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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 currently director of BI Leadership Research, an education and research service run by TechTarget that provides objective, vendor neutral content to business intelligence (BI) professionals worldwide. Wayne’s consulting company, BI Leader Consulting, provides strategic planning, architectural reviews, internal workshops, and long-term mentoring to both user and vendor organizations. For many years, Wayne served as director of education and research at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) where he oversaw the company’s content and training programs and chaired its BI Executive Summit. He can be reached by email at weckerson@techtarget.com.

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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.

Summary

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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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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One of the key challenges in business intelligence (BI) is balancing corporate and departmental interests. This is a thread that weaves through most discussions of BI governance, data governance, and IT governance.

The tension between corporate standards and departmental autonomy goes well beyond the domain of BI and even information technology. In fact, it's endemic to the human condition, a driver of human history. In the United States, we fought a civil war over the scope of states' powers within a federal government. Closer to home, most of you have probably felt the heavy hand of a new corporate parent after an acquisition and have had to adjust your expectations and work habits accordingly.

Wayne, the Renegade

Ironically, I write articles like these to help corporate BI teams rein in renegade BI users, yet by nature, I'm one of those renegades. I started at TDWI when it was a private, almost family-run operation. But by the time I left, I had lived through two corporate parents, one benign and ineffective, the other bold and bossy. Given where I started with TDWI, I must admit that I bristled at taking instructions from corporate headquarters--almost on principle--especially when those standardized, sanitized instructions made little sense for our domain or cost us time, money, or customer goodwill. My mantra was "think local and resist global." I wanted complete control over my own domain. In short, I was a BI manager's worst nightmare.

Pondering my role as a potential BI "ne'er do well" got me thinking: how would I, as a corporate BI chieftain, deal with me, the proverbial BI bad boy? How would I get Wayne, the rebel, to willingly adopt corporate standards and tools and stop rushing into projects with short-term, duplicate solutions? How would I get Wayne to wait a little longer for applications that are more aligned, scalable, and durable than what he can build himself to serve his own parochial interests? How would I get him to trust the corporate BI team and rely on us instead of fight us?

Viewed through this lens, the tactics to rein in a BI renegade became clear to me. And I validated them through gut feel: if I felt they might work on me, then perhaps they might work for you in the BI trenches.

Some are bottom-up tactics that you, as a BI manager, can employ directly, such as appealing to my ego and self interest or just plain impressing the hell out of me with what you can deliver. Or you can rely on top-down tactics in which you need to recruit the CEO to buy goodwill through monetary incentives or force compliance with threat of dismissal. I've discussed many of these tactics in prior blogs, but here is a quick synthesis:

Bottom Up Strategies - What the BI Manager Can Do-

Impress me. Show me (Wayne the Renegade) that you can deliver what I want on time and within budget. Trust is hard to build, easy to destroy. Of course, since I never really know what I want until I see it, and what I need changes monthly based on ever-changing business conditions, good luck! Ideally, you know the business as well or better than I do because of your long tenure at the company and can anticipate what I want before I ask. Or you have skilled programmers who can build solutions incredibly fast without a lot of committee meetings or the need to rigidly adhere to architectural standards. In some cases, you recognize that it's more important to go fast than get it right and are willing to reset your architecture once a year to get things back in sync. Bottom line, if I think you can move faster than I can with my own resources, then you are my man (or woman)!

Give me a title. Give me a nice, ego-fattening title to entice me to run the BI working committee. Tell me you want me to help shape the BI program to address my needs. Ask me to recruit my buddies in other departments to serve on the committee with me. Repent of your team's perennial shortcomings ("too slow," "too costly," and "too structured.") Acknowledge that you want to do better, but emphasize that you can't do it without my help. I will likely be flattered by your blandishments. And once I chair the committee, I'll be unwittingly sucked into a position of protecting global interests ("my buddies") not just my own.

Give me a job. If I'm too busy to participate on a working committee or too skeptical of corporate BI, then up the ante. Recruit me to work on your team or perhaps even run it. Yes, make me your boss and give me control of your budget and people. Successful BI teams recruit people from the business, who know the business, and can talk the language of business. And if they are renegade spreadmart users, they know enough technology to pick up the rest. These people build bridges of trust between the business and IT, paying considerable dividends.

Sell me. If you can't recruit me to join the steering committee or your team, sell me on the benefits of rebuilding my application. Find out how I'd like to improve my spreadmart--e.g., add more data sources, make it real time, add a better visual interface--and the create a proposal that does that. And if I like it the way it is, show me a comparable application at a competitor that shows me the untapped potential of my application. Recruit vendors to deliver a slick demo and maybe donate some free software. Calculate how much time and money you'll save me once the application is built and trumpet how good it will make me look in the eyes of my boss.

Co-opt me. If I really don't trust you or your team, then give me access to your platform. Let me use your ETL tools and create my own data marts on your data warehouse platform. Let me add my own data to the data marts and use my own BI tools to access the data. Provide basic guidelines for using the ETL tools and platform, such as naming conventions, scheduling, and error management, and insist that I use corporate definitions for all shared data elements.

Bribe me. If all else fails and I'm a key player with sizable political clout whose support could benefit the BI program, then bribe me. Give me a freebie under the table. Take me out to lunch and learn about my mission-critical spreadmart which executives rely upon to make key decisions. Then make a secret pact in which you build out my application free of charge--or at least an initial module as a proof point--and I agree to fund the development and maintenance if what you develop meets my requirements and timeframe. Tell me you will assign your best developer to my project--someone I like and trust and who has the collective skill sets to build the entire application by himself. If you can deliver such a quick win, you'll make a powerful ally for life.

Top Down Strategies - Enacted by the CEO-

Force me. The quickest way to get buy-in to an enterprise BI program is to have the CEO require everyone in the organization to adhere to corporate standards in the use of data and reports. An edict is needed to set the stage, but won't be sufficient to stamp out renegade activities. To accomplish that, the CEO needs to "reassign" people who spend the majority of their time creating spreadmarts. However, before he restructures the workforce, he should make sure there is a viable enterprise BI alternative to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, over time, spreadmarts will creep back in to the organization unless the corporate BI team can get ahead of requirements and data sources.

Incent me. People go where the money is. So the CEO should base the bonus of a few senior managers in part on the growth of the company. The CEO should require them to serve on a cross-functional steering committee that oversees the data warehouse and BI functions. By paying them to think global, they will more effectively align their groups with global mandates to support an enterprise data warehouse and BI service. They will more effectively restrict or curtail unauthorized usage in their own departments, understanding the value that will accrue to the organization (and themselves) by adhering to a single version of enterprise data.

Summary

To rein in renegade BI users like me, you need a combination of tactics above. I can vouch that they will have some effect, if not work outright. Bottom-up strategies are things you can work on now, while top-down tactics require the cooperation of an enlightened senior executive. Nothing is a surefire bet, but if you use common sense and business savvy, you'll find common ground with even the most recalcitrant user, like me.


Posted March 25, 2011 1:49 PM
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I had the pleasure this week of talking about performance dashboards and analytics to more than 100 CFOs and financial managers at CFO Magazine's Corporate Performance Management Conference in New York City. They were a terrific audience: highly engaged with great questions and many were taking copious notes. Many were from mid-size companies. The dashboard topic was so popular that the event organizers scheduled a second three-hour workshop to accommodate demand.

I normally talk about business intelligence (BI) to IT audiences, so it was refreshing to address a business audience. Not surprisingly, they came at the topic from a slightly different perspective. Here's a sample of what they were thinking about:

  • Scorecards. The CFOs were more interested in scorecards than I anticipated. Since there are entire conferences devoted to scorecards (e.g. Palladium and the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative), which have largely attracted a financial audience, I thought that this would be old news to them. But I was wrong. They were particularly interested in how to cascade metrics throughout an organization and across scorecard environments.
  • Metrics. Not surprisingly, many found it challenging to create metrics in the first place. Most found that "the business" couldn't decide what it wanted or achieve consensus among various departmental heads. We talked about the challenges of "top-down" metrics-driven BI versus bottom-up ad hoc BI, and the tradeoffs of each approach.
  • The "Business." Since I've always considered finance to be part of the "business" it was surprising to hear finance refer to the "business" as a group separate from them. But, then it dawned on me that finance, like IT, is a shared service that is desperately trying to move from the back-office to the front-office and deliver more value to the business. Many CFOs in the audience have astutely recognized that providing consistent information and metrics via a dashboard is a great way to add value.
  • Project Management. The CFOs didn't have much perspective on how to organize a dashboard project. They didn't realize that you need a steering committee (e.g. sponsors), KPI team (e.g., subject matter experts plus one IT person) and a development team, and that the team doesn't disband after the project ends (i.e. project versus program management.)
  • Two to Tango. They also seemed to recognize that the business is the primary reason for failed BI projects not the IT team. If the business says it wants a new dashboard but the sponsor doesn't devote enough time to see the project through or free up the time of key subject matter experts to work with the BI team, the project can't succeed. Performance dashboards must be business owned and business-driven to succeed.
  • Requirements. Many CFOs also didn't realize that you need to development requirements (i.e., define metrics) before purchasing a tool. They admit that many projects they've been involved in have put the "cart before the horse" so to speak.
  • Technology. Not surprisingly, the CFOs had little understanding of the tools and architecture required to drive various types of dashboards. I don't talk much about dashboard technology and architectures to IT audiences because they know most of it already. But it's all new to the business, even basic things like how the data gets into a dashboard screen.
  • Build Once, Deploy Many Times. Perhaps the biggest revelation for many business people was the notion that you build a dashboard once and configure the views based on user roles and permissions. They didn't understand that one dashboard could consist of separate and distinct views for sales, marketing, finance, etc. and that within each of those views, the data could vary based on your level in the organization and permissions.
  • Change Management. Most recognized change management as a huge issue. Most had experienced internal resistance to new performance measurements and were eager to share stories and swap ideas for ensuring adoption.

What I Learned

I learned a few things, too. First, three hours is not enough time to address all the topics that business people need to learn to have a working knowledge of performance dashboards. Thankfully, I covered the most important topics in my book, "Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business" which just came out in its second edition.

Second, I realized I have a lot to offer a business audience. Although I've been addressing IT audiences for the past 22 years, the way I present information resonates better with a business audience. It's not that I avoid technical issues; rather, I place technology in a business and process context and provide pragmatic examples and advice so people can apply the information back in the office.

Hopefully, I'll be delivering more business-oriented presentations in the coming months and years!


Posted February 2, 2011 11:23 AM
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Ever walk through mud up to your ankles? It's dirty and slow going.

And that sums up the experience of many BI teams these days. They are mired in organizational and technical mud; they find it difficult to capture the interest of the business community and gain momentum to deliver real value to the business. "We need a spark," one BI manager confided in me recently.

Typically, ERP and other IT projects divert resources from the BI team, which can't get ahead of its queue of major BI projects. Casual users are slow to adopt self-service BI tools, while power users continue to create spreadmarts at a furious pace. Many users continue to submit requests for highly personalized versions of existing reports, sucking up the BI team's spare time. Meanwhile, the BI team struggles to find time and money to upgrade its data warehouse and BI platforms and deliver the functionality and performance that users demand. As a result, the BI team gets a reputation for being slow, unresponsive, and expensive.

For every step forward, it feels like you're taking two backwards. And most of your day is spent fighting fires or defending your processes and people.

You're Not Alone! If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. According to TDWI's BI Maturity Model assessment, almost two-thirds of BI teams (64%) are in the Teenager phase of their BI journey, teetering on the precipice of the Chasm which separates BI adolescence from BI Adulthood. There are a lot of growing pains involved in achieving BI adulthood and there are rarely shortcuts. Often, the only recourse is patience and persistence: keep moving ahead and eventually you will succeed. Trust me.

Sponsorship Issues

Why? In the long term, nothing stays the same. If you have a competent BI team and effective processes and you're still mired in the mud, then in all likelihood, you have a sponsorship problem. (See "Humpty Dumpty and the CEO.") Business executives that don't value fact-based decision making--or business intelligence--don't last long. If they don't understand that lasting competitive advantage comes from combining human intelligence and business intelligence, then they are managing blind. Eventually, the marketplace will catch up with them and knock them out of the game. (See "What Every Executive Should Know about Business Intelligence.")

So, if you wait long enough, the marketplace will get you a new set of executives who hopefully value fact-based decision making and look to your team to drive new strategic initiatives.

In the meantime, as you struggle with unenlightened sponsors, your only recourse is to evangelize BI relentlessly. But remember words are cheap, and no one really listens much these days. A picture, on the other hand, is worth a thousand words.

Find a Quick Win. What you need is a quick win to galvanize attention and help executives see the possibilities of BI. (See "The Art of the Quick Win".) Find an executive with a burning need for information and then volunteer to build something fast that relieves their pain. Be ready to work overtime for a few months and be ready to break your own BI team's "ironclad" rules regarding architecture, development, and tools. Plead with a vendor to allocate resources free of charge to get an application up and running. Or use open source tools and the cloud to deliver fast with little upfront cost.

Bottom line: show what BI can do! If you capture the imagination of the business, you'll get funding to put the application on a sturdier IT foundation. (It's always better to meet the business needs first and fix the architecture later.)

Of course, there is a chance that your quick fails, and your reputation suffers. If that happens, do a post-mortem to figure out what happened. Talk to consultants or experts to get their perspective. (Let's chat!) Learn from your mistakes. And then move on.

If All Else Fails....I mean that literally. Find a new job. The industry is always looking for good, talented BI professionals. There is no reason to suffer in a dead-end environment forever. Consider doing a stint for a consultancy to broaden your horizons and skill sets. The more BI projects you work on and the more BI teams you work with, the more you know and can contribute to other BI projects.

Change is good even if the only thing you can change is yourself!


Posted January 28, 2011 6:39 AM
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