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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.

Most business intelligence (BI) professionals understand the need for the business to drive the BI program to achieve success. But, most don't have a clue how to make this happen.

To be fair, some organizations are lost causes. Their executives view BI as a reporting cost-center driven by IT. They don't understand the value of information to optimize performance and deliver a sustainable advantage. They haven't figured out that "data is the new oil" and that whoever masters the means of data production, wins.

In most other organizations, the business is well meaning, but too busy and preoccupied to commit the necessary time to ensure the success of a BI program. When push comes to shove, they still relegate the duties of delivering information-centric applications to the IT department, entrusting them to make key decisions about semantics, metrics, and targets. And most competent IT teams are happy to oblige, since they often know the business as well as or better than many in the business.

BOBI on Board

Two BI Teams. However, there are a few organizations in which executives both talk the talk and walk the walk. These executives make substantial investments in BI but do so in a unique way: they don't just fund the acquisition of technology and hire IT staff to manage it, they create and staff a business-oriented BI team to complement the IT-oriented BI staff. In other words, they support TWO BI teams, one focused on the business, the other on technology.

This business-oriented BI team doesn't yet have an official designation in the BI lexicon. It currently goes by many names: enterprise data solutions, information management, business information analysis, business insights and analytics, and even business intelligence. But since it's a business-oriented BI (BOBI) team, let's just cut to the chase and call it BOBI.

BOBI teams typically report to an executive on the business side. Ideally, it's the chief operations officer or chief technology officer not the head of a department, like finance or marketing who can limit BOBI's activities to a too narrow domain. BOBI should have an enterprise focus. Working jointly with IT, BOBI should build the proverbial data factory to ensure clean, consistent, and accurate data to power all BI solutions throughout the organization.

More than BI Governance

I'll admit, BOBI is a revelation to me. Most corporate BI teams I've seen are part of the IT department and consist mainly of technologists with a business bent. I've always advocated that the primary duty of such BI teams is to foster a BI governance structure comprised of two voluntary, ad hoc committees: a steering committee of executive level sponsors and a working committee of business analysts and subject matter experts.

The executive steering committee provides funding, prioritizes projects, and approves the high-level BI roadmap, while the BI working committee works with IT to create the roadmap, flesh out data warehouse subject areas, select tools, and prioritize enhancements. I've always said these business analysts and SMEs can be your best allies or worse enemies, so it's best to make them full partners in the BI journey.

Missing Link. However, what I missed is that these business analysts should not be part-time volunteers with other priorities and bosses; they should be allocated full-time to the BI program. In addition, they should be assigned to a dedicated BI team led by a business-savvy BI director who also has ample experience running BI and technology projects.

BI-Lingual Professionals

I thank Nick Triantos and Andre Synnett for steering me straight. Nick is currently director of enterprise BI and Data Programs at McAfee and former director of Quality Data Systems at Cisco, while Andre is vice president of the BI Competency Center and the soon-to-be chief data officer at Caisse de depot, a large pension fund investment firm in Quebec. Both come from the business but have substantial technology experience. They are the proverbial "purple people" needed to succeed with BI: neither blue from the business or red from IT, but a perfect blend (i.e., purple) of both.

Both Nick and Andre run business teams dedicated to BI that sit between the business and IT. Team members, like themselves, are bilingual ("BI-lingual"): they can speak both business and technology.

On the business side, team members gather requirements while simultaneously evangelizing the capabilities of their respective companies' BI infrastructure to address current business objectives. They also develop the BI roadmap, manage the BI budget, oversee BI and data governance programs, and create change management programs. They often establish standards for the BI user experience and oversee the BI tool selection process.

On the technical side, they translate business requirements into technical specifications, manage metadata, and document best practices for delivering BI solutions, They work with data architects to flesh out the BI roadmap, project managers to accommodate shifting user requirements, technical architects to select and deploy BI tools, and help desk staff to ensureeffective end-user support and training.


To succeed with BI, you need to convince executives to step up and fund BOBI--a
permanent business-oriented BI team. Without such an investment, the odds of achieving BI success are stacked against you.

Posted October 4, 2011 7:11 AM
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