We all know that people, process, and technology are the keys to unlocking the business value of information technology. Although many organizations know how to setup and manage technology projects, they are less adept at setting up and managing their human resources.
Although there are no hard and fast rules about how to implement a BI Center of Excellence, top performing business intelligence programs usually adopt a common structure. After interviewing dozens of BI leaders for my recently published book, Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders, I began to see that most BI Centers of Excellence have a tripartite structure consisting of an executive team, a business team, and a technical team. (See figure 1.)
The executive team consists of line of business heads who sponsor and fund BI projects for their units. Also known as an executive committee or steering group, the executive team usually meets monthly to start and quarterly once the BI program gets established. Although its ostensible job is to review and approve the BI roadmap, allocate funds, and prioritize development, its primary purpose is to manage the politics that surround any successful BI program that proves it can deliver business value quickly. An executive team earns it pay by balancing the parochial interests of its individual members with the global interests of the company. By leading political interference, the executive team frees the BI team to work free of internecine distractions.
BI director. The business team is run by a director of BI (or analytics) who oversees the entire BI program, ranging data warehousing to business intelligence to analytics and big data. The BI director sits outside of the IT department and reports to a C-level business executive, usually a COO, CFO, or CIO. This reporting structure is critical to ensure the success of the BI program. Unlike other types of information technologies, BI needs to straddle business and IT to ensure it aligns with ever-changing business requirements.
A BI Center of Excellence requires a strong and capable leader to succeed. My book details the characteristics of such leaders. In essence, they must be "purple people"--not "blue" in the business or "red" in IT, but a perfect blend of the two, hence "purple." They talk the language of both worlds and build bridges that eliminate the "us versus them" mentality that exists in many organizations. For instance, they excel at creating teams of business and technical people who sit side by side and work together to deliver rich BI solutions. In short, these leaders are the glue that binds all the components of a BI Center of Excellence together.
BOBI. Assisting the BI director are several business-oriented BI (BOBI) professionals. The primary purpose of this BOBI team is to develop and evangelize the BI strategy and coordinate its development with the BI technical team (see below). The BOBI team identifies people doing BI work in business units and establishes relationships with them. It often recruits them to serve on a BI working committee that serves as an extension to the BOBI team and helps develop the BI strategy, troubleshoot problems, select tools, and manage the company's report porfolio. In addition, the BOBI team defines and documents BI best practices, oversees data governance programs, and gathers requirements for major BI projects.
Embedded developers and analysts. The business team also consists of report developers (i.e. super users) and business analysts who work inside a business department. These embedded developers and analysts sit with business people, participate in all their meetings, and are considered full-fledged members of the business team. Although these developers and analysts usually report to the line-of-business head, they usually have a dotted line relationship to the BI director and meet regularly with their peers in other business units to share ideas and collaborate on cross-departmental issues or initiatives. These may be the same individuals who serve on the BOBI team's working committee described above.
Statisticians. The business team also consists of statisticians (or data scientists) who develop analytical models that describe patterns in large data sets and predict outcomes. In small organizations, statisticians typically reside in a central group since individual departments usually don't have enough work to keep a statistician busy all the time. In large organizations, statisticians are typically embedded in departments but report directly to a director of analytics. Even moreso than business analysts, statisticians need an affiliation with a central group that fosters collaboration, continuing education, and career development.
The technical BI team consists of data and technical architects, ETL and BI developers, data and DW administrators, requirements specialists, quality assurance testers, trainers, and technical writers, among others. These folks are responsible for implementing the strategy established by the BOBI team and its departmental surrogates. In essence, the technical BI team builds and maintains the organization's enterprise data warehouse and associated data marts as well as any complex reports and dashboards that require skilled programmers. It also implements data definitions and rules within BI tools, data models, ETL tools, and data quality tools and works closely with data center specialists, such as database administrators, to ensure the BI environment delivers adequate scalability and performance.
Like the BOBI team, the technical BI team sits outside of the IT department and reports to the director of BI. Occasionally, however, the technical team resides within IT while the BOBI team resides outside of it. To succeed with this type of hybrid structure requires that the director of BI and the director of IT maintain a close working relationship with constant communication.
Although there are infinite ways to organize a BI team, best-in-class organizations develop a tripartite organizational structure consisting of executive, business, and technical teams. The director of BI (or analytics) is the glue that holds these three teams together and must possess strong business and technical skills. Ideally, the business and technical teams reside outside of IT to align more closely with the business. These teams ensure further alignment by embedding report developers and analysts (and sometimes statisticians) within business departments. However, to ensure continuity and cross-departmental coordination, these embedded developers and analysts also maintain a reporting relationship with the director of BI and often serve on a BOBI working committee that supports BI deployment for the entire organization.
Author's Note: If you would like more information about how to organize and motivate BI and analytical professionals, my book contains several chapters on these topics: Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders
Posted November 14, 2012 11:22 AM
Permalink | 4 Comments |