Tag Archives: reporting groups

Still Fogged In But Conditions Improving

I’m trying to find a balance between dealing with the work that was already in progress when I arrived and moving the focus from being reactive to acting according to a strategy. That means not getting sucked too far into the day-to-day. That’s a tough thing for me since I feel more comfortable when I’m in control of operational details. But I’m going to have to let that go, at least to some extent.

I need to concentrate on defining and selling the BI/DW strategy. I’ve been working on that this week. The approach is to define the current state of BI/DW capability and need, define what the future state should look like, and then describe how we get from where we are to where we want to be. Sounds simple enough but there’s lots of work in sussing out the details for each the three broad categories. I’m building a proposal / presentation around describing the current state in terms of the TDWI BI maturity model and then describing what greater maturity looks like and what the benefits to the organization are. Finally, I’ll lay out a road map for a robust BI program that drives us to the right-hand side of the maturity model.

For communicating the basic shape of a BI road map, I like the Kimball framework. It shows how BI programs grow by advancing on three tracks simultaneously: Architecture/Technical Infrastructure, Dimensional Model, and End-user tools. This is a framework that I’ve successfully used in the past for defining BI program strategies. However, there is a very important class of activity that this framework does not address. I think it falls under the heading of organizational change management.

Moving through the levels of BI maturity always entails some degree of cultural change, sometimes a great deal of cultural change. For example how do you to get the independent reporting groups that have created their own data marts (spreadmarts) to either give up their responsibilities to a centralized BI team or become part of an extended virtual BI team that operates according to a common set of best practices?

There is an even more fundamental cultural shift that some organizations have to go through: getting people to be fact-based in their decision-making. Many times I’ve asked an executive or manager “what questions do you need to answer about your business (or the process) to make decisions on how to manageĀ  it?” only to be met with a blank stare or a Kramden-esque hamana-hamana. That’s when you know there isn’t much of an internal market for BI services. In that case you have to make the market by helping drive the cultural change from gut-feel management to data-driven management.

We’ll see how it goes at this company.


Week 1 on the job

Most of this week I spent learning the lay of the BI land. There are many departmental reporting groups that have their own data silos. I knew this going in, so no surprises. I need to gather information about them – put together an inventory. Part of the program strategy will be to bring some of the groups under the umbrella of a competency center-like structure while taking over the work of the others within the BI team proper. An inventory of subject areas, tools, strengths and weaknesses of the departmental reporting groups will be critical to making those decisions.

Right off the bat, I’m faced with a tough decision about a BI tool. One reporting group has several Tableau client licenses and wants get Tableau server. Being new, I have no idea why Tableau was chosen or how it’s being used. I don’t know what need they think having a server license will satisfy. It seems the decision to allow this to happen was made before I arrived. I’ve been asked to meet with the users and then facilitate the acquisition and implementation of the server.

The scariest thing about this is that they’re using Tableau to query against their core transactional systems, not against a data warehouse. Yikes. Perhaps this particular user group is savvy enough about the data that it’s less of a risk than it seems on the surface. I just don’t know yet.

I’ll meet with the users next week and then I’ll have to decide whether I need to push back on this plan. The tough thing is that if I feel I have to try to stop this initiative, I’ll have to do it without having an alternative solution to offer. This genie just may need to let out its bottle for the short-term.