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Roles and Responsibilities in Business Intelligence Teams, Part 1

Originally published August 5, 2008

Last month’s article on hiring business intelligence (BI) professionals sparked interest in better understanding roles and responsibilities in BI teams. Although every organization is different, the following descriptions may be useful to BI professionals as they attempt to define and/or redefine roles. Roles typically depend on the maturity of the organization, size of the team, skill sets available on the team, and organizational culture.

In the broadest context, tasks associated with roles should be focused on the two dimensions of program and project: Part 1 will focus on program roles and Part 2 of this article will focus on project roles.

Executive Leadership/Program Sponsorship

To succeed as a corporate effort and to achieve strategic benefits, the BI program will require the sponsorship of a cross-functional steering committee (the committee) to fulfill the following responsibilities. An executive sponsor for the overall program would chair the committee, which would consist of senior business managers representing all business functions and the IT organization. The steering committee would:

  • Have the authority to set the direction of business intelligence.

  • Resolve alternative strategies and areas of business focus.

  • Prioritize BI releases.

  • Allocate and re-direct resources.

  • Dedicate funding.

  • Remove obstacles.

  • Ensure that all related projects cooperate and coordinate with the BI program team.

  • Address organizational dynamics regarding data ownership, usage and dissemination.

  • Act as senior liaisons between the program and all potential business areas that may use the business intelligence.

The BI program team creates the foundation, provides continuity and is accountable for standards, coordination and integration.

  • Coordinates development schedules, activities and staff across all project teams.

  • Defines the organizational structure including roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities.

  • Defines the architectural foundation of the entire program.

  • Defines methods and techniques for use by all teams.

  • Defines data and tools standards, including tools for use in data acquisition and preparation, data modeling, metadata management, structured queries and online analytical processing (OLAP).

  • Directs and supports the project teams in the use of the selected tools and architectures, providing continuity and consistency across projects.

  • Defines the overall corporate data model on which the BI is based.

  • Markets and sells the BI Program to the entire organization.

  • Establishes training programs for the business users.

Project teams are responsible for execution of the BI program team's strategy within the context of each release. Project teams perform detailed source system analysis and implement data acquisition and preparation techniques specific to each source system. They also perform detailed data analysis and implement distribution, analytics, decision support systems, etc. to satisfy the business need driver of the project. Project teams may be staffed internally with employees, outsourced or staffed with a blend of employees and consultants. Regardless of the staffing model, it is critical that projects coordinate and cooperate with the BI program team. Specific roles for project teams will be discussed in Part 2.

Program Position Descriptions

Different roles are required on the program and project teams. The following presents a high level description of program roles. One person may fill multiple roles. A new or different role may be created based on your current staff's experience.

BI Program Team Roles

BI Program Manager

The BI program manager develops and maintains the BI strategy. This involves setting direction, guiding the planning process to develop the vision and business rationale, and establishing the overall approach. The program manager coordinates multiple projects and ensures that the work products and processes of the project teams meet the defined standards. As a premier advocate of business intelligence, the program manager must be able to work with multiple business constituencies, effectively manage their expectations and establish priorities. The program manager must have a solid understanding of both the business and the technical aspects of BI. He or she must drive the completion of projects within the established scope, while simultaneously planning for and managing unknown future BI requirements in a dynamic environment. The program manager must sell, evangelize and motivate business users to contribute time to the effort. He or she must constantly reinforce the role of BI in the business and clearly communicate what business intelligence will and will not deliver. The program manager should have solid organizational change management skills to effectively influence the environment. The program manager is accountable for the following:

  • Monitor industry trends and identify emerging technologies that should be adopted.

  • Analyze company’s competitive position in the industry.

  • Analyze business drivers.

  • Find and confirm corporate goals.

  • Find and confirm functional goals.

  • Identify business metrics related to goals.

  • Relate business drivers to corporate goals.

  • Relate corporate goals to functional goals.

  • Relate metrics to all goals.

  • Understand business strategy.

  • Identify business opportunities for information usage.

  • Articulate the business value of information usage.

  • Develop and maintain BI strategy.

  • Gain economic support.

  • Develop and maintain relationships with top business and technical executives.

  • Review existing business processes.

  • Analyze impact of business intelligence on business processes.

  • Assess readiness for business intelligence.

  • Facilitate the prioritization of projects in consideration of competing business interests.

  • Understand the subject matter.

  • Anticipate what users will want.

  • Manage expectations.

  • Lead organizational change management effort.

  • Coordinate multiple increments at the program level.

  • Scope multiple increments at the program level.

  • Budget for multiple increments.

  • Plan and schedule resources for multiple increments.

  • Select and motivate team members. 

  • Evaluate team members.

  • Assess risk.

  • Identify measures of success.

  • Measure success/ROI.

  • Manage expectations.

  • Adapt existing methodology to warehousing disciplines.

BI Data Architect

The BI data architect defines and manages the data structures required to support the enterprise through the BI program. The data architect is a focal point for understanding data from the corporate perspective and representing the data so it can be understood uniformly throughout the company. This role supports multiple projects in building new data sets and data structures as required, and for managing the distribution, replication and archiving of data throughout the enterprise. This person will utilize a range of new design techniques optimized for BI data structures and must be capable of teaching these new techniques to the project level designers. The data architect must manage the balance of current and future needs in both design and content. He/she must also resolve semantic discrepancies in data definitions that arise among multiple sources and projects. While logical data modeling is a preferred skill, this role requires advanced skills in data design and physical implementation of databases. This person is accountable for the following:

  • Develop information architecture.

  • Manage current and future needs in data design and content.

  • Resolve semantic discrepancies in data definitions that arise among multiple sources and projects.

  • Gain consensus among users on common business data definitions.

BI ETL Architect

The BI ETL architect determines the optimal approach for obtaining data from diverse source system platforms and moving it to the BI. This involves understanding all of the source system platforms, application architectures and DBMSs. The person in this role designs and implements the infrastructure used by ETL s pecialists on specific projects. This work includes constant refinement activities to standardize and implement new functionality based on experiences learned during the course of specific projects. This also involves the establishment and enforcement of a concise series of technical standards for the deliverables of individual projects. The ETL architect provides input to the long-term technology planning portions of the program plan. This person assists and coaches ETL specialists during the course of their individual projects. He/she has a thorough understanding of – and is capable of teaching – the diverse BI acquisition techniques and the decision rules on how to apply them. The ETL architect is accountable for the following:

  • Determine the optimal approach for obtaining data from diverse source system platforms and moving it to the BI.

  • Implement the ETL infrastructure used at a project level.

  • Establish and enforce technical standards for deliverables of projects.

  • Coach project ETL specialists on data acquisition techniques, decision rules and how to apply them.

NOTE: Sometimes the data architect and ETL architect roles are combined and given a title of chief architect.

BI Technical Architect

The BI technical architect holds responsibility for architecting the BI environment. Critical to this role is the need to interface with both operations and technical personnel to ensure the integrity of the BI environment. Selection and use of monitoring tools is essential in supporting the long-term inventory management function associated with a production BI environment. This person is accountable for the following:

  • Assess current technical architecture.

  • Estimate system capacity to meet near- and long-term processing requirements.

  • Define BI strategy/processes for:
    • Operations
    • Technical architecture
    • Definition of technical architecture for BI environment
    • Hardware requirements
    • DBMS requirements
    • Middleware requirements
    • Network requirements
    • Server configurations
    • Client configurations

  • Estimate costs for technical components.

  • Develop ETL technical architecture.

  • Evaluate and select ETL tool.

  • Develop access/analysis tool technical architecture.

  • Evaluate and select access/analysis tools.

  • Interface with DBA staff.

  • Interface with systems operations staff.

  • Work with data designer and the ETL architect to determine space requirements.

  • Monitor BI usage capture and maintenance of metrics.

  • Develop and manage the BI dependency plan, job scheduling and cycle management.

  • Develop disaster recovery strategy.

  • Determine and ensure execution of backup and recovery strategy.

  • Ensure execution of archival strategy.

  • Continue to investigate and evaluate emerging BI technologies.

  • Define and get agreement with support and IT operations personnel on service level agreements.

Metadata Manager

The metadata manager is a part of the ongoing BI program team. The role is responsible for maintaining the inventory of data content (structure, level of detail, and amount of history) in alignment with the evolving needs of the business. This is an active process that involves monitoring the patterns of use, looking for under use, overuse, and inappropriate use of BI resources, and then taking appropriate action. The metadata manager periodically reviews all data content in the BI environment to identify opportunities for improvement or problem avoidance. He/she is accountable for the following:

  • Maintain inventory of data content (structure, level of detail and amount of history)

  • Periodically review all data content in the BI environment to identify opportunities for improvement of problem avoidance.

  • Design metadata solution.

BI Administrator

BI administration includes testing, monitoring, managing and validating BI activity, including data extraction, transformation, movement, loading, cleansing and updating processes. The BI administrator is accountable for the following:

  • Ensure the BI meets service level requirements.

  • Monitor business use and performance of the BI and provide feedback to BI architects, developers, metadata manager, and database administrators.

  • Develop, manage, schedule and document BI operations and tasks, including extraction, movement, loading, archival, security, backup and aggregate table creation.

  • Manage requests for changes and prioritize work based on business needs and available resources.

  • Manage maintenance processes and procedures.

  • Conduct operational tests.

  • Performance monitoring and tuning

  • Install and administer the warehousing tool set.

  • Install new equipment and software patches and upgrades.

  • Administer user access and security.

  • Search for causes of incompatibility between the warehousing environment and other systems.

  • Back up and restore data as needed.

  • Implement user-defined security rules.

  • Ensure exploration environment is up and running at appropriate times.

  • Ensure production environment is up and running at appropriate times.

  • Ensure training environment is up and running at appropriate times.

  • Environment maintenance.

Often, one person serves in this role at a Program level, across multiple projects. If the Program grows dramatically, this role may move to a Project level where there are administrators for each project.

The highest performing BI organizations focus on both program tasks and project tasks simultaneously. Although program teams may not be staffed with separate individuals, the program roles must be fulfilled by some combination of internal or external resources to ensure that adequate attention is given to the long-term road map.

  • Maureen ClarryMaureen Clarry

    Maureen is the Founder and President/CEO of CONNECT: The Knowledge Network (CONNECT), an Xtivia company. CONNECT specializes in data, technical, and organizational solutions for business intelligence. Maureen has been on the faculty of TDWI since 1998, served on the Board for the Colorado Chapter of TDWI, and participates on the Data Warehousing Advisory Board for the University of Denver. CONNECT has been recognized as the South Metro Denver Small Business of the Year, the Top 25 Women Owned and Top 150 Privately Owned Businesses in Colorado. Maureen can be reached at mclarry@connectknowledge.com or 303-730-7171, ext. 102.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Maureen's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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