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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.

The most optimal BI organization adopts a federated structure which blends a mix of centralized and decentralized features. I discussed the basic features of a federated BI organization in my last blog entry and the journey most organizations take to get there. (See "Organizing the BICC Part I: Move to the Middle"). This blog discusses the division of responsibilities between a corporate BI team and embedded BI teams in a federated BI organization.

Organizational federation is not a new or unique concept. For instance, most countries have a federated government. In the United States, federal, state, and municipal governments share civic responsibility. The federal government funds and manages issues of national concern, such as defense, immigration, and interstate commerce, while state and municipal governments fund and oversee local functions, such as policing, transportation, and trash disposal. However, there is a fuzzy boundary between jurisdictions, requiring federal, state, and local officials to collaborate to meet the needs of citizens.

The same is true in the world of BI. Corporate and departmental BI teams focus on different tasks but ultimately share responsibility for the delivery of BI solutions and must work in concert to meet business needs. However, there is a reasonably clear division of responsibility in two areas: data management and report development.

Data Management

The corporate BI team is chiefly responsible for managing data that is shared among two or more business units. In other words, the corporate BI team builds and maintains an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and dependent data marts geared to individual departments. The corporate BI team also facilitates data governance processes to create standard definitions for commonly used metrics, dimensions, and hierarchies. It publishes these definitions into a data dictionary shared by all business units and embeds them into a business model within the enterprise BI tool.

Report Management

On the reporting side, departments assume the lionshare of responsibility for creating departmental dashboards and scorecards. The BI Reporting Framework (see figure 2) depicts this division of responsibility. The left half of the circle shows the reporting responsibilities of the corporate BI team and right half shows the reporting responsibilities of business units. These responsibilities are divided by the other axis, which represents "top down BI" and "bottom up" BI.

Figure 2. BI Reporting Framework
BI CoE Divison of Responsibility - No Arrows.jpg

Top Down and Bottom Up. In top-down BI, the corporate BI team delivers standard reports and dashboards to casual users. The team gathers requirements, models and sources the data, and then loads it into the data warehouse. Developers then build reports and dashboards that dynamically query data warehouse data. In contrast, in bottom-up BI, power users query the data warehouse directly, in an ad hoc fashion. They explore, analyze, and integrate data from various systems and then create reports based on their findings, which they often publish to departmental colleagues and executives. Basically, top-down BI delivers standard reports to casual users, and bottom-up BI world enables power users to explore and analyze data and create ad hoc reports.

Enterprise BI. Thus, the upper left quadrant in figure 2 represents the intersection of enterprise BI and top-down BI. This is where corporate BI developers (i.e. enterprise) create production reports and dashboards (i.e. top-down) that would be difficult for any single division to create on their own. In the bottom left quadrant, corporate statisticians or data scientists (i.e. enterprise) who are aligned with individual divisions but not collocated, explore and query data in an ad hoc fashion to create predictive learning models.

Divisional BI. In the bottom-right quadrant, business unit analysts in each division use self-service BI tools to analyze data and create ad hoc reports to display their insights. If executives and managers want to continue seeing these reports on a regular basis, the business unit analysts turn them over to the collocated BI professionals who convert them into production reports (top-right quadrant.) This handoff between analysts and embedded BI staff is critically important, but rarely happens in more organizations. Too often, business unit analysts publish reports and then end up perpetually maintaining them. This is a job they aren't trained or paid to do and keeps them from spending time on more value-added tasks, like analyzing the business.

To succeed, there needs to be a bidirectional flow of information between each of the sectors as depicted in figure 2.

Figure 2. Handoffs between BI Sectors

Going around the diagram, we can describe the handoffs that occur between each group in a BI Center of Excellence:

  • Enterprise BI Team-->Departmental BI Team (Top left to top right): The enterprise BI team has data and reporting professionals who specialize in specific tools. Besides creating complex, cross-functional reports and dashboards, they provide first line-of-support to embedded BI professionals who are more business oriented than tools oriented.
  • Departmental BI Team-->Enterprise BI Team (top left to top right): Conversely, the embedded BI professionals help gather requirements for complex cross-functional applications and communicate them to enterprise BI reporting specialists.
  • Departmental BI Team-->Departmental Analysts (top right to bottom right): Embedded BI professionals provide first line of support to business analysts who need to learn how to use self-service BI tools to explore data and create ad hoc reports.
  • Departmental Analysts-->Departmental BI Team (bottom right to top right): Conversely, analysts hand over their ad hoc reports to embedded BI professionals to convert them into production reports.
  • Departmental Analysts-->Data Scientists (Bottom right to bottom left): Departmental analysts submit requests to data scientists for more complex analyses than they can perform and work with them to gather requirements and data sets.
  • Data Scientists-->Departmental Analysts (Bottom left to bottom right): Conversely, data scientists aligned with a department provide insights to business analysts based on data models they've developed.
  • Data Scientists-->Enterprise BI Team. (Bottom left to top left): Data scientists deliver model scores to the enterprise BI team, which incorporates them into complex reports. (Ditto with departmental reports.)
  • Enterprise BI Team-->Data Scientists (Top left to bottom left): The enterprise BI team delivers data and requirements to the data scientists who use them to create analytical models.
Bridging the disparate worlds of top-down and bottom-up BI and enterprise and divisional BI is not easy. It requires a lot of communication and collaboration. The structure that glues together these BI sectors requires both matrixed reporting relationships and a multi-layered governance body. This is the topic of my next blog.

Posted October 17, 2013 10:54 AM
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