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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Running a BI Organization in 2016 (Part 1 of 2)

To improve your service, you must determine whom you actually serve. Creating a charter can help you clarify your responsibilities.

If you run a business intelligence team of some shape or form at your company, you probably have a long list of tasks to complete. You are undoubtedly beholden to multiple stakeholder groups with inconsistent skills of their own, different demands of your group, and different perspectives about how they should be served. You undoubtedly have "your own" projects to complete, some being infrastructure and some providing more direct value to users. You also may be supporting production, which we all know comes first.

It's a job that can leave you wondering at the end of the day if you've accomplished anything.

Many BI teams simply collect and broker skill sets to the broader organization. This is fine to a point (call it maturity level 1), but more mature BI teams understand that there's more to BI. A BI team needs to be chartered in order to get beyond this level. It needs to be in partnership with business and application teams to produce ROI for the business, provide useful strategic ideas about data, and improve the organization's data maturity.

A charter will help the team collect the right skills and go deep in certain areas and therefore be a clearly distinct part of the organization. You do not want to run a team that is only distinguished by your last hire. Other teams can make that hire, too.

A charter will help application and user teams collect the right skills they need to be effective in partnership with you. It will help you develop processes around your area, which will create efficiencies in your work. A strategic component added to the charter may very well contribute significantly to the company's capabilities. These are absolutely critical for a BI team to survive. In these days when the value of data is seen throughout the organization, BI teams are vulnerable to being left out in the cold that operate at low maturity.

A charter also formalizes what is happening in an informal (i.e., complicated for the rest of the organization) manner. Most BI teams need to put a little "top down" in a BI team that likely was created very "bottom up."

Let's start the charter with how much of the company you serve. This may seem like a simple question and many will respond "the whole company." However, I find few BI teams are responsible to the whole company – unless it is a small company. Today, most companies I consult with have numerous BI teams.

Perhaps you serve a particular department.

There is value-add for one or more quasi-central BI teams in organizations today. Even a midsize organization can be large enough to warrant a rational division of coverage by multiple BI teams. Where I would take this (number, coverage) and when has everything to do with where the organization is today and the ability of leadership to manage a wide scope of responsibilities.

This is the least critical of the charter dimensions.

As we go forward to Part 2, I will review the other charter dimensions of determining which BI projects to support and determining what development steps you take (compared to other projects) and what you can do in partnership with others.

About the Author

McKnight Consulting Group is led by William McKnight. He serves as strategist, lead enterprise information architect, and program manager for sites worldwide utilizing the disciplines of data warehousing, master data management, business intelligence, and big data. Many of his clients have gone public with their success stories. McKnight has published hundreds of articles and white papers and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His teams’ implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won awards for best practices. William is a former IT VP of a Fortune 50 company and a former engineer of DB2 at IBM, and holds an MBA. He is author of the book Information Management: Strategies for Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Data.

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