major problem due to lack of clean, consistent data and recognize that data governance is simply a cost of doing business. However, without a clear cost/benefit analysis, it's too easy for data governance programs to be swept aside by changing currents in the organization, such as a new executive, an acquisition, or a new strategy.

It takes time for data governance programs and processes to take root and become an immoveable part of the corporate culture. Until that happens, program managers must do everything in their power to nurture and shepherd their fledgling programs until they achieve the "this is the way we've always done it" status for managing data. This is probably why only 23% of respondents to Haylor's survey said they have a "highly" or "quite" successful data governance program.

Posted June 22, 2011 1:53 PM
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Most of us want to use our working hours productively. We want to make a difference and contribute to the success of our organizations. Although we recognize the transformative aspect of business intelligence, sometimes our executives do not. When this happens, it is often difficult to feel motivated, and work becomes drudgery.

I normally counsel people in these circumstances to be patient; sooner or later, the organization's data delinquency will come home to roost, and it will stumble in the marketplace. The Board will bring in a new slate of executives who need to measure performance rigorously and want to enhance the organization's information infrastructure. If you have stayed the course, this is your time to shine.

But some times it doesn't pay to be stoic. You are too ambitious, your executives are too entrenched, your organization is too complacent, and better opportunities exist elsewhere. And when push comes to shove, you just can't take it anymore, personally, professionally, or emotionally. Then, it might be wise to seek greener pastures, and a corporate environment that possesses a data-driven, decision-making culture.

The following is a list of symptoms that might indicate that it is time to polish your resume.

  • Your BI/DW team is "invisible" to corporate executives until you make a mistake.
  • Executives make decisions based on analyst spreadsheets rather than data warehousing reports that contain the same information.
  • Executives continually approve the acquisition of new applications with embedded BI products that run counter to your established BI standards.
  • The BI/DW group never has the funds to hire enough people (or the right people) to stay ahead of project backlogs, reinforcing business perceptions that the BI team is slow and incompetent.
  • The BI/DW group doesn't have a manager or one who is knowledgeable about BI.
  • The BI/DW group Is viewed as another IT group whose members are interchangeable.
  • The project management office insists that the BI/DW team follow traditional software development lifecycle (SDLC) and project management methodologies.
  • ERP implementations take the lionshare of business attention and IT resources.
  • You are an order taker who delivers what the business requests rather than an advisor who helps the business understand what they need and then builds it.
  • During requirements sessions, users repeatedly say they "want all the data."
  • Users use the BI tools as glorified extraction mechanisms to dump data into a spreadsheet or desktop database.
  • Users still question the validity of data more than a year after you've delivered a new report.
  • The BI/DW team doesn't track usage or know the degree of user satisfaction with BI.

Ultimately, corporate culture, which is established by executives,will determine how effective you can be in your position. If you observe more than a few of the above characteristics in your organization, and your patience has worn thin, then it's time to find an organization with a data-driven, decision making culture that makes it possible for you to have a positive impact on the business.

Posted June 14, 2011 5:18 AM
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Every new IT program needs to anticipate user backlash. Whether it's a new reporting environment, data governance initiative, or analytics program, users will resist what's new. That's because people don't like to change and they are frightened by what they can't control or see.

Reasons to Resist

Change can be personally threatening. If someone's prestige, authority, or career path is baked into the old ways, they will resist change, sometimes vociferously, doing or saying whatever it takes to undermine a new program. Similarly, change connotes uncertainty, and, when it comes to our working lives, most humans prefer to know what to expect rather than live for the moment.

Change can also be time consuming. Today's busy executives and workers have less time and more pressure than prior generations of employees and often don't want to spare the time or mental energy to learn new ways of doing things. They often prefer the old, less efficient way of doing things because it's less disruptive to their schedules and rhythms of work.

"Resistance is normal," says John Ladley, president if IMCue Solutions, a data management consultancy and author of Making Enterprise Information Management Work for Business (Morgan Kaufmann, 2010).

Symptoms. In his book, Ladley describes many ways the businesspeople exhibit resistance:

  • Foot dragging

  • Bargaining for exemption

  • Retreating to old ways of doing things

  • Poor attendance at meetings or increased absenteeism

  • Hostile or cynical comments

  • Lack of endorsements

  • Acts of political sabotage

And he writes that people resist a data governance initiative (or any other issue for that matter) for a variety of reasons:

  • Loss of identity, power or prestige

  • Personality traits (introvert vs. extrovert, capacity to embrace change)

  • They are overloaded with current responsibilities, with no time to learn new skills

  • They feel there's no value in changing for them personally ("What's in it for me?")

  • No one sought their input to devise the solution or program

  • Past initiatives failed

Managing Change

Create a Plan. Given the extraordinary lengths that most workers go to avoid change, it's imperative that you create a change management plan as part of any IT initiative. These plans identify who is going to be affected by the new program and craft communications, education and incentive strategies to get those employees to adopt new behaviors.

Identify Problem People. It's wise to identify individuals who will openly or covertly undermine the program and craft special strategies to deal with them. Sometimes, it might make sense to put them on the organizing committee if such participation might soften their parochial outlook. For lower level workers, it pays to spend extra time presenting the program to them, soliciting feedback, and reconvening at a later date to show how their input shaped the program.

Seek Help. Finally, it pays to seek counsel from your organization's marketing department to help craft a detailed plan that segments and describes end-user constituencies and devises a communications strategy tailored to each. The plan should define which messages get delivered to which constituencies via which channels at what times.

These days managing change is an entire industry. For more insight into managing change in a BI environment, check out these past blogs of mine:

- "How to Rein In a Renegade BI User (Like Me!)"
- "Managing Change: The Case of the Missing Wallet"

When implementing an IT program, be alert for the symptoms of resistance to change and be ready with a marketing and communications plan to thwart resistance before it sabotages the project.

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Posted June 7, 2011 12:01 PM
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