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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Keys to BI Acceptance

This is not meant to be an inclusive list, but rather three of the keys that I found to be interesting from the TDWI courses I have attended so far.

A Good Data Steward - this person exists to makes sure the definition of a product, unit, dollar, and every other attribute of data is consistent across the enterprise. The definition of data is key to quality data at the other end of the project. It is up to the Data Steward to achieve this consensus without imposing it. When you consider projects that span across a legacy source and a source from a business merger or acquisition, this can be very difficult to accomplish. As I sat and ate lunch today, I spoke with a gentleman who was complaining about this very thing. Someone had not defined the data correctly, and produced reports with this inconsistency. "It was about 96% accurate," he said. Well, is 96% accurate good enough? Will it give the people who used that information the ability to make informed decisions? Maybe, but consider that it is not. Consider that nobody realizes its wrong until it is too late. You probably will not get kudos for providing a system that works as intended or better. You will surely hear about it if it doesn't work. It doesn't matter if you fix it either. The perception is there. It will become that "system that always produces wrong data."

Good Usage Data
- Not as straight forward as a data steward, good usage data can provide the means to a well accepted BI Program. The natural progression of a good BI Program is to evolve into something different. After so many iterations of change, without good usage data, you may never know x number of reports, tables, or facts are no longer being used because the department that needed them is no longer in the company. Your job of fighting for batch time becomes easier if you can lessen the load by getting rid of those unused items. Again, it may only take one time for the BI system will gain the reputation of the "system that is always late" or "using too many resources". Usage data can also help gain the ability to effectively market the BI Program to its users. Imagine, "Any BI Program: over 1 billion queries served," or "Any BI Program: 15 minutes could save you 15% on the bottom line." Well, even though that is not a stretch, at the very least usage data can provide you with data to help budget IT resources including capital. "At the current rate of increase in network traffic we are going to have to...." This lets you avoid the bad system reputation.

*Warning* Unabashed schmooze alert *Warning*

Good Program/Project Manager(s) - These guys have it tough give 'em a break! :)
If a project or program does not meet its intent, is late to start, or can not be maintained then it does not matter how well it is documented, how accurate it is, or how nice it looks. Managing the timing and dependencies of projects or tasks, resource planning (availability, capability, roles), effective time estimation, budgeting, adhering to schedule (overcoming roadblocks, personnel issues, under estimation), risk assessment and management are some of the critical roles they play that directly influence BI Acceptance.